Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

About religious exemptions in Atlanta

Published September 8, 2021  | En Español

Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer and the auxiliary bishops of Atlanta are vaccinated, and they strongly encourage others to get a COVID-19 vaccine unless there is a medical reason not to do so. In his instructions to priests, the archbishop has stated they should not sign letters requesting a general religious exemption from the vaccination.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated it is morally acceptable to receive the COVID vaccines currently available in places where a vaccine free of all ethical concerns is not available. The congregation goes on to say “ …from the ethical point of view, the morality of vaccination depends not only on the duty to protect one’s own health, but also on the duty to pursue the common good. In the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination, especially to protect the weakest and most exposed.”

The archbishop’s Aug. 13 memo to priests said that because of the determination it is morally acceptable to receive the current vaccines, the church cannot provide a general exemption.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms that people have “the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. ‘He (or she) must not be forced to act contrary to his (or her) conscience. Nor must he (or she) be prevented from acting according to his (or her) conscience, especially in religious matters.’” (CCC 1782)

If a Catholic judges they cannot, in good conscience, receive one of the COVID vaccines available, he or she has the personal right not to receive the vaccine and to express the reasons for their decision. Neither a pastor or a church can present that case for them.