Bishop issues guidance on vaccine letter of exemption

BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has issued guidance for those who seek letters of exemption from the Covid-19 vaccine.

In an August 17 letter to clergy the Bishop noted that his guidance is offered in response to inquiries clergy have received from parishioners seeking a letter to claim a religious exemption from any requirement to receive the Coronavirus vaccine.

“As you well know, this is a very complex issue, made more complicated by a great amount of misinformation that is found on the internet and via social media,” the Bishop said.

“Our Holy Father and the CDF have taught us that reception of the vaccine fulfills the moral imperative to protect the health of our neighbor and the common good of society. Those who do not wish to be vaccinated must be reminded of their moral obligation to do whatever is reasonable and required by local authorities to avoid becoming infected and transmitting the virus to others.”

The Bishop reiterated that the Magisterium of the Church has clearly taught that there is no moral prohibition for any Catholic to receive the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine. Further, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has made it clear that the Johnson and Johnson vaccine can be received by Catholics in those cases where there are no alternative vaccines available.

However, while the Church has urged Catholics to get vaccinated for the common good, the Bishop said it also recognizes that a Catholic, whose conscience is properly informed on the subject after prayerful reflection, can arrive at a personal decision to refrain from receiving the vaccine. In such cases, the person may feel obligated in conscience to refrain from what is morally permissible for a variety of legitimate reasons.

The Bishop said that when people come forward requesting a letter of exemption from the vaccine, it is important that the priest meet with the individuals and explore the reasoning that led them to this conclusion.

However, “because such a decision is made in conscience, informed by faith, for which only the person making the decision can attest,” the priest cannot write a letter directly endorsing the exemption, the Bishop said.

“When a Catholic decides to forgo the reception of the Coronavirus vaccine, that person is making the conscientious decision to hold themselves to a more rigorous religious practice than recommended by the Roman Magisterium. As such, their request is really an affirmation of the person’s conscientious objection, informed by their personal faith and personal circumstances. Since no one can speak for the conscience of another person, only the person who arrived at such a conclusion can write a letter affirming their conclusion,” he said.

Priests can assist in the process by providing two documents that can accompany an individual’s request for a conscientious exemption, a Statement of Resource issued by the National Catholic Bioethics Center and a Question & Answer resource provided by the USCCB. Both documents can accompany a person’s request for an exemption from the vaccine.

The Bishop’s letter also included a template that can be used by a person who wishes to request a conscientious, religious exemption from any vaccine mandate.

Among available resources are:
CDF Document on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines
Statement from Pro-Life Catholic Scholars
USCCB document on Moderna and Pfizer vaccines
USCCB document on the moral concerns of creating vaccines