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Archbishop for U.S. military says troops can use religious exemption for COVID vaccine

The Catholic Archbishop for the Military Services has ruled that Catholic troops can refuse the COVID-19 vaccine if they wish to invoke their religious exemption to President Joe Biden’s federal mandate requiring every member of the armed forces to receive the vaccine.

“No one should be forced to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if it would violate the sanctity of his or her conscience,” said Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio in a statement on Tuesday.

According to the decree, troops should be allowed to refuse the vaccine solely on conscientious objection, regardless of whether or not abortion-related tissue was used in the development of the vaccine.

DefenseOne reports that Broglio has previously supported Joe Biden’s mandatory vaccination order, citing the church’s guidance permitting Catholics to receive vaccines that were possibly derived from fetal tissue when no other vaccine is available.

The Catholic News Agency quoted Broglio expressing his support for the vaccine mandate in August, stating that the Catholic Church, including Pope Francis, “had recognized the morality of the vaccine.”

The archbishop added that although individuals had the right to object to the mandatory vaccine based on their personal conscience, it ought to be informed by the church’s teachings.

Broglio’s letter on Tuesday formalizes the exemption for Catholic troops, explaining how the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that were tested using an “abortion-derived cell line” but not developed or produced using the material, and are therefore not considered against Catholic doctrine because it is “remote material cooperation with evil.” In contrast, the more problematic Johnson & Johnson vaccine was developed, tested, and produced with abortion-derived cell lines.

“If it were the only vaccine available, it would be morally permissible, but the faithful Catholic is to make known his or her preference for a more morally acceptable Treatment,” wrote Broglio.

“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith examined these moral concerns and judged that receiving these vaccines ‘does not constitute formal cooperation with the abortion,’ and is therefore not sinful,” Broglio explained.

Despite allowing Catholic troops to be exempted from the vaccine, Broglio said he will continue to encourage people to get vaccinated. When some troops questioned if the church’s permission to get vaccinated outweighed their own objections to it, Broglio responded to say “it does not.”

The Archdiocese explained:

Notwithstanding the moral permissibility of these vaccines, the Church treasures her teaching on the sanctity of conscience. “Conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths.”

St. Paul VI wrote: 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.

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

The Archdiocese for the military services was created by the Catholic Church in 1985 and administers 1.8 million service members and their families across 220 military bases. Broglio was appointed to the position by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.

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