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Abp. J. Michael Miller of Vancouver, B.C.Canuck Clay / YouTube

(LifeSiteNews) – Dear Archbishop Miller, about a week or so ago, when I was breastfeeding my newborn daughter, I read the news about the forcing of deacons in the Archdiocese of Vancouver to get the COVID vaccine or not be able to exercise their diaconate ministry. I am deeply troubled by your stance.

In particular, I am writing you publicly now because I wrote you privately a year ago with an apologetic you could use to resist unjust government pressure, and to offer you the legal help of the best lawyer I’ve worked with in 20 years of resisting institutional censorship. I have watched in dismay as, for example, you caved to government pressure and closed your churches for public worship. With this latest decision, I am compelled to raise my voice again, and hope doing so publicly will assist you more to change course.

You know I love the Church and the Archdiocese of Vancouver, in which I was reared. You know I have faithfully served her throughout my life. In particular, I have trained her seminarians and priests for 20 years, spoken in recent years at a training seminar for her deacons, served on her communications board, and trained parents at Catholic schools through one of CISVA’s programs. I have MC’ed at the One Conference. I have donated to local parishes as well as to Project Advance and various ministries run by RCAV. So yes, I love the Catholic Church and I love the Archdiocese of Vancouver. But I am very, very disappointed. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, “There can be no disappointment where there is not deep love.”

While nursing my baby, I couldn’t help but think of the Scripture passage: “How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!” (Matthew 24:19). I say this because your position, as outlined in Monsignor Gregory Smith’s letter, along with how the archdiocese has caved to government pressure over the last year, is leading to the abandonment of the next generation of lay faithful.

I think to myself, “What kind of world and church am I bringing up my daughter in? Will she know her shepherds to be courageous and bold? Will she see her spiritual fathers being like the Hebrew midwives who feared God more than they feared man? Or will she see leaders in the institution her Savior set up act as people who cave, time and again, to ungodly government pressure?” Moreover, how will your stance impact Catholic ministries who I dearly hope do not follow your example, or the also-poor examples of the Toronto and Moncton Archdioceses?

You are indirectly contributing to the fast-growing system of animosity, contempt, and discrimination that is growing towards those who decline having an experimental vaccine, that lacks long-term testing, injected into their bodies. There are faithful Catholics at risk of losing their jobs, at risk of not being able to provide for their families, because they refuse the vaccine, and by your decision to force deacons to be vaccinated, it is no different from secular workplaces forcing their employees to be vaccinated.

How can such individuals find solace and support in the local church when you are doing the same thing? I’ve watched as our Protestant brothers and sisters have courageously stood up against Canada’s tyranny, including pastors being arrested, while Catholic leadership has acquiesced to unjust rules.

In Monsignor Smith’s letter, he asserts that taking the vaccine is for the good of one’s neighbor, though several orthodox Catholic theologians have disputed this, including Dr. Janet Smith. I would simply add the following:

Even the COVID-vaccine-supporting CDC says, “COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting you [emphasis added] from getting sick…If you are fully vaccinated and become infected with the Delta variant, you can spread the virus to others.” So, people should not be misled to believe that receipt of the vaccine is a Good Samaritan act.

But there is a more fundamental moral issue. According to the Principle of Totality and Integrity, often used in Catholic bioethical discussions, we have a responsibility to maintain our bodies in a healthy and functioning state as they are designed. We may not intentionally maim or harm our bodies (e.g., have a vasectomy); or, if we do indeed do something that changes the body (e.g., remove an organ or limb), it has to be done for the overall health of that particular body (such as eliminate cancer). If we do share something from our bodies (e.g., blood, bone marrow, or kidney), we may only do so if it doesn’t compromise the overall functioning of our own bodies (e.g., it is wrong for a living donor to donate their heart because doing so would kill oneself whereas donating blood would not).

Stephanie Gray Connors and her newborn daughter.

Yet, here is the key point: We are under no moral duty to share parts of our body (such as blood). Instead, it is a free will act of generosity or even heroism (e.g., kidney donation).

My body parts do not exist for your body; instead they exist for mine, and therefore you cannot claim a right to those parts (the exception being if my body parts are actually designed for another, such as my breasts and uterus which exist for my offspring who can therefore claim a right to access the parts which are designed for them).

Acknowledging this, that means that just as I have no duty to take blood out of my body and share it with someone else, I have no duty to put the COVID vaccine into my body to benefit someone else. In fact, I have a duty to maintain the overall health and functioning of my own body. Thus, if I have legitimate concerns that an experimental vaccine which lacks long-term testing, and has shown adverse events in some recipients, could harm my body, I should not ingest it. Even if I think the benefit outweighs the harm and I want to help another by taking it, I am under no obligation to do so. The action remains an act of generosity, and acts of generosity can be manifested in different ways. The person, for instance, who does not give blood or kidneys can still be generous and merciful to their neighbor. Likewise, the person who does not take a COVID vaccine can also be generous and merciful to their neighbor.

I myself contracted COVID in early August, in the last week of my pregnancy. A spiking fever (especially dangerous to a pre-born child) caused my husband to rush me to the hospital and, while there, they tested me for COVID and it came back positive. I experienced all kinds of mercies and generosity from others that did not include the vaccine: My husband served and touched me rather than isolating from me as though I was a leper. My neighbor did runs to the grocery store. I found a physician who gave me immediate treatment with inexpensive, well-tested and widely-used medicines of Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin that protected me and my pre-born child from harm. My husband, my neighbor, and my doctor all showed mercy which did not involve the vaccine. In fact, they did more for me by their actions than if they themselves had received the vaccine.

All that said, my hope is the following:

  • That you will reverse your requirement that deacons be vaccinated.
  • That you will reinforce and fight for conscience rights and speak against any effort to deny peoples’ freedoms when it comes to forced vaccination, vaccine passports, job security, etc. In particular, you will implore your brother bishops and Catholic ministry leaders to do the same.
  • That you will refuse to acquiesce to unjust and unreasonable government demands and restrictions. As I mentioned a year ago, I implore you to take the services of legal groups like the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.
  • Remind church-goers, the public, and the government that Church is different. It is a place of sanctuary. “All who are thirsty, all who are weak…come to the table.” Churches should reinforce Jesus’ love of the least of these and His acts of mercy and how He embraced lepers. Saints like Damien and Mother Teresa should be featured and studied.
  • Acknowledge that there are various opinions within the Church and emphasize that people who want to get vaccinated should not force others to. If the vaccine works then the vaccinated should already feel safe.

It is troubling that those not vaccinated are being blamed for society not returning to normal. I now live in Florida and the vaccination rate here is lower than in Canada and yet in Florida we are back to normal while Canada is not. That is evidence that restoring a reasonable way of life is not dependent on getting vaccinated.

And so, in this time, we need to count on our churches to resist the unjust demands of the government and culture. Now, more than ever, we need the voice of our shepherds and the sanctuary of our churches. Coercion and discrimination must be rejected and people ought to be encouraged to live in fellowship and communion rather than immerse themselves in the divided, isolated, fearful, anxiety-driven mindset of our culture.

Archbishop Miller, I implore you to do the right thing.

Your daughter in Christ,

Stephanie Gray Connors

For respectful communication:

Archbishop Michael Miller

4885 Saint John Paul II Way
Vancouver BC V5Z 0G3

Phone: (604) 683-0281
Fax: (604) 683-4288