Catholic U.S. troops should be allowed to refuse the COVID-19 vaccine based solely on conscientious objection and regardless of whether abortion-related tissue was used in its creation or testing, the archbishop for the military declared in a new statement supporting service members who are seeking religious exemptions.
“No one should be forced to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if it would violate the sanctity of his or her conscience,” said Archbishop for the Military Services Timothy P. Broglio, in a statement released Tuesday.
Broglio previously has supported President Joe Biden’s mandatory vaccination order for U.S. troops, citing the church’s guidance that permits Catholics to receive even vaccines derived from fetal tissue, when no other vaccine option is available. In his new statement, the archbishop said that while he still encourages followers and troops to get vaccinated, some troops have questioned if the church’s permission to get vaccinated outweighed their own conscious objections to it.
“It does not,” Broglio wrote.
The Archdiocese for the Military Services, created by the church in 1985, claims responsibility for 1.8 million service members and their families at 220 installations. Broglio was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.
In August, Broglio was quoted by Catholic News Agency, a publication of Eternal Word Television Network, supporting the Pentagon’s then-forthcoming vaccine mandates, saying the church, including Pope Francis, “had recognized the morality of the vaccine.” But, the article added, “The archbishop said that while a person could object from the mandatory vaccine due to their personal conscience, ‘even that should be formed by the teaching of the Church.’”
Broglio’s Tuesday letter appears to formalize that exemption. It begins with an explanation of how the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines that were tested using an “abortion-derived cell line” are still notconsidered sinful by the Catholic church because it is “remote material cooperation with evil.”
“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’s letter reads.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, however, “was developed, tested, and is produced, with abortion-derived cell lines,” the archbishop said. Catholics still may accept that vaccine, but only if no others are available and they make known their moral objections.