A Towson Catholic priest spoke out against vaccine mandates while delivering his homily, saying “nobody” can dictate what enters someone’s body.
The Rev. Edward Meeks, pastor at Christ the King Catholic Church in Towson, gave an almost 20-minute homily Nov. 21 in which he interpreted several Bible verses from 1 Corinthians as indicating that vaccine mandates go against Jesus’ teachings.
“When we say Jesus is our Lord and king, what we are saying is that we owe our allegiance and our loyalty first and foremost to him and his kingdom,” Meeks said.
The priest then rhetorically asked the parishioners how that allegiance might play out in everyday life, continuing to cite the Corinthians verses that repeat “our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit.”
“No earthly king or president or public health official or billionaire technocrat gets to dictate what we must put into our bodies, into these temples of the Holy Spirit,” the priest said to applause from the congregation. “That’s between us and God.”
In a statement Monday to The Baltimore Sun, Meeks said he was not commenting on the efficacy of the vaccine “or the lack thereof” and was instead sharing an observation about “individual conscience rights” or federal protections for health care providers who do not wish to perform certain services due to religious or moral reasons.
“I do not and have not advised anyone whether they should or should not get the vaccine,” he said in the statement. “I have always held that is a matter of individual conscience, a principle that is held in very high regard by the Catholic Church.”
It is unclear what Meeks’ vaccination status is.
Democratic President Joe Biden is pushing vaccine mandates on several fronts, including for federal workers, health care workers and employees of large companies.
Federal workers are required to get vaccinated or potentially be suspended or fired. They originally faced a Nov. 22 deadline to get inoculated or face penalties, but Biden said Monday that noncompliant workers should not be penalized until January, allowing more time for officials to convince those hesitant to get the jab.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services mandated that health care workers get vaccinated. But a federal judge has blocked that order in 10 states, saying the agency had no clear authority from Congress to enact such a mandate for providers participating in the government health care programs.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration is requiring companies that employ 100 or more people to fully vaccinate employees or begin regular testing under federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations. That rule also has been temporarily blocked by the courts and is under review.
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While more than 70% of Marylanders have received at least one dose of the vaccine, skeptics remain. Some Catholics and other abortion opponents take issue with the fact that vaccines were tested on fetal cell lines developed over decades in laboratories, though the vaccines themselves do not contain any such material.
Both the Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have said Catholics should get the vaccine. Pope Francis has said it’s “suicide” to not get the shot and that he doesn’t understand why people are refusing it, saying “humanity has a history of friendship with vaccines.”
This is not the first time Meeks has weighed in on current events during a homily.
The Morning Sun
Before the presidential election last year, a recording of his remarks garnered more than 2.4 million views and attracted the attention of conservative national media by calling then-candidate Biden a phony Catholic. Meeks also said Biden would lead the nation to socialism, a “soul-robbing ideology that always and inevitably leads to totalitarianism, where the government presumes to put itself in the place of God in the lives of its subservient citizens.”
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“It’s an opinion both formed and informed by the word of God and by the crystal-clear teaching of the church for the purpose of helping you think through the choices,” Meeks said during the homily.
According to the church website, Meeks founded the Towson church in 1996 after working in human resources for several Baltimore companies. Initially, he was a priest of the Charismatic Episcopal Church, then the Anglican Church in America, before being ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 2012.
Liberal stances by Anglican leaders, particularly Episcopalians, that allow women and gay people to be ordained and blessings to be given for same-sex unions, drove some clergy and members to the Roman Catholic Church.
Meeks’ church became one of the first in the U.S. to join the new Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, created by Pope Benedict XVI for Anglicans who become Catholic but want hold on to Anglican traditions.
The ordinariate, not the Archdiocese of Baltimore, oversees the Towson church. Representatives of the ordinariate did not respond to a request for comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.