As some Catholics are seeking a religious exemption to the coronavirus vaccine mandates that are becoming more common in workplaces and even some public venues, priests in the Archdiocese of New York have been advised not to get involved in that process.
“There is no basis for a priest to issue a religious exemption to the vaccine,” said a memo sent to priests in the New York Archdiocese July 30. An image of the memo was published by a news correspondent on social media two days after it was issued.
An archdiocesan spokesman confirmed with Catholic News Service that this communication was accurate and was sent by Msgr. Joseph LaMorte, vicar general, and John Cahill, chancellor.
The memo not only advised priests not to be involved in issuing religious exemptions but stressed that if they did issue them they would be “acting in contradiction to the directives of the pope” and “participating in an act that could have serious consequences to others.”
The archdiocesan leaders wrote that they “occasionally hear from Catholics who have a sincere moral objection to the Covid-19 vaccines due to their connection to abortion. This concern is particularly acute among people who are strongly pro-life and very loyal to the teaching of the faith. It is a serious issue for some people who often seek guidance and support from the Church.”
They said Cardinal Dolan had suggested that “clarity be provided to assist our priests in response to requests of this nature which they are receiving.”
The memo distinguished individual vaccine decisions from getting backing by one’s parish priest on this issue, stressing that “any individual is free to exercise discretion on getting the vaccine based upon his or her own beliefs without seeking the inaccurate portrayal of Church instructions.”
“Our priests should not be active participants to such actions,” it said.
It also echoed what Church leaders have said about the Covid-19 vaccine, noting, “Pope Francis has made it very clear that it is morally acceptable to take any of the vaccines and said we have the moral responsibility to get vaccinated. Cardinal Dolan has said the same.”
The direction for New York’s archdiocesan priests comes just days before Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that New York City would be the first U.S. city to require proof of at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine for most indoor events, effective Aug. 16.
“If you want to participate in our society fully, you’ve got to get vaccinated. It’s time,” he said during an Aug. 3 news conference.