Father Feeney received, on December 6th, another letter from Father McEleney, repeating his instructions with regard to Father’s transfer to Holy Cross, and making no mention of Father Feeney’s conscience difficulty, or his request for a hearing. Father Feeney replied to this latest letter of the Provincial, on December 7th, saying: “. . . As you very well know, and as I wrote to you in the role of my Father Provincial, my unwillingness to leave St. Benedict Center and my home at the Jesuit House on Newbury Street is a matter of conscience with me, the details of which you do not have the willingness to receive.”
Despite this, however, Father received from Father McEleney, on December 29th, the following communication:
279 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston 15, Massachusetts
Reverend Leonard Feeney, S.J.,
300 Newbury Street, Boston, Mass.
Dear Father Feeney: P.C.
Father William E. FitzGerald, the former Rector of Portland, is ready to take over the care of St. Benedict Center. He has the approval of diocesan authorities for this work. I would ask you to arrange for Father FitzGerald to do so. He is resident here at Loyola House at the present time and you would be welcome to see him here or plan to have him see you at 300 Newbury St.
The longer this change is delayed the more seriously is the position of the Society in this Province injured. Prescinding from any personal considerations you may entertain with regard to myself, you will agree, I think, that the general good of the Province and of the Society which I know you love will suggest the course of action I am directing.
Another reason is this. With the end of the calendar year your diocesan faculties will cease. I have not judged it expedient to present your name to the Chancery for a renewal of your faculties.
In the appointment of Father FitzGerald, you will realize that a very capable Jesuit is being assigned to the work of the Center and that this work will not suffer under his care.
Assuring you of my prayerful good wishes for God’s blessing during the New Year, I remain,
Yours in Corde Jesu,
J. J. McEleney, S.J.
The threat to Father of the loss of his faculties was a very serious one, especially in view of the fact that Father held most sacredly his trust as spiritual director of souls, and had some serious conscience problems which he could not, without harm, abandon. Father McEleney did not tell Father Feeney that his faculties were removed. Were he to do that he would have to give some reason by way of serious fault in the matter of hearing confessions. He simply told him that his Faculties were not going to be renewed.
Father Feeney went at once to his local superior, and pleaded for a delay in censuring him in this regard until his cause could be heard by the Assistant to the General of the Jesuits. The Assistant had already been in correspondence with Father, and eventually told him he could stay in Boston until he, the Assistant, arrived there. Father’s local superior, Father Louis J. Gallagher, S.J., of Newbury Street, had been kind enough not to ask Father to leave his room at St. Andrew House, nor to stop Father’s saying Mass at his altar every morning at seven o’clock, despite the fact that Father McEleney had urged him to do so. Father Gallagher now told Father Feeney that Father McEleney and Monsignor Furlong had an understanding on the matter. If Father Feeney applied for a renewal of his faculties, Monsignor Furlong, the Chancellor of the Archdiocese, would not even listen to a reason why they should be extended.
Father Feeney then consulted an assured authority on Canon law to discover from him how his faculties could be protected until his cause was heard and the accusations which he was prepared to make against the teachings of the Jesuit Order could be listened to. This very kind authority indicated to Father Feeney just how his faculties to hear confessions could be temporarily protected.
The story of St. Benedict Center and the Jesuit, Father FitzGerald, who, still without any consultation with St. Benedict Center, was assigned to direct the Center, is an amazing one. Many weeks before, we had been told by Boston College students attending Father’s Thursday evening lecture, that they had been discussing Father Feeney’s successor with fellow students at the College, who came from Portland, Maine.
“The Rector of our prep school told us that he is being transferred from Portland”, one of the Maine boys was reported to have said. “He told us that he is being sent to St. Benedict Center in Cambridge, ‘to take care of those radicals’. His name is Father FitzGerald.”
We dismissed the matter as rumor, inasmuch as we had written Father McEleney that St. Benedict Center, because of his treatment of Father Feeney and of us, would ask for no other priest from the Jesuit Order. We could scarcely believe the evidence of our eyes when we saw Father McEleney’s letter of December 29th. Not only had he again ignored Father’s repeated statement of his conscience difficulty and his plea for a hearing on it, but, not bending even now to communicate with us, he informed Father Feeney that a Jesuit director was on his way to us, in spite of our expressed wish not to have one!
To make the matter still more farcical, Father William FitzGerald, whom Father McEleney knew was not at the Center, was put down in the Jesuit catalogue as working at St. Benedict Center for the year. This gave Father FitzGerald a complete year’s rest.
We began to wonder if pride were the distinguishing feature now of men in high places, and if all simplicity and humility had gone from them in their dealings with those under them. A cold, military obedience, not for the glory of God but for the perfect discipline of the organization, was what was required, apparently. At the beginning of the controversy we had been full of trust in our superiors. They gave us, in return, no fatherly, or even friendly consideration- in fact, no consideration at all. In the course of the months we wrote many letters, asking to see them, begging them to come to see us. Father Feeney pleaded with them, one after the other, to come, even for a few moments, to see us, to listen to what we had to say. Monsignor Hickey made two official visits merely to deliver some ultimatum, but no one ever came to talk with us.
Father Feeney could not in conscience as a priest comply with Father McEleney’s tyrannical order to turn us over to Father FitzGerald, even aside from our feelings on the matter. Nor could he turn us over to any priest who would endeavor to teach us the exact opposite of the doctrine we knew to be true, and for which we had already suffered and sacrificed so much. To do so would have been to outrage every concept of right and wrong we had been taught as Catholics, and to surrender to a regime of tyranny comparable, in its way, to anything which worldly leaders of the day, Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, had tried to perpetrate on the people.
In the meantime, the December issue of the Housetops was published, and came out just before Christmas. It was notable because it contained Mr. Raymond Karam’s first article on salvation, entitled, “Liberation Theology and Salvation”.
Mr. Karam had resigned from Harvard College because he could not obtain there the courses he had hoped to study when he came to America, after making a distinguished record in scholarship at the American University of Beirut. He transferred to Boston College, to the Graduate School of Philosophy, and there, oddly enough, his disillusionment was complete. The course which most disturbed him was one on Modern Science and Philosophy, given by Father Joseph P. Kelly, S.J. Mr. Karam recorded in the Center Log at this time some of Father Kelly’s statements. The following were recorded in December, 1948:
“It is possible for any man to be saved outside the Catholic Church.”
“Any man who would say that there is no salvation outside the Church is a heretic.”
“If you say that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church, you are a heretic and cannot save your soul.”
“The Catholic Church never defined or even suggested that there is no salvation outside it. No Pope, no Council, no Doctor of the Church ever taught that no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church.”
“Not only is it possible to be saved outside the Catholic Church, it is even possible to be saved while being an enemy of the Church and actively fighting against it.”
“St. Paul was not sinning while persecuting Christ and His Church.”
“The dogma that there is no salvation outside the Church (when Mr. Karam pointed out to Father Kelly that it was a defined dogma) applies exclusively to Catholics who have personally left the Church.”
“When a Pope or Council defines, or when a Doctor of the Church says that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church, the meaning of this statement depends on what is meant by the Catholic Church.”
When Mr. Karam read the definition of the Council of Florence on salvation to Father Kelly, even in the clear words of the definition, Father Kelly still maintained that “the words do not mean that no man who dies outside of the Catholic Church — even if he is fighting against it he can save his soul.”
“Baptism is not necessary for salvation.”
“Many people who are totally ignorant of Christ and His Church can be saved because their ignorance excuses them and confers on them baptism of desire.”
“A person can have baptism of desire, even if he is ignorant of the baptism of water, even if he refuses to be baptized by water.”
The teaching of Father Kelly was something else we found hard to believe in the Jesuit Order. Mr. Karam dropped Father Kelly’s course in the second semester, and in February he resigned from Boston College.
In a diocese where Liberal Catholicism is the order of the day, the article “Liberal Theology and Salvation” created a great stir. It was decided at last to answer us, in print, but before that was done, a subsequent reply by us must be prevented, and so, on January 17th, 1949, Monsignor Hickey, with one of his curates, came to St. Benedict Center. He served, orally, a notice to Father Feeney, that the magazine From the Housetops was suspended by order “from the Chancery Office, and therefore from the Archbishop”. After we had thought the order over for several minutes, Dr. Maluf went over to the Rectory, to which Monsignor Hickey had returned immediately after delivering his message to Father Feeney.
“Monsignor,” said Dr. Maluf, “I have come to ask you to send us the order with respect to the Housetops in writing.”
“I will see about that”, Monsignor Hickey replied. And then, as Dr. Maluf stood up to leave, he said, “So you don’t trust my word?”
“We would like to receive this order officially, and in documentary form, because we intend to appeal it to the Holy Office.”
“If I were you, I wouldn’t try that”, Monsignor answered.
“I don’t think we will take your advice here, Monsignor”, Dr. Maluf said. “We know we are fighting a battle for the preservation of the Faith, and we know that the final judgment of our Holy Church cannot let us down.”
St. Benedict Center did not receive in writing the order for the suspension of From the Housetops.
On January 29, 1949, under the heading of the Department of Theology, Boston College, an article by Father Philip Donnelly, S.J., “Some Observations on the Question of Salvation Outside the Church”, was brought out. It was written at first, so we were told, for the members of the faculty of Boston College, but before a few months had passed, copies of it were everywhere. They came to us through the mail; they were left in the Center chairs on Thursday night; we were called to the telephone and it was read to us over the wire.
Raymond Karam in his now famous “Reply to a Liberal” answered Father Donnelly’s article, in the Spring issue of From the Housetops. There will be occasion to refer to Mr. Karam’s article again. We found it extremely difficult to believe that Father Donnelly considered his paper in any way an answer to the documents of the Popes, Fathers, Doctors and Councils, of which was comprised the article “Liberal Theology and Salvation”.
The second term had begun, by this time, at Boston College. Before the first meeting of the Philosophy Department in the fall, Father Duncan had requested Dr. Maluf to submit a syllabus for each of his graduate courses. A week before the opening of the second term, Father Duncan requested an additional syllabus on Dr. Maluf’s course on St. Thomas. Dr. Maluf complied with this request at once. He was, then, very much surprised when, on the evening before the first meeting of the course Father Duncan telephoned him at his home, and said, “Is it possible for you to prepare a different course for the Graduate School than the course on St. Thomas?” Dr. Maluf replied,
“You know, Father, that a graduate course cannot be prepared over night. This course is advertised in the catalogue and has already been given several times at the College.”
Father Duncan: “Higher authorities of the College are objecting to your giving this course, and wish it to be suspended.”
Dr. Maluf: “For what reason?”
Father Duncan: “No reasons were to be given.”
Dr. Maluf: “I am sorry, I cannot prepare another course.”
Father Duncan: “I will consult with them again, and I will call you back in half an hour and tell you whether the course can be given or not.” In exactly half an hour, Father Duncan telephoned, and said: “Will you promise not to discuss Grace in the course and restrict yourself merely to the discussion of natural bodies?”
Dr. Maluf: “You have the syllabus of the course, and as far as I remember, there is no question of Grace included.”
Father Duncan: “The course will not be given unless you promise you will not discuss Grace.”
Dr. Maluf: “Father Duncan, if you are implying that my doctrine on Grace is heretical, you as a priest are bound in conscience to tell me wherein it is wrong.”
Father Duncan: “I am not interested in that. Can I understand that you promise not to discuss Grace?”
Dr. Maluf: “At this moment, and without consulting my notes for the course, I can only repeat that my syllabus does not include the question of Grace. Is that all you want to know?”
Father Duncan: “Yes.”
Later in the evening, it occurred to Dr. Maluf that it was impossible to give, even ambiguously, the impression of a promise not to discuss Grace, and what belongs to the order of Grace, in a course on the Summa Theologica. He therefore left a message with Father McCarthy, of the Philosophy Department, that it was impossible for him to promise not to discuss Grace or the things that belong to the order of Grace in the Summa. He went to College for his first class in the course the next morning.
Sometime during the next week, Dr. Maluf received another notice from Father Duncan, asking him to come to see him in the Philosophy Office. This interview was very brief.
“Before you say anything,” Dr. Maluf said, “I would like to make a few points clear. I understand that rumors have been all over the campus for weeks that my Summa course was not to be given, and that many people were dissuaded from taking the course by you. A day or so ago I heard from an old student of mine in New York that I was ordered not to teach a dangerous doctrine of mine on Grace. I am sick and tired of the way you have been hounding and persecuting me this year. You have done everything to try to break me. This is not merely an offense against charity- it is a sin against justice! Your pretense that you are worried about my doctrine on Grace is sheer hypocrisy when you are sending students to Professor Wolfson and Professor Wild, at Harvard. I know that your reason for doing this is that you are teaching heresy. You can see that I am in no mood to discuss anything with you. If you have any directions, send them to me by mail.”
Father O’Donnell, the Dean of the Graduate School, then requested Dr. Maluf to come to his office. Dr. Maluf went, at once. The conversation was as follows:
Father O’Donnell: “I don’t wish to enter as a mediator between you and Father Duncan, but I can’t allow a course which the head of the department does not approve.”
Dr. Maluf: “I have been giving this course in the Graduate School over many years, with the full approval of Father O’Brien. I still don’t know that any of my doctrines is in question, or if so, which one is in question. Father Duncan has been methodically persecuting me this year, and he does not meet me on the issues. In all his contacts with me he has been cruel and evasive. His last measure in connection with my course on St. Thomas Aquinas is arbitrary and extreme. I want him to take full responsibility for his measure, and therefore I have asked him this time to put his order in writing.”
Father O’Donnell: “Why don’t you go and see him and settle this matter with him? I know nothing about the issues.”
Dr. Maluf: “If he wants to see me in order to ask me again to promise not to discuss Grace, then I will give him the answer through you. I cannot give that promise.”
Father O’Donnell: “Therefore, your graduate course in St. Thomas is suspended.”
Dr. Maluf received a letter the following day from Father O’Donnell, dismissing him from the Graduate School.
The doctrine of Grace is intimately connected with the doctrine of No Salvation Outside the Church, and while neither Father Duncan nor Father O’Donnell had discussed this relation to the St. Benedict Center controversy, Dr. Maluf knew it was at the bottom of the whole matter. He wrote a note to Father O’Donnell, and when he did not receive an answer, he went again to Father O’Donnell’s office to see him.
Dr. Maluf: “So you have fired me from the Graduate School, Father? May I ask by what principle you have taken this action after my years of faithful service?”
Father O’Donnell: “I know nothing about the issues, and you know that I think the world of you, Fakhri, but I can’t let you teach in the Graduate School if you will not even discuss your course with the head of the department.”
Dr. Maluf: “I never told you that I would not discuss the course with the head of the department. I merely told you what I told Father Duncan, that I would like to receive his order in writing because I consider it an unreasonable order, and I would like him to take responsibility for it. Now, Father, I would like to know for what reasons you take an even more extreme measure and fire me from the Graduate School. I would like to know what is your conception of the rights and dignity of a professor in the Graduate School?”
Father O’Donnell: “I am going to be frank with you, Fakhri. You are teaching a doctrine which is not in agreement with the doctrine of the majority of theologians at the present time in this area. I have the highest respect for your zeal and integrity, but I advise you that if you persist you will not have a chance of teaching anywhere in this whole area. I have not gone into the theology of it, but I know that the theologians of St. John’s Seminary and Weston College disagree with you.”
Dr. Maluf: “I am teaching the doctrine of St. Thomas and St. Augustine. I know that I am teaching what our Holy Mother the Church teaches.”
Father O’Donnell: “Well; that’s your opinion.”
Dr. Maluf: “Do you consider the issue falls in the area of legitimate opinion? If so, why can’t I have the right to teach what you are calling my opinion of what our Holy Mother the Church holds, even when it is not ‘in agreement with the opinion of the majority of theologians in this area’?”
Father O’Donnell: “It is very strange that the first time that the question of academic liberty arises here we should be to the ‘left’ against an extremely ‘right’ position.”
Dr. Maluf: “I am not merely surprised, Father. I am shocked to the depth of my being. I am positively scandalized that instead of upholding the Faith, as you are supposed and meant to do, you are persecuting those who profess it.”
In the middle of January, the President of Boston College, Father Keleher, sent again for Mr. Walsh. At this second meeting, Father Keleher reminded Mr. Walsh that he had not brought to him a copy of the document containing the status of St. Benedict Center. He said that the Archbishop was very interested to see it.
“I think it would be more appropriate if you wrote for it, Father”, Mr. Walsh answered: “Write to Mrs. Clarke, at the Center.”
A few days later, Father Keleher stopped Mr. Walsh as he was coming out from Mass at Boston College.
“When am I going to get that copy of the status of the Center?” Father Keleher asked him. He then went on to say that he was sure that no document could be produced establishing the Center outside of ordinary ecclesiastical authority.
“That is not what I said of the document”, Mr. Walsh answered. “Why are you acting as messenger for the Archbishop, Father?”
“If you people had any sense,” Father Keleher told him, “you’d know that if the Archbishop became personally involved he would be forced to close the Center because of the heresy emanating from there.”
“What heresy, Father?”
Father Keleher did not answer.
“Father,” said Jim Walsh, “I cannot understand how you can intellectually affirm, as you did to me in December, that the work of St. Benedict Center is a holy work of God, and yet refuse an act of the will in support of it!”
“I cannot support a disobedient priest”, said Father Keleher. “If it were not for my admiration for Father Feeney, I would have fired you all from the faculty long ago!”
My correspondence with Father Keleher then began:
Chestnut Hill 67
January 20, 1949
Office of the President
Mrs. Catherine G. Clarke
23 Arrow Street
Cambridge 38, Massachusetts.
Dear Mrs. Clarke:
Some time ago Mr. James Walsh of our faculty informed me that you were in possession of a document communicating the wish of the Holy Father, whereby he established St. Benedict’s Circle independent of any ecclesiastic supervision. At the time, I asked Mr. Walsh if I might see a copy of it and he Promised to obtain it for me.
After waiting what I considered a sufficient length of time, I called Mr. Walsh again, and, today, he has informed me that I may have a copy of this by applying to you. May I ask, then, that a copy be forwarded to me at your earliest convenience. You will understand that such a setup is so unique that it is arousing a great deal of comment. If I were in a position to establish the fact to those who direct the question to me, I would feel much easier about the whole matter.
Very respectfully yours,
(signed) William L. Keleher, S.J.
St. Benedict Center
38 Arrow Street
January 21, 1949
Very Rev. William L. Keleher, S.J.
President, Boston College,
Chestnut Hill 67, Mass.
Dear Father Keleher:
In answer to your letter of January 20th, may I inform you that St. Benedict Center is a Catholic lay organization, dedicated to Catholic life and Catholic doctrine among young people.
Very respectfully yours,
Chestnut Hill 67
January 24, 1949
Office of the President
Mrs. Catherine Clarke
St. Benedict’s Center
23 Arrow Street
Cambridge 38, Massachusetts
Dear Mrs. Clarke:
I write to acknowledge your prompt reply of the 21st; however, the point of my letter seems to have been missed. May I repeat, then, my request that you allow me to have, for presentation to Diocesan Officials, a copy of the document (Mr. Walsh informs me you have in your possession) in virtue of which, St. Benedict’s Center was erected by the Holy Father independent of ecclesiastical supervision.
Very respectfully yours,
(signed) William L. Keleher, S.J.
St. Benedict Center
23 Arrow Street
January 25, 1949.
Very Rev. William L. Keleher, S.J.,
President of Boston College,
Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
Dear Father Keleher,
Your first letter puzzled me. Your second letter is even more puzzling. I am completely at a loss to understand why reports to “Diocesan Officials” regarding an organization such as ours should be made through the President of Boston College.
Very respectfully yours,
(signed) Catherine Clarke.
The document to which Mr. Walsh had referred in his conversation with Father Keleher was, of course, the blessing of the Holy Father (which appears in the first chapter of this book), in which the status of St. Benedict Center, namely, that of a lay organization, was stated. Father Keleher and I, after this exchange of letters, had no further correspondence.