Bishop's Message September 13, 2021
Bishop Edward Weisenburger sends out a message to the clergy regarding vaccination and mask mandates:
In recent days I have been approached about exemptions from vaccine requirements or exemptions from facemask mandates. I will do my best to explain my perspective—which I believe reflects the Church’s teaching on these topics—while remaining as brief as possible.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued their “Note on the Morality of Using Some Anti-Covid-19 Vaccines” on December 21, 2020. While that brief document (approximately two pages) merits a quick read from every Catholic, allow me to summarize three significant points it expresses:
All current anti-Covid-19 vaccines may be received by the faithful without moral compromise. While many appropriately cite a repugnance at the use of vaccines procured through the cell lines that originate in an aborted fetus, the Note cited above clearly outlines the Church’s ancient moral distinction between formal and material cooperation in evil (originating with St. Alphonsus Ligouri and woven deeply into the theology of the Catechism, Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict, and Pope Francis). While I understand that the average member of the laity may not appreciate that distinction I do believe so fundamental a teaching should be grasped readily by our clergy.
While vaccinations, in general, are a matter of individual decision, in particular instances the moral good of the community is so compelling that it takes precedence over our personal preferences—such as in a pandemic. None of us enjoys the moral freedom to dismiss the common good, as is so common in Western culture. Thus, there may well be a legitimate and compelling moral obligation for one to accept vaccination, especially if one is in a role that is critical for the wellbeing of others.
To quote from the above-referenced Note: “Those who, however, for reasons of conscience, refuse vaccines produced with cell lines from aborted fetuses, must do their utmost to avoid, by other prophylactic means and appropriate behavior, becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent. In particular, they must avoid any risk to the health of those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or other reasons, and who are the most vulnerable.” [in summary: we have a clear moral obligation to abide by mask mandates and social distancing.]
With this teaching before us—along with the example of our Holy Father, the Successor of St. Peter—I fail to see how a Catholic could ask for an exemption from a vaccine mandate or mask mandate based upon their Catholic faith. I likewise fail to see how a Catholic minister could endorse such an exemption based upon our Catholic faith. While an individual may have some reservation based upon his or her conscience, such a reservation is unrelated to our Catholic faith.
For these reasons, I am directing our clergy not to cooperate with any individuals seeking our endorsement of an exemption from vaccine or facemask mandates based specifically upon our Catholic faith.
These are challenging times in the life of the Church. Please know that I feel for you who are on the “front lines” and are working so hard to be of generous service to the faithful. May God bless you abundantly for your fidelity and priestly service.
Very sincerely yours in Christ Jesus,
+Edward J. Weisenburger"