Holy Saturday, April 16th. In its main, front page headlines, the Boston Evening Globe carried the following pronouncement:
Archbishop to Rule on B.C.,
“Jurisdiction in ‘Heresy’ Dispute Left to Local Authority
“Vatican City, April 16 (AP) — Jurisdiction in the Boston College heresy controversy will be in the hands of Archbishop Richard J. Cushing of the archdiocese of Boston Vatican sources said today.
“These sources said jurisdiction in such cases is always entrusted to local church authorities. Reports from Newton, Mass., earlier this week said four Catholic educators, dismissed from Boston College because they had accused the college of teaching heresy, had appealed their case to the Pope.”
We were filled with consternation when first we read this news, but after a while we realized that the Vatican very probably had no way of knowing that Bishop Wright and Archbishop Cushing had supported the Jesuit Provincial and Father Keleher of Boston College from the beginning of the controversy (as Father Keleher’s testimony in previous chapters of this book will show), and that in turning us over for judgment to Archbishop Cushing they were actually making one of our adversaries our judge! Father Feeney then decided that this was the time to come to the defense of the four teachers. There was no point in waiting any longer. And so he released a statement to the press that evening, which statement did not come out in Boston, however, until Monday morning. It read as follows:
“I was very much surprised to learn from newspaper reports that Father Keleher had said that a profession- and where needed, an explanation- of the truths of our Holy Faith, which Father Keleher seems to have relegated to a specialist under the title ‘theology’, is forbidden any Catholic teacher speaking to Catholic students at a Catholic college. Inasmuch as very few- I might almost say a bare minimum- of the classes are directly concerned with religion and in the hands of what the President calls ‘competent theologians’, this procedure would leave the principles of our Holy Faith almost totally unmentioned for the greater part of the four-year course of a college boy’s life.
“I know many erroneous things that have been uttered by irresponsible teachers in Catholic colleges, but why the three basic premises of Catholic life, — the very direction signs by which one finds it, — should be forbidden Professor Maluf, Professor Walsh, and Professor Ewaskio is beyond my competence to understand.
“As for my personal associations which these three men, and with their staunch associate, Professor Supple of the High School, I am very glad to state what I know to be their qualifications in the matter under which they have been disciplined.
“Charles Ewaskio and James Walsh are both excellent students of theology, to which subject I know they give all their leisure time. Charles Ewaskio is a very devoted student of holy Scripture, which I know he reads and even memorizes and beautifully expounds, and James Walsh I have heard personally give talks on theological subjects that would do credit to the most trained theologian.
“David Supple, as everyone knows, is one of the most ardent lay apostles the Church has in Boston. His readings on the subject of the Faith have been enormous. There is almost no point of Catholic doctrine or program on which David has not a seasoned judgment, expressed with his inimitable grace and ease. Strong faith has a tradition in his family. His two uncles Monsignor Supple and Dr. James Supple, are imperishable memories in the minds of all unequivocal Boston Catholics.
“As for Dr. Fakhri Maluf, I am at a loss to know how to praise him. There is no one who has ever met him who has not sensed in him a positive genius for the things of the spirit, especially in his brilliant theological defenses of Our Blessed Lady as an essential part of all sound dogmatic thinking. His discourses on The Summa Theologica, every one of which for the past five years I have attended at Saint Benedict Center, puts him, in my measured judgment, as the most brilliant exponent of the true St. Thomas that our country possesses.
“Finally, I may mention Raymond Karam, who was not discharged from Boston College, but who voluntarily left there a month ago in protest against some of the liberal and unpenalized teaching. I do not think after reading his superb article in the current Housetops the article entitled ‘Reply to a Liberal’, that anyone will ever want again to excuse the laity from full competence in the field of theology as it is academically defended.
(signed) Leonard Feeney, S.J.”
The next morning, Easter Sunday, one of our students came to us, very much disturbed. He told us that his mother had spoken over the telephone which the Chancellor of the Archdiocese, Monsignor Walter J. Furlong, and that Monsignor Furlong had said to her that “the axe will fall on Monday” (on Saint Benedict Center). We couldn’t imagine what this might mean, and so we dismissed it from our minds.
The cablegram which we had sent to the Holy Father on Good Friday had referred simply to the copy of From the Housetops which we were sending him under separate cover. Actually, it had said:
April 15, 1949
To his Holiness, Pope Pius XII,
Vatican City, Italy
We beseech Your Holiness, in the name of our patron, St. Grignion de Montfort, to read the defense of Your Holiness’ supremacy, for which doctrine we are being persecuted. We are sending this defense to Your Holiness by air mail. It is written by our spokesman, Raymond Karam.
We are Your Holiness’ loving children, in the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
St. Benedict Center
23 Arrow Street,
Cambridge, Boston, Mass.
When we realized, from the newspapers on Holy Saturday evening, that the superiors who were aligned against us in controversy, were to be the judges of the orthodoxy of the doctrine we were trying to defend against their Liberalism, we decided to make another appeal to the Pope and the Holy Office. And so, on Easter Sunday evening, the teachers issued the following statement and sent to the Holy Office the following cablegram:
“We are appealing directly to His Holiness, the Pope, and to the Holy Office, concerning the doctrinal issue between us and Boston College, because we were led to believe that Father Keleher was acting in constant contact with the local authorities all through the case. We cannot conceive Father Keleher taking it upon himself without trial and investigation to pronounce our doctrine contrary to the traditional doctrine of the Church, and summarily firing us, without having to consulted His Excellency, the Archbishop.
“We wish to stress the fact that our future and the livelihood of our families are in jeopardy, and we have to act in the quickest and most direct way. His Excellency, the Archbishop, knows from the statements of Father Keleher to the press, and from the theological document by Father Philip Donnelly, S.J., the head of the Theology Department at Boston College, what doctrine Boston College is teaching. We have submitted Father Donnelly’s document, with our reply, written by Mr. Raymond Karam, to His Excellency for his consideration. Our refusal to conform with the doctrine in Father Donnelly’s document is the cause of our expulsion from Boston College.
“His Excellency’s custody of the Faith and his concern about orthodoxy would justify his taking the initiative against Boston College even without our appeal to him.
(signed) James R. Walsh
Charles A. Ewaskio
David D. Supple
23 Arrow St.,
Supreme Congregation of the Holy Office,
Vatican City, Italy.
For refusing to conform with the following three doctrines taught at Boston College, (1) that there may be salvation outside the Catholic Church; (2) that a man may be saved without confessing that the Roman Church is supreme among all the churches: (3) that a man may be saved without submission to the Pope, Father Keleher, President of Boston College, pronounced that we hold a position which is contrary to the traditional teachings of the Church and which leads to bigotry and intolerance, and has expelled us from our teaching positions. We appeal to your Holy Office this judgment, and request a speedy reply.
James R. Walsh
Charles A. Ewaskio
David D. Supple
Easter Sunday passed. The next day, Monday, April 18th, proved to be the longest and saddest day in our lives. The story of Father Feeney’s defense of the teachers appeared in the morning papers. The Boston Herald, under the heading, “Father Feeney Defends Teachers B. C. – Fired Jesuit Deplores Faculty Curb”, gave a rescript of Father’s statement in support of the teachers. The newspaper account then concluded:
“The statement was expected to create a sensation in theological circles, ‘not only because of the implied criticism of the alleged lack of religious teachings at Boston College but because of the open scoring of a famed Jesuit’s educational and theological problems by another well-known priest.”
We spent Monday morning answering telephone calls, receiving telegrams, special delivery letters, and opening an ever-growing mail. Many people seemed to be for us, and as many more against us. We were offered any number of substitute religions! Sometime in the morning, the four teachers had a conference, and decided they would go out to see the Archbishop. They left for Archbishop’s House at 11:50 and returned at 2:30 in the afternoon, deeply distressed in spirit. The report of the interview and the conversation following it was substantially as follows:
“We spoke to His Excellency of the grave injustice done to us by Boston College in placing our future and the livelihood of our families in jeopardy, and in treating us as if we were in heresy, without any process of law or any opportunity for self defense. We brought to his attention the document written by the Reverend Philip Donnelly, S.J., which gave unmistakable expression to the liberal theology taught at Boston College, and we also called attention to our reply to this article of Father Donnelly’s by Mr. Raymond Karam. We entreated His Excellency, in the interest of souls, to look into the doctrines taught at Boston College, and to take measures on his own for the protection of the faith. The Archbishop was utterly noncommittal on the doctrinal issue. Although His Excellency told us that he had seen Father Donnelly’s article and Mr. Karam’s reply to it, he was unwilling to make any statement.
“When we saw that the Archbishop would not assume responsibility himself, we asked him to present to the Holy See our plea for a clarification of the doctrine, and to advise the Holy Father that a decision on it was urgently needed. The Archbishop merely kept repeating to us that Rome was very slow in deciding such issues. We then reminded His Excellency that the doctrines we were defending had already been defined by the Church, and that the only points in question were the so-called interpretations and additions made by the liberal theologians, which we claimed were in contradiction to the teachings of the Church. If the theologians of Boston College were merely interpreting the dogma that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church, we asked, why should we be persecuted for professing the dogma? His Excellency did not reply.
“Our interview with the Archbishop was most unsatisfactory. At no point in the discussion did he give us the slightest hint of his feelings with regard to us. We had opened our hearts to him, presenting our grievances as loyal children of the Church to their father. He did say to us several times, ‘What do you want me to do? I’ll do anything I can for you. But I’m just one poor man. ”
“‘No, you’re not, Your Excellency,’ we told him, ‘You are the Archbishop. The jurisdiction of this case rests with you.’
“‘Well, what would you have me do? I’m willing to do anything I can for you,’
“‘Either take the matter into your own hands, Your Excellency, or entreat the Holy Father for an ex cathedra pronouncement,’ we pleaded with him.
“‘I can’t do that’, he answered us. ‘Sometimes these things drag on for years.’
“‘But, Your Excellency, there has been an injustice done. We’ve been fired from our jobs, our reputation is ruined, and our families are dependent upon us for support. Over and above all that, there is to be considered the faith of thousands who have been thrown into complete confusion. This is not a matter that can wait for years. Could you promise us, Your Excellency, that you will bring this matter before Rome? Would you ask the Pope to reconvene the Vatican Council, if necessarily, or to give us an infallible pronouncement?’
“‘We will see. We will see. We will see how it will work out. I don’t want to hurt anybody.’
“The Archbishop looked very uneasy throughout the entire interview. He kept pacing the floor, constantly going to a half open door in the room and looking out. We definitely got the impression that our conversation was being heard by someone else.
“We knelt for the blessing of the Archbishop, which he seemed happy to give us, and we kissed his ring. Then we left.”
The teachers finished telling us the story. They looked so solemn that we asked them, “Why are you all miserable? You say the Archbishop was friendly?”
“Yes,” they answered. “And he gave us his blessing. And while he did not tell us where he stood on the doctrine, he did seem to wish to be of help.”
“Well, isn’t all that good?”
“Yes,” they admitted, “we suppose it is. But we all have the same feeling of uneasiness about it, somehow. It was a strange interview.”
At 4:30 that afternoon, the Press arrived at the Center, to talk with Father Feeney, Mr. Karam, and the teachers. Father confirmed his defense of the professors, during the conference, and St. Benedict Center officially stated that it was behind the teachers also. The Center announced that a copy of FROM THE HOUSETOPS was being mailed to every Cardinal and Bishop, every Patriarch and Metropolitan Bishop in the Church.
“This is a strange way to move into heresy,” Father Feeney remarked, “if that is what we are supposed to be doing- to lay our case at the feet of every orthodox person listed in the Church’s directory, and to await for one word of reproof on anything we have said.” (Not one Bishop has to this day written us a line of contradiction of anything we have said.)
The Center also added that it would like to sponsor a movement in the Catholic world to appeal to His Holiness, the Pope, to reconvene the Vatican Council for pronouncement on the issues involved in the “Boston Heresy Case”. The four professors said that they had consulted with His Excellency, Archbishop Cushing, for an hour that morning, at the Archbishop’s residence, and had made this proposal to him, which he promised to consider.
The portion of this conference which had reference to the reconvening of the Vatican Council was broadcast over the radio at 8 o’clock that evening. At 10:30 o’clock, the Center members departed for their homes, thinking the day was over. Shortly after midnight, the telephone at my home awakened me. It was Dr. Maluf.
“You did not hear the late news?” he asked me. “You did not see the late papers?”
“No”, I replied. “Was there something about us?”
“Yes”, said Fakhri, gently. “Archbishop Cushing has silenced Father. He has put the Center under interdict.”
“Silenced Father?” I could not believe it. “But you saw him, just today. He didn’t say anything about it. Where did he silence Father?”
“In the newspapers. D. D. Supple saw the headlines on the way home, and telephoned us. Peter Embree (one of Father’s Harvard boys) saw them, too, and telephoned us also.”
“Oh, Fakhri! Without any warning? In the newspapers? Archbishop Cushing?”
“Is Father with you and the boys?”
“How is he?”
“Terribly shocked. Terribly wounded. But very beautiful.”
“Please give him our completest love. We will come right in.”
It was, indeed, the saddest day in our lives.