Cairns bishop condemns ‘ignorant, divisive’ parishioners peddling anti-vaccine myths

Cairns bishop condemns 'ignorant, divisive' parishioners peddling anti-vaccine mythsBishop James Foley of Cairns says Catholic parishioners in Cairns are spreading vaccine misinformation based on “erroneous ideas”. The Cairns Local Government Area has recently surpassed the 70 per cent full vaccination rate. Bishop Foley says rumours that unvaccinated parishioners are not welcome at church are unfounded.

The head of the Catholic diocese in Cairns has heavily criticised parishioners spreading coronavirus vaccine myths, labelling them divisive and ignorant. Among the misinformation Bishop Foley said he had received were claims coronavirus vaccines contained cells from unborn fetuses — erroneous information he said he had no time for.

“In almost 30 years in this position, I’ve never encountered such divisiveness and, dare I say, ignorance,” Bishop Foley said. “I’ve just never met such entrenched ignorance and prejudice. It’s quite extraordinary. “I’m really concluding that I’m wasting my time talking to them and they’re wasting their time talking to me.”

More than 70 per cent of the region’s eligible population has now received both doses of a coronavirus vaccine, while 83 per cent has had a single dose. The Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service yesterday announced it had delivered 8,421 vaccines in the previous seven days.


Bp Foley

Bishop James Foley says everyone is welcome at church, regardless of their vaccination status.(Supplied: Cairns Catholic Diocese)

Bishop Foley said he had been unable to change the minds of those who had come to him with, what he described as, “erroneous ideas”. “What worries me too, in these conversations, is that they seem to entail all sorts of other major conspiracy theories,” he said. “It’s dangerous and, dare I say, soul destroying that people are imbibing all this ignorance and prejudice.

“It’s making people angry; it’s polarising and it’s just not of God.”

Everyone welcome at Mass

Another of the malicious rumours Bishop Foley said was spreading through the Catholic community was that unvaccinated parishioners would not be welcome in churches.

“I’ve said that those who take the Eucharist to people at home, to aged care, to hospital or help distribute communion at Mass need to be vaccinated because we shouldn’t be running any risk of contaminating others,” Bishop Foley said.

“There are some people with medical conditions that, on balance, are better not to take the vaccination and I certainly wouldn’t want to see them excluded from church. “That’s the sort of thing that’s being thrown back at me.”

Bishop Foley said a summary, or catechism, of the Fifth Commandment, ‘Thou shall not kill,’ obliges all Catholics to look after their own health and life. “And I’d extend that to our own mental health which I think is very tested by this,” he said.

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