Catholic priests, deacons and employees of the Archdiocese of Brisbane have been told to get double jabbed or step aside, according to a report in The Australian. The ultimatum was issued in a letter authored by the Archbishop of Brisbane, the paper said.
On Monday 15 November, Archbishop Mark Coleridge sent a letter to deacons and the approximately 200 priests of the Brisbane diocese, which told them they must be double jabbed or face suspension.
Archbishop Coleridge said that those who have not been double vaccinated “put the faithful of the parish at risk” when carrying out their pastoral duties. The Australian reported on the letter, and quoted the Archbishop as saying in it: “A pastor or assistant pastor in parish ministry is to know the faithful, visit families, care for the faithful, strengthen them in the Lord and refresh the faithful with the sacraments.”
“That means that clergy engaged in parish ministry must be close to people. In the circumstances of the pandemic, clergy engaged in pastoral ministry who are not doubly vaccinated put the faithful of the parish at risk. They present a risk to the faithful to whom they minister, as well as to their families.
“Clergy not doubly vaccinated are failing in their duty of care for the faithful.”
The news, which was shared on Facebook by Christian writer and commentator Dave Pellowe, attracted some blistering responses, with one user writing that “the line has been crossed” and another blasting the decision as “absolutely disgraceful”.
“The line has been crossed Queenslanders, never thought I’d see the day when church and its leaders, side with the government. When did they stop following the Word of the Lord? Many red flags here folks!”
Another person added: “I have a good number of catholic friends who are very strong and discerning crusaders in the culture war. They would be exceedingly angry about this mandate.” Another user said that the mandate would result in a shortage of priests, writing: “All the unvaccinated priests should ‘do as they are asked’ and then the church will be very short staffed. Not a very smart decision by the church.”
“This is very sad. Unbelievable,” another person said, whilst one user voiced support for priests who have chosen not to have the vaccine: “So disappointing, I stand with those who remain unvaccinated and could happily attend their masses.”
The mandate means that all involved in religious services and pastoral ministry across the 97 parishes in the Archdiocese of Brisbane must prove their double vaccination status within a month.
Archbishop Coleridge specifically said there would be no conscientious exemptions, and that an exemption would only apply for those who have a medical condition that prevents them from being vaccinated – and they must produce a medical certificate proving this.
He added: “A medical contraindication against one COVID-19 vaccination does not necessarily translate to a contraindication against all vaccines.
“I will not consider conscientious objection to receiving the vaccination as a valid exception to the provisions set out here.”
His comments stand in stark contrast to the official statement released by the Catholic church on the morality of COVID vaccines, which maintains that vaccination against COVID is “not, as a rule, a moral obligation.” The Vatican statement, endorsed by Pope Francis, asserts that taking the vaccine “must be voluntary”. The December 2020 statement reads:
“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. In any case, 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.
“Those who, however, for reasons of conscience, refuse vaccines produced with cell lines from aborted fetuses, must do their utmost to avoid, by other prophylactic means and appropriate behaviour, becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent. In particular, they must avoid any risk to the health of those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or other reasons, and who are the most vulnerable.”
The Vatican statement also urges pharmaceutical companies to “produce, approve, distribute and offer ethically acceptable vaccines that do not create problems of conscience for either health care providers or the people to be vaccinated.”
Archbishop Coleridge, however, insisted that he respects the “right of conscience” and that his own conscience informed his decision to enforce a vaccine mandate.
“I fully respect the right of conscience, especially when properly formed in the Catholic understanding,” he said, adding: “But I too have a conscience, and it is not just legal obligation but consciences which has led to my decision.”
It is not known how many priests and deacons have declined the vaccine so far.
It comes as the Queensland government issued an ultimatum for unvaccinated Queenslanders; those who are not vaccinated are to be barred from venues like cafes, restaurants, pubs, nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, music festivals and stadiums from mid-December, or when the percentage of the population fully jabbed reaches 80 per cent.
In a statement on its website, the Queensland government said: “When 80% of Queenslanders are fully vaccinated, restrictions on businesses will be further eased. Many businesses and venues will be able to return to operating at full capacity.”
Despite this promise, the government admitted that restrictions will remain for those who have not been fully vaccinated, adding: “However, there will be restrictions on people who are not fully vaccinated.”
These changes will commence on 17 December 2021, or when 80% of Queenslanders aged 16 and over are fully vaccinated – whichever comes first.
The government also said that no capacity restrictions would be enforced on businesses where only fully vaccinated people can attend, and weddings would similarly have no capacity limits if “only fully vaccinated people attend”.
If anyone attending a wedding is unvaccinated, it is restricted to a maximum of 20 people. The government listed off a long list of things “unvaccinated people will be unable to do,” including attending outdoor or indoor events, attending pubs, restaurants or hotels, visiting hospitals or care homes, attending musical festivals, or visiting government owned galleries, museums or libraries.
Last month, Sky News Australia reported that there was significant number of priests refusing to get the COVID vaccine in Sydney, despite sustained pressure to get double jabbed.
“There are some priests who are saying no, I am not going to be vaccinated,” senior priests and vicar-general Fr Gerry Gleeson said on podcast, Plenary Matters, in October. Fr Gleeson said there had been “continual exhortations” from church leadership to get the jab.
“Most priests are (vaccinated). The Archbishop has made repeated exhortations but it’s going to come to a crunch in the next couple of weeks because there’s a handful probably who will say no.”