Archbishop Hebda: Minnesota priest’s coronavirus homily ‘inappropriate’
CNA Staff, Sep 23, 2020 / 01:20 pm MT (CNA).-
The Archbishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis has said that priests should not “present medical or scientific speculation” in their homilies, in response to a controversial homily on the coronavirus pandemic preached by Minnesota priest Fr. Robert Altier, which has become widely circulated on social media.
“The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis is blessed with many fine priests. We have reason to expect them to teach the truth of the Gospel, faithfully passing on the teachings of our Church. None of our priests or bishops, however, is an expert in public health, infectious disease, epidemiology or immunology. It would be a mistake to attribute any expertise in these areas to us simply on the basis of our ordination,” Archbishop Bernard Hebda wrote in a Sept 22 letter.
Altier preached September 6 a homily at St. Raphael Parish in Crystal, Minnesota, saying the COVID-19 coronavirus is a “ man-made virus, whose work had begun at a lab in North Carolina, then they shipped it to China to finish the work, then it was released so that people would get sick.”
“All this is being done on purpose.”
Altier said that he wanted to tell his congregation “the truth, because that’s what God is going to hold me responsible for.”
“We are being lied to. We have been lied to in a huge way.”
“I have an obligation to stand here and speak the truth, even when people don’t like to hear.”
The priest, who is parochial vicar at the parish, said that only 9,200 people have died of the coronavirus pandemic, which is recorded to have killed more than 200,000 in the U.S., and that the virus was launched in order for unnamed figures to create propaganda networks and disinformation campaigns.
He said the goal of those campaigns is to achieve social control, by inducing people, out of fear, to receive a vaccine that is “designed to change the RNA in your body.”
Altier said he had told his elderly parents, “do not, under any circumstances allow them to put one of these vaccines in your body. The only way that I would allow it to happen to me is if they arrest me and hold me down and force it on me. There is no way.”
“It’s time we start to recognize that we are being lied to….This is all engineered. This is all an agenda. And it’s pointing in a certain direction. So far, like the good sheeple that we are, we’ve all put on our masks and we’re all staying six feet apart, but there comes a part where we have to draw the line.”
The priest said that for himself, the “line” would be refusal to submit to a vaccine. He encouraged parishioners to do their own research on the matter.
The 20-minute homily was posted on YouTube and has been viewed more than 400,000 times.
Some claims in Altier’s homily echoed claims made in a May “appeal” circulated by Archbishop Carlo Vigano, former apostolic nuncio to the U.S.
In his letter, Hebda said that Altier “remains firm in his opinions on the pandemic situation, but he has acknowledged that his remarks were inappropriate in the context of a homily during Mass.”
Citing the General Instruction on the Roman Missal and other Church texts, Hebda said that homilies should be used to explain some aspect of Sacred Scripture or other texts of the Mass.
“The use of a homily to present medical or scientific speculation does not serve that noble purpose and could be seen as an abuse of the cleric’s position of authority to address an issue unrelated to the liturgical celebration.”
“In the context of the liturgy, no member of the assembly, even if the world’s greatest expert in this area, would have been in a position to contradict Fr. Altier or to offer alternative points of reference,” the archbishop added.
Hebda included in his letter responses to some of Altier’s points offered, at the archbishop’s request, by the Minnesota Department of Health. He said that the archdiocesan chapter of the Catholic Medical Association also “considered some of Fr. Altier’s affirmations to be ‘erroneous.’”
Hebda noted that there are legitimate concerns about ethical vaccine production, and pointed to resources regarding the ethical concerns surrounding the use of fetal stem cell lines in vaccine productions.
Altier was ordained a priest in 1989 and has served in various capacities in the Minneapolis archdiocese. A 2018 homily from the priest also went viral online, in which Altier said in his view the Theodore McCarrick crisis and similar incidents in the Church had been caused by the systemic infiltration of the priesthood by predatory “homsexual networks” and by communist agents intent on harming the Church.
Hebda concluded his letter requesting prayers “for all those who are sick with COVID-19, those who care for them, those who are working on vaccines, and all those individuals and families affected in any way by the pandemic. Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us.”