Bobby Kennedy and Father Feeney: Religion as American Politics

This is a bit antiquated, but it’s just come to my attention. Teddy wanted to make sure Bobby got credit for his contribution to twentieth-century Catholic doctrinal development. (Cardinal Newman and Robert Kennedy: the two names should stand side-by-side.) This excerpt from Teddy’s book comes from National Review Online, with a hat tip to Eucharist and Mission:

[Bobby] discussed it with our father one weekend at the Cape house. I well remember the conversation.

Dad could not believe that Bobby had heard Father Feeney correctly. “But,” he said, “if you feel strongly that you did, I’m going to go into the other room and call Richard. Maybe he’ll want you to go up to Boston and see him.”

“Richard” was Richard Cardinal Cushing. Dad and the cardinal enjoyed a long and profound friendship. . . .

Bobby said he felt strongly indeed. Bang! Dad called up “Richard” and arranged for Bobby to visit him. The cardinal, as nonplussed as Dad, sent some of his people over to hear Father Feeney’s Thursday evening lecture. When he found that my brother was right, Cushing banned Feeney from speaking there; Feeney refused to obey the order, and in September 1949 the archdiocese formally condemned the priest’s teaching. . . . In February 1952, Father Feeney was excommunicated.

Bobby’s involvement in Saint Benedict Center is mentioned on this site:

Members of the famous Kennedy family were known to visit. Jack was running for Congress when he first came to the Center, and surprised Father by being able to recite from memory passages of one of his essays. Jack Kennedy came to several lectures and was always gracious and respectful towards Father, who once told him, “Maybe someday you will be the first Catholic president!”

Bobby Kennedy came once as well. However, he was arrogant and confrontational. Father suffered him patiently, until he flippantly sniped, “I know more Protestants who are going to heaven than Catholics!” “That’s not the way to talk to a priest,” Father retorted, and directed the young Kennedy to the door.

  • Ryan

    Your animosity towards Cardinal Newman seems misdirected. But, don’t take my word for it: “Regarding the large number of books of great importance and influence which [Newman] wrote as a Catholic, it is hardly necessary to exonerate them from any connection with this present heresy [i.e., modernism]. And indeed, in the domain of England, it is common knowledge that Henry Newman pleaded the cause of the Catholic faith in his prolific literary output so effectively that his work was both highly beneficial to its citizens and greatly appreciated by Our Predecessors: and so he is held worthy of office whom Leo XIII, undoubtedly a shrewd judge of men and affairs, appointed Cardinal; indeed he was very highly regarded by him at every stage of his career, and deservedly so. Truly, there is something about such a large quantity of work and his long hours of labour lasting far into the night that seems foreign to the usual way of theologians: nothing can be found to bring any suspicion about his faith. You correctly state that it is entirely to be expected that where no new signs of heresy were apparent he has perhaps used an off-guard manner of speaking to some people in certain places, but that what the Modernists do is to falsely and deceitfully take those words out of the whole context of what he meant to say and twist them to suit their own meaning. We therefore congratulate you for having, through your knowledge of all his writings, brilliantly vindicated the memory of this eminently upright and wise man from injustice: and also for having, to the best of your ability, brought your influence to bear among your fellow-countrymen, but particularly among the English people, so that those who were accustomed to abusing his name and deceiving the ignorant should henceforth cease doing so. Would that they should follow Newman the author faithfully by studying his books without, to be sure, being addicted to their own prejudices, and let them not with wicked cunning conjure anything up from them or declare that their own opinions are confirmed in them; but instead let them understand his pure and whole principles, his lessons and inspiration which they contain. They will learn many excellent things from such a great teacher: in the first place, to regard the Magisterium of the Church as sacred, to defend the doctrine handed down inviolately by the Fathers and, what is of highest importance to the safeguarding of Catholic truth, to follow and obey the Successor of St. Peter with the greatest faith.” – Pope Saint Pius X, letter to Edward Thomas Bishop of Limerick

  • Ryan: There was not a hint of animosity directed toward Cardinal Newman. I was using irony, since it is preposterous that Bobby Kennedy could actually have a hand in real theology. He did have a hand in politics — ecclesiastical politics, which is why I named the piece the way I did.

    Thank you for the quote; sorry for the misunderstanding.

  • Ryan

    Oops… I missed the irony. Thanks for the clarification. The work of the Saint Benedict Center remains in my prayers.

  • Ryan: You’re welcome! And thank you very kindly for your prayers. God bless, Mary keep!

  • The National Review Online link is broken, but a friend has just point this book review out to me. The whole review is worth reading…