The sad article posted on the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) USA District’s website, ostensibly written by Fr. Arnaud Sélégny, in consultation with a panel of “experts,” has been like a dark cloud hanging over the community here in Post Falls. It would not be an exaggeration to say that it has caused division among the faithful, and between friends and neighbors. On Monday, 14 December 2020, my wife and I met with the local prior, who graciously consented to discuss the matter. Unfortunately, after meeting with him, it is clear that Fr. Sélégny’s opinion is the “official” SSPX position — not just of the U.S. District, but of the SSPX at large.
I should mention at the outset that my family and I have attended Holy Mass and received the Sacraments at dozens of SSPX chapels and Mass centers in the USA and Europe over the better part of four decades. I am not surprised, then, that at least a few priests I know are dissenting from the conclusions drawn in the article in question. As a Navy man, I would not go so far as to describe the dissent as mutiny; however, very solid SSPX priests, who were ordained thirty to forty years ago, have taken exception to Fr. Sélégny’s sophistry, as can be seen at the Catholic Truth of Scotland blog. Even though this analysis was written by user “Athanasius,” the author divulged that he consulted with an SSPX priest of nearly 40 years, and included this good priest’s analysis in his article. It is a clear, well-written article; certainly worth a read. Here is the link:
Now, a thorough check with my copy of Fr. Dominic Prümmer’s Handbook of Moral Theology supports the analysis in the above referenced article perfectly; the same cannot be said, unfortunately, for Fr. Sélégny’s reasoning. Articles 23, 233, and 234 thoroughly repudiate Fr. Sélégny’s premise and conclusions.
Regrettably, so many questions are raised by the sspx.org article, that I might be accused of being conspiratorial if I raised them all. Louis Verrecchio, at AKA Catholic, has an excellent critique here:
Still I think it is important to at least ask a few salient questions:
— How is it that Fr. Sélégny has arrived at different conclusions regarding vaccines using murdered baby tissue/DNA in developing, design, and testing than those of other solidly orthodox SSPX priests?
— How is it that Fr. Iscara, (a priest I personally know and had the honor and privilege to host when we lived in Italy) could have been forming priests at the seminary for so long, apparently teaching them that this same concept of “remote material cooperation,” expressed by Fr. Sélégny regarding the issue of vaccines, was the moral theological answer, even while the SSPX USA District carried a contrary analysis by then-District Superior and physician Fr. Peter Scott, that dated from the year 2000?
— Since some of Fr. Iscara’s (and Fr. Sélégny’s) former students clearly disagree with their professors’ conclusions in this matter, how can so many traditional priests, ostensibly formed by these seminary professors in moral theology, be wrong?
— And why did the SSPX change its original position on this matter (specifically regarding the MMR vaccine) just after the Pontifical Academy for Life issued its dubious statement regarding vaccines in 2005? Since when does the SSPX follow “Modernist Rome,” as Archbishop Lefebvre called it?
Archbishop Viganò warned us in his beautiful letter a few months ago, on the Feast of the Assumption:
When we consider the new orientation of the Pontifical Academy for Life… we cannot expect any condemnation of those who use fetal tissue from voluntarily aborted children. Its present members hope for mass vaccination and the universal brotherhood of the New World Order, contradicting previous pronouncements of the same Pontifical Academy.
Meanwhile, more recently, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, along with four other solidly Catholic prelates, wrote on 11 December 2020, that even the elect will be seduced. They went on:
In confronting the evil of abortion, more than ever Catholics must “abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22). Bodily health is not an absolute value. Obedience to the law of God and the eternal salvation of the souls must be given primacy. Vaccines derived from the cells of cruelly murdered unborn children are clearly apocalyptic in character and may possibly foreshadow the mark of the beast (see Rev. 13:16).
We can clearly imagine Archbishop Lefebvre penning these words above. Yet it is so difficult to believe that he would have agreed with Fr. Sélégny’s argument. Here is what Bishop Schneider et al wrote regarding one of Fr. Sélégny’s invalid analogies (the payment of taxes):
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.
Furthermore, while Fr. Prümmer gives various arguments regarding payment of taxes, in his final analysis, he makes clear that payment of taxes is indeed obligatory (cf: Article 131, Handbook of Moral Theology). Clearly, Fr. Sélégny’s list of red herrings is too numerous to give attention to each one individually; and it defies belief that someone charged with the duty of teaching SSPX seminarians can come up with such silly examples (seriously, a practicing Catholic who works in an abortion clinic and cleans up after abortions?) From what the good Bishop of Kazakhstan and his confreres wrote, it can easily be seen that Fr. Sélégny’s spurious examples are completely invalid. Fr. Sélégny does not even delve into the great sin against justice that occurs when ill-gotten material (murdered baby tissue and DNA) is used obviously without the baby’s permission and for obscenely large profit by pharmaceutical companies and vaccine developers. Fr. Sélégny’s moral theology is imprudent, at best, as Bishop Schneider points out:
Some churchmen in our day reassure the faithful by affirming that receiving a Covid-19 vaccine derived from the cell lines of an aborted child is morally licit if an alternative is not available. They justify their assertion on the basis of “material and remote cooperation” with evil. Such affirmations are extremely anti-pastoral and counterproductive, especially when one considers the increasingly apocalyptic character of the abortion industry, and the inhuman nature of some biomedical research and embryonic technology. Now more than ever, Catholics categorically cannot encourage and promote the sin of abortion, even in the slightest, by accepting these vaccines.
It is quite obvious that the sspx.org article — ostensibly approved by Menzingen — is a betrayal. With the current political and hysterical climate, the far-reaching ramifications of such an assessment will be disastrous. It WILL come back to haunt us. As sure as I sit at this computer and write these words, I know — and so do you, dear reader — that employers will mandate vaccines. When a Catholic employee explains that he cannot receive such a vaccine, the employer will go to the Vatican and USCCB websites and perhaps even to sspx.org. The employer will require the employee to demonstrate why his brand of Catholicism is different from what he sees online, at the Vatican’s and the American bishops’ websites, and now, regrettably, even the traditional SSPX. What a scandal! The words of a priest whom we are supposed to follow because he teaches moral theology at an SSPX seminary will be used to terminate the employee. Do you think this is far-fetched, my friends? I ask you to evaluate my words in light of the changes we have seen come so rapidly in recent months, and especially in view of what a Biden-Harris America will look like.
Moreover, the betrayal will affect familial relationships. Think of those many Catholic families whose children have fallen away from the practice of their Catholic Faith; of parents who are trying to encourage these prodigals back to the Faith. These adult children will consider parental guidance against illicit vaccines as one more “fanatical” aspect of the traditional Catholicism from which they tried to distance themselves. Truly, as St. Edmund Campion said, “the fort is betrayed by those who should have defended it.”
Since the SSPX hierarchy appears to have blinked in the face of such a grave moral crisis, thank God for Archbishop Viganò, Bishop Schneider, and the four other courageous prelates, who wrote:
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).
Now those are the kinds of things the SSPX priests and prelates used to say to us. These are the words that Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre would use in this crisis. The SSPX needs to immediately commission a more thorough analysis that will correct the moral theological quagmire — the confusion in the pews — that Fr. Sélégny’s article presented.
The vaccine is here; we have no time to lose! It is the time for virtuous choices. Yes, now more than ever, the good priests of, inter alia, the SSPX and the FSSP, along with the faithful for whose spiritual welfare they are responsible, must step up to the line drawn in the sand and heroically say, “this we will not cross, nor from this will we retreat.”