And then the storm, which had been gathering in intensity for seven months, broke over St. Benedict Center. It has not, as I write- seven months later- spent itself. It lashed us in its fury, and spilled out into the world; for it became international news.
The lightning and thunder of the storm revealed a world, the part, that is, which was Catholic, become almost entirely Liberal. It showed a scared, frightened Catholic world, lacking the courage to profess its Faith; terrified before the oncoming rush of Communism. It had gone so far astray, this Catholic world, that it no longer realized that the way to defeat an enemy, even a Communistic one, is with the weapons of Christ, and not with material friendships and money. It failed to remember the lesson of Pope St. Leo, the Great, who, with the might of the barbarian force encamped before Rome, went out to meet, and subsequently defeat, the Hun, all the while armed only with the weapon which is uniquely the Pope’s- the power of Peter.
The storm broke in Holy Week, as the Center was preparing its Passion Play. David Thomson, the student director, had, on Palm Sunday, partially transformed the upper portion of the main room of the Center in readiness for the first performance, to be given on Wednesday. On Monday, a letter came for Dr. Maluf:
Chestnut Hill 67
Office of the President
April 11, 1949.
Dr. Fakhri Maluf,
90 Putnam Avenue,
Dear Doctor Maluf:
I have just received from Father Janssens word of your letter to him under date of February 24th. In connection with this matter, I would like to see you in my office on Wednesday, April 13th, at 2:30 p.m.
In the event that any teaching assignment here at Boston College may conflict with this hour, I have notified the various deans that I shall expect you here and they will take care of the classes.
Very sincerely yours,
(signed) William L. Keleher, S.J.
Mr. Charles Ewaskio and Mr. James Walsh received letters identical to Dr. Maluf’s.
When the three teachers left St. Benedict Center on Wednesday for their interview with the President of Boston College, the Center was ready for the Passion Play. One could glimpse through the half-drawn curtains at the far end, a supper room. Around the long table, thirteen chairs had been placed. Over to the side of the Center was the outline of a public square, with palace and praetorium.
Dr. Maluf, Mr. Walsh and Mr. Ewaskio arrived at the Office of the President of Boston College at the appointed time. They were admitted by Father Keleher’s secretary into a large reception room which opened into his office and which was other than the ordinary room where people usually waited to see him. They were there about ten minutes, when Father Keleher came to see them.
Father Keleher: “I have written to you in connection with the letter you sent to the General of the Jesuit Order. I have received instructions from the General to the effect that the signatories of the letter be presented singly before a Board of one priest and two laymen and be asked certain questions by me.”
Dr. Maluf: “Your letter invited us to meet with you personally, Father, and if we are to be presented before a Board we should have been given the right to know that ahead of time.”
Father Keleher: “This arrangement was indicated to me by the General and I was asked to send you only the information that was given you in the letters. And besides, the members of the Board are not going to ask any questions, because I am going to do all the talking.”
Dr. Maluf: “What directions you might have received from the General do not concern us. We are shocked at the way the General handled our appeal, because we made it clear to him that we had no confidence in you to be the judge in this matter. And whatever directions you have received from him; we still feel that it is our right to know what we were invited for and whom we were invited to meet. In your letter you explicitly invited us to meet you, personally.”
Father Keleher: “You will merely be asked to retract your statements and, in case you refuse to do that, your connection with Boston College will be severed as of this moment.”
Mr. Walsh: “To retract those statements is to us equivalent to a betrayal of our Catholic Faith, for everyone of those statements has already been defined and proclaimed by the Popes and Councils and taught by the 29 Doctors of the Church.”
Father Keleher: “That’s the way it seems to you, but we have to go by the interpretation of doctrine as determined by the Bishop.”
Mr. Walsh: “No interpretation of a dogma could be a contradiction of it. What you are really asking us to do is to deny three basic doctrines of the Faith. If you say that you are merely asking us to retract some interpretation of them, I would like to know at what point interpretation ceases. Is it an infinite chain?”
Mr. Ewaskio: “If I had been told two years ago that there was salvation outside the Church, I might never have become a Catholic.”
Father Keleher: “In your case, since you knew you had to become a Catholic —”
Mr. Ewaskio: “The only reason I knew was because Father Feeney told it to me so unequivocally, and Father has hundreds of converts because he does tell them that.”
Dr. Maluf: “It’s very strange that we who proved our solicitude for the Faith by appealing for a determination of orthodoxy should be the only ones to stand trial. Are you going to carry this investigation to all the members of the Faculty? Or else by what principle are you singling us out for this trial?”
Father Keleher: “The principle is that no Catholic teaching at a Catholic College should deviate from the official interpretation of Catholic doctrine as determined by the bishop.”
Mr. Walsh: “So you mean that a non-Catholic is free to teach anything he wants in a Catholic College, and only the liberty of a Catholic is limited?”
Father Keleher: “A Catholic is subject to the laws of the Church in a way in which a non-Catholic is not. And that’s why non-Catholics are asked to teach only neutral subjects.”
Mr. Ewaskio: “What do you mean by a neutral subject? All truths are related somehow to the First Truth.”
Dr. Maluf: “I was asked to leave the Graduate School because I refused to conform to the opinion held by the majority of theologians in this area at the time. If you hold that this interpretation is the opinion of the majority of theologians in this area and at this time, how about the liberty of opinion as understood by Catholic Universities throughout the ages? And if you hold that your opinion is defined, show us where it is defined. If this is a universal Catholic truth, it should have been held by the Catholics throughout the Ages.”
Father Keleher: “There is a passage in an encyclical of Pius IX.”
Mr. Walsh: “That encyclical was not infallible.”
Dr. Maluf: “Even that encyclical is usually mistranslated and always misinterpreted the way the Liberals use it.”
Father Keleher: “I am not here to discuss the theological issues with you. I am here merely to present you one by one before a Board of one priest and two laymen and to ask you a few definite questions, which you are merely to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ ”
Dr. Maluf: “You are also adding the threat of firing us from our jobs unless we retract the statements we made in our letter to the General. Throughout the history of the Church, when there was true concern about the preservation of the Faith, there used to be legal processes of determining a man’s orthodoxy by studying his writings and his sayings. What statement has any of us made that in your estimation is suspect of heresy? Or is this an arbitrary measure of vengeance simply because we have appealed to the General of the Order and expressed to him our worry of what others are teaching in this college?”
Father Keleher: “I repeat again that I am not here to argue with you. Do you or don’t you wish to face the Board?”
Mr. Ewaskio: “You are very clearly taking an unfair advantage of our love for our families and our concern for their livelihood.”
Mr. Walsh: “You have never faced our arguments. You have never even remotely suggested what in our doctrine is unsound. All you have done right from the beginning is to use implicit or explicit threats. We are clearly living in a regime of intimidation.”
Dr. Maluf: “To ask us to retract the statements we made to the General is itself an act of heresy on your part.”
Father Keleher: “I was asked to do that by the General.”
Dr. Maluf: “I still say that these are defined doctrines and that their integrity is to be safeguarded apart from the interpretation of them. No interpretation could annul the substance of a dogma.”
Mr. Walsh: “If the General is asking us to withdraw these statements, then maybe the General is in heresy.”
Father Keleher: “How can we tolerate you when you are accusing us of heresy?”
Dr. Maluf: “We are not only accusing you of heresy, we are accusing you of persecuting those who hold the Catholic doctrine in its integrity and its entirety. We protest the way the General has handled our appeal. He has made you, the antagonist, to be the judge. And we certainly insist on our right to know from the summons the nature of what it is we were called to your office for. If it is a question of retracting those three statements in our letter to the General, I, on my part, can tell you that I am not capable of doing that.”
Mr. Walsh: “And neither am I.”
Mr. Ewaskio: “And neither am I.”
Dr. Maluf: “Is that irrevocable, Father? Are you definitely giving us the alternative of retracting those statements or of being fired?”
Father Keleher: “Yes, I am.”
Dr. Maluf: “We question your right to do that.”
Father Keleher: “We have taken all that into consideration.”
Dr. Maluf: “All right. You have taken the measure, and you take responsibility for it.”
The three teachers walked out of the President’s Office — dismissed, for doctrine, from Boston College. This dismissal affected also one other teacher, since the General had included all signers of his letter. David Supple, instructor in German at Boston College High School, had signed the letter. He could not in conscience retract, and so he, too, lost his job.
The men made a short visit of thanksgiving to St. Mary’s Chapel, at Boston College — thanksgiving because to them had been given the privilege of confessing their faith, and of suffering for it.
They came back to a Center darkened and hung in purple. The men and girls, who were to go through so much ignominy and persecution with them in the months to follow, were seated with the priest who was to pay, with all that was dearest to him, for his defense of the Faith.
They were watching the Passion Play, the portrayal of the Passion and Death of Jesus of Nazareth, because He would not retract His doctrine, that doctrine which gave to all who followed it eternal life.