“We have to be promoting the common good, and this is the one of the ways that we do it.”
Priests of the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 may not minister to the sick, elderly, and homebound, Bishop John Stowe has directed.
The policy was announced during a Saturday vigil Mass Sept. 11 that Bishop Stowe celebrated at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Lexington.
At the end of the liturgy, Deacon Tim Weinmann read a statement from the cathedral’s rector, Father John Moriarty, that both Fr. Moriarty and Father David Wheeler, the parochial vicar, have not been vaccinated.
“The bishop has asked that Fr. David and I, Fr. John – I’m speaking for Fr. John – make an announcement that we are not vaccinated, so people can decide if they wanted to attend Mass where they were celebrating,” the deacon read, according to a video of the Mass posted by the Cathedral of Christ the King.
“And if also the priests – and this has been done throughout the diocese – those priests that are not vaccinated are to follow the COVID protocol in the liturgy, and they are not allowed to visit the sick or elderly that are homebound,” the announcement continued. “Fr. John and Fr. David, again, have not been vaccinated.” Bishop Stowe stood beside Deacon Weinmann while the announcement was read but did not comment afterward.
In August, Bishop Stowe mandated that all diocesan employees were to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
John Stowe, O.F.M. Conv., the bishop of the Diocese of Lexington, Ky., ordered on Aug. 17 that all staff at the diocese’s Catholic Center must be vaccinated against the coronavirus by Sept. 1, extending a vaccine mandate that had already been put in place for teachers and staff at the diocese’s schools. Bishop Stowe said it is important for the church to lead by example in confronting the pandemic.
“We have to be promoting the common good, and this is the one of the ways that we do it,” Bishop Stowe said in an interview with America on Aug. 17. “And the individual reasons for not accepting [vaccinations]—the conspiracy theories and all the other stuff that keeps people from getting the vaccine and even the confusion that’s been put forth by many Catholic sources—is just not a good enough reason to not accept the vaccine for the common good.”
The bishop said that pastors who choose to implement the policy at the parish level will have his support and warned that further mandates may be forthcoming as conditions warrant. Bishop Stowe also reinstated mask requirements for all Catholic Center employees.
“This is an urgent matter of public health and safety,” Bishop Stowe said in a statement detailing the mandate released on Aug. 16. “There is no religious exemption for Catholics to being vaccinated, and Pope Francis has repeatedly called this a moral obligation,” he said. “The health care system is now overwhelmed by a crisis caused primarily by those who refuse to protect themselves and others by getting vaccinated. This is unacceptable, and our diocese now joins those employers who have already made this basic commitment to the common good a requirement.”
With just under 58 percent of its residents fully vaccinated, Kentucky is among primarily southern states hardest hit by this latest surge in Covid-19 cases. About 2,700 new cases a day were reported this week in Kentucky.