An Indiana University student gets vaccinated in 2020. (Bryan
Woolston/Reuters via CNS)
An Indiana University student gets vaccinated in 2020. (Bryan Woolston/Reuters via CNS)

Catholic school teachers, staff and volunteers will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18, according to a recent Oregon state directive and a statement released Monday by the Archdiocese of Portland.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Aug. 23 and Governor Kate Brown announced Aug. 19 that all K-12 teachers, staff and volunteers would be required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“The COVID-19 virus has surged once again with the rapid spread of the Delta variant, which is dramatically more contagious than the original virus,” read the statement from the archdiocese. “The pandemic and its effects have impacted the entire globe and laid a heavy burden on all of us, including our families and communities here in western Oregon.”

The statement noted that statewide vaccine mandates for other vaccinations are already in place for children who attend schools.

“Catholic Church leaders encourage all people who are able to get vaccinated to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” read the statement, adding that Pope Francis, Pope Benedict and Archbishop Alexander Sample have all been vaccinated.

“In recommending the vaccine, the Church relies on the judgement of public health experts regarding its safety and efficacy. No medical intervention is without risks, and these risks must be weighed in light of the benefits of vaccination for the individual and common good.”

The statement went on to say that receiving any of the three currently available COVID-19 vaccines is morally acceptable for Catholics because of the gravity of the pandemic.

“Since this position that one can in good conscience receive the vaccination has been confirmed by recent statements by the Holy Father and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, this is to be considered an authoritative application of the Church’s moral norms in this particular case and constitutes a part of the Magisterial teaching of the Church,” read the statement.

“Because the State is requiring vaccination for some sectors of society, (including Catholic school teachers, staff, and volunteers) due to the pandemic and for the stated purpose of protecting the public health, Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Portland are therefore obligated to comply with the State’s vaccine mandate.”

Accommodations for those seeking an exemption of conscience will be considered on an individual basis, though the statement added, “minimizing risk for our children and keeping them safe is paramount.”

For those whose employers can’t accommodate them, they may need to find employment elsewhere.

Finally the statement added that no letters can be written by priests or other officials from the Catholic Church to support an individual’s request for religious exemption.

“This is because the matter is strictly between the employee and the employer,” read the statement. “Also, no Church official can state that receiving the vaccination is contrary to the moral teachings of the Church, given the moral guidance provided by the Church.”

The statement said individuals can be directed to use National Catholic Bioethics Center materials as a reference to craft their own letters of conscientious objection.

Read the full statement here.