The Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge has issued a strongly worded ultimatum for all catholic priests within his diocese to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 15.
Clergy failing to receive the jab will need to show cause or face immediate suspension, according to a letter obtained by The Australian.
Despite recognising that vaccination was a “matter of personal choice” the religious leader said it was outweighed by obligations to COVID-19-related public health directives, workplace health and safety laws, and a “duty of care” to parishioners.
“Clergy engaged in parish ministry must be close to people. In the circumstances of the pandemic, clergy engaged in pastoral ministry who are not doubly vaccinated put the faithful of the parish at risk. They present a risk to the faithful to whom they minister, as well as to their families,” Coleridge wrote in the letter.
“Clergy not doubly vaccinated are failing in their duty of care for the faithful.”
The Archdiocese of Brisbane covers a wide area across the south-east corner of the state of Queensland and includes over 112 parishes.
Exemptions were available to those with proper medical certification, but Coleridge warned that “a medical contraindication against one COVID-19 vaccination does not necessarily translate to a contraindication against all vaccines.”
“I will not consider a conscientious objection to receiving the vaccination as a valid exception to the provisions set out here,” he added.
“I fully respect the right of conscience, especially when properly formed in the Catholic understanding. But I too have a conscience; and it is not just legal obligation but consciences which has led to my decision.”
Augusto Zimmermann, head of law at Sheridan College and author of the Christian Foundations of the Common Law, said it was an “irrational and illogical perspective” to impose a mandate based on a duty of care to parishioners.
“People who are not vaccinated are in theory taking the risk of not being jabbed. Because if the vaccine is supposed to be an effective measure to protect people, anybody who takes the jab should not have any concerns [of contracting the virus from an unvaccinated person],” he told The Epoch Times.
“Certainly, one of the things very important in the Catholic tradition is the idea of bodily autonomy and the right to life—they are both derived from the values and traditional principles of natural law,” he said.
Zimmermann warned that Coleridge could also face potential legal liability from clergy who experience adverse side-effects from the vaccine.
Around 10,000 Australians are planning to file compensation claims for injury or loss of income resulting from receiving one of the three approved COVID-19 vaccines.
Since Sept. 6, residents have begun registering their interest to make a claim under the federal government’s no-fault COVID-19 Vaccine Claims Scheme.