Tucson Bishop Edward Weisenburger has directed his clergy not to grant religious exemptions to community members seeking them for COVID-19 vaccination mandates or mask requirements.
On Tuesday, the leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson sent a letter to priests explaining his perspective on the issue after being approached about exemptions from vaccine and mask mandates.
In the letter, Weisenburger notes while vaccinations are a matter of individual decision, the moral good of the community takes precedence over personal preferences.
“I fail to see how a Catholic could ask for an exemption from a vaccine mandate or mask mandate based upon their Catholic faith,” Weisenburger wrote. “I likewise fail to see how a Catholic minister could endorse such an exemption based upon our Catholic faith. While an individual may have some reservation based upon his or her conscience, such a reservation is unrelated to our Catholic faith.”
The Vatican’s orthodoxy office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued its stance on COVID-19 vaccinations in December, stating that the vaccines may be received without moral compromise.
Weisenburger’s statement comes after the Tucson City Council made COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for all of the city's 4,300-plus employees. To qualify for exemption because of a disability or a sincerely held religious belief, employees had to submit an accommodation request to the city’s Human Resources Department.
According to the city, 12% of city employees submitted exemption requests for medical or religious reasons.
Those who did not qualify for an exemption and are not vaccinated are facing a five-day unpaid suspension.
Banner Health, which employs about 52,000 people in Arizona, is also requiring employees to be vaccinated by Nov. 1 to continue working for the company, with limited exceptions.