The statement was shared with the News Tribune Opinion page last week in response to a request of the Duluth diocese for clarity on whether priests here are allowed to, encouraged to, or forbidden from granting religious exemptions to COVID-19 vaccine mandates. The answer is, at the very least, nuanced, as it turns out.
Bishop Fulton opened his statement by indicating that he has urged eligible priests, deacons, diocesan staff, and all the faithful to get vaccinated. The ongoing loss of life and other hardships, now escalating with a new variant of the virus, make this all the more urgent, he wrote.
So get the vaccine?
Not so fast.
In his very next paragraph, Fulton acknowledges Catholics serious conscientious objection to the way the available vaccines were tested and/or produced.
For many, he wrote, this complicates a decision that ought to be as simple and straightforward as possible.
The objection relates to researchers using fetal stem cells in testing and in producing the vaccines, a violation of church teaching on abortion. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are considered less objectionable than the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because the former used stem cells only in testing, whereas the latter used them in both testing and production, as theologian and author Sean Salai writes in a column published today in the News Tribune.
So object to being vaccinated?
Well, maybe not.
Church leaders have also said the (Johnson & Johnson vaccine) is morally acceptable if no others are available, the bishop further wrote.
Also, he indicated, a whole host of experts faithful to sound Catholic moral theology have, after thoughtful moral analysis, assured us that due to the very remote connection with abortion and the gravity of the situation with the pandemic, it is morally acceptable for Catholics to receive the vaccine despite objections.
So roll up those sleeves?
Sure, but it should be voluntary and must not be mandated, the bishop indicated. And those who, on the basis of conscientious objection, decide they cannot receive the vaccination should receive a religious exemption.
That must mean then, in response to the original question, the Duluth diocese and/or its priests will issue religious exemptions?
Wrong, according to Bishop Fulton. He explained, Since this is a decision of the individual conscience, and not a grant of the Church, the signature of a priest is not necessary. No priest should issue or sign a document giving an exemption.
In other words, in the Duluth diocese, Catholics who have a conscientious objection to being vaccinated can seek a religious exemption but are on their own in doing so. And at the same time, they are encouraged to be vaccinated, with Pope Francis even stating last month that doing so is an act of love.
Got all that?
Frustratingly and unfortunately, its about as clear and direct as the public messaging has been throughout the pandemic.
Chuck Frederick, Editorial Page Editor
Go here to read the rest:
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