Update – Vaccine Religious Exemptions

Now that that Judge Hurd has temporarily stayed the NY ban on religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care professionals, we understand there has been a flurry of such requests locally. We also understand that many have been granted (though we do not know how many total or what percentage).

Our recommendations regarding how to go about requesting a religious exemption are here. If you have any questions you can contact us. We also recommend that you speak with a trusted priest who can help guide you in thinking through this difficult issue.

We recognize that this is a challenging time in many ways. Please know that we are praying for everyone who is struggling, whether with the pandemic generally, the vaccine mandate, or anything else! Always remember that we have recourse to our Lord though the Saints and most especially the Blessed Virgin Mary!

St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, Pray for Us!

Mary, Comforter of the Afflicted, Pray for Us!

Religious Exemption to Vaccine Mandate

The issue of religious exemptions to the COVID vaccine mandate continues to evolve and, in all honesty, remains quite confusing.

The U of R has announced that they WILL now consider religious exemptions to the vaccine mandate (details below), though we have been unable to confirm that NY State has reinstated the possibility of such exemptions, which were recently removed.

We understand that the official online form for U of R employees will be available starting on September 7, 2021 and can be found here (url: https://tools.mc.rochester.edu/covid-vaccination-status/login).

We would like to reiterate, in accord with the recent CDF statement, our support for neighbors, friends, and colleagues who in good (and with a well-formed) conscience choose to accept OR decline COVID vaccinations in accordance with Church teaching.

All that being said, here are some details we hope will be helpful for U of R employees who are interested in obtaining a religious objection to COVID vaccination…

The U of R form directs:

In your own words, please provide a written statement in the space below that outlines your genuine and sincere religious belief contrary to the practice of immunization. The statement should specifically describe the religious principles that guide your objection to vaccination and must include the underlined words above. Documentation prepared by a third party to whose views you ascribe will not be acceptable. Please indicate whether you are opposed to all vaccinations and if not, the religious basis that prohibits a particular vaccination, such as the COVID-19 vaccine.

As the document requires each person to put their reasoning in their own words, we will not here provide any verbatim suggestions, rather we will provide general recommendations that you can use to compose your uniquely-worded argument (though if you would like personalized assistance, please contact us!).

Points to consider for inclusion:

  • So long as it is true, be certain to include the exact phrase, “genuine and sincere religious belief” as it relates to your opposition to receiving any of the currently-available COVID vaccines.
  • If there is a COVID vaccine in development that you WOULD accept, such as one developed without the use of cell lines form aborted children, indicating this may lend credibility to your thoughtful refusal of those that are currently available. You can find the vaccines currently underdevelopment that meet this criterion from the Charlotte Lozier Institute or on Fr. Tad’s site.
  • We also recommend that you quote directly from the CDF document: Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines, including in particular the opening line of paragraph 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.” Note the use of “must be mandatory.” This is a strong statement and admits of no reasonable variation of interpretation. Please also note that this statement constitutes the official Teaching of the Magisterium and so provides solid ground for a Catholic to form his or her conscience.

We hope that this guidance is helpful. If you have questions, comments, suggestions, or criticisms, please know that we encourage you to share them with us!

Religious Exemption…

We received word this evening that the U of R will now be offering the opportunity for staff to request religious exemptions to the COVID vaccination mandate. Stay tuned for more details…

NYS Vaccine Mandate for Healthcare Professionals

Updated 8/26/21 at 2030 – The reason for the lack of clarity had now been made clear. It seems that NYS never intended to allow for religious exemptions in the first place.

….

On August 16 Governor Cuomo issued a proclamation that all healthcare works in NYS will be mandated to be vaccinated no later than September 27th. With respect to exemptions to this mandate, the statement reads, “…a policy mandating employee vaccinations, with limited exceptions for those with religious or medical reasons.”

On August 23, the University of Rochester published their understanding of the mandate:

UR Medicine leadership participated in a call last week with New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) representatives to gain a better understanding of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo last Monday. At this time, the Medical Center’s understanding is that the mandate will apply to everyone who works within a licensed health care facility. This means that all faculty, staff, and students who work or study in a patient care facility (inpatient, outpatient, and procedure areas) will be required to receive a first dose of the vaccine by the state’s September 27 deadline; testing is no longer an available option per NYSDOH. It also appears that the state will approve limited criteria for medical or religious exemptions. (emphasis added)

Unlike student exemptions (U of R’s exemption process is here, see below for their exemption form) it appears that it will be the New York State government itself that will be directly handling requests for exemptions. However, the process for such requests is unclear.

One thing we would like to make/keep clear is the official stance of the Catholic Church on this contentious issue. From the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith’s Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines (promulgated 12/21/2020)

3...It must therefore be considered that, in such a case, all vaccinations recognized as clinically safe and effective can be used in good conscience with the certain knowledge that the use of such vaccines does not constitute formal cooperation with the abortion from which the cells used in production of the vaccines derive. It should be emphasized, however, that the morally licit use of these types of vaccines, in the particular conditions that make it so, does not in itself constitute a legitimation, even indirect, of the practice of abortion, and necessarily assumes the opposition to this practice by those who make use of these vaccines....
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.

To be clear, the Finger Lakes Guild fully submits to the prudential judgement of the Church that the currently-available vaccines, while not ideal from a moral standpoint, are acceptable under the circumstances of this pandemic.

At the same time, the Guild also stands by those individuals who, as a matter of conscience, are unable to accept vaccination with any of the currently-available options due to the connection to abortion.

Finally, in accordance with paragraph 5 from the CDF’s Note, we oppose the Governor’s sweeping mandate that effectively makes vaccination non-voluntary for healthcare workers by forcing a choice between either violating their conscience or losing their job.

Please share any thoughts, questions, etc. with us here. We will do our best to stay abreast of this rapidly evolving policy from the Governor.

Conscience Protection in AK

The below letter was sent to Arkansas Governor, Asa Hutchinson, to thank him for signing the Medical Ethics and Diversity Act into law.

The letter was sent by CMA, in partnership with The Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, which represents more than 30,000 healthcare professionals committed to promoting and upholding Hippocratic medicine’s fundamental principles.

Together with these likeminded organizations, CMA remains dedicated to defending your rights to conscience and religious freedom and upholding the sanctity of life.
Governor Hutchinson, 
We write to you today to thank you for signing legislation providing protection of the conscience rights of medical professionals. We speak on behalf of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG), the Christian Medical and Dental Associations (CDMA), the Catholic Medical Association (CMA), and the American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds), together representing approximately 30,000 physicians across the United States. Our members are uniquely impacted by issues of conscience rights as we strive to offer compassionate and excellent healthcare to our patients – both born and preborn.

Fundamental to the unique physician-patient relationship is the concept of a fiduciary relationship – the trust that the patient has in his or her physician, to do and recommend what is in the best interest of the patient.  That trust stems from the centuries-old Hippocratic oath, a vow that all physicians take to do no harm to their patients. This Oath is the basis of the doctor-patient relationship, and is the cornerstone of medical ethics for all physicians. 

The Hippocratic oath and its promise to “do no harm” has been under attack for the better half of the past century through concerted attempts to use punitive legal coercion to force healthcare professionals to recommend or perform the killing of their patients. This coercion has resulted in a need for conscience protections for those physicians operating within the bounds of Hippocratic Medicine, which explicitly separates medical care from the intentional killing of human beings.  Hippocratic physicians must be able to exercise professional judgment for the best interest of all of their patients, born and preborn, without fear of negative career or legal implications as a result of their decisions. 

Opponents to conscience rights legislation may claim that current laws provide conscience protection, and that protections like those made into law in Arkansas are not necessary. But existing protections are hollow, as none of these statutes allow a physician who has been discriminated against to sue on their own behalf. All of the current conscience protection laws require the Department of Health and Human Services to sue on the behalf of the physician. It is anticipated then that under the Biden Administration, and HHS Secretary Becerra, physicians have little to no legal recourse against discrimination on the basis of acting according to the Hippocratic Oath and their conscience. 

We, as a coalition of medical associations, applaud the work of your office to protect the conscience   rights of medical practitioners, and hope that other state leaders will follow in the steps of Arkansas to ensure medical professionals operating in accordance with the Hippocratic oath remain able to do so. Medical professionals are more than a public utility and we should not be forced or bullied into performing procedures, treatments or therapies which kill our patients or leave them permanently injured. Additionally, physicians need to be able to legally defend themselves against such discrimination and bullying when we refuse to do so. 

AAPLOG, CMA, CMDA and the ACPeds, alongside our 30,000 members across the country, thank you and your fellow legislators for your leadership on the issue of conscience rights for medical professionals, and invite you to reach out to our organizations should you have any questions. 

Respectfully, 
The Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine
American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists American College of Pediatricians Catholic Medical Association Christian Medical and Dental Associations

COVID-19 Vaccines

The Guild has been closely following the development, and now distribution, of vaccines for COVID-19. There has been much written on this topic and we are in particular very thankful to the USCCB for their recent guidance on this important topic.

We will be posting our detailed thoughts on all of this shortly. In the meantime, we would like to provide some resources that we hope will be helpful in thinking through this important issue.

If you have questions or would like more information please don’t hesitate to contact us.