Vaccine Mandates Violate Catholic Moral Teaching

Eric Sammons

The most common objection of the mandate promoters was unsurprising: Pope Francis says vaccine mandates are okay. This was played like a trump card: Roma locuta, causa finita est. Yet this argument has two problems. First, the personal statements of a pope are not magisterial, and second, Francis hasn’t even said this.

What the pope did say was that he believed that getting the COVID vaccine was an ethical option, and he urged people to get it: “I believe that morally everyone must take the vaccine.” Although President Biden later claimed the pope said it was a “moral obligation,” that’s not what he said. One can argue with whether Francis is right to push the vaccine, but he did not give support for vaccine mandates.

So what does the Church actually teach about vaccine mandates, including COVID-19 vaccine mandates? In the most recent official statement from the Vatican in December 2020, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith explicitly states, “Practical reason makes evident that vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary.”

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