For those who are not aware, Post Falls, Idaho, is home to hundreds of traditional Catholics who are generally split between Immaculate Conception church of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) and St. Joan of Arc parish of the Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP). In my posting of 15 December (The SSPX Blinks), I pointed out that a cloud of confusion had descended upon the Catholic residents of Post Falls, due in large part to an anonymous article that was featured on the SSPX U.S. District website, sspx.org. Though the article was pulled for “updating,” the replacement article by Fr. Arnaud Sélégny, a physician and professor at the SSPX seminary in Switzerland, only served to cause even more anguish among traditional Catholics. Consequently, citing what he noted as the “controversy surrounding the article of Fr. Sélégny,” the prior of Immaculate Conception church, Fr. Gerard Beck, disseminated an invitation by email on 30 December for a “presentation” to be given on Monday evening, 4 January, by Fr. Jonathan Loop. Questions were solicited beforehand, as there would apparently be no Q&A period after the talk.
I should mention that in presenting Fr. Loop last evening, Fr. Beck revealed that there had been an SSPX moral theology team of doctors and priests who had consulted on this matter of the liceity of using murdered baby stem cells/DNA in testing, design, and production of vaccines. Fr. Beck had already told both my wife and me a couple of weeks ago that he had been a part of that team, and last night he told us all that Fr. Loop had been on the team as well. We were not told what credentials or qualities Fr. Loop possessed that won him a place on the team; however, Fr. Beck made a comment that many in the audience found humorous regarding Fr. Loop’s apparent penchant for controversy. Perhaps Fr. Beck was referring to Fr. Loop’s bizarre sermon a few months ago when he told us that “God hates the First Amendment more than he hates abortion.” But that is a topic for another post in the near future.
In response to Fr. Beck’s invitation for last evening’s presentation, I submitted eleven questions; but only one was addressed. The one Fr. Loop chose to address was the one in which I asked him to comment on the following words written on 11 December by Bishop Athanasius Schneider and four other solidly Catholic prelates:
The theological principle of material cooperation is certainly valid and may be applied to a whole host of cases (e.g. in paying taxes, the use of products made from slave labor, and so on). However, this principle can hardly be applied to the case of vaccines made from fetal cell lines, because those who knowingly and voluntarily receive such vaccines enter into a kind of concatenation, albeit very remote, with the process of the abortion industry. The crime of abortion is so monstrous that any kind of concatenation with this crime, even a very remote one, is immoral and cannot be accepted under any circumstances by a Catholic once he has become fully aware of it. One who uses these vaccines must realize that his body is benefitting from the “fruits” (although steps removed through a series of chemical processes) of one of mankind’s greatest crimes.
In addressing the comments of these prelates, Fr. Loop made it sound as if this were the opinion of only Bishop Schneider, never mentioning the other four prelates who co-signed. But most conveniently for Fr. Loop’s argument, he left out the last sentence, thereby making it sound as if any “linkage,” even “a very remote one,” was being condemned by the good bishop of Kazakhstan. Fr. Loop made much of this strawman he contrived, giving us interesting but invalid analogies of paying taxes and shopping at Costco. He quoted from the recent article of Dr. Jeff Mirus (here), of all people, who took the prelates to task for allegedly making a whole new category of evil that did not exist previously. We were told last evening that this is not traditional Catholic moral theology.
Never, at any time, did Fr. Loop read the last sentence of the paragraph quoted, which finishes the thought of, and provides the proper context for, the preceding statement. When read in conformity with the sentences before, the last sentence makes it quite clear that the prelates are referring to the act of people taking into their bodies the stem cells/DNA of murdered babies, not the act of paying taxes or purchasing goods from retailers who support immoral causes. The question of remote vs. proximate cooperation is not the crux of the matter, but rather whether or not the acceptance into our bodies of these ill-gotten goods is a continuing “concatenation” or participatory linkage into the heinous and unspeakable crime of abortion. The Church does not set a “statute of limitations” on such a monstrous crime; nor has any reputable theologian ever suggested that time can decrease the severity of such a crime, especially when taking the vaccine today is not only participation in the abortion of 1973, but more proximately, a sin of benefitting from the fruits of its use in testing, design, or development of a vaccine or pharmaceutical. As one dissenting SSPX priest explained to me recently: “It is the issue of the means that seems to be misleading everyone in this matter. Even if a vaccine was only tested with the use of aborted fetal cells/DNA from forty-seven years ago, this still constitutes an illicit cooperation in the use of an evil/immoral means as a necessary condition for its production and use.” Instead, Fr. Loop concentrates on these words: “any kind of concatenation with this crime, even a very remote one, is immoral and cannot be accepted under any circumstances”. Unfortunately, in last evening’s talk, Fr. Loop never addressed the issue of benefitting from the fruits of an evil, except at one point to say that “time” was one way of cooperation becoming remote rather than proximate. It was never made clear just how much “time” had to elapse for this to occur.
Now, those of you who know me know that during my Navy career, one of my duties was to train aircrews to understand what compliance to the U.S. military Code of Conduct entails. I have continued this over the last two decades in my current profession. I teach these young men and women, who will be going into harm’s way, to recognize propaganda and indoctrination, should they become captives of a group or nation hostile to the United States. Propaganda involves using facts, half-truths, and even lies in promoting a specific agenda. Indoctrination can be recognized by the one-sided argumentation of a presenter in using this propaganda to convince a listener that the indoctrinator is right and that the listener should come to his way of thinking. Imagine my chagrin when I realized last evening, as I sat listening to the spokesman of the SSPX, that we were being subjected to propaganda and being heavily indoctrinated.
For nearly ninety minutes, the audience of over one hundred faithful were given some limited information regarding moral theology and told just how complex and difficult moral theology can be. “Complex” is a word Fr. Loop used a lot, to the point where a man sitting near me leaned over and whispered, “he thinks we’re stupid.” After all, reasoned Fr. Loop, if moral theologians can disagree on certain practical aspects of principles, we in the pews should not feel as if we can have all the answers on our own. The message was clear: we are just lay people who do not possess the training to understand this very complex issue. This is, as it turns out, the response that SSPX priests are giving to their faithful on three continents, as reported by Catholic faithful across the oceans: the laity cannot understand the “delicate” complexities of such matters. Fr. Loop presented us with analogies, principles, and arguments which, in the final analysis, resulted in this conclusion: if there is a proportionate cause, and if there is no alternative available, one may take abortion-tainted vaccines under certain circumstances. What circumstances? Fr. Loop gave us two hypothetical examples:
— in the situation whereby the state is threatening parents with taking their children out of the home unless the parents take an abortion-tainted vaccine, the parents may take the vaccine in question for the greater good of keeping the family intact and the children in a proper environment;
— in the situation whereby an employer requires an employee to take an abortion-tainted vaccine as a condition of continued employment, the employee may take the vaccine rather than lose his livelihood.
In both the cases above, to be fair to Fr. Loop, it was made clear that all means should be taken to try to find an alternative to an abortion-tainted vaccine. He also made it clear that Catholics may refuse such a vaccine. Unfortunately, he also left the matter open to a certain amount of subjective discernment (perhaps Bergoglio-style “accompaniment”?) on the part of individuals being presented with difficult choices. In other words, we all came away from his talk with the understanding that, given certain circumstances, it would be permissible for Catholics to agree to an abortion-tainted vaccine. Significantly, however, Fr. Loop never told us how we were to judge if our own circumstances would allow for us to make a decision to take a vaccine with stem cells or DNA from murdered babies.
If you are reading this and thinking that this is just one man’s opinion, you are only partially correct. While there are SSPX priests who do dissent from this deplorable conclusion, this presentation would have had at least the tacit approval of Fr. Fullerton, U.S. District Superior of the SSPX. We were told last evening that the talk was being recorded, though furtive private recordings were taking place around me. The official recording will be made available to Catholics everywhere. Make no mistake: this is the “definitive” position of the SSPX, not just in the U.S. district, but world-wide. It is shocking and indescribably disappointing. And we justifiably ask ourselves, “to whom do we turn?” Let us find some consolation in the words of the five prelates quoted above, who reminded us:
More than ever, we need the spirit of the confessors and martyrs who avoided the slightest suspicion of collaboration with the evil of their own age. The Word of God says: “Be simple as children of God without reproach in the midst of a depraved and perverse generation, in which you must shine like lights in the world” (Phil. 2, 15).