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Australian archbishop issues vaccine mandate: no conscience exceptions

November 18, 2021

Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, Australia, has ordered all clerics in his archdiocese to receive vaccination by December 15.

Priests and deacons who are not “doubly vaccinated” by that date will be asked to “voluntarily stand aside from pastoral duties” until they receive the shots, the archbishop announced in a November 15 letter. For those who do not accept voluntary suspension, he warns, “I will need to consider the temporary suspension of faculties” until they comply with the directive.

Although he makes some provision for clerics who may have a medical reason for declining vaccination, Archbishop Coleridge allows no room for moral objections. He writes:

I will not consider conscientious objection to receiving the vaccination as a valid exception set out here. I fully respect the rights of conscience, especially when formed in the Catholic understanding. But I too have a conscience, and it is not just legal obligation but conscience which has led to my decision.

In his four-page letter the archbishop does not explain why his conscience requires him to issue this mandate, except to assert that “clergy engaged in pastoral ministry who are not doubly vaccinated put the faithful of the parish at risk.”

Nor does Archbishop Coleridge address the December 2020 statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which declared that “vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation, and that, therefore, it must be voluntary.”

The archbishop does cite several passages from the Code of Canon Law—including, ironically, a requirement that a diocesan bishop must “attend to presbyters… He is to protect their rights…” [emphasis added]

As he closes his letter, Archbishop Coleridge assures clerics that “vaccine information will be securely stored, kept confidential…” It is not clear what purpose this confidentiality will serve, since because of the archbishop’s order, the public will know that any Brisbane priest engaged in active ministry has been vaccinated.


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  • Posted by: feedback - Nov. 19, 2021 12:48 PM ET USA

    The priests in the Archdiocese of Chicago are ordered the same. However, in the US, OSHA has suspended on Wednesday the enforcement of Biden's mandate for private businesses, with a prospect of challenging in courts its constitutional legitimacy.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Nov. 19, 2021 5:15 AM ET USA

    St. Augustine comments on Coleridge's assertion: "[E]ven a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world,...and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian...talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn."