Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 17, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).
The financial assistance service of the Mexican bishops’ conference stated last month that it will not cover the medical expenses of priests with COVID-19 who chose not to be vaccinated against the disease.
In an Aug. 30 statement, the service provided by the episcopal conference which assists diocesan priests warned that to help with the expenses involving COVID-19 it is required that the priest “was vaccinated” and “maintained personal protection measures.”
In addition, priests who require financial assistance from the service for their medical care must “notify their diocesan representative early” and get a medical evaluation by calling the service’s special telephone line for outpatient cases, which can direct them to the proper medical facility for an appointment on the nearest date.
OCEAS states on its website that it is an in-house service of the Mexican bishops’ conference “that participates with each bishop in his diocese to carry out the work of Priestly Social Assistance.”
The purpose of the service is to attend to “to the clergy in their health, needed rest, old age or disability needs so that they can carry out the mission that God has entrusted to them according to the stage of life in which they find themselves.”
In its Aug. 30 statement, OCEAS said that “the last three weeks have been really complicated for the community of our different dioceses”, because “we have seen our brother priests pass away due to lack of timely notification.”
OCEAS noted that “98% of COVID cases that ended in death had three particular characteristics: 1. They were not vaccinated when they could have been. 2. Late notification (oxygen level less than 80%). 3. More than 60% of the lung surface affected.”
After assuring that they will continue to “help with the expenses incurred by the medical care of the beneficiaries under the criteria of solidarity and search for the common good,” OCEAS specified four cases in which “they will not be subject” to paying for amounts the priest cannot pay out of his own pocket.
First, “when the beneficiary took unnecessary risks such as attending indoor entertainment venues or meetings, conventions and non-essential activities or outside the scope of his pastoral activity.”
The second exclusion criterion is for those priests who, after testing positive for COVID-19, despite having been notified that they have risk factors that would complicate their case, refuse to “go to a hospital for an evaluation, rejecting the possibility of timely medical care.”
A third case in which priests will not be able to receive an additional amount of financial assistance is when they “deliberately” put “their life and that of their community at risk, by omitting the use of masks due to a personal decision that affects priests at the national level and the People of God.”
The last case mentioned for which priests will not be able to receive additional amounts for COVID-19 care is “when the beneficiary decides not to get vaccinated, putting his life and that of his community at risk.”
The statement, signed by Bishop Ramón Castro Castro of Cuernavaca, treasurer of the Mexican bishops’ conference and president of OCEAS, ends by stressing that “the above measures will allow us to take more care of our health and that of our community.”
“We don’t want more priests dying when it could have been avoided, their life is valuable to us and irreplaceable for the community that follows them,” he concluded.
More than 3.5 million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Mexico, and more than 269,000 deaths.
At least six bishops and 245 priests in the country have died from COVID-19.