Vatican statement about vaccines is moral doublespeak
The word doublespeak has come to mean the manipulative use language to intentionally obscure, disguise, distort, or change the meaning of words. George Orwell's in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four used the notion of doublethink and newsspeak to satirize media and institutional language confusion. He had no idea that his suggestion would just decades later no longer be satirical but a reality.
The Vatican statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the use of Covid-19 vaccines is a great example of doublespeak. The directive is called, "Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines." (
The Sovereign Pontiff Francis, at the Audience granted to the undersigned Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on 17 December 2020, examined the present Note and ordered its publication.)
Here are a number of confusing ideas made in this doublespeak statement:
1. The statement says that it's not known if the vaccines are effective, but this isn't for the Vatican to judge: "We do not intend to judge the safety and efficacy of these vaccines." So, don't tell the faithful and others to take them. But the document doesn't. It wants to say yes and no at the same time.
2. If a person lives in a nation which has only vaccines derived from aborted babies, "it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process." But this should not be taken to mean that the Vatican supports abortion. What else can it mean?
3. "The responsibility of those who make the decision to use them (vaccines) is not the same as that of those who have no voice in such a decision." If you didn't make and develop the vaccines (that pretty well all of us), it's fine to use them.
4. "It should be emphasized, however, that the morally licit use of these types of vaccines, in the particular conditions that make it so, does not in itself constitute a legitimization, even indirect, of the practice of abortion, and necessarily assumes the opposition to this practice by those who make use of these vaccines." An evil act can never be sued to do good. The logic makes no sense, but then the entire statement makes no moral sense.
5. "In fact, the licit use of such vaccines does not and should not in any way imply that there is a moral endorsement of the use of cell lines proceeding from aborted fetuses." You cannot have it both ways. If one takes the vaccine, one has accepted directly or indirectly, the use of aborted babies to make them. Compromising with evil is evil.
6. "The morality of vaccination depends not only on the duty to protect one's own health, but also on the duty to pursue the common good." How does the Vatican know that the vaccines is the only medical solution, when every other treatment for the Wuhan virus has been suppressed? The statement does admit that it's not an endorsement for the effectiveness of the vaccines. But it's confusing at best.
7. "There is also a moral imperative for the pharmaceutical industry, governments and international organizations to ensure that vaccines, which are effective and safe from a medical point of view, as well as ethically acceptable, are also accessible to the poorest countries in a manner that is not costly for them." The Vatican doesn't know if the vaccines will work, but it's discrimination not to make them available to poorer countries. This is mere Vatican virtue signalling. Where's the moral logic here?
"Notes on the morality of using some Covid-19 vaccines" from the Vatican is just moral doublespeak. It's confusing and intentionally ambiguous. Orwell would be pleased. The faithful should just disregard it completely because it's not written to instruct. It would have been simple to say: when vaccines have been developed using aborted babies faithful Catholics must not take them. But this assumes the writers wish to communicate.