There was no doubt about it; we were back in the catacombs with a vengeance. We began to realize, the day after Father’s silencing, just what life in the catacombs in 1949 would entail in the way of persecution. Shortly after our arrival at the Center in the morning, a friend came to see us. She told us that she had, through a member of her family, come upon the fact of a meeting which had been called for the purpose of organizing a “smear campaign” against the members of St. Benedict Center. Information had been secured about the family of each member, and plans made so that all income would be taken away, in so far as possible, from Center people, and everything done to divide them, one from another. A report that Father Feeney was “mental” was to be sent out everywhere.
“The whole thing is vicious and shocking”, said our friend.
“Thank you, dear”, said Father. “We are very grateful to you. Now, don’t you worry about us, will you? Our Lady is our only protection. We’ve known that for a long time. And that is the only protection we need.”
The truth of our friend’s warning came home to us that same morning. Two Center students, Lois Gianescol and Doris Mueller, came to us within an hour, bearing the news that they had been fired from a part time position at a Catholic hospital because they were connected with the Center, and would not give up either the Center or the doctrine. A friend telephoned us from New York that the calumny against Father’s mental condition had been told to her there by two Jesuits. This false report we finally came to hear everywhere, for the next six months, and we actually read it once, in a Catholic paper. The ridiculousness of the perpetration of this calumny against Father reached its height one day in a communication Father at long last received from the General of his order, which attested, among other things, to the effect of Father’s sanity. Otherwise it would not have been possible for the General further to discipline Father!
On the afternoon of Father’s silencing, Temple Morgan and David Thomson had taken copies of From the Housetops to various shops in Harvard Square, to be put on sale. There was a great demand for “the other side of the story”. The boys had printed placards, which read: “Read ‘Reply to a Liberal’ in From the Housetops. St. Benedict Center’s Defense of Father Feeney.” Within a short time after the magazine had been placed in the Square, the stores began telephoning the Center to say that they had been informed their shops would be wrecked if they did not stop selling the magazines. They all had been threatened.
“What do you mean?” Temple Morgan asked. “Why, you’ve got every kind of magazine in your store, good and bad, lewd and lascivious. You’ve got Communist newspapers. This magazine of ours contains only the writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. Who told you they’d wreck the place if you didn’t take it out, some students?”
“No. The Rectory.”
The Harvard Crimson finally ran a story on it, on Thursday, under the heading:
Catholic Center’s Publication
Disappears from News Stands
Local dealer ‘Advised ‘ Not to Sell Quarterly
Which Contains Feeney-Endorsed Article
“From the Housetops, a quarterly published by the St. Benedict (Catholic) Center on Arrow Street and publicly endorsed by Rev. Leonard Feeney, S.J., spiritual director of the Center, disappeared yesterday from Square news stands…
“The magazine was unavailable at all but one news stand in the Square area yesterday. Two dealers reported that a ‘priest from St. Paul’s’ had visited them Tuesday night, and advised them to take the publication off their stands, while a third said he had received a phone call from a woman who told him that ‘a bunch of boys would be over to tear up the books’ if he didn’t get them out of the shop.
A priest contacted by phone at St. Paul’s said that one of the priests connected with the Church had spoken to news dealers about the sale of From the Housetops. The cleric, who refused to give his name, said, ‘we didn’t want it around the Square.’
The only establishment around the Square selling From the Housetops last night was the fruit shop next to the Coop. The manager there stated that no one had complained to him about ‘any of his merchandise.’
The current issue of From the Housetops is devoted entirely to an article by Raymond Karam, a student and lecturer at the Center. Karam recently resigned from studies at Boston College, which he accuses of teaching ‘heresies.’ In his articles which Fr. Feeney has endorsed, Karam lists 5 errors ‘in the modern liberal presentation of the Church’s doctrine concerning salvation outside the Church…'”
In that same issue of the Crimson, someone had inserted a good-sized ad: “Hear Father Feeney tonight at Saint Benedict Center. We stand for freedom of speech.” We never found out the source of the ad. That same evening, students stood in the little square before the Center, calling, from time to time: “We want Father Feeney.” The Crimson related the story the next day:
Fr. Feeney Cancels Lecture,
Turns Fifty Students Away
“More than fifty people, most of them Harvard and Radcliffe students, gathered outside St. Benedict Center between 8 and 8:30 p.m. last night to hear the Rev. Leonard Feeney, ,S.J., but were turned away by Father Feeney himself.
“The priest arrived at 8:30 p.m. with Fakhri Maluf, one of the three teachers dismissed from Boston College, and spoke briefly to the crowd. ‘I want to thank all of you,’ he said, ‘for your kind sympathy and understanding, but there will be no meeting tonight. I am extremely sorry.’
“Shortly after, approximately fifteen people were admitted to the Center. Thursday is the regular night for Fr. Feeney’s public lecture and meeting. A sign on the door of the Center announced, ‘Closed to the Public, open only to members of the school.’ Students of the College who attempted to get in before the arrival of Fr. Feeney were turned away at the door.
A phone call to the Center made earlier in the evening had been greeted by the announcement that a meeting definitely would take place. Nevertheless the janitor of the building, the sign on the door, and Fr. Feeney all maintained the contrary.”
Before the week was over, we had become used to being followed on our way to our homes, to threats of all kinds, loss of our jobs, discrimination of every sort. But we also had many and great consolations. Along with a deeper love of Jesus and His Mother, we came to have an appreciation, admiration, and love of each other which must have, even a little, resembled the love the first Christians had for one another. We have beheld in each other, and in our dear Father, acts of heroism, sacrifice, adjustment, and generosity which not only can we never forget, but which have bound us indissolubly together.
On Thursday morning, April 21st, the newspapers telephoned us that the new Baltimore Catechism was to be released the next day. They gave us extensive quotations from it, and we promised them a statement by 4:30 that afternoon, Our comment read as follows:
St. Benedict Center,
April 21, 1949
In our view, the statement as made by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine on the subject of no salvation outside the Church and holding that persons who remain separated from the Church can obtain salvation under certain conditions, contradicts the dogma which has been defined repeatedly by the Catholic Church, namely, that there is no salvation outside the Church. Any graces given to a non-Catholic are given for the purpose of leading him to the Church.
Due, however, to the confusion of new terms introduced by contemporary theologians, we feel that there is the urgent need for a reaffirmation of the dogma by the living voice of the infallible guardian of the Faith, and therefore, as faithful children of our Holy Mother the Church, we entreat His Holiness, Pope Pius XII, to make an ex cathedra pronouncement.
St. Benedict Center,
By Philip Gammans
Fred L. Farrell
Temple E. Morgan
Father talked over the telephone later in the afternoon to the New York Herald Tribune, and made a further statement. This addition of Father’s appeared in the Herald Tribune on Friday, April 22nd, along with the Center’s statement. The Herald Tribune’s treatment of the matter was similar to the Boston papers’:
Experts Call Punishment
of Boston Priest Valid;
Oppose His Idea of Dogma
By William J. Humphreys
“Vatican City, April 21.- Vatican authorities, asked to comment on the Boston College ‘heresy’ dispute, said today that the Most Rev. Richard J. Cushing, Archbishop of Boston, had acted within his authority in ‘silencing’ the Rev. Leonard Feeney, S.J.
“Vatican sources, without exception, described the disciplinary action as ‘valid.’ They also took issue with the reported charge that it is ‘heresy’ to teach that there is salvation outside the Roman Catholic Church. The priests who interpret church policy through endless research in the Vatican archives said flatly that Protestants and others outside Roman authority could enter heaven.
“They made this statement after reading carefully the news reports from Boston. ‘These reports said that Father Feeney had been disciplined for supporting three lay teachers dismissed from Boston College and a fourth from Boston College High School. They were dismissed for charging it was ‘heresy’ to recognize there could be salvation outside the authority of the Pope….
“Neither Archbishop Cushing nor Father Keleher made any direct statement on what was the proper doctrine in the controversy.
“Last night in Cambridge, a statement by Father Feeney and supported by the four teachers said that ‘the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine. . . contradicts the dogma which has been defined repeatedly by the Catholic Church, namely that there is no salvation outside the Church.’
“The statement added: ‘A dogma admits to no exception. There can be cases that require careful attention to show how they fit in the dogma. But a dogma is absolute in its own order and cannot be destroyed by evasions and doubtful terminology.
“‘Every actual grace given to a person outside the church is given for the purpose of leading him into it. It is only after a man is in the Catholic faith that the rest of his sanctification can go on. Faith is the beginning of salvation.
“‘The definite impression everyone gets from the statements of liberal Catholic theologians is opposite to that which the dogma intended to convey. This is bad teaching and the Church is intended to teach and teach clearly.
“‘Due to the confusion of new terms introduced by contemporary theologians we feel that there is an urgent need for a reaffirmation of the dogma of no salvation outside the Church by the living voice of the infallible guardian of the faith. Therefore, as faithful children of Holy Mother the Church we entreat His Holiness Pope Pius XII to make an ex cathedra pronouncement.'”
Our first feeling, on seeing the headlines of this report from Vatican City, was one of alarm. However, we had come to learn not to take too seriously reports purporting to come from “Vatican authorities” or “unofficial Vatican sources”. We knew by this time that Liberalism was world-wide, and that it had reached even into the Vatican. We realized it was possible, unfortunately, to have Popes who were Liberal. The one time it was not possible to fear Liberalism in papal utterance would be when a Pope spoke ex cathedra, or infallibly.” 1
A Pope might refuse to define ex cathedra, and limit himself to encyclical letters and allocutions. And any one of these latter might be suspect of Liberal outlook. But once the Pope pronounced ex cathedra, we knew that pronouncement to be divinely protected against error. (An example of this is the famous bull of Pope Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam, of November 18, 1302. The whole bull is the preamble to one infallible pronouncement, which is: “Further, we declare, say, define and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.”)
Two sentences in the first three paragraphs of Mr. Humphrey’s report to the New York Herald Tribune also reassured us that the article need not be taken too seriously. The first sentence was:
“The priests who interpret church policy through endless research in the Vatican archives said flatly…”
Now, the Boston heresy dispute did not center around an interpretation of Church policy, but rather concerned an interpretation of Church doctrine. Doctrine is not subject to Church policy, nor are its safeguards those who make endless research in the Vatican archives and speak flatly to the Press.
The Jesuit weekly America was also to confuse this point of doctrine and policy in a day or two with an assertion which was tantamount to saying that the dogma “No Salvation Outside the Church” had held for the Arian, the Pelagian, the Monophysite, the Albigensian and all other heresies up to 1517, but after the Protestant heresy, all was changed. This dogma has a new interpretation “since the Reformation”. We knew that this was not true. The very purpose of placing the truths of the Faith into dogmatic form was to guard against the possibility of change or misinterpretation. The dogmas are cast in a dead language (Latin) as a further safeguard against even the change of meaning which a living language might give, in the course of time.
We were, therefore, not impressed with the opinion of “priests who interpret church policy through endless research in the Vatican archives” in so far as they held interpretation of defined dogma which was contrary to the definitions of the Popes and Councils.
The second sentence (in the Vatican City article) which, though it shocked us, also brought us reassurance, was almost humorous. It was:
“They made this statement after reading carefully the news reports from Boston.”
Now, if newspaper report could ever be a legitimate source or a decision on such a serious matter, the Boston reporting of our case — after the first day — was so one-sided that even the reporters themselves admitted as much to us. We were obliged before the summer was over to print a series of six “Reports to the Catholics of Boston”, which we sent through the mail to the people of Boston, so that they could tell the real story about us. We could not conceive a serious Vatican statement founded on Boston newspaper report.
There were two other paragraphs in the middle of this article in the New York Herald Tribune, from Vatican City, which caused us to wonder. The first read:
“Vatican circles did not regard the dispute as bearing great weight. ‘Some people have exaggerated its importance,’ said one authority. He explained that Father Feeney has the right of appeal but he doubted if the case ever would proceed along the somewhat complicated road to a final decision by Pope Pius XII.”
I have no way of knowing what this “authority” would consider as “bearing great weight”. By the time this article was written, the whole world was listening for an answer from Rome on salvation. A reporter from the Associated Press had that day interviewed Father for an article he was sending, on request, to Holland. Very reliable sources had told us that everywhere in the world there was demand for more and more news on the subject. Millions and millions of souls were concerned, on the eve of a threatened atomic war, to hear the Church’s stand on salvation.
“Not of great weight”? The utterance of truth concerning the salvation or damnation of souls? We wondered what the Apostles, who worked so hard and travelled so far to reach so few, would have said if it had been told to them: “In five minutes, we will hook you up to the whole world. We have caught the people’s attention. They are listening. All you have to do is speak to them the words of Jesus Christ on salvation. Those who don’t actually hear or read your words, will get the message from the millions who will hear it. Go ahead!”
God thought it bore such great weight, it was so important to Him, that He died for the salvation of man.
The second paragraph which caused us to wonder, and which occurred in the middle of the Vatican City article, quoted the same “authority”. It read:
“‘Similar disputes occur frequently,’ said the authority. ‘Generally, they are settled locally. The Church fixed its teachings on this matter long ago.’ This statement apparently was a reference to an allocution by Pope Pius IX. Issued Dec. 9, 1854, the allocution said, ‘Those who are ignorant of the true religion…will not be held guilty in this matter in the eyes of the Lord.'”
The Church did, indeed, fix its teachings on this matter long ago, and much longer ago than 1854. In any event, the matter would not have been fixed by the quoted allocution of Pope Pius IX, since this was in no way an infallible pronouncement- the Pope was not speaking ex cathedra when he made it.
This allocution of Pope Pius IX, which is not infallible, is invariably quoted by the Liberals. They seem to base most of their arguments on it. They ignore the fact that this allocution was not the last word of Pope Pius IX on the subject. In 1864, ten years after the date of the allocution referred to in the Vatican City article, Pope Pius IX published his famous “Syllabus of Modern Errors”. In order that errors of indifferentism, pantheism, naturalism, communism, and other forms of religious liberalism might be stated more distinctly and their condemnation brought home with greater force to men’s minds, Pope Pius IX had commissioned Cardinal Bilio to select extracts from his letters, encyclicals and allocutions, in which the condemnation of the errors was separately stated, and to arrange them for emphasis in a series of propositions. On December 8, 1864, the Pope published the Syllabus, sending copies of it, together with the Encyclical Quanta Cura, to all the Catholic bishops of the world.
The publication occurred two days after he had first made known his thoughts of holding an Ecumenical Council. As Father Alzog, the historian, says, “Between this publication and the convocation of the Vatican Council, men of judgment and ability have professed to find a close and even necessary connection.” 2
If one were truly seeking his ruling on salvation outside the Church, I do not see how the three following propositions which Pope Pius IX published without any further qualification, in his “Syllabus of Errors”, could possibly not be considered as his real pronouncement on the matter:
“It is error to believe that ’16. Men can in the cult of any religion, find the way of eternal salvation and attain eternal salvation.’
“It is error to believe that ’17. One ought at least to have good hope for the eternal salvation of all those who in no way dwell in the true Church of Christ.’
“It is error to believe that ’18. Protestantism is nothing else than a different form of the same Christian religion, in which, equally as in the Catholic Church, it is given to please God.'”
The last paragraph in the Profession of faith, sworn to by Pope Pius IX and every one of the Fathers of the Vatican Council during the Second Public Session of the Council, January 6, 1870, reads:
“This true Catholic Faith, outside of which no on can be saved, which I now freely profess and truly hold, I, PIUS, promise, vow and swear that I will most constantly, with the help of God, keep and confess integral and inviolate until the last breath of my life, and that I will take great care, as much as in me lies, that it will be held, taught and preached by my inferiors and by those who will be placed under my charge. So help me God and these God’s Holy Gospels.” (emphasis ours)
Neither an ecumenical 3 Council nor the Pope defining alone, could ever, by any possibility, proclaim as a dogma a doctrine not contained in Holy Writ and Apostolic Traditions; and the Church, in giving decisions on matters of faith, does not promulgate new doctrines at all, but sets old truths in a clearer light, thus guarding them against fresh errors. 4
When, therefore, we say that the doctrine “No Salvation Outside the Catholic Church” is a defined doctrine we mean that it was actually contained in Holy Writ or Apostolic Tradition, and in defining it, the Church merely set it in a clearer light, and guarded it against future error. When a doctrine is defined, its meaning is put into language so precise and chosen that its signification can never be misunderstood to mean anything else; such as, for instance, the choice of the word transubstantiation, to signify the change of the bread and wine, at the words of consecration in the Mass, into the Body and Blood of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Transubstantiation, used theologically, can have no other interpretation.
Now, when Pope Boniface VIII, for example, declared in his infallible statement in the Bull, Unam Sanctam, in 1302:
“Furthermore, We declare, say, define and pronounce, that it is wholly necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff”,
what he was saying, in effect, was that it is an incontestable truth that this dogma was contained either in Holy Writ or Apostolic Tradition (or both) from the earliest days of the Church, and it has to be believed, exactly as it stands, by every Catholic in Christendom under pain of anathema or excommunication.
Would it be possible, therefore, to conceive of any other Pope, whether in the past or to come, defining, in the face of this infallible teaching of Boniface VIII, that the dogma herein made “even more clear and guarded against fresh errors”, was NOT contained in Holy Writ or Apostolic Tradition? If so, it is the end of truth and the Catholic idea of infallibility. And if infallible statements can never be clear; that is, if we cannot arrive at truth by what the Pope defines, but only through what some non-infallible theologian says about what the Pope defines (the sort of procedure St. Benedict Center is fighting), then Papal pronouncements are of no use. And this is as manifestly untrue as it is absurd.
However, in the light of all we have gone through on this point, and if we could respectfully do so, may we say that we would be grateful to Holy Fathers in the future if they would not tread on thin ice doctrinally. We’ve known that Pope Pius IX has not let us down infallibly- that we know. Papal encyclicals are not infallible; but even in encyclicals the Holy Father should be very careful to make his meaning clear. Because of three or four weak sentences in his encyclicals, Pope Pius IX has left dogmatic utterance unsafeguarded, unprotected, and the only thing the Liberals quote from him are the three or four well-chosen sentences that serve their purposes. It is through ill-will that the Liberals do this, but, again, if we may respectfully say so, Pope Pius IX should have seen this when he made the statements.
Pope Pius IX sensed somewhat that he had spoken occasionally unguarded, and he decided to make a summary of his writings and allocutions indicating by emphasis his condemnation of modern errors and his own position in their regard, which position was thoroughly and strongly orthodox. His statements on salvation in this summary (the Syllabus of Errors) have already been given in this chapter. However, the Liberals paid no attention to the summary. His last will and testament they rejected. It was only his preliminary legacies they took to heart.
St. Benedict Center’s reply to the Vatican City article as reported in the New York Herald Tribune and the Boston papers was in the form of a cablegram to His Holiness, Pope Pius XII.
April 25, 1949
To His Holiness,
Pope Pius XII,
Vatican City, Italy
We are scandalized that the Vatican should allow unofficial sources to support the doctrinal heresy in the new catechism of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine that there is salvation outside the Catholic Church. For supporting the contrary, four professors were discharged from Boston College and Father Leonard Feeney of the Society of Jesus was silenced by Archbishop Cushing of Boston, at the instigation of his Auxiliary Bishop, John Wright.
(signed) Philip Gammans, for
Saint Benedict Center,
23 Arrow St.,
We did not receive an answer from His Holiness.
1 A Catholic Dictionary, Donald Attwater, Macmillan, New York, 1943, p. 267. Infallibility of the Pope. “The Vatican Council (1870) declared it to be a dogma of divine revelation that when the Roman Pontiff speaks ex cathedra- that is, when he, using his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his apostolic authority, defines a doctrine of faith and morals to be held by the whole Church- he, by the divine assistance promised him in blessed Peter, possesses that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer was pleased to invest his Church in the definition of doctrine on faith and morals, and that, therefore, such doctrines of the Roman Pontiff are irreformable in their own nature and not because of the consent of the Church.’ Note that this infallibility refers only to teaching concerning faith and morals, and then only when the pope speaks officially as teacher addressing the whole Church with the intention of obliging its members to assent to his definition and his intention must be manifest, though not necessarily expressed): that neither impeccability nor inspiration (qq.v.) are claimed; that infallibility is personal with the pope and independent of the consent of the Church. This doctrine the Vatican Fathers declared to be ‘a tradition handed down from the beginning of the Christian faith,’ that it was implicit (q.v.) in the teaching of the Church up to that time. Infallibility does not by any means do away with the necessity of study and learning, but simply under certain conditions guarantees that the conclusions drawn from study and learning are free from error; the pope’s knowledge is not infused into him by God; he gains it just as does any other man. But he is assisted, watched over, by the Holy Spirit so that he does not use his authority and his knowledge to mislead the Church at the times and under the conditions stated above.”
2 Alzog’s Universal Church History, Dublin ed., vol. IV. p. 234.
3 Oecumenical, ecumenical: general, world-wide in extent, hence an ecumenical council is one to which bishops come from all over the world.
4 Substance of the explanation of an Ecumenical Council made by the Roman Catholic Bishops of Germany, meeting at Fulda, at the time of the Vatican Council. The addition of “Pope defining alone” is ours.