The Quebec government, headed by Premier Francois Legault (above), commanded places of worship to implement a vaccine passport for parishioners ages 14 to 75.

Bishops challenged to condemn Church vaccine mandates

By 
  • February 3, 2022

While the Freedom Convoy 2022 demonstration in the nation’s capital, led by thousands of Canadian truckers, dominated headlines by its sheer size, a Catholic dimension has emerged in ongoing protests against COVID-19 restrictions.

On Jan. 26, pro-life group Campaign Life Coalition published a letter it sent to the Catholic archbishop, bishop and cardinal in every Canadian diocese. In it, Jeff Gunnarson, Campaign Life national president, implored the Church leaders to “respect your priests and lay faithful who have decided in good conscience to refuse COVID-19 vaccines because they are tainted by abortion.”

He also implores them to keep churches open for everyone regardless of immunization status.

Gunnarson said supporters expressed disappointment in Catholic leaders for not speaking out against the efforts of provincial or federal governments to “coerce citizens into taking the abortion-tainted jabs on pain of being fired or barred from participation in society — essentially turned into second-class citizens.”

“I agreed with those complaints,” said Gunnarson. “It is the height of cruelty, and a form of tyranny, to tell an employee: ‘Choose between your conscience or your livelihood. It’s the jab or your job.’ 

“I found that to be rather un-Christian conduct and felt the Church should definitely be speaking out against segregation and the deliberate impoverishment of a medical minority.”

Canada’s bishops have been echoing the Holy See’s December 2020 guidance, when the Vatican declared “it is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process” if “ethically irreproachable COVID-19 vaccines are not available.” The Vatican letter did urge pharmaceutical companies and government health agencies to “produce, approve, distribute and offer ethically acceptable vaccines that do not create problems of conscience for either health-care providers or the people to be vaccinated.”

While many dioceses have not yet instituted strict vaccine-only participation or a vaccination or testing policy for clergy, staff and congregants, there are exceptions. Since Oct. 22, the Diocese of Grand Falls, Nfld., has mandated vaccines for every person 12 years or older. The Quebec government commanded places of worship to implement a vaccine passport for parishioners ages 14 to 75. The Archdiocese of Toronto, the Diocese of Hamilton and the Archdiocese of Moncton stipulate vaccine-free clergy submit themselves to routine testing.

Fr. Troy Nguyen, associate pastor of St. James Parish in Okotoks, Alta., recorded a homily in January about the problems of instituting vaccine passports in parishes.

“This is gravely wrong, immoral and unjust,” said Nguyen. “We cannot take away the rights and dignity of a human person because of their vaccination status. If we go down that road, we are going down a very dangerous, dark road.”

Nguyen adds that “we are obligated by the Church to follow our conscience to understand the law of God and how to obey it.”

Campaign Life also endorsed the Catholic prayer campaign Canada Prays that launched Jan. 26. Georges Buscemi, a Quebec Catholic, is guiding the Canadian chapter of a global faith initiative that began in Austria and has since spread. The appeal of this campaign is simple: an end to all COVID-19 restrictions.
Canada Prays hosts weekly rosary events.

Buscemi said individual Catholics are welcome to feel differently about COVID-19 vaccines. However, he would like to see a united front against vaccine passports or mandates. He cites the Vatican II Declaration on Religious Freedom that states a man must “not be forced to act contrary to his conscience.”

“I think every Catholic will agree that even though something may be good, it is not good to force someone to do that thing.” said Buscemi. “Vaccine passports and mandates are a form of ethical coercion as it deprives people of things if they don’t comply.”

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