by Massachusetts Catholic Action LeagueThroughout the United States, religious, legal and popular resistance to vaccine coercion is increasing. The Diocese of Fall River however, is moving in the opposite direction.
I. Catholic Bishops—The Archbishop of Kansas City, Joseph F. Naumann, who is the Chairman of the Pro-Life Activities Committee of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a letter on August 27th affirming the right of conscientious objection to vaccination mandates.
While asserting that vaccine reception is morally permissible, and even going so far as to state that priests should not “feel compelled” to assist Catholics seeking religious exemptions, Naumann, nonetheless, invoked the Second Vatican Council, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the inviolability of conscience.
“It is indeed a fundamental pillar of medical ethics that there should be free and informed consent and no coercion when deciding on a medical intervention,” Naumann declared.
“The natural law requires all of us to discern carefully right from wrong in conscience as well as to pursue the common good,” Naumann said. “A society that fails to respect the rights of conscience lacks a key element of the common good.”
He stated “…the grim reality that we live in a society that asserts the killing of an unborn child as a right and allows for the harvesting of cells and organs of aborted children for economic profit creates a context in which an individual could reasonably choose not to give even the appearance of indirect encouragement or support to the Culture of Death.”
He said he agreed with those who urged “employers to respect their employees’ consciences and make necessary accommodations…” believing that “Lay Catholics can and should insist on their conscience rights and religious liberties,” and that “the entire Church should support the right and duty of Catholics to obey their consciences.”
The Catholic Bishops of South Dakota, in a statement released on August 10th, said “There is a general moral duty to refuse medical interventions that are in some way dependent upon cell lines derived from abortion; however, such are permissible if there is a proportionally grave need, no alternatives are available, and one makes one’s objection known. Even then, a well-formed conscience might decline such interventions in order to affirm with clarity the value of human life.”
They went on to say “We have the right to freely follow our conscience. We must not be forced to act contrary to our conscience, to be compelled to do something we believe to be wrong.”
On August 17th, Daniel Fernandez Torres, the Bishop of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, said “…it is possible for a faithful Catholic to have conscientious objection to the supposed obligatory nature of the vaccine against Covid-19.” Torres urged priests and deacons to support exemption requests from parishioners.
II. Federal Judge blocks vaccine mandate in Michigan–On August 31st, U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Maloney granted a motion for a temporary restraining order against Western Michigan University, which had sought to remove four members of the school’s Women’s Soccer Team because they were unvaccinated.
The four students, Emily Dahl, Hannah Redoute, Bailey Korhorn and Morgan Otteson, were denied religious exemptions to the university’s vaccination mandate, which, they said, violated their Christian and pro-life beliefs.
In his ruling, the judge stated “When law forces an individual to choose between following her religious beliefs or forfeiting benefits, the law places a substantial burden on the individual’s free exercise of religion” adding that the students “have established a likelihood of success on the merits of the Free Exercise Claims.”
Judge Maloney went on to impose the burden of proof on the university, requiring the school to establish a “compelling reason” for its mandate and to demonstrate that it is “narrowly tailored.”
III. Lawrence Tribe says UMass exemption denials are unconstitutional–Retired Harvard Law School Professor and Supreme Court litigator Lawrence Tribe—a prominent so-called progressive who served as an adviser to President Barack Obama—believes the University of Massachusetts religious exemption denial policy is unconstitutional.
A university administrator, Vice-Chancellor Shawn De Veau, is denying religious exemptions from the vaccine mandate to Catholic students. De Veau claims that his “determination” of what the Catholic Church teaches makes Catholic students ineligible for exemptions because vaccination–according to the government educrat–is not contrary to “the tenets of the Catholic Church.”
In a Matt McDonald article in the National Catholic Register, Tribe says he believes UMass “has clearly violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment,” explaining that “a government official interpreting a religion”….is “clearly unconstitutional and deeply offensive.”
Tribe cited the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Thomas v. Review Board of the Indiana Employment Security Division, which held that courts “are not arbiters of scriptural interpretation.”
IV. Fall River Diocese forbids clergy from helping Catholics–On July 30th, the Archdiocese of New York instructed its priests not to assist Catholics seeking religious exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia joined New York in this prohibition on August 18th.
On August 25th, Edgar M. da Cunha, the Bishop of Fall River, wrote to all of his priests, informing them that “…the Diocese of Fall River will not be granting religious exemptions to receiving a vaccine against COVID-19.”
Accordingly, he instructed the clergy “…all of our priests ministering in the Diocese should follow this same policy and decline requests from parishioners to validate a request for vaccine exemption based on religious grounds,” further warning them that “it is important that Church teaching not be cited inaccurately as the reason for their decision [to seek an exemption].”
Adding insult to injury, the bishop then told his priests “If you are asked to provide an attestation for religious exemption, I encourage you to use this opportunity to advise the person on the Church’s teaching on vaccines in general, and the COVID vaccines in particular.”
The era of Vatican II was supposed to usher in a more “pastoral” Church, characterized by “dialog” and “compassion.”
Effectively however, the bishop’s peremptory message to pro-life Catholics who conscientiously object to abortion tainted vaccines, can be reduced to two words: Drop Dead!