Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"the ancient and august alliance of the priesthood and of medicine"

"l'alliance antique et auguste du sacerdote et de la médicine".

     Le Ministre de l'interieur via Le Comité central de vaccine (L'École de médicine, Paris), to all bishops of the Empire (or at least France?), 4 April 1804.  Séance générale de la Société centrale de vaccine, 24 frimaire an XIII =15 December 1804, as quoted in Yves-Marie Bercé, "Le clergé et la diffusion de la vaccination, Revue d'histoire de l'Église de France 69, no. 182 (1983):  91 (87-106).

     Other notable quotes from this article:


"It was not unusual to see in the mornings of the public inoculation at the Hospital a procession of men, women, and children, conducted through the streets by a priest carrying a cross, come to be inoculated.  By these popular means it met not with opposition, and the common people expressed themselves certain that it was a blessing sent from Heaven, though discovered by one heretic and practiced by another."

     Dr. Joseph Marshall to Dr. Edward Jenner, on the former's 1801 vaccination work in Palermo, Sicily, Paris, 26 January 1802.  Bercé (1983), p. 89, as reproduced from a later printing of the English original (John Baron, The life of Edward Jenner, M.D., vol. 1 (London:  Henry Colburn, Publisher, 1838 [1827]), p. 403).


"in November of 1821, although the majority of the Italian states renewed and went into detail regarding their vaccinary regulations, the ecclesiastical state adopted especially constraining measures signed by Consalvi.  The preamble of the edict gave expression to 'the full adhesion of the Pontif to the vaccinary system'.  It attributed the hesitations of parents to a disgraceful ignorance of the poorest [members of Italian society] and described as impiety the possible refusal of educated persons.  'Ministers of evangelical charity:  the law imposes on us [the obligation] of educating the people about this gift from the Most High; make them acquainted with the will, the wishes, the prudent measures that the visible head of the Church, true interpreter of the divine commandment, has taken'" on the subject of vaccination.

     Bercé (1983), p. 80, citing Biblioteca vaccinica [6] (1822):  78-80.


     "Despite the accusations leveled here or there by health officials or doctors, cases of determined resistance [to vaccination] provoked by the clergy were in fact very rare.  The greatest enemy of the vaccinators was not (as they loved to put it in stereotypical terms) prejudice and superstition, but simply the inertia and indolence that, in periods of dormancy [(en dehors des retours épidémiques)], caused parents to lose sight of [(oublier)] the threats [posed] by the variolic peril.  For the [vaccination-]crazed [(enthousiaste)] generation of the first years of the 19th century, vaccination represented an opportunity [(enjeu) not to be missed].  It offered there and then the possibility of (thanks to the light of science) erasing from the world a plague whose appalling effects one could see in every family.  The[eir] dissatisfaction and irritation was exacerbated when, despite [their best] hopes and efforts, the popular embrace that [they] had expected was very slow in building.  [They therefore] attempted to incriminate an embodied opposition (of antivaccinary doctrinaires, of stooges [(suppôts)] of obscurantism) that [they] would be able to defy and to strike down.  It became necessary to invent an enemy; the clergy and religion could serve as the scapegoats most ready-to-hand.  Instead of th[e embrace they expected], the doctors found themselves facing [in certain cases] only silence and negligence, resignation and indifference.  In order to get beyond these obstacles [so] apparently insurmountable, the clergy presented [them (anticlerical as they tended to be)] with (given the state of society at that time) the best cultural impetus [(vecteur culturel)].  This is what the most clear-sighted of politicians and hygienists had understood.  From the top of its hierarchy to the bottom, the clergy manifested the same beliefs and attitudes in [the] face of the innovation [(which is to say as much enthusiasm)] as society at large.  It simply reflected the illusions or hopes of the epoch in which it lived."

     Bercé (1983), pp. 105-106.


     Much more to the point on Leo XII and the supposed 1829 bull against vaccination:
  • Yves-Marie Bercé and Jean-Claude Otteni, "Pratique de la vaccination antivarioloique dans les provinces de l'état pontifical au 19ème siècle:  remarques sur le supposé interdit vaccinal de Léon XII," Revue d'histoire écclesiastique 103, no. 2 (April 2008):  448-466.
  • Ulrich L. Lehner, "An anti-vaxx pope?", First things, 6 February 2015.



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