Template for Religious Exemption from COVID-19 Vaccines

[vc_row row_height_percent=”0″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ column_width_percent=”100″ shift_y=”0″ z_index=”0″ uncode_shortcode_id=”150891″ css=”.vc_custom_1628205184135{padding-top: 5% !important;padding-bottom: 5% !important;}”][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text uncode_shortcode_id=”661273″]NOTE: Neither the Colorado Catholic Conference nor the bishops or clergy of Colorado can sign this letter for Catholics outside of their dioceses. Individuals wishing to seek an exemption should take the letter to a member of clergy in their local diocese and ask if they will sign it.[/vc_column_text][vc_row_inner row_inner_height_percent=”0″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ shift_y=”0″ z_index=”0″ uncode_shortcode_id=”413845″][vc_column_inner column_width_percent=”100″ align_horizontal=”align_center” gutter_size=”3″ overlay_alpha=”50″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ width=”1/1″ uncode_shortcode_id=”329183″][vc_button button_color=”accent” size=”btn-lg” border_width=”0″ icon_position=”right” display=”inline” link=”url:https%3A%2F%2Fcocatholicconference.org%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2021%2F08%2F21_8_Vaccine_Exemption_CCC_Final.docx|target:_blank” button_color_type=”uncode-palette” icon=”fa fa-download3″ uncode_shortcode_id=”320608″]Download[/vc_button][vc_button button_color=”accent” size=”btn-lg” border_width=”0″ icon_position=”right” display=”inline” link=”url:https%3A%2F%2Fcocatholicconference.org%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2021%2F08%2F21-8-Vaccine-Exemption-CCC-Final-SPANISH.docx|target:_blank” button_color_type=”uncode-palette” icon=”fa fa-download3″ uncode_shortcode_id=”621317″]En Español[/vc_button][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_column_text uncode_shortcode_id=”135325″] [Date]

To Whom It May Concern,

[Name] is a baptized Catholic seeking a religious exemption from an immunization requirement. This letter explains how the Catholic Church’s teachings may lead individual Catholics, including [name], to decline certain vaccines.

The Catholic Church teaches that a person may be required to refuse a medical intervention, including a vaccination, if his or her conscience comes to this judgment. While the Catholic Church does not prohibit the use of most vaccines, and generally encourages them to safeguard personal and public health, the following authoritative Church teachings demonstrate the principled religious basis on which a Catholic may determine that he or she ought to refuse certain vaccines:

    • Vaccination is not morally obligatory in principle and so must be voluntary.[1]
    • There is a moral duty to refuse the use of medical products, including certain vaccines, that are created using human cells lines derived from abortion; however, it is permissible to use such vaccines only under case-specific conditions—if there are no other alternatives available and the intent is to preserve life.[2]
    • A person’s assessment of whether the benefits of a medical intervention outweigh the undesirable side-effects are to be respected unless they contradict authoritative Catholic moral teachings.[3]
    • A person is morally required to obey his or her conscience.[4]

A Catholic may judge it wrong to receive certain vaccines for a variety of reasons consistent with these teachings, and there is no authoritative Church teaching universally obliging Catholics to receive any vaccine. An individual Catholic may invoke Church teaching to refuse a vaccine that used abortion-derived cell lines at any stage of the creation of the vaccine. More generally, a Catholic might refuse a vaccine based on the Church’s teachings concerning therapeutic proportionality. Therapeutic proportionality is an assessment of whether the benefits of a medical intervention outweigh the undesirable side-effects and burdens in light of the integral good of the person, including spiritual, psychological, and bodily goods.[5] The judgment of therapeutic proportionality must be made by the person who is the potential recipient of the intervention,[6] not by public health authorities or by other individuals who might judge differently in their own situations.

The Catholic Bishops of Colorado have affirmed this in two letters dated December 14, 2020 and March 17, 2021, concerning COVID-19 vaccines, stating:

“The bishops of Colorado affirm that the use of some COVID-19 vaccines is morally acceptable under certain circumstances…. However, if individuals have serious moral objections or health concerns about vaccines, those concerns should be respected by society and government, and those individuals should not be forced into vaccination, contrary to their conscience. The government should not impose the COVID-19 vaccines on its citizens.”[7]

Furthermore, the free-exercise clause of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment requires state accommodation of individuals who object to vaccinations on religious grounds. Government neutrality also requires religious accommodation when the state offers secular exemptions, which is the case in Colorado for medical and non-medical exemptions[8] and exemptions through the Americans with Disabilities Act and Civil Rights Act of 1964.[9]

Vaccination is not a universal obligation and a person must obey his or her own conscience. Therefore, if a Catholic comes to an informed judgment that he or she should not receive a vaccine, then the Catholic Church requires that the person follow this judgment of conscience and refuse the vaccine. The Catechism is clear: “Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. ‘He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters.’”[10]

 

Sincerely,

[Name and Title of Pastor]

 

[1] Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), “Note on the Morality of Using Some Anti-COVID-19 Vaccines,” December 17, 2020, n. 5: “At the same time, practical reason makes evident that vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary.”

[2] See Pontifical Academy for Life, “Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared from Cells Derived from Aborted Human Foetuses,” June 9, 2005; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Dignitas personae, 2008, nn. 34-35; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Note on the Morality of Using Some Anti-COVID-19 Vaccines,” nn. 1-3. When there is a sufficiently serious reason to use the product and there is no reasonable alternative available, the Catholic Church teaches that it may be permissible to use the immorally sourced product under protest. In any case, whether the product is used or not, the Catholic Church teaches that all must make their disagreement known and request the development of equal or better products using biological material that does not come from abortions.

[3] See United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, 6th ed. (Washington, DC: USCCB Publishing, 2018), n. 28. Hereafter “ERDs.”

[4]  “A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself…” Catechism of the Catholic Church (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1993), www.vatican.va, n. 1790. Hereafter “CCC.”

[5] See ERDs, nn. 32-33; nn. 56-57; Part Three, Introduction, para. 2; Part Five, Introduction, para. 3.

[6] See ERDs, nn. 56-57. Both of these directives state that the proportionality of medical interventions is established “in the patient’s judgment.”

[7] A Letter to the Faithful from the Colorado bishops on Covid-19 Vaccines. Colorado Catholic Conference. (2020, December 15). https://cocatholicconference.org/a-letter-to-the-faithful-from-the-colorado-bishops-on-covid-19-vaccines/.

[8] Vaccine Exemptions. Department of Public Health and Environment. https://cdphe.colorado.gov/vaccine-exemptions.

[9] Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/pandemic-preparedness-workplace-and-americans-disabilities-act.

[10] CCC, n. 1782, citing Second Vatican Council, Dignitatis humanae, December 7, 1965, n. 3.

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Most Reverend Stephen J. Berg

Bishop of the Diocese of Pueblo

Most Reverend Stephen Berg is a native of Miles City, Montana. He is the son of Connie and Jeanne Berg and the oldest of 10 children. He attended Catholic schools in Miles City, graduating from Sacred Heart High School in 1969. He earned a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1973 and a Master of Music from Eastern New Mexico University in Portales in 1975. Upon graduation, Bishop-designate Berg taught music at Tarrant County College in Fort Worth. Subsequently, he worked 14 years in the retail nursery industry as vice president or general manager for divisions of Sunbelt Nursery, Inc. in Fort Worth, Southern California, Phoenix and Atlanta.

Bishop-designate Berg entered Assumption Seminary in San Antonio in 1993 where he received a Master of Divinity degree from Oblate School of Theology in 1999. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1999 by his maternal uncle Bishop Joseph L. Charron, C.PP.S, S.T.D, now the Bishop Emeritus of Des Moines. After his ordination, Bishop-designate Berg served as parochial vicar of St. Michael Catholic Church in Bedford, Texas from 1999 to 2001. In 2001, he became parochial vicar of St. John the Apostle Catholic Church in North Richland Hills, Texas. From 2002 to 2008, he was pastor of four rural parishes: St. Mary in Henrietta, St. Jerome in Bowie, St. William in Montague and St. Joseph in Nocona. In 2008, Bishop Kevin Vann appointed him vicar general of the Diocese of Fort Worth and concurrently he served as pastor of St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church. In 2010, he became the Moderator of the Curia for the Diocese under Bishop Vann and also served as administrator of Holy Name of Jesus parish. Upon Bishop Vann’s installation as Bishop of Orange, then Monsignor Berg was elected diocesan administrator in December 2012 by the College of Consultors for the Diocese. Bishop Berg was ordained and installed as Bishop of Pueblo on February 27, 2014, by Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila at a Mass in Pueblo.

Most Reverend James R. Golka

Bishop of the Diocese of Colorado Springs

Bishop Golka is the fourth of ten children born September 22, 1966, to Robert and Patricia Golka. He was born and raised in Grand Island, NE. He graduated from Grand Island Central Catholic High School in 1985. He graduated from Creighton University in 1989 with degrees in Philosophy and Theology. He then spent one year as a Jesuit lay missionary volunteer at Red Cloud Indian School on the Native American Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

After applying as a seminarian for his home diocese of Grand Island, Bishop Golka enjoyed seminary formation at the St. Paul Seminary, School of Divinity, of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN, where he received both a Masters of Divinity degree and a Masters of Arts degree in Sacramental Theology.

He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Grand Island on June 3, 1994. He has served as a Parochial Vicar and Pastor in various parishes. He has served the diocese in various capacities including Director of Ongoing Formation of Clergy, Chair of the Personnel Board, member of the Diocesan Finance Council, the Presbyteral Council, and as a member of the Diocesan College of Consultors. At the time of his election, he was serving as Rector of the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Grand Island, NE. He was also serving as the Vicar General for the Diocese of Grand Island.

Bishop Golka says that he greatly enjoys the pastoral ministry which is provided in a parish setting. Working with people at all stages of life and allowing the gift of our Catholic faith to provide direction, support and new life is greatly rewarding. He also enjoys helping to provide ongoing formation events for the clergy of the diocese to care for the wellbeing of his brother priests.

Bishop Golka has worked with national consultants to better help parishes develop stewardship as a way of life. He has offered numerous retreats across the country preaching the blessings of ordering our lives in recognition that all we are and all we have is a gift from God. A guiding scripture passage is Psalm 116:12 which proclaims: “How can I repay the LORD for all the great good done for me?”

Bishop Golka was Ordained a Bishop in Colorado Springs on June 29, 2021. The Diocese of Colorado Springs has approximately 183,150 Catholics in 39 parishes and missions. The diocese has 82 priests, 85 Deacons and 15 men in seminary formation. The diocese and its parishes provide religious education and formation to more than 9,000 students. There is one private Catholic high school in the diocese that currently serves approximately 254 students, while an additional 1,325 students receive instruction through five parish-based elementary schools. In total, there are more than 5,414 Catholic youths under religious instruction in the Diocese of Colorado Springs.

Bishop Golka looks forward to continued growth and expansion in the diocese. With God’s grace and with the support of the faithful, the Diocese of Colorado Springs will know many more years of serving the mission of the Church in Colorado.

Most Reverend Bishop Jorge H. Rodríguez

Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Denver

Bishop Rodriguez was born March 22, 1955, in Merida, Mexico, located in the state of Yucatan. He is the son of Nery Maria Novelo and Ramon Rodriguez (deceased), and he has one brother and four sisters, who live in Merida. In Merida he attended a primary school run by the Maryknoll Sisters, and then secondary and preparatory schools run by the Marist Brothers. When he finished high school, he joined the Legionaries of Christ to study and become a priest. He was ordained Dec. 24, 1987.

He was awarded a Doctorate in Sacred Theology by the Gregorian in Rome in 1994. He also has a licentiate in philosophy from the same pontifical university, and a diploma in Mariology from the Marianum in Rome.

He was the dean of the Theology Department of the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome (1994-1997). He has taught theology at the Pontifical Lateran University, at the Pontifical Institute Regina Mundi and at the Institute for Religious Sciences at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

In 1999, he was invited by then Archbishop Charles Chaput to teach in the newly launched St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, and to serve as Associate Pastor of St. Therese Parish in Aurora.

In 2002, he returned to Rome to serve as Associate Pastor of Stella Maris Parish in the Diocese of Rome, but then returned to Denver in 2006 to be a professor at St. John Vianney.

From 2007-2014, Father Rodriguez served as vice-rector of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver. He was incardinated as a priest of the Archdiocese of Denver in 2008.

Since 2014, he has served as pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Thornton, Colorado, and he continues to teach the seminarians as well as the permanent diaconate candidates.

Pope Francis appointed Father Rodriguez as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Denver on August 25, 2016 and was ordained on November 4, 2016 on the feast of St. Charles Borromeo, the patron saint of bishops. He is also currently the pastor at St. Joseph parish in Denver.

He speaks Spanish, English and Italian, and reads French, and is the author of various theological publications.

Most Reverend Samuel J. Aquila

Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Denver

Samuel J. Aquila was born on September 24, 1950, in Burbank, California.  He was ordained to the priesthood in Denver, Colorado, on June 5, 1976, and served in parish ministry for 11 years.  In 1987, he began graduate studies at San Anselmo University in Rome, earning a Licentiate in Sacramental Theology in 1990.

He served as Director for the Office of Liturgy and Master of Ceremonies in the Archdiocese of Denver from 1990 until 1995.  He served the archdiocese as Co-director for Continuing Education for Priests, as an advisor to the Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy, and as Assistant Secretary for Catholic Education before being named Secretary for Catholic Education, a position he held from 1995 until 1999.

From 1999-2001, he served as the first Rector of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver and Chief Executive Officer of Our Lady of the New Advent Theological Institute.  In 2000, he was named a Prelate of Honor by Pope John Paul II, receiving the honorary title of Monsignor.

He was appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Fargo on June 12, 2001, and his Episcopal Ordination Mass was celebrated at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fargo on August 24, 2001.  On March 18, 2002, he became Bishop of Fargo, and from 2005 to 2006 he also acted as Apostolic Administrator for the Diocese of Sioux Falls. On July 18, 2012 he was installed as the Archbishop of Denver, returning to lead the Archdiocese where he had originally served as a priest for 25 years.

Archbishop Aquila serves on numerous boards and committees, including the Papal Foundation, the Bishops’ Advisory Council for the Institute for Priestly Formation and the Board of Trustees for the Augustine Institute.  He is a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in which he has served as a member of various committees. Archbishop Aquila’s episcopal motto comes from the Blessed Virgin Mary’s instructions at Cana: “Do whatever he tells you (Jn 2:5).”