The Center Log for the week of August 25, 1948, one of the saddest weeks in our lives, contains the following documents and testimony:
August 25, 1948 1
Dear Father Feeney: PC
You are to go from St. Benedict Center to Holy Cross College. You are to report there on September 8th. This will give you time to report at Holy Cross and get things cleared up at St. Benedict Center. I am sure you will be very happy in your new position and will continue to do as wonderful work as you have in the past. I have already informed the Vicar General of this change.
(signed) J. J. McEleney, S.J.
(The Vicar General of the archdiocese of Boston was Monsignor Augustine Hickey, of St. Paul’s Church, Cambridge, who was in charge of the archdiocese in the Archbishop’s absence.)
Upon reception of the above letter, Father Feeney called the Provincial, and asked if he could see him. The Provincial replied, “Yes. You may come, if you wish.” Father went immediately to the Provincial’s residence, and the conversation was as follows:
Father: “What is the Point of my being changed, Father?”
Provincial: “Higher Authorities.”
Father: “What higher authorities?”
Provincial: “We can’t go into that.”
Father: “You mean by higher authorities the Archbishop or the Bishop?”
Provincial: “I’m not saying it was anyone. You are being changed, dear Father, for the good of the Province.”
Father: “But I don’t work just for the good of the Province. I work for the greater glory of God. I was down in the status for the year as assigned to St. Benedict Center.” [“Status” is the name given by the Jesuits to the publication of assignments for the following year, for all the members of the Society. Status occurs at the very beginning of the summer, never later than July 31st.]
Provincial: “Yes, I know, but you are now changed.”
Father: “You have already written to Monsignor Hickey?”
Father: “Don’t you think it would have been decent of you, Father, to have called me in and discussed it with me first, before you wrote to Monsignor?”
Provincial: “Maybe I should have.”
Father: “It isn’t too late to change now.”
Provincial: “I’m afraid it is.”
Father: “Well, can’t you revoke the decision?”
Provincial: “No, Father, I am not in a position to do that.”
Father: “Well, would you, if you could?”
Provincial: “No, I don’t think I would.”
Father: “But, Father, you have never heard my side of the story on St. Benedict Center, and I thought that because you were leaving me alone and trusting me that what I was doing was agreeable to you. What is being objected to in what I am doing?”
Provincial: “Your doctrine.”‘
Father: “My doctrine on what?”
Provincial: “I’m sorry, we can’t go into that.”
Father: “Won’t you tell me what it was so that I can defend myself?”
Provincial: “I’m, sorry, Father, the letter has already gone to the Vicar General, and I’m sure you will respect my wishes and go to Holy Cross on September 8th.”
Father: “Father, this is going to be the worst scandal that ever happened if you kick me out this way,. The students of St. Benedict Center are committed to me in the school for a whole year. They have given up their homes (many of them come from out of State), and you can’t ask this of them. I was appointed in status time. I beg you, in the name of Mary, Father, please reconsider it. I’m older than you in the society, and I am telling you, Father, that the hundreds of boys and girls who have trusted me, and all the children I have in religion, will be scandalized if you throw me out like this without warning, without a hearing. They will be confused if you tell them my doctrine is wrong, without a hearing on that doctrine.”
Provincial: “We have considered all that.”
Father: “Won’t you think it over, Father?”
Provincial: “I will think it over.”
Father: “May I come and see you tomorrow?”
Provincial: “You are always free to come and see me.”
Father: “I will come and see you tomorrow.”
Provincial: “Well, I will call you on the phone tomorrow, and let you know.”
The next morning, August 26th, Father telephoned the Provincial, and said:
Father: “Father Provincial?”
Father: “This is Father Feeney.”
Provincial: “Yes, Father.”
Father: “Will it be all right if I come over and see you this morning?”
Provincial: “You are always free to come and see me.”
Father: “Have you thought over the matter we discussed?”
Provincial: “Yes, Father, I have.”
Father: “Is there any hope?”
Provincial: “I’m afraid there isn’t, Father.”
Father: “You mean your mind is made up, and under no circumstances will you change it?”
Provincial: “Yes. I’m afraid that is the way the matter stands, Father. Your successor will be appointed within two or three days.”
Father: “They don’t want anyone but me over there now.”
Provincial: “Your successor will be appointed.”
Father: “That is all, Father?”
Provincial: “That is all.”
Father told Catherine Clarke of this conversation, and she drove to the Provincial’s residence, and asked to see him. She was told he was out, but Father Murray, S.J., the Provincial’s Secretary, came down. He was cold and unbending. This was the conversation:
Catherine Clarke: “Father, I am sorry that Father McEleney is not able to see me. I will tell you what I have come to see him about; and will you tell him, please? I will telephone you later in the day for an appointment with him. I would like to explain the whole matter to him.
“I have come about the removal of Father Feeney. This sudden removal of Father is a most distressing and unfair thing. We were assured that Father would be with us for another year at the Jesuit status time, and upon that assurance he made plans for the whole year. Students have come to be with us who would never have come except to study under Father Feeney’s direction. They have made great sacrifices to do this, and so have their families. We have ordered a good many things in the way of books, furniture and so on. We have our faculty for the year. “Over and above all this, St. Benedict Center has a doctrinal policy and a policy with regard to secular education. Father Feeney has been opposed in both these policies, and his removal in this way will make it seem, beyond all doubt, that he has been teaching error. I am sure Father McEleney does not realize all the implications in this move. Father Feeney is a good and holy priest, a great Jesuit, and this tears down his entire doctrine. It puts us all in very bad faith. What we desire is a fair hearing.”
Father Murray: “I am sure all this has been taken into consideration.”
Catherine Clarke: “But not with us.”
Father Murray: “But not with you? Why should it be discussed with you?”
Catherine Clarke: “Don’t we have any rights in the matter?”
Father Murray: “I can’t see that you do.”
Catherine Clarke: “But St. Benedict Center is a lay organization.”
Father Murray: “I don’t see that that makes any difference.”
Catherine Clarke: “Then we are to have no hearing?”
Father Murray: “Answer me this: What would you do if Father Feeney died?”
Catherine Clarke: “Oh, we would know then that this was God’s will.”
Father Murray: (Raising his eyebrows and growing even more difficult) “You mean it isn’t God’s will now?”
Catherine Clarke: “To do this without a hearing is an injustice. God’s will is not usually indicated in that way. Your bearing and attitude would make Father Feeney out a criminal. He is a very holy priest, as everyone who has worked with him at St. Benedict Center will testify.”
Father Murray: “I know Father Feeney, and I am grateful to him for help he has given me, personally. But I have nothing to say about this change.”
Catherine Clarke: “When may I see the Provincial, do you think?”
Father Murray: “The Provincial is a very busy man, with much more important things on his mind. This case is not the only thing the Provincial has to think about. He is going to Connecticut today, and will not be able to see you.”
After Father Murray had indicated that the Provincial would not see Catherine Clarke, she left. (The whole interview with Father Murray was very unpleasant.) She then went to see Monsignor Hickey, who said that he could do nothing in the matter, even if he would, since the orders had come from Father’s Provincial. The interview with Monsignor Hickey was equally unpleasant.
Fakhri Maluf called on Monsignor Hickey also, later in the same day, and pleaded for a hearing: “I know that if you were to hear the facts and know the consequences, your priestly heart would not let you take responsibility for this action.” Monsignor Hickey became extremely angry, and said, “I am not hearing anybody on this matter!” At which, Dr. Maluf left.
On the evening of August 26th, Catherine Clarke wrote to the Provincial a long letter, stating our reasons for desiring a hearing. On August 29th, she telephoned Loyola House, the Provincial’s Commonwealth Avenue residence, and got Father Murray on the phone. He continued just as unpleasantly to tell her that the Provincial had received her letter, but still did not wish to see her.
The Provincial never answered the letter.
First Telegram to Bishop Wright
August 26, 1948.
BISHOP JOHN WRIGHT
C/O AMERICAN EXPRESS
UNDER MONSIGNOR HICKEY’S AUSPICES FATHER BEING TRANSFERRED. CENTER IS ABOUT TO CLOSE. ADVISE IMMEDIATELY WHAT WE SHOULD DO.
The following letter was delivered at Loyola House by: Fakhri Maluf, Daniel Sargent, Raymond Karam, David Supple, Howard Cannon, David Thomson, George Favreau, and Philip Gammans.
August 31, 1948.
Very Rev. John J. McEleney, S.J.
Provincial of the Society of Jesus in New England,
297 Commonwealth Ave.,
Dear Father Provincial,
We, the members and students of St. Benedict Center, request from Your Reverence an audience whereby a group representing us may present to you facts of the greatest importance concerning our work in the field which is so well known to us.
…We begged you at one time to allow us to have Father Leonard Feeney, of the Society of Jesus, to be our spiritual director, and you responded generously to our request. It would require a very large book to present a record of all the works accomplished by Father Feeney for the greater honor and glory of God, in his leadership of our group. But the point immediately relevant to the crisis in which we were placed during this last week is the fact that since on the Status
Day we were made to believe that Father Feeney was assigned to our work for another year, we made plans accordingly and have undertaken commitments of a very serious nature. Many of us, with no other desire than to learn our Catholic Faith in the pure, unadulterated, challenging form in which it is presented by Father Feeney, have left home and college and missed many opportunities, to avail ourselves of the instruction in Holy Scripture and in the Doctors of the Church under the inspiring guidance of Father Feeney.
But even this, grievous a matter as it is, and a question of strict justice, is not our principal concern, because this aspect of it is merely personal and entails our personal loss, albeit of the spiritual order. Our principal concern is the bearing of Father Feeney’s withdrawal from our work, at this time and in this manner, on the cause of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the environment in which we work….
We still hope that you will graciously grant us an opportunity to present the facts to you. We believe that your conception of Catholic rule is in agreement, with the great tradition of St. Ignatius, namely, one of paternal government and not one of tyranny. We believe that we, the persons who are most concerned in this matter, have the right of a hearing.
Yours sincerely in Christ,
Fakhri Maluf, Philip Gammans, David Supple, Daniel Sargent, George Favreau, David Thomson, Raymond Karam, Howard Cannon,
for St. Benedict Center.
We never received an acknowledgment or an answer to this letter.
Bishop Wright’s answer to our first cable arrived about a week after our cable was sent. It must have been about September 2,1948. It read approximately:
I AM SURE THAT THE PASTOR (MONSIGNOR HICKEY) AND THE PROVINCIAL (FATHER MCELENEY) WILL DO EVERYTHING FOR THE INTERESTS OF THE CHURCH, THAT IS, OF CHRIST. WE HAVE HAD NO WORD OVER HERE EXCEPT YOUR CABLE.
The names and brackets are his.
Second cablegram to Bishop Wright. We received no answer.
BISHOP JOHN WRIGHT
C/O AMERICAN EXPRESS
BESEECH YOU FOR THE LOVE OF CHRIST TO CABLE AT ONCE TO MONSIGNOR HICKEY AND FATHER MCELENEY, JESUIT PROVINCIAL, TO STOP ALL ACTION AS REGARDS FATHER FEENEY AND ST. BENEDICT CENTER UNTIL YOU OR THE ARCHBISHOP RETURNS.
YOUR LOVING AND DEVOTED CHILDREN OF SAINT BENEDICT CENTER.
Cablegram to Archbishop Cushing, to which we received no answer: