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San Diego bishop asks priests to 'caringly decline' any requests for religious vaccine exemptions

Bishop Robert McElroy reminded priests that there is no basis in Catholic teaching to offer a religious exemption to COVID-19 vaccination.
Credit: KFMB

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy sent a letter to priests in his diocese reiterating the Catholic Church’s support for COVID-19 vaccinations and asked them to “caringly decline” any requests from parishioners seeking endorsement for some kind of religious exemption to justify their decision not to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

“Such a declaration is particularly problematic because the Holy See has made it clear that receiving the [COVID-19] vaccine is perfectly consistent with Catholic faith, and indeed laudatory in light of the common good in this time of pandemic,” wrote Bishop McElroy.

Church officials said several dioceses in California and around the country have received reports of "priests being pressured to sign a form prepared by the Colorado Catholic Conference suggesting that there is a basis in Catholic social teaching that justifies a religious exemption to receiving any or all forms of the COVID-19 vaccine."

Bishop McElroy reminded priests that "there is no basis in Catholic teaching to offer a religious exemption to COVID-19 vaccination."

Bishop McElroy said he received his COVID-19 vaccination in February.

“My greatest worry is that signing this declaration [from the Colorado Catholic Conference] thrusts our priests into the impossible position of asserting that ‘the Catholic Church’s teachings may lead individual Catholics…to decline certain vaccines’ when those priests recognize that Catholic teaching proclaims just the opposite,” said Bishop McElroy.

Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI received their COVID-19 vaccination in January 2021, according to the Vatican Press Service.

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