Catholic seminaries in the Northeast are requiring COVID-19 vaccination for their seminarians before the coming semester begins.

Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland, is one of the colleges requiring students and seminarians to be vaccinated before coming to campus this month.

Students were given at least a few months to apply for a religious or medical exemption to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, but the deadline was July 30, Donna Klinger, director of public relations and communications for the university, told CNA in a phone call

Students still seeking an exemption will not be allowed to physically return to campus, Klinger told CNA, but they will have the opportunity to work with the university administration to attempt online learning. Not all university classes are offered online.

At St. John’s Seminary in Boston, vice rector Father Thomas Macdonald said seminarians are “expected” to be vaccinated.

The job of a priest requires being close to the people, Father Macdonald noted, telling CNA that a priest needs access to places that house vulnerable people, such as nursing homes. St. John’s is allowing seminarians to opt out of vaccination, but in such cases the seminarian must explain his reasoning for doing so.

Most of the seminarians are already vaccinated, according to the vice rector.

Father Macdonald told CNA that requesting religious exemptions to the vaccine also raises “theological questions,” as the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has already clarified that the use of COVID-19 vaccines with connections to cell lines derived from abortions is not immoral.

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