The Loyolas and the Cabots

Chapter 11

In 1947-1948 Philip Gammans, Robert Colopy, Charles Forgeron resigned from Harvard. Philip Gammans’ father and grandfather were Harvard men. Philip Gammans and Charles Forgeron entered the Center school, and Robert Colopy transferred to Holy Cross College, since he wished to go on with his premedical studies. There he discovered, much to his chagrin, that secular standardization, combined with Catholic Liberalism, had made for the same materialism at Holy Cross which he had found at Harvard. His friends at St. Benedict Center were more and more under siege for holding to their beliefs, and he knew that it had to be the whole way, for him, or nothing. Compromise wouldn’t do, and Holy Cross was compromise. And so he wrote another letter, this time to the Dean of Holy Cross, submitting his resignation, and he came back to take up the fight at St. Benedict Center.

In May, 1948, John Lucal, Robert Miller, Raymond Karam resigned from Harvard, Lenore Miller from Radcliffe, to be followed later by John MacIsaac from Harvard, and Tom Mulcahy, Brendan McGovern, and Joseph Roche from Boston College. All of the men who resigned from Harvard, Holy Cross and Boston College were war veterans, with the exception of one.

After these withdrawals, the storm signals, presaging disaster for St. Benedict Center, set up a loud blare. The father of one of our students, a high ranking member of the Harvard faculty, wrote his son a letter in which he said: “The President and Fellows of Harvard College are taking the matter of Father Feeney under serious consideration.”

The alarm reached us from still another front. The Catholic wife of a man who had been on the faculty at Harvard wrote her sister telling her that Catholics of prominence, who were outraged and ashamed that Father Feeney should be talking so plainly, had taken the matter into their own hands; and a scheme had been worked out which would take care of the removal of Father Feeney and St. Benedict Center. Part of the scheme was read to us over the telephone.

While we were thinking about these things, one of the students came in and reported that Bishop Wright was speaking that evening at Harvard, at the Liberal Union, on “Conscription”. I don’t know what its reputation is today, but at that time the Liberal Union was known to be what might be called far “left” politically. The general opinion about the Harvard Liberal Union was a very well defined one, and, no matter what ideas the Center men had on conscription, it gave them no pleasure to learn that a Catholic Bishop was speaking against conscription there. Some of them went over to see for themselves.

One or two nights later, word was brought to us that Archbishop Cushing was dining at Lowell House, one of the large Harvard houses. Now, this dinner was part of the plan mentioned in the letter which had been read to us, which was to bring about the end of St. Benedict Center,- not because St. Benedict Center was not telling the truth, but because it was not telling the truth in quiet and measured words, in general phrases intelligible only to the few and which would move no one to do anything about it. The Center was shouting from the housetops, and this was offending people.

The reports of the dinner disturbed us. Three or four of the Center students had resigned from Lowell House. These students did not bring to such an action the judgments of immature undergraduates. It could in no sense be said of them that they were carried away by the “magnetism” of Father Feeney. The students were men who had spent several years in the army and the navy, fighting for their country in various parts of the world. They had learned the ways of the world, had had to make mature judgments under all sorts of circumstances. They had taken months to test, to think over a step of such proportions in their life as resignation from a famous college, and from a college house which offered as much in the way of facilities and comfort as Lowell House. Nevertheless, as Catholic men they had had the integrity, and courage to resign. They knew the report of their resignations from Harvard had come to the Archbishop and the Bishop. They thought the Archbishop would be proud of them, and here he was, himself, dining at High Table in Lowell House. Saddest of all, they knew why he had been asked to that dinner. The reports of the dinner, as I say, thoroughly alarmed us. Students who had been there brought us the news. The dinner was the common topic of conversation everywhere, for in the midst of Harvard professors and students, the Archbishop had discussed the very existence of St. Benedict Center, and its teachings. One of the Harvard students at the dinner asked him, “Do you approve of St. Benedict Center?” And our Archbishop, who several months before had been the guest of the Center and had publicly endorsed it to the skies, who had written two articles which were featured in the Center’s magazine FROM THE HOUSETOPS, replied to the diners at the head table of Lowell House: “I don’t know anything about them. I was invited over there to speak once, and I spoke there. But I speak anywhere. I am not sure that I approve of their method. I will have to look into that.”

We couldn’t believe it. The boys decided it was necessary to see the Archbishop and tell him the stories they had heard. They set out, two days after the dinner, for his residence. Now, there is at the Center a collection of books which are known as the “Center Log” containing reports of Center happenings. The Center Log on the meeting of the boys with Archbishop Cushing relates the following:

After first going to the Chancery building to see Bishop Wright, and finding him not at home, we went to the Archbishop’s House.

We had come on our own as members of St. Benedict Center, a lay organization. Our purpose was to find out, first, if the rumors we had heard to the effect that the Center was to be closed were true; second, whether it was true that the Archbishop had said that he was not too sure that he approved of the way St. Benedict Center was being run; third, we wished to present our side of the case, knowing that up to this time (although we were now told that many had complained against St. Benedict’s since the HOUSETOPS had come out and since the college resignations) we had never defended ourselves. In short, our purpose was that we, the students of St. Benedict Center, of our own accord, had decided to take steps to see that the Archbishop learned both sides of the story. We were coming to him as his loyal children to ask his support.

When we arrived the Archbishop came in to see us immediately. He asked jokingly if we were a contingent protesting military conscription.

We said, “We have come here, Your Excellency, because we have heard that St. Benedict Center is going to be closed down.”

The Archbishop answered that we were old enough not to believe in rumors, and that if St. Benedict Center was to be closed down there would be a thorough hearing, both sides being allowed to present their case.

We told him that we needed his support for our work at Harvard. He replied. “If we didn’t support you, you would be shut down.”

We answered, “We don’t think your going to Lowell House, and the Bishop’s going to speak at the Harvard Liberal Union, is support.”

“Well, it wasn’t my idea to go over there”, the Archbishop told us. “I didn’t even know where the Lowell House was. The Chancery Office told me that it would be a good thing to go over there. I would eat anywhere. I would eat with Stalin if he invited me. The subject of St. Benedict Center only came up once. Some boy asked me what I thought of St. Benedict Center: ‘Do you approve of them?’ I told him, ‘I don’t know anything about them. I was invited over there to speak once, and I spoke there. But I speak anywhere. I am not sure that I approve of their method. I will have to look into that.’ ” The Archbishop confirmed the story. That had been his conversation!

We then spoke about Bishop Wright’s talk at the Liberal Union and the effect which that talk and the supper at Lowell House had upon our work: We said that everybody at Harvard knows that the Center stands in opposition to the teachings at Harvard, and that these two visits from the hierarchy seemed a repudiation by the hierarchy of the work of the Center.

The Archbishop repeated several times during this part of the interview, “This is all a revelation to me!” He said that he knew nothing about anyone leaving Harvard, nor about the vocations from the Center, nor the school, nor the HOUSETOPS, nor any of the work of the Center, nor Father Feeney’s many conversions!

We then told him about Harvard. Several of us who had done work in the various fields discussed the situation in those fields. He said that he knew nothing about Harvard, or that many Catholic boys lost their Faith there. We told him how few Catholics went regularly to Mass. He replied, “If all the Catholics in Boston went to church, there wouldn’t be enough room for them all in the churches!”

We mentioned the apostate priest, LaPiana, who had been teaching Church History at Harvard for years (and who had tried forcibly to throw Father Feeney out of his house when Father Feeney went there in an attempt to bring him back to his Faith). The Archbishop’s only reaction to Father LaPiana was calmly to say, “Oh, he’s been over there for years.”

We told him what our program was, about our school and about the study of the Doctors themselves, and the Scriptures. He said that there were more Catholics at Boston University (a secular college, not to be confused with Boston College) alone than at all the Catholic colleges of New England put together. He talked about Boston College and other Catholic schools. He told us that Boston College was not teaching religion. “Why doesn’t Father Feeney go over to Boston College”, he said, “and do something about that?”

He told us that there weren’t enough Catholic colleges to hold all the Catholics (just as he passed off the fact that many students did not attend Mass by the fact that the churches wouldn’t hold them all). We said that we thought that this was not a good situation.

The Archbishop told us to go and see Bishop Wright; “he takes care of all those things.”

Before leaving, we brought up again the question of the closing of St. Benedict Center. The Archbishop assured us that there would be no steps to dose the Center. If the question ever came up “there would be a thorough investigation”. We would have a complete hearing, and a chance to present our case. He said that he wouldn’t think of closing down an organization that had such zeal, and that it would be very much against his interests to suppress such a group of boys.

We asked for and received his blessing.

The next day, the boys called on Bishop Wright. He said that he would not see the whole group together, but asked for two representatives to be sent in. David Thomson and David Supple went in to see the Bishop. Bishop Wright wanted to discuss the affair with the two boys, but they insisted that the whole group must be present, due to the importance of the matter. The Center Log reports the meeting:

Bishop Wright was very angry with us because we had gone over his head to the Archbishop. We explained that he had not been in, and that we had then gone to see the Archbishop, but only after first trying to see him. Why hadn’t we waited until he returned? We told him that the Center had been threatened with being closed, and we considered it such an urgent matter that we could not wait. He told us that we were grown men and should be more mature, and should not listen to every rumor we heard.

We explained that we had several sources of evidence that the Center was going to be closed, but he said he knew nothing about any of them. We made some criticism of the Archbishop’s presence at the Lowell House dinner, at which the activities of the Center were under question. The Bishop said, “There will be no discussion of where, when and why the Archbishop eats dinner. He will go where he wants and when he wants. Is that quite clear?”

We mentioned again that the existence of the Center and the teachings of the Center were under question at this dinner, and that the Archbishop by his remarks to those present (Harvard professors and students) had undermined the work of the Center. Also, what the Archbishop had said would lead us to believe that he not only questioned whether the Center were teaching true Catholic doctrine, but that he planned to investigate the Center and close it. We reminded the Bishop that the men to whom the Archbishop was speaking were not our friends, and that he had discussed our very existence with them. Whereupon, in a very firm and decisive manner, the Bishop said, “We have no enemies!” We said we were speaking about the enemies of the Church. He insisted that the Church had no enemies. We were appalled at this statement, and asked him, “What about the Communists, in Russia, in the countries of eastern Europe?” He answered that they weren’t our enemies. They were merely misguided.

We made an. appointment, with Bishop Wright for an interview with the whole group on the next Thursday morning.

The Center Log goes on:

The Meeting of the Boys with Bishop Wright One Week After the First Meeting

After we had waited exactly one half hour, Bishop Wright entered the room. He spent twenty-five minutes outlining procedure “in order to save time, for he was very busy.” He spent twenty-five minutes laying out such rules of speech as limiting us to one adjective to a noun. He set forth three topics for discussion: (1) Harvard, (2) The Center and Harvard, (3) The Center and the Church. Almost every point we brought up for discussion was deferred by him as belonging to one of the other two topics not then under discussion.

We began the talk by saying that we were come as children to our Bishop. Bishop Wright answered, “I take for granted that you come as children to your bishop.” However, he then outlined the rules of grammar for our talk. We repeated several times, “But we come as your children!” until finally he said, “I am not your bishop! The Archbishop is!” (The Archbishop had told us that we were to go to see the Bishop.) Bishop Wright added: “We are all meeting here as Catholic men met to discuss the problems of the Church.” And so he continued to discuss procedure.

We discussed Harvard as much as possible under the rules of procedure. Bishop Wright said, “There are two methods of dealing with non-Catholics. The method of infiltration, which I prefer; and the direct method, which is the method Father Feeney uses. Both methods have a tradition in the Church.” He gave us several names which he considered to be on one side or the other.

One of us said, “The important thing is that the truth should be told, rather than a concentration on what manner of method is to be used. Our Lord said, ‘Do not be solicitous about what you say, for it will be given to you: So the important thing is that Father Feeney is telling the truth to the students of Harvard. That’s more important than the method. But if you want to speak of method, Our Lord Himself tells us how to tell His Truth: ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is taken by violence’ and ‘shake the dust’ and ‘whosoever does not heed the admonition of the Church, let him be to you like the publican and the heathen.’ And St. Paul said, ‘A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid.’ “

Then the Bishop said: “Christ also said, ‘If your enemy forces you to walk with him one mile, walk with him two.’ “

Raymond Karam answered, “What if you have walked the second mile with him?”

The Bishop had nothing to answer.

Bishop Wright said, “The Church has no enemies. The war is between the Civitas Dei and the Civitas Satanae, not between the Church and the institutions of unbelievers.”

The way Bishop Wright developed this theory of his shocked all of us, because it was clear that he conceived of the war as being between two purely spiritual kingdoms; and that we men had nothing to do with this war, but were helplessly used by one side or the other. It sounded Manichean. And what about the Visible Church, the Church Militant, we asked ourselves? This was a queer way for a Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church to talk.

Again he criticized Father Feeney’s method of dealing with Catholic students who were studying in secular colleges. He gave us the example of an unnamed girl (who, we knew, was Evelyn Uberti) who had left Radcliffe College against her parents’ will. When we said, “She certainly felt she could not stay there in conscience without seriously endangering her Faith”, he said, “Even then, leaving a school against her parents’ will is against the Natural Law.” We answered, “In matters like this, where a person’s Faith is seriously endangered, one is allowed to act against one’s parents’ will.” Bishop Wright replied, “It is against the Natural Law to disobey one’s parents in anything. I believe in the natural Law just as firmly as I believe in God!”

This completely astounded us!

Apart from the method used by Father (the direct method), he said that he had nothing against the Center. Except, however, he did add that an article which appeared in the HOUSETOPS was questioned and examined by a board of theologians. The article was found to be very controversial. (This was Dr. Maluf’s article, “Sentimental Theology”, which contained the doctrine of No Salvation Outside the Catholic Church.) Bishop Wright said, “As a result, I had to ask Father Feeney to have the HOUSETOPS censored. Father Feeney said that he was competent to censor the articles which were submitted to him: Then I told him it would be wiser if at least he submitted his own contributions to be censored by some theologian of his own choice, and Father Feeney chose Father Gallagher.”

Aside from this, Bishop Wright said he had no criticism of Father Feeney or the Center. He said that he had always thought that the Center was all right, but now he was starting to suspect it because of the jitteryness of us all.

We answered that we were not jittery, but that we had heard reliable reports that the Archbishop and the Chancery did not approve of the Center and of Father’s teachings. Bishop Wright said, “If anyone should question my orthodoxy I would not worry, unless it were the Pope.”

He ended by reassuring us that there was no danger for the Center.

Despite this promise, however, the Center men came away from the interview with Bishop Wright disturbed, and vaguely apprehensive.