Following the publication, on Wednesday, of LifeSite’s story about the Vatican’s employees being threatened with losing their jobs if they refuse the COVID-19 experimental vaccine without a valid health reason, many major online media including Reuters and the BBC, as well as Italian sources such as RAINews, came out with headlines this Thursday confirming that “anti-vaxxers” faced being fired.
The news triggered many negative reactions on social media — so much so that cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, governor of the Vatican City State who signed the decree ordering compliance with anti-pandemic measures was compelled to publish an official note on Thursday in response.
The note said that for those who simply refuse the (experimental) vaccine, the new measures will “allow to find alternative solutions for the performance of work by the person concerned.”
As a matter of fact, the decree signed February 8 by Cardinal Bertello did not provide for anything of the sort. It only said that alternative tasks would be found for workers who “for proven reasons of health” could not receive the jab.
In its article 6 regarding employees, §1 provided for those who refuse the vaccine for valid health reasons, while §2 referred those who “without proven health reasons” would refuse to undergo vaccination to article 6 of a previous Vatican City State law of November 18, 2011, that reads (in full):
The refusal to undergo required preventive or periodic assessments and mandatory health checks, as well as the refusal to undergo the continuation of preventive, periodic or mandatory health checks that have already begun, entail different degrees of consequences for employees, which may extend to termination of employment. For candidates for employment, this is equivalent to the renunciation of the establishment of an employment relationship.
It can be argued that receiving a vaccine cannot be considered as a “preventive assessment” or “health check,” but why, then, explicitly refer to these provisions in relation with those who refuse the experimental vaccine if they did not apply? And if they do, “termination” of the work contract was clearly in the cards, and there was no mention at all of finding ways to protect the Vatican workers’ — some 5,000 individuals — personal liberty and freedom of choice.
Cardinal Bertello’ note looks very much like a form of damage control. Hopefully, his backpedaling will ensure that Vatican employees will not be deprived of their livelihoods for saying no to the “vaccine.”
Vatican News in Italian quoted at length from cardinal Bertello’s tortuous response here. LifeSite’s translation is here below:
This Decree was issued to provide an urgent regulatory response to the primary need to safeguard and guarantee the health and well-being of the working community, citizens and residents of Vatican City State. The presupposition, therefore, is that of the individual protection of the worker and the collective protection of the working environment in the case of an event that could be configured as a public health emergency. In particular, the provision concerns all the appropriate measures aimed at preventing, controlling and responding to exceptional situations of public health emergency, and all the instruments for an adequate and proportional response to the health risk are indicated extensively.
The necessity to take into account the risk of a possible refusal
Among these measures specified by the State Health Authority, it may be deemed necessary to resort to vaccination in certain contexts: in work activities related to service to the public, in dealing with third parties, or in activities that pose a risk for the safety of the working community. Voluntary adherence to a vaccination program must, therefore, take into account the risk that any refusal of the person concerned may pose a risk to himself, to others, and to the working environment. For this reason, the protection of the community may require, for those who refuse the vaccination in the absence of health reasons, the adoption of measures that on the one hand minimize the danger in question and on the other allow to find alternative solutions for the performance of work by the person concerned.
No repressive intent, but protection of the community
The reference to the pre-existing Norms for the protection of the dignity of the person and his fundamental rights to be observed in health checks in view of the recruitment of personnel and during the employment relationship and Norms for the protection of employees with particular serious diseases or in particular psychophysical conditions of November 18, 2011, must therefore be considered as an instrument that in no case has a sanctioning or punitive nature, but rather that is intended to allow a flexible and proportionate response to the balance between the health protection of the community and individual freedom of choice without putting in place any form of repression against the worker.
However, article 6 of the 2011 law mentioned once again by Cardinal Bertello only speaks of “different degrees of consequences” that may be entailed by refusal to comply with health requirements, “up to the termination of the employment relationship” — being fired, in plain English. “Freedom of choice” and the “absence of repression” are nowhere to be found in the 2011 text.
The eventuality of being fired was certainly not set aside by the cardinal’s COVID-19 decree (because that is what it essentially is), whose general form is that of a repressive, if not penal text, in that it provides for administrative fines for all other transgressions of COVID-19 measures, and refers to possible job loss regarding the refusal of the experimental jab.
Cardinal Bertello’s note of clarification is reassuring — but it is merely a note, and would not measure up to the strict interpretation of Vatican State norms and the February 8 decree as they stand.