ARECIBO, Puerto Rico (LifeSiteNews) — LifeSiteNews has launched a petition urging Pope Francis to reinstate Puerto Rican Bishop Daniel Fernández Torres who was abruptly removed from his diocese this week after defending conscience objections to COVID-19 vaccination.
The Vatican said Wednesday that the Pope “relieved” Bishop Fernández Torres of pastoral care of the Diocese of Arecibo.
By all accounts, Bishop Daniel Fernández Torres' diocese of Arecibo in Puerto Rico is flourishing because of his adherence to the perennial teachings of the Church.
But, without any formal proceedings, Bishop Fernández Torres has been summarily 'relieved' of his episcopal duties allegedly because he championed conscience rights in the face of a Church vaccine mandate in Puerto Rico.
Please SIGN this urgent petition to Pope Francis urging him to reinstate Bishop Fernández Torres now.
To be clear, COVID-19 is a serious disease, oftentimes with debilitating consequences, or worse, for those who contract it.
However, all coronavirus vaccines currently authorized for use in the U.S. and Puerto Rico have been tested on or produced with cell lines of aborted babies. And, the vaccines have been linked to serious side effects, while none has yet completed long-term testing.
Given the complexity of this issue, the Church has determined that getting vaccinated is a matter of personal discernment which each individual must make after informing his or her conscience.
As such, the Church teaches that there is no moral obligation to be vaccinated. Indeed, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the Church's teaching authority where faith and moral are concerned, issued a statement to that effect in December, 2020.
Specifically, the CDF's, “Note on the Morality of Using Some Anti-COVID-19 Vaccines,” of December 17, 2020, n. 5 states: “At the same time, practical reason makes evident that vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary.”
Therefore, it would appear that for simply restating the current teaching of the CDF and for opposing his brother bishops in Puerto Rico on this seminal matter of conscientious objection, Rome is now attempting to "cancel" Bishop Fernández Torres.
This is wrong, unfair and discriminatory!
And, Bishop Fernández Torres is hardly the first bishop to defend Church teaching on conscientious objection on the issue of mandatory vaccination. Both the Colorado and South Dakota bishops' conferences released similar statements, and like Bishop Fernández Torres, they also offered to validate religious exemptions for member of their flock who asked to be exempted from vaccination.
Please SIGN and SHARE this urgent petition to Pope Francis urging him to reinstate Bishop Fernández Torres.
For his part, Bishop Fernández Torres, 57, a staunch defender of life and family, protested his removal as "totally unjust" in a statement released Wednesday (3/9/2022).
The bishop, who led his diocese for nearly 12 years, noted that Pope Francis’ apostolic delegate to Puerto Rico verbally requested that he resign, but said that he refused to do so, as he "did not want to become an accomplice of a totally unjust action."
"No process has been made against me," Bishop Fernández Torres wrote, "nor have I been formally accused of anything, and simply one day the apostolic delegate verbally communicated to me that Rome was asking me to resign."
“A successor of the apostles is now being replaced without even undertaking what would be a due canonical process to remove a parish priest,” the bishop added.
“I was informed that I had committed no crime but that I supposedly ‘had not been obedient to the pope nor had I been in sufficient communion with my brother bishops of Puerto Rico,’” he said. “It was suggested to me that if I resigned from the diocese I would remain at the service of the Church in case at some time I was needed in some other position; an offer that in fact proves my innocence.”
Please SIGN and SHARE this urgent petition to Pope Francis urging him to reinstate Bishop Fernández Torres. Thank you!
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
'Pope Francis abruptly removes faithful bishop who opposed COVID vaccine mandates' - https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/pope-francis-abruptly-removes-faithful-bishop-who-opposed-covid-vaccine-mandates/
'Puerto Rico bishop supports conscience objections to COVID vaccines, allows priests to sign exemptions' - https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/puerto-rico-bishop-supports-conscience-objections-to-covid-vaccines-allows-priests-to-sign-exemptions/
**Photo Credit: Diocese of Arecibo
In a statement, the faithful bishop announced that he was being dismissed over allegations of disobedience to the pope and lack of “sufficient communion” with fellow Puerto Rican prelates.
“No process has been made against me,” he said, “nor have I been formally accused of anything, and simply one day the apostolic delegate verbally communicated to me that Rome was asking me to resign.”
“I was informed that I had committed no crime but that I supposedly ‘had not been obedient to the pope nor had I been in sufficient communion with my brother bishops of Puerto Rico,’” Bishop Fernández Torres said, calling his sudden removal “totally unjust.”
“It was suggested to me that if I resigned from the diocese I would remain at the service of the Church in case at some time I was needed in some other position; an offer that in fact proves my innocence,” he added. “I express my communion in the Catholic faith, with the Pope and my brothers in the episcopate, despite my perplexity at an incomprehensible arbitrariness.”
The bishop, appointed to Arecibo by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, led his diocese for nearly 12 years.
Bishop Fernández Torres’ dismissal came after he refused to sign a letter issued by Puerto Rico’s six other bishops in August announcing that the faithful would be segregated at Holy Mass based on COVID vaccination status.
The letter also imposed a strict jab mandate for priests and claimed that “there is no basis” in Catholic teaching to reject vaccination requirements.
The Arecibo bishop had released a separate statement the week before, stressing that Catholics can indeed refuse COVID shots in good conscience and authorizing priests in his diocese to sign religious exemption requests.
He noted that “there may be those who, for reasons of conscience, reject the use of certain vaccines, either because they are still in an experimental phase or because they have been produced from cell lines of aborted fetuses.”
“Respect for the conscience of the person is also Catholic doctrine,” the prelate wrote, citing The Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Bishop Fernández Torres’ position echoes that of numerous other Catholic leaders and does not contradict the Church’s formal position on vaccination. But Pope Francis has aggressively pushed the COVID-19 injections as a “moral obligation” in recent months and mandated the shots at the Vatican.
“By all accounts, Bishop Daniel Fernández Torres’ diocese of Arecibo in Puerto Rico is flourishing because of his adherence to the perennial teachings of the Church,” LifeSite’s petition states. “But, without any formal proceedings, Bishop Fernández Torres has been summarily ‘relieved’ of his episcopal duties allegedly because he championed conscience rights in the face of a Church vaccine mandate in Puerto Rico.”
Along with his stand for conscience rights, Bishop Fernández Torres has been known for publicly defending Catholic teaching on life and the family.
In an interview with LifeSite last year, the bishop slammed a Puerto Rican bill that would have criminalized “any effort or treatment” to reduce or eliminate same-sex attraction or gender confusion in children. Many young people begin to identify as homosexual or transgender after sexual abuse, he pointed out.
The bishop also resisted sending seminarians to the Vatican-backed Interdiocesan Seminary of Puerto Rico and declined to ban celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass in Arecibo as other Puerto Rican bishops cracked down on the old Mass.
Archbishop Emeritus Héctor Aguer of La Plata, Argentina, came to Bishop Fernández Torres’ defense in a statement Wednesday, recalling a visit he made to the Diocese of Arecibo during the ousted bishop’s tenure.
“A couple of years ago I was invited by Bishop Daniel to preach the Spiritual Exercises to the clergy of the diocese. I was then able to see how a particular Church flourishes when its bishop is a man of God, faithful to the great ecclesial Tradition,” he said. “But that does not interest Rome. As never before, Roman centrality is imposed in the name of ‘unity.’”
“The current Church is no longer concerned with God, or with Christ’s mandate to evangelize, but only with imposing ‘new paradigms’ and adhering to the principles of a New World Order, alien to natural law and Christian revelation,” he added. “The case of Monsignor Fernández Torres is a very clear example of how the Church works in reverse of what its mission should be.”