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Bishop Shawn

JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri (LifeSiteNews) — The Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City is refusing to grant religious exemptions from vaccination to Catholics, citing a “moral responsibility” to receive vaccines even when they are produced using fetal cell lines derived from aborted babies.

Catholic father Logan Peters told LifeSiteNews that he is being forced to consider alternative educational options for his children, and that he knows “several families” in similar situations, as well as those “who are worried” they won’t be able to send their unvaccinated children to Catholic schools in the future.

Peters added that he knows a former Catholic family who had to pull their kids from Catholic school due to the diocese’s refusal to grant a vaccine religious exemption. The family now sends its children to a school of a different Christian denomination and attends its sister church.

Missouri public schools offer religious exemptions to vaccination requirements. However, Peters has ruled out this option for his children after learning of a Missouri public school assembly for middle school students teaching them about preferred gender pronouns.

The family is morally opposed to the use of any vaccines developed using fetal cell lines derived from aborted babies. Fr. Michael Copenhagen, in his article “Restore Ye to its Owners: On the Immorality of Receiving Vaccines Derived from Abortion,” has pointed out that the human remains used in vaccine production have been desecrated through exploitation and trafficking, that “labeling human remains obtained through violence as ‘illicit biological material’ is not only insufficient but dehumanizing and offensive.”

Copenhagen further argues that because the cells belong to the “silenced” child, and “the parents have forfeited by abortion any right of consent to respectful scientific use of the body, the scientists and patent holders have no right to possess or use the cells: these human remains belong to God, must be respectfully reposed.” Therefore, the remains of the child have been stolen, and our “distance” from this act does not negate moral complicity in taking a vaccine involving their exploitation.

Missouri school immunization requirements include several vaccines developed using the cell lines of aborted babies.

The bishop of the Diocese of Jefferson City, W. Shawn McKnight, has nevertheless issued a statement declaring, “The Church not only gives us permission to receive these vaccines, but she informs us that we have a moral responsibility to receive the vaccines when we are able to do so.”

McKnight cited, in turn, a statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) under its Prefect, Cardinal Luis F. Ladaria, and approved by Pope Francis, that asserted, “[W]hen ethically irreproachable COVID-19 vaccines are not available  … it is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.”

Contrary to McKnight’s claim, however, the CDF stated that “practical reason makes evident that vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary.”

Bishop Athanasius Schneider has stated in reference to vaccines that are in some way connected to abortion that one who “uses these vaccines must realize that his body is benefiting from the ‘fruits’ of one of mankind’s greatest crimes.”

To those bishops and clergy members who argue that bodily safety and health is sufficient to justify taking vaccines connected to abortion, Bishop Schneider has pointed out, “Bodily health is not an absolute value. Obedience to the law of God and the eternal salvation of the souls must be given primacy.”

Remarkably, the Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City is making religious exemptions “still allowable for other Christian and religious groups” even as it denies them to Catholic families.

Originally, all religious exemptions to the immunization were barred, according to an earlier statement from the Catholic School Office. In a subsequent letter to parents, the office wrote, “After sharing this policy, it became apparent that the policy could be perceived as infringing upon the religious beliefs of non-Catholic families. Certainly, this was not our intention.”

Other Catholic dioceses around the U.S. are similarly denying religious exemptions to Catholics. The Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey announced in 2021 that it would not “provide a religious exemption for the COVID-19 vaccine,” citing Pope Francis, the CDF, and Catholic bishops, without referencing the CDF’s admonition that vaccination must be voluntary.

Geraldine Lovejoy denounced the decision in a statement to LifeSiteNews, warning that if the COVID-19 “vaccine” becomes mandated for students, it will have a detrimental impact on Catholic school enrollment.

“Considerable numbers of parents would be forced to withdraw their children from Catholic schools to seek relief in the public schools,” Lovejoy said. “It seems antithetical to the interest of the Church to adopt such a stance at this time given the continued decline in school enrollment numbers and falling Church attendance.