A Catholic Bishop has closed a religious exemption loophole for congregants looking to dodge vaccine mandates, writing that “receiving the COVID vaccine is perfectly consistent with Catholic faith, and indeed laudatory in light of the common good in this time of pandemic.”

In a letter to priests, San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy instructed them to “caringly decline” any requests from parishioners seeking a religious exemption. According to The Times of San Diego, “there have been reports from California and around the country of priests being pressured to sign a form prepared by the Colorado Catholic Conference suggesting that there is a basis in Catholic teaching that justifies a religious exemption to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.”

But McElroy rejected that idea and criticized the form, writing “The declaration focuses its moral analysis so exclusively on the rights of the individual to his or her choice and personal benefit in society rather than balancing those realities with the pursuit of the common good.”

“My greatest worry is that signing this declaration thrusts our priests into the impossible position of asserting that ‘the Catholic Church’s teachings may lead individual Catholics…to decline certain vaccines’ when those priests recognize that Catholic teaching proclaims just the opposite.”

Father Bernardo Lara, a San Diego priest, echoed the bishop’s position, telling a local NBC affiliate, “The core foundation of the Catholic church is always going to be the common good. That’s one of the reasons we have to vaccinate.”

The Catholic Church has been supportive of the vaccines since they’ve emerged. Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI received their COVID-19 vaccinations in January.

“I believe that morally everyone must take the vaccine,” the pontiff said in a Jan. 10 interview for Italy’s TG5 news program. “It is the moral choice because it is about your life but also the lives of others.”