Parishoners should know of their priest’s vaccination status

Human Resources

A US bishop says priests who don’t get vaccinated should be upfront about their COVID-19 vaccination status to others.

Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky had already issued a mandate that all diocesan faculty and staff at Catholic schools must be vaccinated against the virus.

The diocese let go of “a handful” of employees who refused, Stowe says.

When it came to priests in the diocese, the bishop says he turned to “moral persuasion,” urging them to get vaccinated to protect parishioners.

So far, about 92 percent of the diocese’s 50 priests have been vaccinated, compared to just 61 percent of other fully vaccinated adults in Kentucky.

But for the few priests who chose not to be vaccinated, the bishop believes they should be upfront about their status. They owe it to their parishioners, he says.

“When I found out that four of them still were not vaccinated, I said they had to disclose that to their people because people were expecting they would be vaccinated,” Stowe says.

He also told them “they couldn’t go into the homes of the sick or the homebound or be in close proximity” to worshippers.

At least two priests revealed their status over the weekend. A videoed Mass shown a deacon reading the following statement:

“The bishop has asked that Father David and I … are not vaccinated, so people can decide if they wanted to attend Mass where they were celebrating.”

In an email to America magazine, one of the priests wrote that neither of them chose “…to make public comments, either within the liturgy or outside of it, about either our vaccination status or the reasons for our decision …” to announce “… our vaccination status.”

Stowe, who has received both positive and negative feedback about his vaccination stance, says he has no regrets mandating a vaccine for diocesan employees, especially those who work with children.

“Kids, especially those under 12, have no choice about whether they get vaccinated. And so it seemed to me that if teachers are going to be in a classroom with kids for several hours a day, in an enclosed space, they need to be vaccinated.”

Pope Francis and many US bishops have encouraged Catholics to get vaccinated. Some bishops even say religious exemptions should not be given to individual Catholics who do not wish to be vaccinated.

Kentucky is experiencing surging Covid-19 infections. Hospitals are overwhelmed.

The now familiar please to wear masks, maintain good hygiene standards, stay home when unwell and get vaccinated are being repeated everywhere from the state governor’s office down.

Yet still some people resist.

“People who continuously appeal to their right to privacy and the right to their individual conscience are losing sight of the common good,” Stowe comments.

Persuading unvaccinated people to change their minds is “almost pointless at this moment.

“There’s no rational persuasion that seems to work. They want to believe every conspiracy theory and everything they read on their preferred websites rather than the facts.”

Most upsetting to him is that he feels Catholics who refuse to be vaccinated are ignoring a basic tenet of Catholic social teaching: the impetus to serve the common good.


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News category: World.