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Priest suggests parishioners over 60 must be vaccinated to distribute Communion

Requiring church volunteers to be vaccinated with an experimental mRNA vaccine that only has Emergency Use Authorization rather than formal approval from the FDA may be illegal under federal law.
Wed Mar 3, 2021 - 6:05 pm EST
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Monsignor Douglas Raun YouTube / screenshot

RIO RANCHO, New Mexico, March 3, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – Only lay people who have received two experimental COVID-19 vaccines may ask to assist with distribution of Holy Communion, a New Mexico priest wrote in a memo to his parishioners last week.

EUCHARISTIC MINISTERS AND USHERS OVER 60, if they have received both COVID vaccine shots, may ask their Heads of Ministry to be placed upon the schedule once again,” wrote Monsignor Douglas Raun in a February 23 memo to parishioners at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. LifeSiteNews obtained a copy of this memo, which is also posted on the parish website. (Click HERE to read a PDF of the email with the vaccine-related parts highlighted.)

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Screenshot of email memo from Monsignor Douglas Raun of St. Thomas Aquinas parish in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe

“The vaccine cannot be mandated to church volunteers,” responded Greg Glaser, General Counsel for Physicians for Informed Consent, a group focused on delivering accurate information about infectious disease and vaccination.

That is because each pandemic vaccine in circulation currently, including Pfizer and Moderna’s two-shot mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines and Johnson and Johnson’s newly released single shot vaccine, have not been licensed by the Food and Drug Administration but have been granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) only.

While the media and health agencies have misreported that the vaccines in use are FDA “approved,” the “Emergency Use Authorization” status they have been granted means that they are still under investigation, allowed for emergency use only, and under 21 U.S.C. § 360bbb-3 must only be given voluntarily and without coercion.

The FDA states that as EUA products, each vaccine is “an investigational vaccine not licensed for any indication” and the agency requires that all “promotional material relating to the Covid-19 Vaccine clearly and conspicuously … state that this product has not been approved or licensed by the FDA, but has been authorized for emergency use by FDA.”

Both Moderna’s and Pfizer-BioNTech’s two-shot experimental mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines are still in phase III clinical trials. Moderna’s phase III trials in human subjects will not be complete until October 27, 2022, according to the clinicaltrials.gov website. Pfizer’s main Phase III clinical trial in healthy individuals will not be completed until January 31, 2023.

There are critical differences with emergency use authorization and licensing, particularly when it comes to the law. “While organizations are certainly free to encourage their employees, students, and other members to be vaccinated, federal law provides that, at least until the vaccine is licensed, individuals must have the option to accept or decline to be vaccinated,” said New York City lawyer Aaron Siri of Siri & Glimstad LLP.

“Organizations that require [COVID-19] vaccination in violation of federal law may face lawsuits under these state laws not only to block the policy but also for damages and attorneys’ fees. Such potentially costly lawsuits can be avoided by refraining from adopting policies that require vaccination or penalize members for choosing not to be vaccinated,” Siri added.

The legislation applies to churches and volunteers as well, according to Glaser.  “The reason is that the Federal EUA law governing [COVID-19] vaccination applies to ‘a person who carries out any activity for which the authorization is issued,’” he said.

“This phrase refers to anyone who participates in the EUA activity, including private institutions such as churches that offer or require the product,” he added.

“In short, so long as the church maintains a [COVID-19] vaccine program/requirement, then the vaccine must be voluntary to the volunteer,” said attorney Glaser.

The misunderstanding about the status of COVID vaccines has been fueled by false reporting and advertising by health agencies themselves. New York State’s Department of Health launched a social media campaign which included the false statements that COVID vaccines in circulation “went through the same rigorous approval process that all vaccines go through” and that they are “approved by the FDA, the CDC, and by NY’s independent vaccine panel.”

When attorneys for a group called the Informed Consent Network “fact-checked” the Commissioner of New York State’s Department of Health, Howard Zucker, and Governor Andrew Cuomo in January and demanded that they remove the false messaging, the state quickly complied and the campaign was halted.

Another predominant issue, particularly within the Catholic community, is freedom of conscience with respect to the use of injections that have used aborted babies in their manufacturing process. Many Catholics find the new COVID-19 vaccines morally abhorrent because of their use of fetal cell lines taken from aborted fetuses in their production. Moderna’s vaccine utilizes Human Embryonic Kidney cells (HEK293 cells) in production, protein production, and testing of the vaccine, according to Children of God for Life, a group that monitors the use of fetal tissue in vaccines.

HEK cells come from a healthy unborn baby girl, according to FDA testimony, who was aborted in the Netherlands, likely late-term, in the early 1970s and whose organs were culled for experimentation. The number 293 denotes a numerical system so that this was the 293rd experiment.

Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine did not use human cells in the production of its COVID-19 vaccine, but it did use HEK cells in testing its vaccine.

Johnson & Johnson’s newly released one-shot COVID vaccine, meanwhile, uses PERC6 cells – derived from the eye tissue of an 18-week-old unborn baby aborted in 1985.

While Pope Francis and many Catholic priests and laity have downplayed the theological and ethical implications of injecting abortion “tainted” products and both Pope Francis and Benedict reportedly received COVID-19 vaccinations, a Vatican document affirming the use of the vaccine underscores that its use “must be voluntary.”

The Catholic Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued a doctrinal “Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines” in December stating that injecting an abortion-tainted vaccine “does not constitute formal cooperation with the abortion from which the cells used in production of the vaccines derive.”

“The moral duty to avoid such passive material cooperation is not obligatory if there is a grave danger, such as the otherwise uncontainable spread of a serious pathological agent – in this case, the pandemic spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19” states the CDF note, which adds that “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.”

Whether or not the COVID-19 virus is such a “grave danger” is open to expert debate and epidemiologists have argued against the narrative that a vaccine being the only way out of the pandemic. The Great Barrington Declaration signed by more than 12,500 epidemiologists and public health scientists, for example, states that, “As immunity builds in the population, the risk of infection to all – including the vulnerable – falls. We know that all populations will eventually reach herd immunity – i.e.  the point at which the rate of new infections is stable – and that this can be assisted by (but is not dependent upon) a vaccine.”

Others say that a virus for which death is “exceptionally rare” among children and young people and shaves an average 87 days off of life expectancy for those infected over age 70 is not a “grave” danger. An open letter signed by several thousand doctors in Belgium states that “[i]f 95% of people experience Covid-19 virtually symptom-free, the risk of exposure to an untested vaccine is irresponsible.”

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The CDF note refers to a “common good” and the need to prevent “becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent” yet none of the vaccines currently in circulation claim to prevent transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus at this time. Vaccine manufacturers only claim that their products may reduce severe symptoms and there are concerns that the vaccine could give a false sense of security to people and that they may be infected after vaccination.

Msgr. Raun did not respond by press time to a request from LifeSiteNews to comment. An archdiocescan spokeswoman said she would pass LifeSite’s questions on to “leadership.” If the archdiocese does respond, LifeSiteNews will update this story.

LifeSiteNews has produced an extensive COVID-19 vaccines resources page. View it here. 

Contact information for respectful communication:

St. Thomas Aquinas parish
1502 Sara Rd, S.E.
Rio Rancho, NM 87124
(505) 892-1511  
Online contact form

Archbishop John C. Wester
Archdiocese of Santa Fe
4000 Saint Joseph’s Place NW
Albuquerque, NM 87120 
(505) 831-8100


  abortion, archdiocese of santa fe, catholic, coronavirus, coronavirus vaccine, new mexico

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