Good Friday, 1949. The Center Log has the following entries for the day:
8:00 A.M. We have seen story on bottom front page of New York Times, and some accounts in Boston papers. They tell that Father Keleher considers the matter closed with the dismissal of the teachers. There is also a summary of yesterday’s news.
2:30 P.M. The Spring issue of From the Housetops arrives from the binders.
3:00 P.M. The Housetops is taken out to be sold on the streets. A statement is made to the Press. Some of our statements seem not to have been printed.
11:00 P.M. Cable is sent to the Pope. A copy of this cable is enclosed in the copy of From the Housetops, which is also mailed to the Pope.
The late Daily Record (tomorrow’s paper) says: “Jesuit head in Rome not to act in B.C. issue.”
The Boston Herald for Good Friday morning carried the headline: “B. C. President says Teacher Issue Closed with Dismissals.” It went on to say:
“The issue involving four lay teachers who trespassed on the field of theology with preachments of a rigorist doctrine which the Very Rev. William L. Keleher, S. J., characterized as ‘contrary to the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church’ and ‘ideas leading to bigotry and intolerance,’ is closed with their dismissal, the Boston College president emphasized last night. However, the teachers, three from Boston College and the fourth from Boston College High School, expressed confidence that their appeal to Pope Pius XII soon would bring a pronouncement that would ‘destroy the heresy of liberalism.'”
There followed a long review of the case, with the statement of the three doctrinal points on salvation, and a new release from the teachers:
“The issue which motivated us to present our charges in the first place was not a question of nice theological points only for the specialists to discuss, but the very substance of our Holy Faith.
“When we answered questions to bewildered students, it was a matter involving the salvation of souls and a profession of our faith, and any silence or evasion could be nothing less than cowardice and infidelity and betrayal of our faith.
“The side of this issue which concerns us most is the presentation in its entirety and its integrity of our Holy Faith, without which no man can be saved.
“This is not a statement of intolerance or fanaticism, but a simple statement of the Catholic faith, and when this profession cannot be made, Father Keleher’s loud pretensions of democracy are a fraud.”
‘The Herald goes on:
“In another section of their somewhat lengthy statement they commented that ‘we are very glad to inform Father Keleher that our doctrinal issue with Boston College has already been placed before His Holiness, Pope Pius XII.’
“Both Maluf and Ewaskio are well-known to the St. Benedict Center’s followers in Cambridge. This center is at 23 Arrow Street, across from St. Paul’s Catholic Church and in the heart of what frequently is called the Harvard Gold Coast. Lectures there have drawn capacity audiences on virtually every occasion.
“Those who have attended lectures at the Center have called them extremely interesting sessions, but with a strong emphasis on a rigorist doctrine. At the Center last night, Father Feeney sent word through Walsh, one of the teachers, that he had no comment on the developments at Boston College. Asked by a newsman it he was a protégé of Father Feeney, Walsh replied: ‘I am a friend of Father Feeney.’
“Father Feeney probably is better known as the author of several Catholic books, one of which, Fish on Friday was a best seller in 1943.
“Maluf said one of his uncles, the Rev. Theodorus Maluf, is a Lebanese bishop. Two cousins, Joseph Maluf and Ecclemandos Maluf, are Eastern rite bishops in Lebanon, he said.
“Ewaskio became a Catholic two years ago. He received a master of science degree from Harvard in 1943.”
We were very busy on Good Friday morning. The newspapers were telephoning, and messages were pouring in. We eventually came to have requests for news of the controversy, or comment upon it, from almost every part of the world. We had letters from Europe, Asia, Africa, India, South America, Central America, Alaska, China, Japan. Where, we asked ourselves, was that hypothetical savage living on a desert island, who had never heard of the Faith? The press and the radio seemed to be able to reach every corner of the universe. And no matter how hard those in power tried to cloud and confuse the issue by raising against us the charge of insubordination and discipline, the people seemed never for a moment to be deceived, at this time. They knew the issue was doctrine, and they asked for an answer, a reaffirmation. We were certain, in the beginning, so serious a matter was it, that millions and millions of people would not long be kept in confusion. Our optimism was misplaced. The Catholic press to the contrary, no trustworthy answer has even as yet been given. It is this tragic condition that gives us so much concern for the souls of those in authority, whose responsibility is a very heavy one.
“Reply to a Liberal”, Raymond Karam’s answer to Father Philip Donnelly, S.J., comprised the Spring issue of From the Housetops. We had felt in conscience bound to answer Father Donnelly’s attack on the Housetops, made in his paper, “Some Observations on the Question of Salvation Outside the Church”. That this reply of Mr. Karam’s should come off the press at the psychological moment when the very question it discussed was before the minds of millions of people was the first of two amazing coincidences. The second coincidence was the release, before this extraordinary week was over (April 14th to 21st), of the revised edition of the Baltimore Catechism, after twelve years of study on the part of its compilers.
When Mr. Karam prepared his “Reply to a Liberal”, he certainly had not the slightest intimation that it would furnish the documentary evidence of the defined dogma in support of which his friends would be fighting and sacrificing their livelihood. The writers of the new Baltimore Catechism could not possibly have known that, eight days before they published their work of twelve years, amid acclaims and acknowledgments, the voice of a Catholic minority in America would be raised in protest: “There are liberal statements in the New Catechism which are contrary to defined doctrine. A catechism is not an infallible document. We beg for a reaffirmation by our Holy Father, speaking ex cathedra, of the doctrine on salvation!”
The Spring issue of From the Housetops had been written for the regular subscribers to the magazine, but now that the controversy had reached the newspapers, we were anxious to get Mr. Karam’s article, containing the statements of the Popes, the Councils, the Doctors on salvation outside the Church, into the hands of all who had not had the time or the sources from which to make a study of the question for themselves. At least they would be enabled to verify, to know where to look for the Church’s pronouncements on the doctrine.
The Center men, therefore, organized themselves into groups of two or three to sell the Housetops on the street outside the churches in Boston as the worshippers came out from Good Friday afternoon services. They looked up the City Ordinances for peddling on the street, which, as I remember it, were that wares might be sold on a city street provided the vendor did not stand still in any one spot, but kept moving, and provided he carried on his person whatever posters or advertising necessary to explain his product.
The men were careful to comply with these requirements, and they were at a loss to explain why, a few minutes after their arrival at the various churches to which they had assigned themselves, the police should also arrive. Some of the students were taken to police stations, questioned, and released.
An amusing situation arose at one of the police stations. The officer who had arrested two of the students remembered, apparently, his early Catholic teaching in the days when orthodoxy was the rule, rather than the exception. He took a copy of the Housetops from Temple Morgan, and opened it by accident at Father Donnelly’s article.
“Look at this!” he said, pointing to the page. “See this. It says here that there’s salvation outside the Catholic Church. Anyone knows that’s wrong. What’s the matter with you fellows?”
“We know that’s wrong. Read the rest of it”, the boys begged him. But the officer was skeptical. He closed the book and led them to the “man at the desk”.
Two policemen, arriving at another Church, held a consultation for a minute or two. “There’s nothing the matter with these kids”, the students heard one say to the other.
“They’re nice boys. They’re not doing anything.” And the officers walked away.
We found later that one of the St. Benedict Center students, thinking it might be the best way to let people know that there was a published answer on the controversy, had telephoned the newspaper offices that men from St. Benedict Center were setting out with the Housetops, and he told the newspapers where they would be stationed. But this still did not explain the presence of the police at the churches. One paper, on the next day, accused the students, to our great amusement, of “Picketing” the churches. In the middle of the account, the newspaper stated the students were selling booklets. This is the first time we ever were aware that selling and picketing were synonymous. It never was the intention of the students to “picket”, nor had they done so, any more than the men who visited the Jesuit Provincial in September had “picketed” his residence. The similarity of the epithet made us wonder not too much any more about the source by which the police had come upon the students. This charge of “picketing” appeared in papers all over the country, both Catholic and secular, and Archbishop Cushing used it later on in the Pilot in his official promulgation against Father Feeney. We are obliged to say that the charge is completely untrue and unwarranted.
The statement of the Boston Daily Globe, Saturday, April 16, 1949, read, in part:
in Controversy Over
Ousted B.C. Teachers
“A half dozen Catholic churches in Boston were picketed yesterday afternoon by men carrying placards which read, ‘No Salvation Outside the Church’, in support of the doctrine of the three discharged Boston College teachers…
“A few minutes after 4, in front of the churches, appeared groups of two, and in some cases three, men carrying placards which read, ‘No Salvation Outside the Church’, and booklets entitled ‘From the Housetops,’ which purports to be a quarterly published by St. Benedict’s Center, 23 Arrow St., Cambridge.
“There were no demonstrations. The pickets stood silently in front of the churches, placards and pamphlets in hand. The price of the pamphlet was 50 cents. Some were sold. The two pickets stationed in front of Holy Ghost Chapel, Park St., were brought to the West End Police Station for questioning and later released. They did not return to Park St. The articles contained in the current issue of From the Housetops support the doctrine of no salvation outside the Catholic Church. The ousted Boston College professors charge they were fired because they were teaching this doctrine at the Heights…”
Archbishop Cushing’s statement, which went all over the world in Catholic and secular newspapers, said, in this regard: “I had also heard that they and a few misguided partisans had been picketing churches and otherwise scandalizing the community during Holy Week.” The Archbishop published this without ever telephoning or writing us, his children, to find out if it were true.
We were at a loss, also, to understand why Catholics should be scandalized to receive, on the day which commemorated the death of Him Who died for the salvation of men, the statements of the Church throughout the ages on salvation, especially when a Church leader had the day before, in the newspapers, thrown into doubt these truths. That there was a scandal, we were willing to admit. We were not willing to say that it lay in the lack of observance of conventional procedure. It lay, rather, in the fact that the laity should be forced to take responsibility for clarifying a basic doctrine of the Church, which was becoming hourly more and more confused in the minds of the people because of the evasiveness of the clergy- a basic doctrine which the clergy had been ordained to shout “from the housetops”.
I should perhaps add that the men who were selling the Housetops before the churches had returned but a year or two from the war, where they had seen many a dying comrade who asked for nothing but the assurance that he was going to be saved. Our Lord had said, “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (J. 15:13.) The Center men had learned the meaning of Our Lord’s words. They had fought for freedom and justice and truth on a lesser scale, let us say. They were now willing to fight for these values at their highest level. When the faith is fully lived, we reflected in the light of our recent experience, Truth and freedom to profess the Truth are the right of every man. When the Faith goes down, authority, bereft of the Truth it exists to sustain, alone is left. And this authority then becomes an absolute; authority without substance; authority for its own sake. Gradually freedom is replaced, under this regime, with- tyranny.