The experience of Dr. Maluf and Mr. Walsh at Boston College, recorded in the last chapter, was but the beginning of a long period of pressure which was brought to bear upon all the members of St. Benedict Center. Our friends and supporters were constantly written to, or contacted in some way, in an effort by the authorities to separate us, either from Father, from the Center, or from the doctrine.
For example, our most steady source of income was taken from us at this time, in the fall of 1948, an income which had been most solemnly promised to us. It had come from an old member of the Center, from a man Father Feeney had sent to the Jesuit Order, one of the vocations for which the Provincial had thanked us. This support was now cut off from us by the Society of Jesus. That the Society of Jesus would do such a thing in clear violation of St. Ignatius’ rule regarding the disposal of novices’ property, did not shock us or disedify us too much. We knew by this time that Liberalism was well established in the Jesuit Order, and that what the modern Jesuits had in the United States was but a shell of the Faith, with the substance eaten away. The Boston Heresy Case could never have occurred, either from the side of the Jesuits or the Boston Catholic hierarchy, if doctrine had remained the central emphasis in Catholicism. This book is intended in no way to be a bitter statement of wrongs. It is, rather, a concrete portrayal of the condition to which Liberalism has reduced the Church in this day, and in Boston in particular. What we in St. Benedict Center have suffered is nothing in comparison with the joys and consolations which Our Lady has given us along with our griefs, terrible though some of these were.
We were stricken, therefore, not so much by the loss of the money taken away from us at this time as we were by the defection of the person who consented to break his promise in such a way. He would, of course, offer the excuse that he had acted under obedience. But no one knew the limitations of obedience better than he. He had discussed it often, in the past, and obedience he well knew to be, not an end in itself, but the means to an end. Obedience for its own sake, obedience as an absolute, obedience at the expense of other central values, he knew to be thoroughly wrong.
Father Feeney was asked with regard to our apparent disobedience: “But aren’t Jesuits supposed to be obedient?” He had answered, “Yes, but St. Ignatius was very definite on the subject of obedience. He did not indicate that in any case could observance of discipline prevail over loyalty to dogma. Should that be true, I should have to say that Jesuit obedience is sheer conformity performance, for which the Nazis can be as much admired as the Jesuits. It was this kind of obedience, this mistaken kind of obedience, that led H. L. Mencken to snigger at the Jesuits when they were accused of not being thinkers. ‘The Jesuits are not supposed to be thinkers,’ he said, ‘they are supposed to be soldiers, and when soldiers start to think, the war is over.’ ”
Despite all this, we had some periods of calm at the Center, before the storm broke in all its fury in April. These were times when we went on with our work of study and research. Tuesday and Thursday evenings were as popular as ever. Rumor and gossip of St. Benedict Center were deliberately spread around the city, and reached our ears every so often, but very little harm, as far as we could see, was done to our work. Father made several conversions in the fall. The September HOUSETOPS came out (in October), with very little repercussion. Archbishop Cushing and Bishop Wright returned from Europe, and gave no indication to us that they had received our later cablegrams in Rome. They communicated with us not at all. They set about a round of Inter-faith activities before which their earlier efforts in that field were as nothing.
St. Benedict Center’s policy with regard to Inter-faith follows of necessity from its adherence to the defined doctrine of No Salvation Outside the Church. For a Catholic to encourage his fellow-man to think that there are numerous ways of getting to heaven is, to our way of thinking, dishonest. We have no quarrel with Protestants and Jews getting together to discuss religion; that is none of our affair. But we feel that Catholics have no right to be there. There are legitimate ways for Catholics, in their everyday association with Protestants and Jews, to express personal friendliness, one to the other, in a social way. To enter the religious field for this purpose is to compromise the Faith, to dilute it, on the one hand, and to mislead people on the other. It is to pull the Faith down from its position as the perfect service of God, and to make it serve the social, political, economic ends of Liberal Catholicism.
Father Feeney describes an Inter-faith meeting as: “A place where a Jewish rabbi, who does not believe in the divinity of Christ, and a Protestant minister who doubts it, get together with a Catholic Priest, who agrees to forget it for the evening.”
Propaganda has been put forth in the newspapers, motion pictures, radio and television on the subject of tolerance to such an extent that it amounts now to a species of tyranny. A point has been reached where most people are afraid to raise their voices even to qualify, at least, the false concept which has been forced upon the unthinking. Requirements are made of tolerance which would, in the name of sheer sanity, be violently rebuffed in other fields.
For instance, tolerance in bridge building, when lack of strict following of the fundamental rules would bring about the collapse of the bridge, would be considered insane. Tolerance in medicine, neglect of the basic precepts, with consequent death to the patient, would not be permitted for a moment. The theory “one way is as good as another” with regard to any other certitude which guarantees the safety of life, and which is protected by the “dogmas” into which its principles have been thrown, few as they may be, but none the less sure, would be termed suicide.
Early in October, 1948, under the direction of Bishop John Wright, the Spiritual Director of the League of Catholic Women, an invitation went out to all the women of the League to attend an Institute on Judaism, to be held on October 27th at Temple Ohabei Shalom, in Brookline. The Invitation was sent out from the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods, Committee on Interfaith Activities, and the purpose of the organization is clearly and honestly announced: To Build the House of Living Judaism. We had much more respect for Mrs. Robert Levi, the President of the Temple Sisterhood, who sent out the invitation, than we had for Bishop John Wright, who ruled that it be accepted by as many Catholic women as possible. The Pharisees of the Old Testament, whose refusal to intermix with religious sects had kept the old Jewish Faith pure and uncompromised before the coming of Christ, might not have agreed with Mrs. Levi, but at least her cause is directly stated with regard to her religion, and that a Jew should work to build Judaism was something we could understand. But our Liberal and politic Bishop we could not understand.
And so October and November passed. In November, Bishop Wright attended dinner at Lowell House.
In November, Dr. Maluf received another notice from Father Duncan, his department head at Boston College. Father Duncan discussed with him a few non-consequential matters, and just as Dr. Maluf was about to leave, Father Duncan said: “Oh, by the way, that question about the letter of St. Benedict Center to Father McEleney has come up officially, and I think Father Rector would like to discuss it with you. He might send you a notice to come to his office, but I would advise you to go to see him first on your own.”
“Thank you very much for delivering this information”, Dr. Maluf answered. He decided not to go to see Father Rector, but to wait for his notice. (“Father Rector” is the name by which the President of Boston College is known to the staff and members of the College.)
The notice came, a week or so later, and Dr. Maluf reported for the interview with Father William L. Keleher, S.J., President of Boston College, on December 2nd. The discussion was as follows:
Father Keleher: “Dr. Maluf, I have been anxious to meet you for a long time, and get to know you better. Due to the excessive business of my office, I never had the chance to do it. The occasion for my calling you today is the question of St. Benedict Center, which is getting to be a matter of great concern to the authorities here. This measure, you see, did not proceed from Father McEleney, but from the Bishop, and we are very anxious to keep in harmony with the diocesan authorities.”
Dr. Maluf: “Do you mean Bishop Wright?”
Father Keleher: “I mean even the Archbishop.”
Dr. Maluf: “But the ultimate origin of this order did not proceed from the Bishop or the Archbishop.”
Father Keleher: “From whom, then?”
Dr. Maluf: “It is fairly common knowledge at Harvard that certain people connected with Harvard were dissatisfied with the Center.”
Father Keleher: “Do you think that the Bishop and the Archbishop are likely to be influenced by people coming to them with such a demand?”
Dr. Maluf: “They do not have to come to the Bishop and the Archbishop. Archbishop Cushing had dinner at Lowell House in the spring, and Bishop Wright had dinner there just two or three nights ago.” (President Keleher himself was eventually to be a dinner guest at Lowell House. On the evening of Nov. 7, 1949, ten days after the dismissal of Father Feeney from the Jesuit Order had been achieved, President Keleher attended High Table, seated at the right-hand of the Master of Lowell House.)
Father Keleher: “Then you think that there are politics behind this measure?”
Dr. Maluf: “I have no doubt whatsoever about it.”
Father Keleher: “Do you think that Father Feeney’s stand is serving the interests of the Church?”
Dr. Maluf: “Yes. And the fruits of St. Benedict Center’s work are the proof.” Dr. Maluf gave Father Keleher at this point a detailed report of the work of St. Benedict Center, and he added, “All this was achieved against handicaps and hardships and persecutions not merely from those on the outside, but from people within the Church.”
Father Keleher: “I have the highest respect for Father Feeney, and I have always been edified by his exemplary life and that of his brother, Father Tom. And I believe that the work of St. Benedict Center is the work of God. It has given to our Order not merely in quantity a large number of vocations, but some vocations of whom the whole Jesuit Order is extremely proud.”
Dr. Maluf: “Father Keleher, I believe that it is a very great grace to you as a priest that you should know the holiness of Father Feeney, and the nature of the work at St. Benedict Center. And I think that this grace imposes on you the duty to defend and support what you know to be God’s work. I assure you that the Center is capable of doing for the glory of God far more when it receives official support in place of the present persecution.”
Father Keleher: “Father Feeney came to me at the beginning of this situation, and I would have liked to do something except that I could not agree with his doctrine on salvation. When he was here talking with me I tried to get his answer to this question, but he went on talking without giving me a satisfactory answer. He kept repeating such phrases as ‘There is no salvation outside the Catholic Church.’ ”
Dr. Maluf: “The doctrine that there is no salvation outside the Church is a defined dogma.”
Father Keleher: “I have never gone into the theology of it, but I know that not merely our department of Religion here at Boston College, but also the theologians of St. John’s Seminary and Weston College disagree with Father Feeney’s doctrine on the salvation of non-Catholics.”
Dr. Maluf: “We know that, and we are very anxious to fight the doctrinal issue with those who disagree with what we consider to be the defined doctrine of the Church. We have challenged them to fight the doctrinal issue with us, but they refuse to meet us on the matter of doctrine, and instead they maneuver to destroy our work by reducing the issue to one of discipline.”
Father Keleher: “But nobody is trying to destroy the work of St. Benedict Center. And the stay of Father Feeney there is becoming a scandalous matter.”
Dr. Maluf: “The removal of Father Feeney is, to everybody’s understanding who is in any way concerned, a disavowal of his doctrine. Should Father Feeney give up the doctrine, that would be the scandal. As a matter of fact, I don’t know anybody who is scandalized by Father Feeney, except pharisaically. But I do know that many people arc scandalized to see priests sitting in the classes of atheists, apostate priests, agnostics, listening to blasphemies with placid faces; and who come out of these classes having offered no protest against what they heard, not roaring like lions, but walking softly, sanctimoniously, as if they had been enjoying a holy vision. I think the people are more scandalized by our priests who are not teaching the complete Catholic truth, persecuting those who are.”
Father Keleher: “Do you imply that we are not teaching the complete Catholic truth here?”
Dr. Maluf: “I do not know that you are teaching that there is no salvation outside the Church.”
Father Keleher: “I can see great danger in the kind of personal devotion that you at St. Benedict Center seem to have for Father Feeney. You should be for the Priesthood and not for any particular priest.”
Dr. Maluf: “I am sorry, Father, but I cannot agree with you on this doctrine of loyalty. Every priest in this country could stand for the complete Catholic Faith if he knew that he could get personal support from his children. On the other hand, however, if the kind of treatment Father Feeney is receiving were to be accepted as proper, no priest would dare to do or say anything that would be courageous.”
Father Keleher: “What makes you think that the priest who is going to take Father Feeney’s place is not going to teach you the full Catholic truth?”
Dr. Maluf: “We know that Father Feeney is teaching us the Catholic truth in the manner that sounds like a fitting echo of the voice of the Church officially pronouncing and defining, through its Popes, its Councils; and its Doctors. It has not come to my knowledge that any other priest in this neighborhood is thundering the Catholic truth with this clarity. I don’t see why, if any priest is anxious to get to St. Benedict Center in order to profess the Catholic truth with Father’s strength, he has not first been doing it where he is now. Besides, if Father Feeney can be removed for telling the truth, any priest who intends to do what Father Feeney is doing for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, can expect the same treatment that Father Feeney is getting.”
Father Keleher: “But I don’ t think you realize sufficiently the traditions both of the Jesuit Order and of this diocese. The Jesuit Order is based on the vow of obedience, and this diocese — even before the present regime — has had a tradition of extremely rigorous discipline. For example, under Cardinal O’Connell, one of the greatest men we ever had here at Boston College, Father Thomas I. Gasson, to whom we owe everything here at the Heights, by falling into disfavor with the Cardinal, was ordered out of the Province. He spent his last days teaching grammar, somewhere in Canada.”
Dr. Maluf: “But, Father, did that — or did all these things — redound to the greater honor and glory of God? Do you think it was Father McEleney’s kind of legalistic obedience which sent St. Francis Xavier to the Indies? And is it not right for those who love God, and have zeal for His honor, to withstand injustice and tyranny? Do you think that God could leave His servants so fatalistically helpless? Father, I cannot understand how a priest can know all that you know and not feel called upon to do something about it. It is very clear that a new policy, new methods, fresh realization of the Faith, and a return to the order of the virtues, as understood and interpreted by the lives of St. Ignatius and the great saints of the Jesuit Order, is needed if we are to protect our children from what is coming.”
Father Keleher: “Let us both pray that this situation will come a conclusion in accordance with the will of God.”
Dr. Maluf asked for and received Father Keleher’s blessing and the interview was ended.
Now, Mr. Walsh had also had a second talk with Father Duncan, in the middle of November. He met Father Duncan in the corridor of the Tower Building at Boston College, and Father Duncan said, “The matter about which I spoke to you has come up officially. The Rector is preparing to call you in to see him about it. If I were you, I would go to him first.”
Mr. Walsh’s only reply was, “Thank you, Father.” And a week or so later Mr. Walsh received a note from the President of Boston College, Father Keleher, requesting him to come to the Rector’s office. Father Keleher received him, and told him that he had sent for him with regard to the letter which he had signed, addressed to the Provincial, which protested the removal of Father Feeney from St. Benedict Center.
Father Keleher: “Did you understand this letter to be a demand or merely a strong representation?”
Mr. Walsh: “The letter was written after every manner of attempt personally to see and talk with the Provincial had been snubbed by him even to the extent of keeping waiting for long periods of time those who went to see him, and finally refusing them an interview. In view of these consummate discourtesies, and of his completely unjust treatment of Father Feeney, the letter was written as a very strong protest. It’s a very sorry state of affairs when the Provincial of a great Order treats people in this way. On one occasion when several people had waited a couple of hours to see him, one of the Jesuit Brothers came out and told them that the Provincial had come in the back door and wouldn’t see them.”
Father Keleher: “I don’t understand the Provincial’s actions in not seeing people. That was unfortunate.”
The conversation then turned to Father Feeney.
Father Keleher: “Father Feeney is scandalizing many people by his disobedience.”
Mr. Walsh: “Father, I know of many who would have been scandalized had he done otherwise. Many are scandalized because they want to be, and if anyone were to worry about whom he would scandalize, all he would do is develop a fine case of scruples.”
Father Keleher: “Yes, that’s true.” Then Father Keleher said, “I have had and still have a great admiration for Father Feeney.”
This led to Mr. Walsh’s describing in some detail the vocations and conversions directly attributable to Father Feeney since he had been at St. Benedict Center. He spoke of the devotion of the boys and girls who attend school there, and he asked Father Keleher whether or not, judged by these fruits, St. Benedict Center was a work of God.
Father Keleher: “It certainly is a work of God.”
Mr. Walsh: “Then certainly this work should continue. You are in a position to aid it greatly by supporting Father Feeney now, and I ask you to do just that.”
Father Keleher: “I cannot do that because Father Feeney has refused to obey his superior. He has gone back on his vow of obedience by which he surrendered his free will to his superiors.”
Mr. Walsh: “I certainly never heard of such an interpretation of the vow of obedience! Certainly no man could make that vow in such a way that he could violate his conscience. Father Feeney’s action was taken as a matter of conscience, and was so presented to the Provincial, who, it is said, re marked, ‘Oh, anyone can say that!’ “
Mr. Walsh told Father Keleher of his personal devotion and loyalty to Father Feeney.
Father Keleher: “You should not have that kind of loyalty to an individual priest, but to the priesthood.”
Mr. Walsh: “There is no priesthood apart from this or that individual priest.”
Father Keleher: “This kind of loyalty has resulted in schisms in our own archdiocese, when some predominantly German parishes refused to accept non-German priests.”
Mr. Walsh: “That bears no similarity to the present case. Father Feeney’s own loyalty to the Pope and our instruction by him on this point would not countenance such a thing.”
Father Keleher: “What is the status of St. Benedict Center?”
Mr. Walsh: “It is a lay organization.”
Father Keleher: “Under whose jurisdiction was it established?”
Mr. Walsh: “Our Holy Father, the Pope’s.”
Father Keleher: “What? I have never heard of an institution of that kind in this country. I know that it has some times happened in Europe.”
Mr. Walsh: “We have a document to that effect.”
Father Keleher: “Will you bring me a copy of it?” Mr. Walsh said he thought he could bring Father Keleher a copy of the statement of our status by the Holy Father, and the interview ended.