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Chicago archdiocese mandates COVID vaccination for clerics, employees

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by Christine Rousselle

Chicago, Ill., Aug 25, 2021 / 15:26 pm

The Archdiocese of Chicago will require all archdiocesan employees and clergy to receive the vaccine for COVID-19 within the next six weeks, and will only allow exemptions for medical reasons.

“We have made this decision convinced that this is the best way to stop the spread of this deadly illness,” Blase Cardinal Cupich of Chicago, said in an Aug. 19 email sent to clergy and staff.

Cardinal Cupich said that he was “following the lead of Pope Francis” by encouraging vaccinations, and that getting vaccinated is “an act of charity.”

The letter explained that once a vaccine is given full approval by the FDA, employees and clergy would be required to get it within six weeks. The vaccine produced by Pfizer, which is now known as “Comirnaty,” was given full FDA approval on Aug. 23.

Employees and clergy now have until Oct. 4 to receive both doses of the vaccine. For Comirnaty, the second dose can be received three weeks after the first. According to the letter, more than 90% of archdiocesan employees and clergy have already received the coronavirus vaccine.

As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has permitted the coronavirus vaccines, a religious exemption “cannot be supported by Catholic teaching,” said Cardinal Cupich. He told priests of the archdiocese that they are not to give religious exemptions to a parishioner who requests one.

Other dioceses, including Philadelphia, have followed suit with similar directives for their priests, noting that the Vatican has said that the vaccines are morally licit and do not run contrary to Catholic teaching.

In its December 2020 Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated that “vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation” and “therefore, it must be voluntary.”

It said that “in the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination.”

“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 behavior, becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent,” the congregation wrote.

The Archdiocese of Chicago will require that those who are unvaccinated receive weekly tests for the virus and continue to wear masks. They may face other prohibitions as well, such as being disallowed from certain areas.

An additional email sent Aug. 20 to staff and clergy of the Archdiocese of Chicago explained that vaccinated and unvaccinated employees who are diagnosed with COVID-19 will be subject to different policies. An unvaccinated employee who contracts COVID-19 will have to use their sick or personal time to cover a 10-day quarantine; vaccinated employees will instead be given 10 additional sick days.

Other Illinois dioceses are not issuing a vaccine mandate for staff and clergy, but are encouraging people to get the vaccine regardless.

The dioceses of Joliet and Rockford issued separate statements saying that the vaccines were permissible and that people should get them, but stopped short of mandating them. The Diocese of Peoria said in June that it would be up to parents to decide if they wished for their children to receive the coronavirus vaccine, and has not issued a mandate.

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois co-authored a letter in April to the president of the University of Notre Dame saying that mandating the vaccine for students as a condition to participate in campus activities was immoral. Bishop Paprocki is an adjunct law professor at Notre Dame Law School.

“​​Notre Dame should expand its understanding of ‘religious’ objectors to include those whose refusal to be vaccinated are rooted in moral considerations or other objections of conscience,” said Bishop Paprocki and Gerard Bradley, a professor of law at Notre Dame Law School.

“A religious, moral or other exemption of conscience should be ascertained not by documents, but by a simple conversation seeking only to establish that the individual has a sincerely held, reasonable belief that they should not receive the vaccine,” they said.

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