CV NEWS FEED // Seminarians at Mount St. Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD, are now required to receive a COVID-19 shot before the beginning of the fall semester.
“To achieve our goal of at least 80% immunity within our community, …seminarians are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before coming to campus in August 2021,” states a post on the website of St. Mary’s University, where the seminary operates. “The deadline to submit an exemption request for medical or sincerely held religious beliefs has now passed.”
“Students must submit a record of their vaccination to the Health Center before returning to campus and no later than August 18, 2021,” the website adds.
While the University website states that the deadline to submit an exemption request “has now passed,” it is unclear when that deadline was. According to online forms, students and seminarians were originally required to submit vaccination records by July 31, a deadline that has now apparently been extended to “no later than August 18.”
If the deadline to submit an exemption was understood to be the same as the proof-of-vaccine deadline, then students who receive the vaccine seem to be getting a grace period, while those who wish to be exempted from the vaccine will not.
“Exemptions from this policy may be made for medical or sincerely held religious beliefs but must be documented and approved in advance,” according to a University document posted earlier this year. “Both exemption forms can be located on the Health Services website.”
An archived exemption form from the University’s Health Services site states in part: “Because of my bona fide religious beliefs and practices, I object to any vaccine(s) being given to my child. This exemption does not apply during an emergency or epidemic of disease.”
Vaccine Mandates? Some Bishops Say No
While Mount St. Mary Seminarians find themselves required to receive the COVID shot in order to continue their vocational studies, some bishops have come out strongly against vaccine mandates, and in favor of empowering Catholics to exempt themselves.
As CatholicVote reported, the leaders of the Colorado Catholic Conference recently issued a statement urging Catholic pastors to personally sign letters of exemption for Catholics faced with mandates at schools or places of employment:
While the bishops acknowledged that “the use of some COVID-19 vaccines is morally acceptable under certain circumstances,” they also unequivocally defended the rights of those who “have well-founded convictions that lead them to discern they should not get vaccinated.”
“We always remain vigilant when any bureaucracy seeks to impose uniform and sweeping requirements on a group of people in areas of personal conscience,” the bishops wrote:
Throughout history, human rights violations and a loss of respect for each person’s God-given dignity often begin with government mandates that fail to respect the freedom of conscience. In the case of the COVID-19 vaccine, we are convicted that the government should not impose medical interventions on an individual or group of persons. We urge respect for each person’s convictions and personal choices.
The Colorado Catholic Conference also published and distributed a template exemption letter.
“We encourage any individual seeking exemption to consult their employer or school,” they wrote. “The Colorado Catholic Conference also has a letter template available to be signed by pastors of the Faithful if a Catholic wants a written record that they are seeking exemption on religious grounds.”