With recent news that France - along with other countries - is in the process of implementing a domestic 'pass sanitaire' (health pass, or vaccine pass) that could control people's ability to go to various places within the country if the person doesn't present it (along, of course, with it being 'up to date' with whatever health measures the government has decided are required), does the Catholic Church have any official views on governments attempting to control their citizens through such passes, and on coercive measures like these to get citizens to take certain medical treatments?
Does the Catholic Church have an official position on domestic 'health passes' or 'vaccine passes' that could be used to control citizens' activities?
The short answer is no. But that could change at a moments notice, but I rather doubt it.
The Church promotes getting vaccinated, but also lets the individual decide what is best for him or herself.
The situation in France is not good. Beginning in August (2021), you will need a Vaccination Card to go to cafés, restaurants, community centres, hospitals (visiting), retreat centres, social medical centres, traveling by plane or train or traveling by car for great distances.
The question is not so much to control French citizens as to control the spread of Covid-19. The new measures actually limit what French citizens can freely do during this pandemic.
We should not confuse the freedom of going on trips, to the cinema or the café with that of having the freedom to praise God in Church.
En la rendant obligatoire pour certains et en imposant un passe sanitaire pour certaines activités, le gouvernement assure ses responsabilités légitimes sous le contrôle du parlement. Sous ce même contrôle, il impose des restrictions à celles et ceux qui refusent le vaccin. Il appartient aux instances juridictionnelles de notre État de droit de vérifier que l’imposition du passe sanitaire est conforme au droit, limitée à la durée de l’épidémie sous une forme gravement contagieuse et que les restrictions aux libertés d’aller et venir sont proportionnées.
Ne confondons jamais la liberté de voyager et celle d’exister ni la liberté d’aller au cinéma ou au café et celle de louer Dieu ou de ne pas le louer, même s’il est clair que ni l’État ni les citoyens ne doivent négliger que toutes les libertés se tiennent. Cette épidémie nous fait éprouver à tous combien nous sommes responsables les uns des autres. C’est comme une annonce de l’unité du genre humain et de l’union intime avec Dieu.
- Mgr Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, archevêque de Reims, Président de la Conférence des évêques de France
Even Pope Francis has a few words on this subject matter.
Pope Francis criticized groups protesting coronavirus restrictions and praised medical workers in an op-ed published Thursday in The New York Times.
“With some exceptions, governments have made great efforts to put the well-being of their people first, acting decisively to protect health and to save lives,” the pontiff wrote Thursday. “Yet some groups protested, refusing to keep their distance, marching against travel restrictions -- as if measures that governments must impose for the good of their people constitute some kind of political assault on autonomy or personal freedom! Looking to the common good is much more than the sum of what is good for individuals. It means having a regard for all citizens and seeking to respond effectively to the needs of the least fortunate.
Francis, 83, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Argentina, wrote that his own personal health crisis helped him to understand how science can be used to help people recover. The pope said he was 21 in 1957 when he had part of his lung removed. - Pope Francis criticizes groups protesting COVID-19 restrictions
The New York Times has even noted the manner in which the Vatican has issued some Covid-19 measures amongst Vatican employees.
The Vatican said it had issued rules to protect its employees after criticism arose over a decree suggesting that those who didn’t get vaccinated could lose their jobs.
The Vatican has clarified that employees who refuse a coronavirus vaccine will not be punished, after pushback over an internal decree suggesting that those who did not get vaccinated could be dismissed.
Vatican City State said in a statement on Thursday that “alternative solutions” would be found for employees who did not want to be vaccinated.
That came in response to a heated debate over a Feb. 8 directive signed by Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, the governor of the world’s smallest state. It referred to provisions in a 2011 law for Vatican employees stating that any who refuse preventive health measures can be punished, up to “the interruption of the relationship of employment.”
Pope Francis has said that coronavirus vaccinations are an ethical obligation, and called the refusal to accept them suicidal. Francis, 84, and his predecessor, Benedict VXI, 93, were among the first to be inoculated when Vatican City began its vaccination campaign last month.
The Feb. 8 decree called vaccinating “a responsible decision” for Vatican employees, and said that failure to do so was a risk for others and for public health.
Vatican City has about 5,000 employees, and many live in Italy, where vaccinations are not mandatory.
Cardinal Bertello’s office said on Thursday that its February decree had been issued to protect employees and the working environment “in the case of an event that could set off a public health emergency.” It also said that some jobs — especially those where employees come into contact with the public — might require vaccination. Failure to vaccinate in these cases, it said, would “allow for alternative work solutions for the interested party.”
The note said that the 2011 regulations did not have “a sanctioning or punitive nature” and were instead aimed at “striking a balance between protecting community health and individual freedom of choice.”
Pope Francis has made repeated appeals for the world’s wealthier nations to share vaccines with the most needy and vulnerable.
For further information about this subject matter, please read the following:
From the National Catholic Bioethics center, which is neither official church teaching, nor a conspiracy website but probably the closest place we can get unbiased (polemically at least) advice for Catholic ethical quandaries:
The Catholic perspective on the problems with requiring a COVID-19 vaccine passport looks first at the fundamental liberties of persons. The Church is calling people to make a careful discernment in conscience regarding taking a COVID-19 vaccine or not. This means that individuals have a strong right to be free of coercion to take a COVID-19 vaccine. They should also not be prevented from getting vaccinated if they qualify for ethically distributed vaccines and have made a well-considered decision to go forward with it. The proposals for the use of new vaccine passports that would involve discrimination against persons who choose not to accept the COVID-19 vaccines must be opposed by Catholics.
The note from last December about getting the vaccine is not at all saying one must be vaccinated. Basically, Catholic ethics says
A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.
The problem, that the consciences of individuals are trampled on by the state is not one to take lightly. The Catholic Church says we're supposed to follow our conscience, even if it sucks! Society is constantly telling us, especially children, to "be yourself", the Catholic Church says we should think for ourselves. And that's a remarkable thing, when she's the arbiter of faith and morals.
From the December note, which you'll probably see referenced, by way of the New York Times lens, would have your employer, even a Catholic hospital, believe that because vaccines are licit, that they're OK to mandate, but another equally understandable way to read what the vatican is saying is. The vaccines are licit, so it's OK to take them, but they're only barely OK and should never be mandated because they're so flawed.
And above that, I've never seen the Catholic Church have a take on the nature of the Vaccines available in America and Europe, the mRNA vaccines, which are transhumanist in nature, according to Elon Musk at least.
The Catholic Bioethics Center, does take on that argument though:
Myth 1: For vaccines that rely on injecting patients with mRNA, the possible incorporation of these genes into our genetic makeup will fundamentally alter who we are as humans, moving us into a project of Transhumanism, the production of a “Human 2.0,” etc.
Reply: Any incorporation of new genes into our chromosomes from a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine would be an exceedingly rare occurrence, if it were to occur at all. It is actually very difficult to get the genetic information of mRNA to integrate into our chromosomes, partly because this would mean a reverse directional flow of the so-called Central Dogma of Molecular Biology: our DNA or chromosomes are read (“transcribed”) to produce mRNA, which is then read (“translated”) to make proteins. Even if the accidental and unintentional incorporation of an mRNA message into our chromosomes were somehow to occur following vaccination, this would not mean that we were creating “Human 2.0,” since those genetic changes would not be expected to affect our sex cells, and therefore would not be transmitted to the next generation. Vaccinating people with an mRNA vaccine for COVID-19, therefore, does not imply that we are “remaking man” or heading down the path of Transhumanism.
But even this, depends on a very tight scope of transhumanism. Viral vector vaccines in the first place, were transhumanist in nature, but relied on natural processes. One could argue that all medicine is transhumanist, to some extent. But mRNA vaccines are clearly a vector for transhumanism, in the form of mRNA manipulation, to take root in the world. It has moral implications, whether individual Bishops or the Pope realizes it at this moment or not.
The Church already gives us a clear picture of what we should expect from science when considering IVF technology:
It would on the one hand be illusory to claim that scientific research and its applications are morally neutral; on the other hand one cannot derive criteria for guidance from mere technical efficiency, from research's possible usefulness to some at the expense of others, or, worse still, from prevailing ideologies. Thus science and technology require, for their own intrinsic meaning, an unconditional respect for the fundamental criteria of the moral law: that is to say, they must be at the service of the human person, of his inalienable rights and his true and integral good according to the design and will of God. The rapid development of technological discoveries gives greater urgency to this need to respect the criteria just mentioned: science without conscience can only lead to man's ruin. "Our era needs such wisdom more than bygone ages if the discoveries made by man are to be further humanized. For the future of the world stands in peril unless wiser people are forthcoming"
In summary the wisdom of the ages is being replaced by the state (who tells you to only listen to the state media), business (who fires you or prohibits your access to goods) and science (who quash any opposition to the status quo) teaming up to force us to carry passports of a vaccine that clearly violates our consciences. But the Church says we should follow our consciences, even if nobody is doing it, even if it hurts us and even if it's wrong.
As far as I am aware, the answer to the particular question is no. Generally, the Catholic Church would assert that government has no right to infringe on a man's conscience, but that still is subservient to the common good (for instance, the government doesn't have a right to compel you to go to Mass if your conscience convicts you that the Roman Catholic Church is the whore of babylon or something like that, but it does have the right to stop you from killing someone, even if your conscience convicts you that you have a duty to kill this person).
It will ultimately come down to a matter of prudential judgement. If you believe that the good of a 100% vaccinated population is important enough to take precedence over man's conscience in this case, then you will interpret the teachings of the Church to allow for vaccine passports (though in no wise to compel governments to implement them). If you do not think that COVID-19 is serious enough to warrant such draconian measures, you will interpret Church teachings to be against mandated vaccines.
Edit: As eques points out below, it's not right to say that one would interpret the Church's teachings to permit or forbid this. Rather, what the Church does teach is that one must evaluate for himself whether the conditions above pertain to the question. A government could coerce or not on this, and whether they ought is a matter of prudence. On my, and I suspect many others' reading of the teaching on conscience, the Church encourages governments to err on the side of permitting their citizens to follow conscience freely.
More on Catholic Conscience; the section on coercion may be especially helpful.