Updated: August 23, 2021 12:09 PM
Created: August 23, 2021 12:00 PM
Archbishop Bernard Hebda, of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, issued a letter last week to clergy on the topic of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The letter specifically addresses vaccine exemptions and advises clergy members on various considerations related to getting, or not getting, the COVID-19 vaccine.
The letter is as follows:
I have been asked by several of you for guidance regarding how you should respond to requests for a letter in support of a religious exemption from a COVID vaccine requirement. When presented with these requests, I would first ask that you ask the person making the request to check whether their employer or school is requiring a letter of this sort.
I am not presently aware of concrete situations locally where a school or employer is actually requiring a letter from a pastor or member of the clergy to support a request for an exemption. In most cases, those over 18 only need to certify that they have an issue of conscience.
I also encourage you to use these conversations as an opportunity to advise the person on the Church's teaching on vaccines in general, and the COVID vaccines in particular. I especially recommend referencing the Note issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith several months ago indicating that the COVID-19 vaccine may be taken in good conscience, while noting that, as a general rule, vaccination must always be voluntary. Also you may find helpful Pope Francis' recent video in which he urged Catholics to get vaccinated as an act of love for oneself, our families and friends, and all people. Finally, our Archdiocesan COVID-19 page has a Vaccine Information and Resources section which is updated regularly.
It is an individual and personal decision whether to receive a COVID vaccine, and although the Church does support the right of a person to seek an exemption from vaccine requirements on the basis of their conscience, that is an individual decision that should not be dependent upon an attestation by a member of the clergy. If you have a concrete request from a person where such a letter is actually required in order for an exemption to be honored, I would ask that you please refer the matter to Father Michael Tix.
Grateful for your ongoing fidelity to your priestly ministry and perseverance in the face
of all things related to the pandemic, I remain,
Fraternally in Christ,
Most Reverend Bernard A. Hebda
Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis
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