Father Feeney and the Bloggers

I have already mentioned that media attention has come our way because of a site-plan-review process we are undergoing (see The Problem of Pluralism and the Delight of Demographics). Four distinct blogs have been born as a result of this affair, two of which are on the web site of a local newspaper. In an effort to get across our point of view, I began to post to these forums. Quickly transcending the merits of our project, the blogs became open season on Saint Benedict Center. The point of diminishing returns was reached either when I was called a liar for making a factual claim I could easily prove (and did), or when a local pro-abortion zoophile claimed that he feared for his life because I use scary words (e.g., “Militant Catholic”!).

Time was being wasted. An exit strategy was in order. I decided to make a last fact-filled posting, shake the cyber-dust from my sandals, and get back to my real work. In my parting words, I made several categorical claims that are worth repeating, in a slightly edited form, to our Ad Rem readership.

Joining the atheist, agnostic, deist and multiculturalist foes, were some Catholics who commenced an attack on Father Feeney and the legitimacy of our apostolate. (One of these said that our Center is “not in communion with the Church.”) To this group, I gave these six points for consideration:

  1. Father Feeney died in the good graces of the Church, without even the slightest ecclesiastical censure remaining upon him. He did so without having changed his position on “no salvation outside the Church.” In fact, he made no doctrinal reversals of any sort. Knowing that he maintained his dogmatic hard line, Church officials lifted “any censures which may have been incurred” in 1972. This is minutely documented in the books Harvard to Harvard and They Fought the Good Fight, neither of which was published at the Center in Richmond.
  2. The Diocese of Worcester now has three religious houses whose members believe and actively defend what we do regarding “no salvation outside the Church.” They also all defend Father Feeney’s good name. Those three houses are St. Benedict’s Abbey, St. Ann’s House (they have no web site), and Saint Benedict Center. The Abbot of the Benedictine Abbey recently wrote a book defending Father Feeney, Harvard to Harvard. He remains a Benedictine Abbot — a prelate of the Catholic Church — in good standing.
  3. Brother Thomas Mary Sennott, who was one of Father Feeney’s original followers, wrote a defense of our doctrinal position in his book, They Fought the Good Fight, which was published in 1987. Besides Brother Thomas Mary’s narrative and annotations, the book has long excerpts from Father Feeney’s most pointed writings on “no salvation outside the Church.” Significantly, the book bears the Imprimi potest of Bishop Timothy J. Harrington, the Bishop of Worcester. (The Imprimi potest is a declaration that a book or pamphlet is free of doctrinal or moral error. His Excellency granted this on January 15, 1987.) The book is now out of print, but is available on Amazon.com (ISBN #0-9620994-0-6). Brother Thomas Mary, who is now deceased, had a web site that a friend now keeps on line.
  4. A well-known “Feeneyite” named Charles A. Coulombe was created Knight Commander of the Order St. Sylvester by Pope John Paul II on 1 October, 2004. In other words, a “Feeneyite” — and a friend of mine — is a Papal Knight! You can see this verified on the very same web site wherein Charles promotes Father Feeney’s doctrinal position in more than one article. Mr. Coulombe is a well-traveled eclectic, a brilliant scholar and historian. Along with several other books and numerous articles, he wrote a much-acclaimed history of the popes, Vicars of Christ. His lecture circuit includes Oxford, Cambridge, and Edinburgh Universities. Mr. Coulombe spoke at our annual conference in 1998. His talks were entitled “Laureate of Little Towns: Fr. Feeney’s Place in Catholic Literature” and “London is a Place: Father Feeney and the Conversion of England.”
  5. We are Catholics, members of the Catholic Church in good standing. We, in Richmond, have never made a claim of having canonical status as a religious house of the Diocese of Manchester. (The two realities — membership in the Church and canonical approval of a religious house and chapel — are quite distinct. Ask a Moral Theologian or Canon Lawyer.) The Diocese itself, while always maintaining its disapproval of our apostolate, has been very guarded in its comments vis-a-vis our status as Catholics. Father Edward J. Arsenault, who now serves as the diocesan Moderator of the Curia, stated, “I have no knowledge that any member of the St. Benedict Center has been separated from the communion of the Church or formally declared to be in schism.” This quotation comes from a letter we have on file, dated October 16, 2003. Indeed, without clearly outlined conditions being met, it is impossible to state that a baptized, practicing Catholic has removed himself from the Church’s communion (i.e., ceased to be a member of the Catholic Church). The Church’s current stringent standards for determining what constitutes an actus formalis defectionis ab Ecclesia catholica (“a formal act of defection from the Catholic Church”) were recently clarified in a notification from the Pontifical Council on Legislative Texts (Protocol No. 10279 / 2006). A study of this protocol will reveal that the members of Saint Benedict Center cannot be considered to have defected from the Catholic Church, as we meet none of the requisites laid out in that document. Further, no member here has ever been penalized with the sentence of excommunication. Slightly related to this is the fact that very high authorities in the Church do not even consider those who worship at the chapels of the Society of Saint Pius X to be in schism (cf. Cardinal Castrillón: SSPX not in schism).
  6. Our chaplain, Father Michael Jarecki, is a priest of the Diocese of Ogdensburg, New York. He is in good standing with his own bishop and retains faculties to hear confessions. He is also an heroic, tough, and dedicated old priest who, despite failing health, keeps us fed with the Bread of Life and hears our confessions. He will soon be 90 years old.

Next week, I plan on giving some explanations on these points, as some of them are bound to raise questions. Perhaps I will also present more excerpts from my “blogger swan song.” I’m trying to keep the Ad Rem shorter, so that’s all for this week. God bless you and may Our Lady watch over you.