The Church and COVID-19

The Catholic Church in Australia has joined the rest of the Australian community in working to control the spread of COVID-19. Catholics have been motivated by their concern for the elderly and those most vulnerable and share the sense of relief that our common efforts have helped keep the number of infections low relative to other countries. Sadly, though, hundreds of Australians have lost their lives since March 2020.

As an essential measure, Catholic churches and other places of religious worship were closed for varying periods of time, based on local realities, and restrictions remain in place in most areas. It is recommended that those wishing to attend Mass or other liturgical celebrations visit the website of the relevant Catholic diocese for up-to-date information on current restrictions on gatherings and liturgical practice.

Catholics and vaccination

The Catholic Church in Australia and internationally has supported the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, seeing such programs as supportive of individuals' health, as well as the health of the community. The Church is particularly concerned about pursuing the common good, which can be achieved by limiting the possibility of being infected and spreading the virus, especially among vulnerable groups of people. In addition to vaccination, personal hygiene practices like hand-washing and social distancing can help limit the spread of COVID-19.

In September 2020, the Bishops Commission for Life, Family and Public Engagement issued advice on COVID-19 vaccines, explaining that the “bishops accept that the use of an ethically compromised vaccine is acceptable if no other option is available, in order to protect lives”.

The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a document in December 2020 acknowledging the ethical concerns of some of the COVID-19 vaccines, but encouraging Catholics to receive the vaccination when it is available to them. While expressing a clear preference for people to receive vaccines that are not ethically compromised, the document said “it is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process”.

LATEST: On April 20, 2021, the Australian Bishops Commission for Life, Family and Public Engagement issued this document, which provides guidance on the receipt of COVID-19 vaccinations, including frequently asked questions. It is recommended that parishes, Catholic agencies and ministries alert their communities to the document. Note: The document was updated on September 23 to include mention of the Moderna vaccine.

Catholic Health Australia and the Bishops Commission for Social Justice, Mission and Service have collaborated on a short video, outlining the importance of people receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. It includes information on the ethical and moral questions around receiving the vaccine, and the need to promote the common good. Click here to watch the video.

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