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Archbishop Timothy Broglio

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include previous statements by Archbishop Timothy Broglio on the COVID-19 vaccines, as well as an August report which claimed Broglio supported the vaccine mandates.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) –Archbishop of the U.S. military services Timothy Broglio has issued a statement against forcing American service members to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, saying that “no one should be forced to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if it would violate the sanctity of his or her conscience.”

In August Catholic News Agency reported that the move to mandate the COVID jabs was supported Broglio, saying that that the military had stressed that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, along with Pope Francis, “had recognized the morality of the vaccine.” In March Broglio released a statement in which he described being vaccinated as “an act of charity to our sisters and brothers.”

But in a statement issued Tuesday, October 12, Broglio said that individuals have a right to refuse vaccination based on religious grounds.

“This circumstance raises the question of whether the vaccine’s moral permissibility precludes an individual from forming a sincerely held religious belief that receiving the vaccine would violate his conscience,” he said, before concluding that “It does not.” 

“Accordingly, no one should be forced to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if it would violate the sanctity of his or her conscience,” he said.  

Broglio’s statement represents a break with the U.S. military’s handling of religious exemptions so far, as these have been frequently denied in the past. 

Broglio began his recent statement by reiterating the stance of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on the moral permissibility of the COVID-19 vaccine.  

“The USCCB Committees on Doctrine and on Pro-Life Activities have stated that it is morally permissible to receive the COVID-19 vaccinations currently available in the United States.” 

He insisted that this is consistent with what the Holy See as well as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) have stated on the matter and referred to the Note on the morality of using some anti-covid-19 vaccines, issued by the CDF last December.

Broglio did not mention that many other important figures in the Catholic Church have criticized this approach and have strongly criticized the abortion-tainted COVID vaccines, including Cardinal Raymond Burke, Archbishop Carlo Viganó, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, and a number of influential priests, such as Fr. de Cacqueray.

Broglio also referred to recent events which have led to the publication of this new statement, like the vaccine mandate which was imposed on the U.S. military back in August. 

“On 24 August 2021, the Secretary of Defense issued a memorandum directing the mandatory vaccination of all services members against COVID-19,” said Broglio, adding that since the imposition of this mandate, many service members have requested religious exemptions under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. 

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993 ensured that the services will allow religious accommodations which have no adverse impact on military readiness, lethality, unit cohesion, and good order and discipline, so that people of faith can choose to join the military, according to Army Medical Services Corp. veteran Pam Long 

Rather than taking the approach of challenging the morality of the vaccines because of their connection to abortion, the archbishop for the military services based most of his argument for religious exemptions on Vatican II and post-Vatican II teaching regarding religious liberty and conscience.  

The statement argued that religious exemptions should be granted on the basis that “individuals possess the ‘civil right not to be hindered in leading their lives in accordance with their consciences,’ even if an individual’s decision seems erroneous,” citing Dignitatis Humanae of Vatican II. 

“In all his activity a man is bound to follow his conscience in order that he may come to God, the end and purpose of life. It follows that he is not to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his conscience. Nor, on the other hand, is he to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience, especially in matters religious.” 

The document bears striking similarities with the First Amendment, which was also used by Broglio in his endorsement of religious exemptions. 

“This belief permeates Catholic moral theology as well as First Amendment jurisprudence,” he said. “As stated by the United States Supreme Court, ‘Religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection.’” 

The archbishop concluded that “the denial of religious accommodations, or punitive or adverse personnel actions taken against those who raise earnest, conscience-based objections, would be contrary to federal law and morally reprehensible,” while insisting that “those who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine [should] continue to act in charity for their neighbors and for the common good by undertaking means to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 through wearing face coverings, social distancing, undergoing routine testing, quarantining, and remaining open to receiving a treatment should one become available that is not derived from, or tested with abortion-derived cell lines.” 

LifeSiteNews has reached out to the archdiocese for the U.S military services, but has not yet received any comment from Broglio regarding his apparent change of position.