Pope Francis has added the heft of his papal authority to question of the Covid vaccine in a television recent interview:
I believe that morally everyone must take the vaccine…It is the moral choice because it is about your life but also the lives of others. I do not understand why some say that this could be a dangerous vaccine…If the doctors are presenting this to you as a thing that will go well and doesn’t have any special dangers, why not take it?…There is a suicidal denialism that I would not know how to explain but today people must take the vaccine.
As we are discovering quite vividly of late, there are limits to papal authority, not least when offered in impromptu interviews, which are about as far from ‘official Magisterial teaching’ as one might get. The Magisterium – the Pope and the bishops in union with him – teaches authoritatively only under certain conditions, outlined in the Church’s own constitution (cf., Lumen Gentium, 25), and only on matters of faith, morals, as well as certain disciplines (as in liturgical and canonical matters). We should also be clear that the Magisterium is only infallible when the Pope teaches as universal pastor of all the faithful, on faith and morals in a definitive manner. The task of the Church is never to make ‘new teaching’, but to safeguard, expound and apply the teaching of Christ in each era.