SAN ANTONIO – The Archdiocese of San Antonio will not grant religious exemption letters to congregants who are not vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the archbishop.
Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller said the church is encouraging people to get an immunization unless they cannot do so for medical reasons. However, while he says the archdiocese will not provide any official stamp of approval for people seeking medical exemptions from the vaccine, the archbishop said it was up to everyone to make their own decision on whether to get vaccinated.
In a Facebook post on Friday, he quoted guidance from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that states: “Receiving one of the COVID-19 vaccines ought to be understood as an act of charity toward the other members of our community. In this way, being vaccinated safely against COVID-19 should be considered an act of love of our neighbor and part of our moral responsibility for the common good.”
He wrote in the post that the clergy of the Archdiocese of San Antonio would not provide or sign religious exemption letters for the vaccine.
The USCCB in March said that while it is “morally acceptable” to receive any of the COVID-19 vaccines, the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines are preferred based on church officials’ contention that an abortion-derived cell line is used in Johnson & Johnson’s production.
Johnson & Johnson responded to the criticism by saying there is no fetal tissue in its vaccine.
Now, García-Siller says the archdiocese “does not consider the COVID-19 vaccine to be morally objectionable and the reason all faithful, if medically able to do so, are encouraged to be vaccinated.”
Speaking with KSAT on Monday, García-Siller made it clear that the decision was up to each parishioner.
“Our message is ‘please be vaccinated,” García-Siller said. “It’s an act of charity. It’s an act of love. It’s to serve the community, the common good. And then you have the freedom that God has given you to make a decision to take it or not.”
“Has to be in the person’s interest and after the person makes a process of examination in the level of conscience,” the archbishop said. “And if the person doesn’t want to be vaccinated, that’s fine. They don’t need somebody else to prove it.”
People are responsible for their own decisions, García-Siller said, and responsible for their own actions.
“You make a decision, and hopefully, you’re not making a decision based on the politics, but based on truth and what you are finding at the level of your conscience. That is what is right, true, and just,” he said.