The debate in the Church over vaccines is nothing new, going back at the Vatican itself more than two centuries.
As the Holy See’s news site revealed over the weekend, the matter concerned the first large-scale inoculation for smallpox. It was invented in 1796 and began an ecclesial stir in 1820 when the illness, which killed an estimated three hundred million in the 1800s alone, caused alarm in Rome itself.
“The Pontiff did not stand by looking on,” notes the Vatican’s official organ of communication. “Through the legislative provision of 20 June 1822, Pope Pius VII’s Cardinal Secretary of State prepared the vaccination campaign since the Pope had ‘recently ordered the inoculation with the Smallpox Vaccine in his States.'”
The Vatican secretary of state added that the disease “maliciously robs man of even a minimal life […] and rages against the human species to destroy it at its infancy. This very sad thought, renewed and provoked each time the disease causes repeated massacres, should have persuaded every person to embrace with the most vibrant enthusiasm and to welcome the vaccinal inoculation with equal gratitude, a method as simple as it is efficacious in stemming the poisonous strength of the illness.” He called the vaccine a gift from God, “an energetic means granted by Divine Providence as a disposition from the Father’s Love for the salvation of offspring at the dawn of life when it is the object of the most affectionate care, and in assuring the hope of the family and the nation since it was certainly expected that once it had overcome every obstacle, it would have been propagated everywhere with the greatest rapidity.”
By order of Pius VII, a central Vaccination Commission was created “for the propagation of the vaccinal inoculation throughout the entire extension of the Papal States” — and doctors who didn’t know how to vaccinate were not allowed to serve.
That controversial discernment by the Vatican two hundred years ago — stronger even than the more recent statements, during the covid pandemic, by Pope Francis, who pays to have the poor in Rome vaccinated and has repeatedly urged nations to deploy inoculations — was countered, in the 1820s, by those who argued that the push to vaccinate was a Masonic plot.
Notes the official Vatican website, “In September 1824, Pope Pius VII’s successor, Leo XII, abolished with a circular legacy the obligation that had been established two years earlier, stating that one could obtain the vaccine that was always free of charge, on a voluntary and optional basis.
“Welcoming this with satisfaction, Giovanni Gioacchino Belli [right], a famous ‘no vax,’ wrote a sonnet entitled Er linnesto. In it, he blessed Pope Leo for having ‘liberated our children’ from the smallpox vaccine. Belli attributed the idea behind inoculating against the smallpox virus to the ‘masons’ and lamented the fact that the vaccine replaced the role God had entrusted to Mother Nature and robbed a creature of ‘the fortune of gaining Paradise.'”
Some claimed that in 1829, Leo XII declared, “Whoever allows himself to be vaccinated ceases to be a child of God. Smallpox is a judgment of God, the vaccination is a challenge toward Heaven.”
But says the conservative blog, First Things, “The whole ‘announcement was made up to discredit Leo XII. A black legend was born. Later, when pressured to present evidence, some historians tried to justify the forgery by suggesting that Leo XII had perhaps said something of the sort as Cardinal, and thus before his election, but could again not produce the actual source of the statement.
“In reality, Catholics had endorsed vaccinations since the 1720s. It was, after all, Catholic missionaries, mostly Jesuits, who began inoculating Amazon Indians against smallpox in the 1720s. In Europe, Catholic orders set up modern hospital care, and Church officials, such as the archbishop of Bamberg in Germany, introduced public vaccinations in the 1780s.”
It’s not clear what difference there was between the earliest inoculations and the one invented and used on a mass scale in the late 1700s. The fact remains that Leo XII banned mandatory inoculation.
The matter was hardly settled, though.
“Pope Leo’s successor, Gregory XVI, gave new impulse to the vaccination campaign, reinstating a good part of the legislation of Pope Pius VII and [his secretary of state],” notes the Vatican retrospective. “In 1834, he instituted the Special Congregation of Health. It was Pope Gregory who made the vaccine obligatory for prisoners in the Papal State’s prisons.”
Controversy over vaccines and Popes, it thusly turns out, is not new.
The next Pontiff, Giovanni Maria Mastai Ferretti — or Pius IX, the last Pope-king and longest-serving one, known later to have ardently fought liberalism (born May 13) — continued the vaccination program, and the campaign to inoculate the poorest against smallpox was intensified. Faced with the reappearance of the smallpox epidemic, in 1848, Pius IX, says Vatican News, “promoted a vaccination campaign specifically aimed at the most disadvantaged among the population, involving the parishes who were asked to provide the names of those who had been vaccinated. Through a notification dated 23 April, Pope Pius IX also instituted a small cash prize – two paoli – to anyone who returned to their doctor eight days after receiving the free vaccine to verify that it was successful.”
This sensitive matter — in our view a deeply personal medical as well as spiritual one, with everyone’s prayerful discernment worthy of respect — is considered to be a “hot-button” issue in an era when everything is a hot-button issue — although we see that when it comes to the Church also, nothing is new under the sun.
Most recently, Pope Francis, usually aligned with “philanthropists” such as Bill and Melinda Gates, has blasted those who want to keep vaccine patents (in essence, their recipes) a trade secret even if poor nations can’t afford to buy them.
Among those who want to keep those “intellectual properties” from free use is ironically Mr. Gates, who has had a strong connection to a vaccine company called CureVac [see here]. As The Nation put it, in an article entitled, “Is the shine starting to come off Bill Gates’s Halo?”: “Bill Gates, long heralded as a global hero in the pandemic response, is becoming an increasingly popular target of criticism for his role in the unfolding vaccine apartheid around the world.” News outlets from all sides — liberal and conservative — “have taken aim at Gates’s efforts to defend Big Pharma’s monopoly controls over Covid vaccines—even in the face of growing humanitarian calls to suspend patents and to compel these companies to share the recipes and technological know-how needed to expand vaccine production and immunize the poor.”
And so it goes in our head-spinning, topsy-turvy times, during which even the faithful are confused.
Proponents of vaccines point to the estimated 150 to 200 million lives allegedly saved around the world from smallpox just between 1980 and 2020. (The disease is now considered “eradicated.”) Those who oppose vaccination — or at least being forced to receive one — argue with equal force that long-term health effects from such inoculations — especially the brand new ones for covid — are not known and that any kind of official pressure to vaccinate pushes mankind toward the sort of mass control long feared, a fear stoked especially by the rapidly changing global power system.
[Special Report: Bill Gates and Control]