The storm signals were roaring in full blast all through the months of January and February. So many rumors flew back and forth on the Boston College campus, so many reports of Faculty teaching on the subject of No Salvation Outside the Church were brought to the three (and only) members of the Boston College Faculty holding for the defined doctrine of the Church, that they were besieged with questions all of the time.
Father Joseph P. Kelly’s doctrine, Father William Van Etten Casey’s, Father Paul Curtin’s, Father Russell Sullivan’s were given either to Dr. Maluf, Mr. Walsh or Mr. Ewaskio, or they were brought by Boston College students directly to St. Benedict Center. When the whole thing reached a peak of inconsistency and contradiction, revealing both an amazing ignorance of Church history and of doctrine, Mr. Ewaskio, Mr. Walsh and Dr. Maluf wrote the following letter to the President of Boston College, Father Keleher.
January 24, 1949.
Very Rev. William L. Keleher, S.J.,
President, Boston College,
Chestnut Hill 67, Mass.
Dear Father Keleher,
It is a matter of conscience with us to inform you, as the Rector of Boston College, that we are scandalized and grievously concerned about some of the doctrines being taught in this college, and we are especially concerned about the salvation of souls entrusted to the care of the faculty of Boston College. We have intimated to you before, in personal discussions, our worry, and it is clear, you have done absolutely nothing about it. We are placing before your conscience the duty of thoroughly investigating whether, among other things, implicitly or explicitly, the following heresies are being taught at Boston College: (1) that there is salvation outside the Church; (2) that any man can be saved without submission to the authority of our Holy Father, the Pope.
Charles A. Ewaskio
James R. Walsh
They received a reply from Father Keleher:
Dr. Fakhri Maluf, Mr. James R. Walsh, Mr. Charles A. Ewaskio
I am in receipt of your communication of January 24th and it is acknowledged herewith. A check with the Right Reverend Chancellor of the Diocese, the Deans of the several schools on the campus and the Chairmen of several departments informs me that the charges of your letter are unfounded. May I ask, that at your earliest convenience, you submit to me in writing a detailed and specified report on the heresies being taught at Boston. College.
Very sincerely yours,
(signed) William L. Keleher, S.J.
The men could not take seriously a check which had been completed in half a day on a matter the honest study of which would have consumed a far greater length of time, and to which someone other than the busy president of a college would have had to be assigned.
None of the teachers had taken lightly Father Keleher’s last conversation with Mr. Walsh, in which he spoke of firing all three of them from the faculty. Dr. Maluf saw Father Keleher on January 26th, and brought up the subject with him:
Dr. Maluf: “I hear you have threatened to fire us from the College, Father.”
Father Keleher: “I think Mr. Walsh must have misunderstood me. I also think that the reason Mr. Walsh would not bring me that document is that there is no such document.”
Dr. Maluf: “Honestly, Father, I do not see why St. Benedict Center should be reporting to you on its status. And I don’t see why the higher authorities who are acting through you don’t act for themselves, unless they are using your position as a threat to us, which I strongly resent as incompatible with my professional rights and with academic liberty. Your letter to Mrs. Clarke was not a friendly letter. When Jim Walsh and I spoke to you on previous occasions, we spoke to you candidly as our Rector, and we never suspected that your authority was being used by forces outside the Boston College campus.”
Father Keleher: “I have investigated your charges of heresy, and I find that nobody is teaching a doctrine contrary to the doctrines you mentioned as being the teaching of the Church.”
Dr. Maluf: “I don’t know what measures you have taken to determine the truth of our charges, Father, and I certainly consider that whatever measures you have taken were not adequate.”
Father Keleher: “Make your charges more specific. Whom are you accusing?”
Dr. Maluf: “What motivated us finally to appeal to you cannot be reduced to a few documentary points, and in many cases we do not have the right to divulge the names of students who have come to us in alarm and confusion. As far as doctrine is concerned, the whole place is going haywire. If you want to put the issue before the students, you will find that out for yourself, Father. Now, instead of meeting us on the doctrinal issue, which has been the issue from the beginning, you are trying to settle it by means of threats and intimidations. I must say again that I can’t feel that you are sufficiently concerned or that you have taken adequate measures to determine the truth of the charges that we made in our letter. I want you to know, Father, that I am scandalized at your lack of concern to protect the Faith.”
Father Keleher: “All right, Dr. Maluf.”
Doctor Maluf left the President’s Office, angrily. The teachers talked the situation over at home, in the evening. They decided once more to write to Father Keleher.
January 26, 1949.
Very Reverend William L. Keleher, S.J.,
President of Boston College,
Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Dear Father Rector,
It is very clear that in your private talk with one of us, Mr. James Walsh, that you did use, at least by insinuation, the threat of firing us from the College. This threat could not have proceeded from any principle compatible with basic human and professional liberties. It clearly attacks and undermines a noble value of Christian civilization. We do not hold that the rights and liberties of a professor are absolute and free from any limitations whatsoever, but we do believe that these limitations can arise only from the intrinsic substance of the profession as touching the soundness of doctrine and of morals. If such threats could be served arbitrarily and by influences extrinsic to the conscientious performance of our vocation, then you reduce the professor to the status of a tyrannized slave. The teacher’s profession in the providence of God is left innocently unprotected by any form of political pressure groups, and therefore its dignity rests upon, and is a measure of, the high values and ideals of a culture. In our previous conversations with you, we have spoken to you candidly as the president of our College, believing that your position is protected by proportionate rights. We are shocked to know that your high position is being used by powers and authorities outside the academic arena, who, if they believed in the justice of their case against us, should proceed on their own personal responsibility and on the merits of their case, by legal and fair proceedings, instead of attempting to persecute and tyrannize us while remaining invisible to us.
This situation is intolerable; it touches the very status of our profession. We, therefore, wish to register our strong protest against your threat, in the name of the rights and dignities of our vocation.
Charles A. Ewaskio
James R. Walsh
St. Benedict Center decided, also on this same 26th of January, to write His Excellency, Archbishop Cushing, a candid statement of its feelings. The letter was delivered at Archbishop’s House that evening. No answer to it, however, was ever received, and St. Benedict Center was then at a loss to know where next to turn. The words and actions of the Archbishop and Bishop grew every day more Liberal, and both they and the Jesuit Order were bringing to bear upon us more and more pressure. We knew that every Catholic had the right, in a matter of doctrine, to appeal directly to the Holy Father, and so, out of our completest need, we brought our problem to the Chair of Peter.
St. Benedict Center
23 Arrow Street
Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes,
February 11, 1949.
To His Holiness, Pope Pius XII,
We, your faithful children, watchful for the preservation of our Holy Faith and deeply concerned about the rising and most imminent danger of false doctrines being fostered and spread even by Catholic colleges and seminaries, wish to place this anguish of soul before Your Holiness, and on our part and on the part of hundreds of our colleagues and students who share our concern and who, after constant prayer, feel we must come to you personally, the Vicar of Our Lord and Saviour on earth, to say to you what the Apostles said to the Master, “Save us, for we perish!”
We are convinced that in this our country there is at this moment a very real and grievous threat to the integrity of our Holy Faith. The wave of error is not beyond control yet, but it will be very soon if not checked, for the poison of false doctrine is spreading by means of educational institutions, magazines, newspapers, books, even receiving official Catholic approval, and the people to whom the Faith is still the pearl of great price can only appeal to you, the successor of St. Peter, for protection.
The insidious heresy that there may be salvation outside the Catholic Church and that submission to the Supreme Pontiff is not necessary for salvation has been taught by implication in many ways but is now getting to be more and more of an explicit teaching.
In more than one way people are made to believe that a man may be saved in any religion provided he is sincere, that a man may have baptism of desire even while explicitly refusing baptism of water, that a man may belong to the soul of the Church while persisting in his enmity to the Holy Catholic Church, indeed even while actively persecuting the Church.
These dangerous doctrines are beginning to manifest themselves even in the practical order in such popular demonstrations as interfaith meetings where a common denominator is sought, giving people to believe that something less than the entirety and the integrity of the Catholic Faith may be sufficient for salvation, to the detriment of every dogma that is peculiar to the Catholic Church. Such slogans as “one religion is as good as another”; “we are saved by personal sincerity”; the “things on which we agree are vastly more important than the things on which we differ”; – such slogans are being accepted even by Catholics as substitutes for the Creed.
We assure Your Holiness, as your most loyal children, that if this avalanche is allowed to continue, it will lead to a veritable catastrophe to the Kingdom of Christ and for the scandal and perdition of souls. We will be always ready, at the command of Your Holiness, to present all the documentary evidence in support of our concern.
We have the honor to be
Your Holiness’ humble servants in Jesus and Mary,
Asst. Professor of Philosophy, Boston College
President, St. Benedict Center
Professor of English Literature, Saint Benedict Center
James R. Walsh,
Instructor in Philosophy, Boston College
Asst. Professor of Physics, Boston College
Robert G. Walker,
Asst. Professor of English, Boston College
Instructor in German, Boston College High School
Instructor of Greek, Saint Benedict Center
Graduate Assistant in Philosophy, Saint Benedict Center
Graduate Assistant in Spanish, Saint Benedict Center
Editors, From the Housetops, Saint Benedict Center
The acknowledgment of the above letter will be found on page 172.
In the first week of February had occurred Dr. Maluf’s discussion with Father Duncan about his course in St. Thomas, with the subsequent dropping of the course and Dr. Maluf’s dismissal from the Graduate School. Father O’Donnell’s letter to him read:
February 7, 1949
Dr. Fakhri Maluf,
90 Putnam Avenue,
Cambridge 39, Mass.
Dear Dr. Maluf:
I am writing to you to confirm what I told you this morning in my office. I am discontinuing the course, Basic Topics from St. Thomas, which you were to offer in the Graduate School during the second semester.
I am notifying the President of Boston College, the Treasurer’s Office, and the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences that your contract with the Graduate School is terminated as of today.
(signed) George A. O’Donnell, S.J.
Dr. Maluf answered Father O’Donnell’s letter on the same day:
February 7, 1949.
Rev. George O’Donnell, S.J.,
Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Dear Father O’Donnell:
For the sake of the records, I would like to ask you to give me a statement explaining the reason why my course in the Graduate School was suspended this term. According to my understanding, the reason is that I have told Father Duncan that I cannot promise not to discuss Grace in a course in the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas.
Very sincerely yours,
Father O’Donnell did not reply to Dr. Maluf, but he sent the following notice to Mr. Karam, one of Dr. Maluf’s students:
Boston College Graduate School
Chestnut Hill 67, Mass.
Dear Mr. Karam:
Dr. Maluf’s course on Saturday morning, — Basic Topics from St. Thomas,- has been discontinued.
Please consult Father Duncan, Chairman of the Department of Philosophy, about your schedule of courses.
George A. O’Donnell, S.J.
It was then that Mr. Karam resigned from Boston College:
February 14, 1949.
Rev. George A. O’Donnell, S.J.,
Dean of the Graduate School,
I received your card by mail last Wednesday, February 9th, in which you informed me that the course on St. Thomas given by Dr. Maluf has been suspended. I am writing this letter to notify you of my withdrawal from Boston College. As you well know, I was a student at Harvard University during the last academic year, and it was by the advice of Dr. Maluf that I transferred to Boston College, because it was a Catholic College. I was coming to your college, therefore, in order to study Catholic thought as it is taught by the Doctors of the Church. I am scandalized to find out that this is the last thing that Boston College is interested in. Instead of encouraging courses given on the Doctors in the spirit in which they taught, you deliberately eliminate such courses, making it impossible for a Catholic student to receive a Catholic education. On the contrary, the study of such sophists and enemies of Christ as Spinoza, Kant, Hegel, Einstein and many others, is encouraged and made popular. As a result I have found that Boston College is no different from such secular colleges as Harvard, except that its teachings are under the auspices of the Catholic Church and the Jesuit Order.
When I first came to see you, you told me that you did not approve of the philosophy that is being taught at Harvard University, but I am discovering that, under the guidance of Father Duncan, the philosophy department at Boston College is following the pattern and ideals of Harvard. Consequently I cannot in conscience continue to study in this college, seeing that my faith is no more secure here than it would be in any secular college, and that it is impossible for me to get a Catholic education at this institution.
Mr. Karam then transferred for full time work to St. Benedict Center, where he had been taking part-time courses. He began work on his famous “Reply to a Liberal”, his answer to the attack on FROM THE HOUSETOPS by the Rev. Philip Donnelly, S.J. This work of Mr. Karam’s was sent, eventually, to every Catholic bishop, archbishop and cardinal in the world, to the Pope and to the Holy Office. It had a second printing, and we are still receiving requests for it.
On February 18th, Father Feeney received another letter from the American Assistant to the General of the Jesuit Order, who was making his visits to the Jesuit Houses in the United States.
West Baden College
West Baden Springs
February 18, 1949.
Dear Father Feeney: P.C.
Pardon my delay in acknowledging your very prompt reply to my letter. I greatly appreciate your promptness, and only press of travel and work prevented my writing you before this.
Your letter leaves me still very much in the dark, and has relieved little of my anxiety. Is it not true that last August, when other Province assignments were made, you were assigned to work at Holy Cross, and you have steadfastly refused to accept the transfer from St. Benedict’s Center? You know, dear Father, as well as I, how serious a matter disobedience is considered in the Society. You claim to have a most serious difficulty which prohibits your leaving your present field of work, a difficulty which concerns the glory of God, the salvation of your soul, and the security of the Society in your Province. Forgive me, if I say those words clarify nothing, but only bewilder one. Knowing you as I do, I cannot but feel sure that you are acting in good faith, moved by some reason you judge legitimate. But it is a clear case where you must subject your judgment to the judgment of others, who are no less concerned about the integrity of the Society’s Institute and fair name, and about the salvation of your soul.
Six months is a long time to wait for the obedience of a member of the Society of Jesus. Superiors may be patient and long-suffering, and I know how incessantly they have been praying and offering Masses for the happy solution of this sad and trying situation, but they also have a duty to the Society, and they cannot put off action indefinitely. You speak of waiting till I come; but according to present plans, that would not be until more months passed; which is too long. I pray that the Holy Spirit may illumine your zealous soul with His most precious gift of simple, humble faith so necessary for the complete obedience demanded by our vocation. Do pray for me.
Faithfully yours in Corde Jesu SS.,
Vincent A. McCormick, S.J.
Father replied to the General’s Assistant:
Feast of St. Peter Damian
February 23, 1949
Dear Father McCormick, P.C.
Your letter has just reached me.
In answer to your first question, may I say that I was not appointed to Holy Cross College at the time of the usual appointments last year. My status, given me in July, presumably for the following year, was to continue my work at St. Benedict Center. I even had letters from Father McEleney subsequent to status day, clearly assuming that this was my appointment for the year. On the strength of that appointment, I assumed in the name of St. Benedict Center very serious obligations in the matter of faculty, courses, personnel among the students, and arrangements with the Veterans Administration, all of which could not be handled under the circumstances except by my direction and understanding of the regime that is here.
Then suddenly, I should say about six weeks later, just after Archbishop Cushing and Bishop Wright had departed on a boat for Europe, I received a mysterious letter from Father McEleney telling me to leave the Center and go to Holy Cross. I went immediately to him to ask for some kind of explanation so as to avoid consternation and scandal among the nearly 1200 young people with whom I was dealing, either by way of day courses or instruction classes or evening lectures. Father McEleney refused to give me any explanation whatsoever except to let it slip that higher authorities wanted it, and that my doctrine was being questioned. When I asked him who were the higher authorities and what was the doctrine, he took recourse into evasive, non-committal, legally phrased statements intended to supply me with no information other than that obedience is our paramount virtue. I beseeched him to make that obedience a paternal, filial arrangement; and that he has consistently refused to do.
I mention these facts very summarily since it seems to be the sort of reply you are looking for. You know very well, dear Father, that the crux of this whole matter lies deeper than appears on the surface. The difficulty is a doctrinal and not a disciplinary one. Until this is cleared, I have no other recourse than that which is in keeping with the preservation of my conscience and with my loyalty to the Holy See and my Faith.
This morning I had an hour’s conference with my Superior, Father Louis Gallagher, S.J., of 300 Newbury St., Boston. He assures me that I am entitled to a personal hearing with you on a matter which I cannot in conscience discuss by mail. If you doubt my filial behaviour in this whole matter, with the one superior who would give me a hearing, won’t you please write to Father Gallagher and ask him if what I tell you is not so?
Sincerely yours in Jesus and Mary,
Leonard Feeney, S.J.
“…I have no other recourse than that which is in keeping with the preservation of my conscience and with my loyalty to the Holy See and my Faith.” Thank God for Father Feeney! In the face of a threat of great personal loss for himself, after thirty-four years in the Jesuit Order, he safeguards for us all those things which are most precious to man: his hold on the Truth which makes him free; his personal responsibility for right and wrong; his free will; as well as the beautiful concept of obedience which St. Ignatius of Loyola had in mind when he founded the Society of Jesus. St. Ignatius never meant the isolation of obedience whereby it is served at the expense of the other virtues. This would make of obedience not an honorable thing, but a tool which could be a dangerous power.
We were startled and disturbed to find that the concern of Father McEleney, Father McCormick, and- we came sadly to find out- the General of the Society of Jesus, Father Janssens, was not for the honor and glory of God and the preservation of the Faith, but always for the prestige and well-being of an organization, the Society of Jesus. We have letter after letter, reported interview after interview, in which this policy is clearly brought out. This was the sorry condition to which Liberalism had reduced the great Order founded by St. Ignatius.
It was, evidently, for the political good of the New England Province of the Society of Jesus that Father Leonard Feeney be transferred. His brand of honest orthodoxy, direct and unequivocal, was embarrassing to too many people, whom the truth would hurt. Now, ironically, St. Ignatius, the founder of the Society of Jesus, would have recognized in the protest surrounding Father Feeney the very signs he had always looked for in his priests, signs that they were doing the work of God. It is told of St. Ignatius that when he noticed his priests getting along exceedingly well and no noise was heard from their quarter, he would write the priests, asking, “What is the matter? You can’t be telling the truth of Jesus Christ and be getting along so well! You must be compromising. ‘As they persecuted Me, so will they persecute you!’ ”
Compromise is the language of the weak. Legalism is the weapon of the tyrant. St. Ignatius of Loyola never called the virtue for which he wanted his sons to be famous “obedience”. He called it “holy obedience”, to keep his sons secure in their allegiance to the Pope and to the dogmas of the Faith. Father Feeney was disobedient legally, technically. But his disobedience was by way of being loyal to something bigger than the political intrigues with which even Jesuits can become involved in a city like Boston. St. Ignatius knows that Father Feeney was a loyal Jesuit in the substance of his vow, even though he was banned in Boston.