(LifeSiteNews) – As pressure mounts on individuals to take the experimental COVID-19 vaccines, two more U.S. archbishops have refused to endorse religious exemptions for parishioners who wish to forego the abortion-tainted jabs.
Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Seattle and Archbishop Nelson J. Perez of Philadelphia are the two latest Catholic prelates to actively discourage parishioners from seeking exemptions to accepting the ethically questionable COVID-19 jabs currently being rolled out across the nation.
Washington Democrat Gov. Jay Inslee announced August 18 that school staff working in both the public and private realms must have taken both COVID shots before October 18 or face losing their jobs. He also ordered that both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals must wear masks, effective Monday. The only acceptable exception to the vaccine mandate is if the staff member can prove they have an excuse based on religious or health grounds.
Following this announcement, Etienne released a letter of his own the same day, instructing the clergy under his jurisdiction “not to provide or sign documents claiming a religious exemption,” the Northwest Catholic reported. In fact, the archbishop wrote to “highly encourage everyone to be vaccinated,” following the lead of Pope Francis, who characterized vaccinating as “an act of love.”
Etienne claimed that “it is not our place to sign any exemptions based on personal conscience. That is between each individual and their employer.”
The Seattle Archbishop added a note to clerics that, while denying vaccine exemption requests, they should “be gentle and pastoral with those who ask. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ.” Etienne asked that his priests “[a]ffirm that the Church also emphasizes the voluntary nature of vaccinations,” as elucidated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in its judgement on the qualifications for accepting the COVID-19 jabs. “Share your desire to accompany them and encourage them to consider what other steps they will take to protect the vulnerable and look after the common good,” he concluded.
Likewise in Philadelphia, the archdiocese has published a letter to priests, instructing them that they are not to sign their names to a parishioner’s vaccine exemption request.
The archdiocesan vicar for clergy Father Michael F. Hennelly wrote in the letter, reportedly obtained by The Philadelphia Inquirer, that “[i]Individuals may wish to pursue an exemption from vaccination based on their own reasons of conscience,” but that “[i]n such cases, the burden to support such a request is not one for the local Church … to validate and we are not able to provide support for exemption requests on that basis.”
Philadelphia and Seattle join a slew of Catholic dioceses in which exemptions to the abortion-tainted jabs have been discouraged. New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan has instructed his clergy to refuse to sign exemption letters for parishioners, based on the Pope’s continued support for the moral permissibility of the jabs.
Dolan was joined by Cardinal Blaise Cupich of Chicago, Archbishop José Gomez, the current president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, all three of whom cited the Holy See as having given its approval to the use of the morally dubious shots.
Going one step further, Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky, has ordered that not only must there be no endorsement from the diocese on vaccine exemption requests, but that, before September 1, all diocesan staff “will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of their employment.”
In an August 17 letter, Stowe insisted that getting the jab “is an urgent matter of public health and safety,” adding his belief that there “is no religious exemption for Catholics to being vaccinated, and Pope Francis has repeatedly called this a moral obligation.”
Stowe made the claim that public health systems are overburdened “by a crisis caused primarily by those who refuse to protect themselves and others by getting vaccinated.”
“This is unacceptable, and our diocese now joins those employers who have already made this basic commitment to the common good a requirement.”
The Kentucky prelate also used the opportunity to bring back “the policy of requiring masks for all employees at work at the Catholic Center.”
South Dakota Bishop Donald E. DeGrood of Sioux Falls and Bishop Peter M. Muhich of Rapid City signed a letter in which they explain that “one may accept COVID-19 vaccines in good conscience if certain conditions are met, but doing so is not a universal moral duty. We echoed the Vatican, which explained in a doctrinal note that ‘practical reason makes evident that vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation.”
“In the case of the COVID-19 vaccine, we are convicted that the government should not impose medical interventions on an individual or group of persons,” the bishops wrote. This led them to affirm that “there is no authoritative Church teaching universally obliging Catholics to receive any vaccine. An individual Catholic may invoke Church teaching to refuse a vaccine that used abortion-derived cell lines at any stage of the creation of the vaccine.”
The National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) also came out in support of freedom of conscience, with the Center’s president Joseph Meaney stating that “we do not approve of coercive pressure tactics or vaccine mandates, particularly ones without generous medical, conscience, and religious mandates.”
The NCBC has produced a template letter for Catholics who object to vaccine mandates, granting individuals an easy way to explain to employers “the principled religious basis on which a Catholic may determine that he or she ought to refuse certain vaccines.”
LifeSiteNews has produced an extensive COVID-19 vaccines resources page. View it here.