Bishop Stowe: Catholics deserve to know if their priest is not vaccinated

Bishop John Stowe, OFMConv., Requested last month that diocesan employees working at the Catholic Center in the Diocese of Lexington, Ky., Be vaccinated against Covid-19, extending a term that had already been announced for professors and the staff of Catholic schools. The bishop said the diocese had fired “a handful” of employees who refused. Regarding the priests in the diocese, the bishop said he had turned to “moral persuasion,” urging them to get vaccinated in order to protect parishioners. It seemed to work. About 92 percent of the 50 priests in the diocese have been vaccinated, a rate that puts them as a group well ahead of the 61 percent of adults in Kentucky who are fully vaccinated.

But for the few priests who have chosen not to be vaccinated, the bishop believes that they owe their parishioners to be frank about their status.

“When I found out that four of them still weren’t vaccinated, I said they had to reveal it to their people because people expected them to be vaccinated,” said Bishop Stowe. America. He said he also told the unvaccinated priests that “they could not enter the homes of the sick or those confined to the house or be near” the faithful.

For the few priests who have chosen not to be vaccinated, Bishop Stowe thinks they owe their parishioners to be frank about their status.

News that at least two of the priests chose not to be vaccinated came to light over the weekend. Videos of Masses held on September 11 and 12 at Christ the King Cathedral in Lexington include announcements at the end of Mass indicating that the Rector of the Cathedral, Reverend John Moriarty, and Parish Vicar, Reverend David Wheeler, are not vaccinated.

Bishop Stowe was present at a mass celebrated on Saturday at the cathedral, during which a deacon read a statement attributed to Father Moriarty.

“The bishop asked that Father David and I, Father John – I speak for Father John – make an announcement that we are not vaccinated, so that people can decide if they want to attend mass where they are. were celebrating, ”said the deacon. .

In an email to America, Father Wheeler wrote: “Neither Father Moriarty nor I have chosen to make public comments, whether within or outside the liturgy, on our vaccination status or the reasons for our decision. He spoke of “the decision to announce our vaccination status”.

Bishop Stowe said he does not regret forcing a vaccine on diocesan employees, especially those who work with children.

Bishop Stowe said he received comments from local Catholics who were upset to learn that some of their priests were not vaccinated, as well as other messages angry at him for asking priests to make their status public. vaccination. But he said he had no regrets about forcing a vaccine on diocesan employees, especially those who work with children.

“Children, especially those under the age of 12, do not have a choice to be vaccinated,” he said. “And so it seemed to me that if teachers have to be in a classroom with children for several hours a day, in an enclosed space, they need to be vaccinated.”

Pope Francis, along with many American bishops, encouraged Catholics to get vaccinated against Covid-19. Some bishops have gone so far as to say that religious exemptions should not be granted to individual Catholics who do not wish to be vaccinated.

Like many states, Kentucky is seeing an increase in Covid-19 infections.

Last week, the state reported more than 8,000 deaths from Covid-19, and the positivity rate hovers around 14%, an alarming rate that indicates the virus is widespread. Gov. Andy Beshear begged residents of the state to get vaccinated, insisting it was one of the best ways, besides masking, to avoid more hospitalizations and deaths from the virus .

Some bishops have gone so far as to say that religious exemptions should not be granted to individual Catholics who do not wish to be vaccinated.

“Please wear a mask when you are outside the house, but otherwise inside. It kills a lot of people, and we can prevent it, ”he added. Mr Beshear also ordered the National Guard to help overwhelmed hospitals. Children are infected at higher rates than any other age group in the state.

Medical workers have lamented the unnecessary illness and death resulting from unvaccinated people contracting the virus.

“The problem now is that we have tried to educate on the basis of science, but I think most of the education that is going on now is based on a tragedy, a personal tragedy,” said the Dr. Ryan Stanton, emergency physician in Lexington.

Seventy percent of Kentucky hospitals are reporting critical staff shortages – the highest level yet during the pandemic, the governor said.

“People who continually appeal to their right to privacy and to their right to their individual conscience lose sight of the common good,” said Bishop Stowe.

“Our hospitals are on the verge of collapse in many communities,” said Dr. Steven Stack, Kentucky Public Health Commissioner.

Bishop Stowe expressed frustration at unsuccessful efforts to persuade unvaccinated people to shoot.

“It’s almost pointless right now because people have made up their minds one way or another,” he said. “There is no rational persuasion that seems to work. They want to believe all the conspiracy theories and everything they read on their favorite websites rather than the facts. “

Most upsetting for him, however, is that he feels that Catholics who refuse to be vaccinated ignore a fundamental principle of Catholic social teaching: the urge to serve the common good.

“People who continually appeal to their right to privacy and to their right to their individual conscience lose sight of the common good,” he said. “And I haven’t heard anyone say that [refusing a vaccine] is for the common good. It all depends on their personal preferences and beliefs.

Documents from the Associated Press were used in this report.

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