The Archbishop of the Archdiocese for Military Services wrote an October 12 pastoral letter to Catholic military personnel supporting their right of conscience to refuse the COVID-19 vaccines produced or tested with cells derived from aborted children, setting up a confrontation with a Pentagon led by a practicing Catholic.
“No one should be forced to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if it would violate the sanctity of his or her conscience,” wrote Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, who has led the military archdiocese since his January 25, 2008, installation.
The prelate’s pastoral letter sets up a confrontation between the military’s top Catholic cleric and the military’s top leader, practicing Catholic Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III.
Austin ordered all military personnel to be vaccinated in his August 24 memorandum.
“To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force. After careful consultation with medical experts and military leadership, and with the support of the president, I have determined that mandatory vaccination against coronavirus disease 2019, COVID-19, is necessary to protect the Force and defend the American people,” Austin in his memo, addressed to senior Pentagon leadership, commanders of combatant commands, Defense agency and DOD field activity directors.
“Mandatory vaccinations are familiar to all of our Service members, and mission-critical inoculation is almost as old as the U.S. military itself,” Austin said. “Our administration of safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines has produced admirable results to date, and I know the Department of Defense will come together to finish the job with urgency, professionalism, and compassion.”
Broglio said he took direct aim at the memorandum when he heard Catholic servicemembers were refusing the morally compromised vaccines.
“This circumstance raises the question of whether the vaccine’s moral permissibility precludes an individual from forming a sincerely held religious belief that receiving the vaccine would violate his conscience. It does not,” the archbishop said.
“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,” he said.
“Individuals possess the ‘civil right not to be hindered in leading their lives in accordance with their consciences,” wrote the archbishop, quoting from “Dignitatis Humanae,” Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom issued December 7, 1965.
“Even if an individual’s decision seems erroneous or inconsistent to others, conscience does not lose its dignity,” he said. “This belief permeates Catholic moral theology as well as First Amendment jurisprudence,” he said.
The archbishop also cited the Supreme Court’s 1981 Thomas v. Review Board of Indiana Employment. The high court ruled that Eddie C. Thomas, who was religiously opposed to firearms, was eligible for unemployment insurance when he quit his job after the company converted its business to manufacturing guns. In addition, the court ruled that regardless of if Thomas or anyone else’s religious beliefs were acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehensible to others, they still merited First Amendment protection.
Pope Francis addressed the moral question of vaccines produced with fetal through the December 17, 2020 “Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines,” which was published by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the direction of the pontiff.
“When ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available,” the note said. “It is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.”
Still, the note said, it is only in the extreme case of the pandemic that it is morally licit to cooperate with the evil of abortion passively.
“It should be emphasized, however, that the morally licit use of these types of vaccines, in the particular conditions that make it so, does not in itself constitute a legitimation, even indirect, of the practice of abortion, and necessarily assumes the opposition to this practice by those who make use of these vaccines.”
In his March 14 pastoral letter, Broglio associated himself with the Holy Father’s position when he wrote: “Over the centuries, the Catholic Church has responded to concrete situations with very clear direction. In the case of vaccines to protect against the Coronavirus pandemic, the highest doctrinal authority of the Church, speaking on behalf of the Bishop of Rome, has made its clear position on the vaccines available.”
Even then, he offered guidance on the three vaccines available in the United States.
“The vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna are preferred to the others because of their very remote link human cells derived from abortion,” he said. “The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is more problematic. However, if that is the only vaccine available, Catholic men and women in uniform and their families should avail themselves of this preventative measure as an act of charity.”
Broglio went back to the charity theme in his most recent letter.
“Those who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine must continue to act in charity for their neighbors and for the common good by undertaking means to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 through wearing face coverings, social distancing, undergoing routine testing, quarantining, and remaining open to receiving a treatment should one become available that is not derived from, or tested with abortion-derived cell lines.”
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Neil W. McCabe is a national political correspondent for the Star Newspaper Group based in Washington and a Media Fellow at the Gold Institute for International Strategies. Before joining the Star News Network, he was a White House and Capitol Hill reporter for One America News. His special “Biden Family Corruption” was the highest-rated special in the channel’s history. McCabe was the Capitol Hill correspondent for Breitbart News, where he also wrote up the 2016 Breitbart-Gravis polls. McCabe’s other positions include a senior reporter at Human Events and a staff reporter at The Pilot, Boston’s Catholic paper. McCabe also was the editor of The Somerville News, The (North Cambridge, Mass.) Alewife and served as an Army combat historian in Iraq. His 2013 e-book “The Unfriendly Skies” examined how the American airline industry went from deregulation in the late 1970s to come full circle to the highly-regulated, highly-taxed industry it is today.