Catholic Archbishop: Troops May Skip The Jab On Religious Grounds If They So Choose

As the Biden administration maintains that every arm in America is ripe for a COVID-19 vaccine, a leading Catholic archbishop is advising military personnel of the faith that they can refuse the shot.

Archbishop for the Military Services Timothy Broglio issued a statement on Tuesday saying troops should not be compelled to get a vaccine if they believe doing so would run afoul of their religious beliefs.

Broglio, who oversees the church’s pastoral duties for troops at 220 installations globally and at 153 VA medical facilities, appeared to be responding to a groundswell of military personnel concerned about receiving a dishonorable discharge for skipping the jab.

That emerged after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced in August that the shots would be mandatory.

Republicans attempted to support these soldiers with a bill that would prevent dishonorable separations from the service for simply refusing the vaccine. But Democratic lawmakers have declined to back that effort.

In his own comments, Broglio answered some questions on the issue.

The primary concern is that Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson developed their respective vaccines through the use of stem cells recovered from aborted babies.

Broglio noted that Pfizer and Moderna tested their medications by using an “abortion-derived cell line.” The Catholic Church, he added, has long viewed such a link as “remote material cooperation with evil [through abortion] and is never sinful.”

 The J&J vaccine, however, was developed and is produced with abortion-derived cell lines. Therefore, it is “more problematic,” Broglio said. “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,” he added.

Broglio cited statements issued earlier this year by Pope Francis and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In its position statement, the Vatican noted, “In the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination, especially to protect the weakest and most exposed.”

At the same time, however, the church signaled that its recommendation “should not in any way imply that there is a moral endorsement of the use of cell lines proceeding from aborted fetuses.” In that light, opting for a vaccine should be an individual choice.

Broglio reiterated that position in his remarks.

While receiving a shot would be “morally permissible,” the archbishop said, “no one should be forced to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if it would violate the sanctity of his or her conscience.”

“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 or inconsistent to others, conscience does not lose its dignity,” he added.

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

“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.”

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