It was no secret, in the fall and winter of 1947-1948, that St. Benedict Center was teaching the age-old, defined doctrine of No Salvation Outside the Catholic Church nor without personal submission to the Pope. The faculty of Boston College was aware of it, and had begun already to make its feelings on the subject known to the two St. Benedict Center men then on its faculty, Dr. Fakhri Maluf and Mr. James R. Walsh. Mr. Charles Ewaskio did not join the Faculty of Boston College until the fall of 1948.
Sometime after Dr. Maluf’s article “Sentimental Theology” appeared in From the Housetops (in September, 1947), Father John Ryan, S.J., head of the Adult Education Institute, of Boston College, met Dr. Maluf, and began to discuss with him his next course in Adult Education. Dr. Maluf told Father Ryan that he would like to give a course in Apologetics.
“No, you had better stick to something like Logic or Cosmology”, Father Ryan answered.
“May I know why, Father?” Dr. Maluf asked.
“I do not agree with Father Feeney’s doctrine on salvation outside the Church”, Father Ryan replied.
“What is your doctrine, Father, on this subject?” Fakhri questioned, startled. “I know that Father Feeney’s doctrine is the doctrine of the Church, and if you teach a different doctrine I would he very much concerned to determine definitely, which of us is in error, because I am completely, with Father Feeney.”
Father Ryan looked at his watch. “I have an appointment now. We will have to discuss it some other time.” Then he added, in a conciliatory voice, “Please choose some topic similar to the ones which have been already approved.”
Toward the end of May, 1948, the Rev. Stephen A. Mulcahy, S.J., Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences of Boston College, summoned Mr. James R. Walsh, then a student of philosophy and instructor in mathematics at Boston College, to discuss with him his appointment as instructor in philosophy at the College for the next year. As one of the conditions imposed by Father Mulcahy, Mr. Walsh was asked not to teach at Boston College what the Dean termed “Father Feeney’s doctrine that there is no salvation outside the Church”.
“But this is a defined dogma of the Catholic Faith”, Mr. Walsh objected.
“We have the Department of Religion to take care of these matters,” Father Mulcahy answered, “and I am not having a religious controversy with you. Boston College has gone on very well for over seventy years without bringing this question up, and you’re not to teach it now. You are to teach philosophy, of which theology is only the negative form, so there is no reason for you to talk outside your field. We don’t want men here going home and telling a non-Catholic father or mother that they have heard this doctrine at Boston College, thus causing their parents to have erroneous consciences.”
“But this might be the cause of their salvation, Father”, Mr. Walsh protested.
“And it might not”, Father Mulcahy answered: “But I don’t intend to discuss the matter with you. I’m just telling you not to teach it.”
As time went on, more and more instances brought home to us the realization that Boston College and St. Benedict Center were miles apart on the doctrine of salvation. Dr. Maluf tells the story of walking into the lay faculty room at Boston College one morning, as a member of the Chemistry Department was saying to a group of sympathetic listeners:
“I have a neighbor, an Episcopalian, a perfect Christian. He believes all that we believe, and I wish more Catholics were as sincere as he is. He is a High Churchman, and the only reason he does not become a Catholic is that he values his liberty too much to submit to the authority of the Pope. We are a Democracy here. We do not believe in bowing to potentates and kings and all such nonsense.”
“So while this man had started talking about an Episcopalian,” Dr. Maluf told us; “he ended up expounding his own views on the subject, which did not differ from those of his Episcopalian friend. There was not the slightest suggestion that submission to the Pope was necessary for salvation, and so common is this type of conversation in the Faculty Room that not only were there no protests on the part of at least ten professors who were listening to him, but there was not even a show of surprise.”
Sometime in this winter of 1947-1948, while the campaign for the new building fund for Boston College was going on, Father Francis McManus, S.J., walked into one of Dr. Maluf’s classes during a quiz period, and asked if he might be allowed to address the students on behalf of the drive for funds.
“I am appealing to you to get behind the drive for the Business School Building”, Father McManus said. “You know that Boston College is for all denominations. We do not proselytize here. Students come to Boston College from all religions, and nobody bothers them about their beliefs.”
This statement was most certainly a far cry from St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order. No one would for a moment deny that it was excellent technique for obtaining funds for a new building, but neither could one deny that it placed a most awful responsibility upon Boston College and made one seriously question the faith of the priest speaking. That a priest ordained to teach the one Truth by which men attain their salvation should promise non-Catholic men sitting before him (and there were several in Dr. Maluf’s class) that Boston College would not “bother” them about their religious beliefs was bad enough, but that this policy should be advanced as an inducement for giving money for a new building for the College, was indeed a shocking thing.
We had thought President James Bryant Conant’s speech at the Memorial Church services at Harvard, in the fall of 1947, strange enough. The Harvard Crimson reported President Conant’s speech:
‘Agnostic Faith’ Is Conant Topic Today
In a speech scheduled for delivery at Memorial Church services this morning President Conant will take for his theme the biblical text, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?”
Confronted with “the admittedly grim prospects of the present,” President Conant recognizes that men with “solid faith. . . founded on religious beliefs” are best able to maintain composure and integrity.
For agnostics, with no reliance on the supernatural to support them, he suggests reference to the theory of probabilities. Instead of becoming paralyzed by the fear of a coming war, they should ponder the prospect that there is “just as good a chance that we will see the beginning of an effective world government in the next ten years as that we shall witness the total obliteration of the heavily industrialized nations.”
We tried to determine how, in some way, agnostic and faith were not contradictories, one of the other. In what would an agnostic have faith, we wondered- in his own power never to be able to know? If anything could be of comfort to an agnostic, we supposed the theory of probabilities might possibly supply it, but we were fairly sure that the 26th President of Harvard College, in his Memorial Church speech, would give very little comfort to the founding fathers of Harvard, were they sitting in the congregation. Most of the founding fathers were Protestant ministers, still close enough, at the time the college was founded, to the tradition of the Faith to have laughed to scorn the notion of a serious agnosticism.
But whatever President Conant’s founders might think about his ideas, we had no doubt at all as to what the founder of the Society of Jesus would think about Boston College.
We were not less disturbed, during this winter of 1947-1948, by what we were reading in the newspapers of the public utterances of the local hierarchy. The Boston Daily Globe, Monday, February 16,1948, under the heading “Archbishop Asks End to Feuding Among Religions”, quotes Archbishop Richard J. Cushing as “calling for an end of feuding over religious dogmas and a resurgence of tolerance and magnanimity”.
“We cannot any longer”, His Excellency said, “afford the luxury of fighting one another over doctrines concerning the next world, though we must not compromise these. We are faced with a situation in which all men of good will must unite their forces to save what is worth saving in this world.”
What, we asked ourselves after reading this speech, does the Archbishop think is “worth saving in this world”? A Catholic archbishop, of all people, should know that the thing most worth saving for each man is his immortal soul. Life even in a democracy- supposing the Archbishop had in mind, in his speech, Democracy as opposed to Communism- would last but a few short years compared with the eternity of years to be lived after death. And suppose, by preserving the one, man lost the other? We could understand the President of the United States talking in the manner of Archbishop Cushing, since his function is to take care of the temporal welfare of the people of the United States, but we could not understand a Bishop of the Catholic Church speaking in such a fashion, since his concern is for the spiritual welfare of his people and has to do with this world only in terms of the next. St. Paul has told us that we have not here a lasting city, (Heb. 13:14) and to forget for a moment the sacrosanct character of that which he was consecrated to guard (the precious Deposit of Faith), even in an exigency as serious as Communism, is a dangerous thing for an archbishop to do.
St. Paul would not have agreed with Archbishop Cushing in his assertion that fighting for a doctrine constitutes a luxury, to be put aside for some temporal reason (no matter how pressing that might be). St. Paul said, “I have fought the good fight. I have kept the Faith.” It is no small achievement, in any age, to keep one’s Faith, and to cease to be vigilant at all times for the preservation of it is to invite disaster before which even the consequences of Communism seem mild.
Furthermore, to think for one instant that we are professing the Faith merely because we are not compromising the doctrines is the end of all apostolic life.
On Sunday, August 8, 1948, Archbishop Cushing, speaking at Milton, Massachusetts, made some statements which turned out to be of the utmost significance to St. Benedict Center.
“I cannot understand any Catholic who has any prejudice whatsoever against a Jew or other non-Catholic”, Archbishop Cushing told “5000 friends and benefactors of St. Columban’s Seminary, Brush Hill Road”.
“If there is any Catholic organization harboring such prejudices,” he said, “I will assume the responsibility of remedying it. A Catholic cannot harbor animosity against men, women and children of another creed, nationality or color.”
He added, states the Boston Globe for the next day, that “some of the finest benefactors to the Boston Catholic Archdiocese are non-Catholics”.
Two weeks after this announcement, Father Leonard Feeney was ordered to leave St. Benedict Center and go to Holy Cross College in Worcester, which is outside the diocese of Boston.
Does St. Benedict Center come under the category described by Archbishop Cushing? Of course it does not, but we knew when we read the newspaper account of this speech of the Archbishop that he undoubtedly had no one else in mind, because the accusations contained in it were often made of St. Benedict Center since our avowal of the doctrine of No Salvation Outside the Church. The President of Boston College, Father Keleher, said the same thing of us later on, and it was headlined in the newspapers.
St. Benedict Center is made up of people from many nations. Its members have come, at one time or another, not only from most of the countries of Europe and Great Britain (students here on exchange scholarships), but from China, Japan, India, South America, Mexico, the Philippines, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Trinidad. Furthermore, to be a member of St. Benedict Center was to enter into a family relationship, one with another, as is the way of foundations which bear the name of St. Benedict. We are not Benedictines, as the word has reference to the ancient Order of St. Benedict, but every Benedictine monk of the Order who has visited us- and many have- has always remarked that there is a family spirit in St. Benedict Center very much like to that in Benedictine houses. Among ourselves, we speak of “the Center Family”. We found no difficulty living with men and women of other nations, in fact it was our delight, and we received from it entirely as much as we ever gave in the way of friendship and love.
And so St. Benedict Center could not be said to harbor animosity against “men, women and children of another nationality”.
Many of the Center members from countries outside the United States were of different strains of blood, coming as they did from the Far East. the Middle East, the Near East, and Africa. It was common knowledge that one of the persons St. Benedict Center seemed to make most fuss about was a girl in whom color of skin was only an enhancement of her spiritual genius and beauty.
And so those who know St. Benedict Center know that it holds no animosity for people on the basis of their color.
Now, Father Feeney is well known for the number of his Jewish converts and friends. There is much in the Jewish people which Father admires- life, vivacity, warmth, capacity for deep spirituality. He never finds it difficult to get down to fundamental truths with a Jew. He invariably says to him, “What is the matter with you? The Queen of Heaven is a little Jewish girl!” Some of the Center members are Jews who have come into the Faith.
And so, race as such is not inimical to St. Benedict Center.
What is it, then, which makes St. Benedict Center at cross purposes with Archbishop Cushing and Bishop Wright? (Very often Archbishop Cushing, is merely carrying out some plan of Bishop Wright’s, we discovered.) It is simply a question of truth and of charity; and it involves the third of the Archbishop’s distinctions made in his speech at Milton — that of creed.
Saint Benedict Center does not hold that it is truth or that it is charity, either to ourselves or to anyone else, to tell men, in order to create social good feeling, to meet a political expediency, or to receive donations of money, that we do not care what their creed is, and that the things we hold in common are more important than the things on which we differ, when the things on which we differ are God and our salvation. We believe it is charity to say to our neighbor not so much “You are going to hell” as “Are you going to heaven?”
The time and opportunity were given Saint Benedict Center, by reason of its school, to study at length Holy Scripture, Church History, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, the Popes and Councils. We came to know well the teaching of the Church on salvation. The Church has always taught the doctrine of no salvation outside it, since the Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, founded by Jesus Christ on Peter, the first of the Apostles.
St. Paul, in a Corinthians 6:2 says: “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” It is not the way of the Church, when it is fulfilling perfectly the mission given it by Jesus Christ, to hold back for any reason the full truth from the people at any time, because now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation for hundreds of thousands.
We have been accused, at times, of being Communists because of the dissension among Catholics 1 which has resulted from our insistence on professing the doctrine of the Church on salvation as it was defined, and not as it has been interpreted by liberal theologians, or even by liberal Popes, who were speaking not ex cathedra (not infallibly), but in encyclicals. This is no time to bring about divisions, we were told; it is, rather, a time to forget everything else in the need to present a united front against Communism. We replied that, horrible though Communism is, there is an even greater danger to man. Our Lord says (Matt. 10-28): “And fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul, but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell.” It would be no conquest at all if we united together against Communism, only, through the neglect of what God has commanded, to lose the spiritual battle, and go to hell. We have to win both- the battle against Communism so that we may live in freedom here on earth, and the war against the Prince of Darkness, the devil, so that we may live in beatitude with God for all eternity.
And, too, in the very practical order, there is the consideration that when it came to a matter of saving their lives and property against an aggressor, Americans outside the Church would not allow the question of what the Catholic Church taught on salvation to be a matter of division. They would not allow the doctrine to stand in the way of accepting Catholic help in battle, or of fighting side by side with Catholics in the war. On the contrary, they would be most anxious to secure both. There is also the further thought, we answered our Liberal Catholic accusers, that now that, as a result of the controversy, people outside the Church have been reminded of what the Catholic Church has taught on salvation, Catholics could no longer claim for their non-Catholic friends the questionable distinction of “invincible ignorance”, one of the categories by which, the Liberals assert, most people outside the Church get to heaven.
We have been told that what we are saying amounts to the declaration that all Catholics get to heaven, and this, of course, we deny. Starting out on the right road is still but the beginning of the journey. There are other conditions to be met on the way. But it is the beginning. Father Feeney once said in reply to this question:
“I don’t say that being in the Catholic Church alone saves you. I say that it is a ‘conditio sine qua non’. If you just go over and stand on the road to New York, you won’t get there. You have to go along the road. But, if you get on the wrong road to New York, it doesn’t make any difference whether you go along it or stand on it. It is just the wrong road. It is not the road to New York.”
With presumptuous optimism, the Liberals promise heaven to everyone. Their words, as they tell it, are very pretty, but it is, unfortunately, a promise destined to go unfulfilled. 2
One night, at St. Benedict Center, Sister Mary Madeleva, who is President of a college which includes a school of Theology, told us, in her lady-like manner, that nobody goes to hell. Our students were shocked at this utterance. They knew it was not a mere pleasantry. It is consonant with Sister Madeleva’s theology, and is the kind of Liberalism which, saddest of all places in the world, has begun to infest our convents.
The newspapers and the radio, these last few years, have deplored, over and over again, religious designations (such as Catholics, Protestants, or Jews) as unfortunate, implying, as they do, religious division. Did we not learn, they ask, the lesson of the last war, which was (they explain) that men of all creeds fought side by side for their country? St. Benedict Center has been tempted inelegantly to reply, “So what?” We understood that our men were fighting for a temporal good, that of our country. We did not know they were fighting for a spiritual good, that of our eternal home. Was it, then, a religious war, and is our state our religion? That seemed to have been Mussolini’s confusion. We were told that one of President Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” was Freedom of Religion, and we did not know that there followed upon allegiance to one’s country the forced obligation of avowal of a national religion.
Can it be said, then- to return to Archbishop Cushing’s speech at Milton — that Saint Benedict Center harbors animosity against men…of another creed”? The dictionary defines animosity as “active and vehement hatred”. I doubt if it could be said that an ardent desire for the company of all men in the House of one’s Father, or a literal adherence to Him Whom the Father sent, constitutes an active and vehement hatred of men of another creed. Saint Benedict Center calls it charity, in the sense of love.
The Archbishop’s speech was relayed to Saint Benedict Center from several sources. It disturbed us very much when we first read it, but we reassured ourselves with the promises of both Archbishop Cushing and Bishop Wright- that nothing would happen to Stain Benedict Center without a hearing. We trusted them completely, and so were comforted.
A week or so later, His Excellency and Bishop Wright sailed for Rome, on a pilgrimage to the tomb of Pope Pius X. We did not realize, as the ship sailed, how intimately connected was its sailing with the fate of St. Benedict Center.
1 Non-Catholics, for the most part, were surprised only that many Catholics should be unaware of what, to non-Catholics, was such a well-known dogma of the Church.
2 Luke, XIII, 23: Then said one unto Him, Lord, are there few that be saved? The Great Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide (translated by Thomas W. Mossman, Edinburgh: John Grant, 1908) Vol. 4, Ch. XIII, p. 340: “Christ answered in the affirmative that few should be saved, as S. Luke signified and S. Matt. plainly states, vii,14. Isaiah speaks to the same effect, x.22;xxiv.13. Understand ‘few’ by a comparison of all the inhabitants of the whole world; or of the faithful with the unbelieving, for all the latter are condemned for their unbelief, and equally many of the faithful for their wicked lives. The faithful alone are saved, and not all of these. But whether the greater number of them are saved or lost is the question. Some think that the greater number are saved, through the holy sacraments (which very many of them only receive at the end of their lives). Others think that most are lost because they live in a state of mortal sin. The rule of S. Augustine is that as men have lived, so they die. . . . The judgment of S. Chrysostom, Homily xl, to the Antiochens, who numbered 100,000 or more, is formidable. ‘In our city,’ he says, ‘among so many thousands, scarcely can 100 be found who wilt be saved, for in the youngers is great wickedness, and in the elders deadness.’ And S. Augustine (Bk.iv.ch.53, against Dresconius) compares the Church to a threshing-floor, on which there is much more chaff than grain, i.e., more reprobate than elect.”