The Loyolas and the Cabots

Chapter 27

On April 26, 1949, eight days after his silencing Father Feeney received his first canonical warning from the Provincial of the Society of Jesus, Father John J. McEleney, S.J. It was written in Latin, and Father again was charged with disobedience, and again his appeal of conscience was ignored.

Two days later, on April 28th, the first Center couple scheduled to be married, after the interdicting of the Center, were refused the Sacrament of Matrimony. The banns for their marriage had been read in church, and all the requirements had been fulfilled. To their great distress, and the distress of those who loved them and had come to witness their wedding, they were told they could not be married. Their disappointment was so keen that Mr. Fred Farrell asked permission to telephone the Chancery Office and speak with the Chancellor, Monsignor Walter J. Furlong.

“I understand, Monsignor,” he said, “that it is by your orders that marriage is denied this Center couple. The Archbishop’s decree on the Center as published in the newspapers (and that is the only notice of it we have been given) mentioned the two Sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist only. We have, as you know, appealed this to the Holy Father and the Holy Office. Are our people to be unable to marry, in the meantime?”

“Until you come up here and submit, and renounce St. Benedict Center, I do not care to have a discussion with you.”

“Our friends cannot be married today, Monsignor?”


“But this was not in the promulgation against St. Benedict Center.”

“Then I promulgate it now.”

“Over the telephone? But you can’t do that, Monsignor!” There was no reply. Monsignor Furlong was no longer listening. The bridal party, so full of joy a short time before, walked sadly out the door of the rectory.

That evening, Dr. Maluf and Mr. Philip Gammans set out for Washington, to see the Apostolic Delegate, His Excellency, the Most Reverend Amleto Giovanni Cicognani. They took the night train, and arrived in Washington on the morning of April 29th. They went immediately to the Archbishop’s residence, and were received by his secretary, Monsignor Carroll, who took their names and asked them to wait in a side room. He knew who they were, and had read about the “Boston Heresy Case” in the newspapers.

Monsignor Carroll brought back word that Archbishop Cicognani would not see Dr. Maluf and Mr. Gammans, but that they might leave a message with him for the Archbishop.

“We would be most grateful if we could see His Excellency”, Dr. Maluf said. “We have come on a long journey to talk with him, at a time when we are upset and need very much to talk with the Holy Father’s representative in our country. Is there no hope at all that we might see him, if only for a few moments?”

“I’m afraid not”, Monsignor Carroll answered. “You have, as I understand it, written to the Holy Father yourself. This is the right of every Catholic, when a question of doctrine is concerned. Was there something further you had in mind?”

“There are several things further. Yesterday the Sacrament of Matrimony was refused to two members of our school. There was no mention of this Sacrament in the promulgation against us. This new measure was promulgated suddenly over the telephone yesterday at the very time our students were to have been married. We would like to make a statement of this and other things to Archbishop Cicognani for submission to Rome. We would like to have some word on it from His Excellency. We have been fighting to uphold the dogmas of our Faith, and have been unable to secure a hearing on these doctrines from any of our local superiors.”

Monsignor Carroll was sorry. It would not be possible to talk with the Apostolic Delegate. The very best thing to do would be to write him a long letter and tell him the whole story that way, and that could be done from Boston as well as from Washington.

Philip Gammans and Fakhri Maluf looked around the coldly beautiful room and into the face of the monsignor before them. They realized the Pope’s vicar was on the floor just above them. Someone upstairs had addressed him, and his voice was heard at the head of the stairs in answer. The Center men had travelled all night, hundreds of miles, to get Archbishop Cicognani’s word, whether approving or disapproving. They had been fighting what they believed to be the Pope’s cause, and they had come to the Apostolic Delegate for the paternity which had been refused them at home- to him because he was the direct representative of the Father of Christendom. They were finding, instead, the same legal aloofness, lack of simplicity, absence of candor; the same political caution that prevailed in Boston.

“Yes”, they told Monsignor Carroll. “We can go back to Boston, and we can write a letter. Thank you for your time. Good-bye, Monsignor.”

They caught the next train, and reached the Center that night, a little before midnight. The following day they wrote a very long letter to His Excellency, Archbishop Cicognani, giving him the history of the work of the Center, the events leading up to the dismissal of the four teachers by the Jesuits, the silencing of Father Feeney, and the interdicting of St. Benedict Center. The letter closed:

“We wish to emphasize that this most serious and most drastic action, endangering the prestige, the good name, and the very existence of our school, our magazine, and our apostolic work among students was done without any investigation, without any determination of our side of the question, was done without ever allowing St. Benedict Center a hearing or a defense. It is publicly known that the only reason which motivated the Archbishop in his action is our profession of doctrines defined by the Church, and which, for considerations of a temporal nature, Archbishop Cushing is anxious to keep unprofessed.

“It is very clear to us as a matter of conscience that no measure on the part of the Archbishop could deprive us of our right and duty to profess our Catholic Faith in its entirety, and our absolute loyalty to our Holy Father, the Pope. Since, as Your Excellency knows, our doctrinal issue is being considered by the proper authorities at the Vatican, we are appealing to you to use every power at your disposal to remove the effect of the proclamation of the Archbishop which has placed several Catholic institutions in jeopardy and endangered the livelihood and the happiness of many families of the faithful until the underlying doctrinal issue is definitively settled by our Holy Father, the Pope.

“We are Your Excellency’s faithful servants in Christ.

(signed) Philip Gammans,

Fred Leonard Farrell,

Temple M. Morgan,

George O. Favreau,

Howard Cannon,

for Saint Benedict Center.”

After a month had gone by and we had received no answer to this letter, Dr. Maluf telephoned the office of the Apostolic Delegate, in Washington. He was again referred to Archbishop Cicognani’s secretary, Monsignor Carroll, who told him that a letter had been sent by His Excellency to St. Benedict Center. Dr. Maluf assured him that we had not received it, and Monsignor Carroll said he would see that a copy of it was mailed to us. In the meantime, he added, he could reiterate a portion of the letter which was to the effect that Archbishop Cicognani had not answered at once since he hoped that we would have reconsidered our position in relation to our legitimate ecclesiastical superiors.

“We explained to you, Monsignor,” Dr. Maluf replied in dismay, “that it isn’t a question of our being unwilling to deal with our local superiors. They have consistently refused to give us a hearing. Now they tell us they will listen to us only when we come to submit, but on all things else they will have no discussion with us. Were we to submit, that submission would be considered by everyone as a doctrinal yielding. It would be a denial of what we know to be the defined dogmas of the Church. Would His Excellency wish us to do that? Which of these infallible dogmas does he wish us to deny?”

“I cannot go into a discussion of that over the telephone”, Monsignor Carroll answered. “I will see that His Excellency’s letter is forwarded to you.”

The letter arrived in a day or two. It was its follows:

United States of America

3339 Massachusetts Ave.,
Washington 8, D.C.
May 17, 1949

Mr. Philip Gammans
13 Arrow St.
Cambridge 38, Massachusetts

Dear Mr. Gammans:

I wish to acknowledge the letter of April 30, 1949, signed by yourself, Mr. Fred Leonard Farrell, Mr. Temple M. Morgan, Mr. George O. Favreau and Mr. Howard Cannon, as the Board of Directors of St. Benedict’s Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

I did not answer this letter sooner as I wished to secure further information and because I hoped that in the meantime you might find reasons to reconsider your position in relation to your legitimate ecclesiastical superiors.

In reply to your letter I wish to state clearly that I am without power to act in the case as the entire matter is now reserved to the Holy See. The decision of the Ordinary of the Archdiocese of Boston stands and your letter is being forwarded to the Vatican.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

(signed) A. G. Cicognani
Archbishop of Laodicea
Apostolic Delegate

P.S. This is an exact copy of the letter sent to Mr. Gammans on May 17th, 1949, and is being sent on June 1st, 1949, at the request of Dr. Maluf.

(signed) D. M. Carroll

A great deal had happened to us by the time this letter reached us. We were finding out every day how lightly doctrine was protected in the Church in our time; indeed, how little doctrine seemed to matter. As we were called on for courage and strength in our own defense of dogma, we came to realize we had but one source from which we could be sure of support and warmth and love in our fight. That source was the Eternal Father, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The fierce need we had felt in the beginning for the comfort and sustenance of our ecclesiastical superiors in America grew less, as we came to know that whatever fire they had had for the Faith was there no longer. We had grown to expect nothing, and so Archbishop Cicognani’s letter was not a disappointment to us. We had come to look for our strength entirely from within ourselves. When we have received support from without, in these last six months, we have been deeply grateful. But we no longer expect it.

The newspaper comment at this time was interesting. The New York Times for Monday, May 2, 1949, carried the following:

Papal Bull Quoted
On Salvation Issue

Word of Boniface VIII in 1302
Held by Dr. Bonnell to Back
Ousted Catholic Teachers

“A papal bull, Unam Sanctam, issued by Pope Boniface VIII in 1302, was quoted yesterday morning in a holy communion meditation by the Rev. Dr. John Sutherland Bonnell at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church at Fifty-fifth Street, as apparently supporting the position of the Roman Catholic lay teachers dismissed recently at Boston College.

“Three were members of the college’s faculty and a fourth taught in an affiliated high school. The Very Rev. William L. Keleher, S.J., president of the college, declared that they had been teaching ‘ideas leading to bigotry and intolerance.’

“The teachers said they had objected to having students at the college taught that there may be salvation outside the Roman Catholic Church and that a man may be saved without submission to the Pope and without acknowledging the supremacy of the Roman Catholic Church among churches.

“The papal Bull quoted by Dr. Bonnell as ‘one of the most important of all papal declarations,” reads:

“‘Now, therefore, we declare, say, determine and pronounce that for every living creature it is necessary for salvation to be subject to the authority of the Roman Pontiff.’

“‘This papal Bull, so explicit, so definitive, has been made a part of the Roman Catholic canon law,’ Dr. Bonnell said. And, in the light of this declaration, it seems that the dismissed lay teachers have some very powerful documents to quote on their side.

“Protestants are especially impressed by the explanation given by Father Keleher, president of Boston College.

“Discussions within the Roman Catholic Church as to who can be saved outside its boundaries, are, of course, of interest to Protestants, since we compose the majority of the people concerning whom the controversy has arisen.

“Protestant interest in this question is largely theoretical, however, since millions who profess the Reformed faith will sleep just as soundly in their beds at night, even if it had been decided by the Roman Catholic hierarchy that they are all doomed to utter darkness…”

Father Feeney had received still another letter from Father McEleney, on April 30th, asking him to come to the Provincial’s Residence on May 3rd, to answer questions with regard to his “long standing disobedience”. Father replied to this letter on May 2nd.

May 2, 1949.

Very Rev. John J. McEleney, S.J.,
Loyola House,
Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts

Dear Father McEleney:

I have repeatedly conveyed to you in previous letters that I have a very grievous matter of conscience, which matter you have consistently refused to respect.

I can now say that I believe that you personally are in heresy, and that your policy is one of persecution of those who profess the Catholic Faith in its entirety, and I am convinced that submission on my part to any commands or precepts proceeding from you in my regard can only lead to the scandal of souls who would be in any way touched by your influence.

I am now proceeding to appeal to Father General for a determination of orthodoxy between you and me, and I will not be able to have any further contacts with you until the decision of Father General is known.

Yours sincerely in Christ,

Leonard Feeney, S.J.

Father then wrote to the General of the Society of Jesus.

St. Benedict Center,
23 Arrow Street,
Cambridge, Massachusetts
May 2, 1949

Very Rev. John Baptist Janssens, S.J.,
General of the Society of Jesus,
Borgo Santo Spirito 5,
Rome, Italy.

Your Paternity:

I am shocked at the way the appeal to you of the Boston College teachers has been handled. It has meant a scandal to the Faith in this country and my silencing as a priest, and the leaving of me totally unprotected by my Order, while fighting to protect our Holy Faith. I beseech you to investigate at once the orthodoxy of Father McEleney, his dealings with Bishop Wright and Harvard University, and also the orthodoxy of the men he has put in power in the New England Province.

If Your Paternity does not do this it means the ruin of the Faith in this country, due to the negligence of our own Order. Every detail of my supposed disobedience will be explained to you when this doctrinal issue is settled.

I am your faithful son in Jesus and Mary.

(signed) Leonard Feeney, S.J.

That afternoon Evelyn Uberti came to see us. Evelyn’s experience at Emmanuel, the college to which she transferred after her resignation from Radcliffe, had proved similar to that of the boys who had transferred to Catholic colleges. She told us about it again that afternoon.

“I transferred to Emmanuel in order to get certitude and the Faith”, Evelyn told us. “Instead, I found secularism, liberalism and confusion. My religion course was so liberal I was obliged to drop it, or spend my time taking issue with the professor who, by the way, is also professor of philosophy at St. John’s Seminary, in Brighton. I hope St. John’s is not confused as Emmanuel on the subject of salvation, the way Father Meehan teaches it. Doris Coulombe, who has been trying to defend the doctrines on salvation with me, told me that Father Meehan spent the entire religion period today talking on salvation. He now says that Father Feeney’s theology is correct. However, there are two views on the subject, ‘the rigid and the lenient’. He himself prefers to take the latter- at least until it has been defined one way or the other. A student offered the objection that the doctrine had already been defined, but Father didn’t take any notice of her. It’s a state of complete confusion, and all the students know that the last place in the world to find confusion should be in the doctrines of the Church. The faculty won’t discuss it, and they have warned the students not to talk about it with Doris and me. It’s too bad. I wish there were something we could do about it.”

Evelyn Uberti and Doris Coulombe found there was something they could do about it. On May 19th, their final examinations over and their Commencement invitations ready for mailing- two weeks before they were to receive their degrees- they came to St. Benedict Center and told us that they were resigning from Emmanuel College and refusing to take their degrees. Their academic caps they placed on the altar of the Infant Jesus of Prague, and their gowns they hung in the Center closet. The next day The New York Times, of Friday, May 20, 1949, had this to say of it:

“Cambridge, Mass., May 19 (UP) — The ‘heresy’ dispute that resulted in the discharge of three Boston College instructors and the silencing of a Jesuit priest recently, flared anew tonight when two girl students at Emmanuel College resigned and refused to take their degrees.

“Miss Evelyn J. Uberti, 22 years old, of Waltham, Mass., and Miss Doris Coulombe of Brookline, Mass., both seniors, said Emmanuel was teaching the same doctrine that caused the previous dispute, that there is salvation outside the Roman Catholic Church.

“‘I’ve known in my mind for some time that Emmanuel was teaching heresy,’ Miss Uberti said, ‘but it wasn’t until recently that I realized that if I accepted my degree I would be supporting their teachings.’

She said she and Miss Coulombe had submitted their resignations to Sister Helen Madeleine, dean of Emmanuel and told her they didn’t want the degrees they were scheduled to receive June 7th.

“Miss Uberti, who headed the dean’s list at Emmanuel, said she transferred there last year after three years at Radcliffe College. She said she knew of the ‘heresy’ before the Boston College dispute broke out, but that the stand of the three discharged instructors led her to believe she should publicly profess her faith.

The Boston Post, for Saturday, May 21, 1949, carried the following story:



Leave Boston College
and Holy Cross
in Dispute

“Revelation that four Boston College students and a Holy Cross student have resigned from their classes within recent months because of what they termed teachings ‘contrary to true doctrines,’ was made last night.

“The five men, now enrolled to classes at St. Benedict Center School at 23 Arrow St., Cambridge, made the disclosure after two Emmanuel College students submitted written resignations to Dean Sister Helen Madeleine.

“The former Boston College students include Thomas Mulcahy 21, of 10 Grove St., Lynn, a sophomore student in the Greek honor class who resigned in January, and Joseph Roche, 21, of 90 Putnam Ave., Cambridge, also a sophomore, who resigned after four Boston College instructors had been discharged for alleged teaching of heresy.

“Others were Raymond Karam, 23, of 90 Putnam Ave., Cambridge, a student in the graduate school at the time he resigned in February, and Brendan McGovern, 20, of 52 Allegheny St., Roxbury, a sophomore, who said he quit the institution in September, 1948, because he was opposed to the teaching that there is salvation outside the Catholic Church.

“Robert Colopy, 22, who was a senior at Holy Cross College, said he resigned in February because his beliefs differed from those taught at the Worcester institution. Colopy would have received his degree next month.

“Since tendering their resignations, the five men have been regularly attending classes at the Cambridge centre on which a ban was placed against the attendance of lectures by Catholics by Archbishop Richard J. Cushing. The ban was placed on the centre after the Rev. Leonard Feeney, S.J., was relieved of his priestly functions by Archbishop Cushing.

“Evelyn J. Uberti, of 15 Richgrain Ave., Waltham, and Doris M. Coulombe, of 1382 Beacon St., Brookline, both 22, submitted written resignations to Emmanuel College yesterday. Both girls were members of the senior class and were to be graduated on June 7.

Evelyn Uberti and Doris Coulombe asked to be registered in the Center School for the summer term. Doris, who had been engaged to Tom Sennott for over a year, planned to be married on July 2nd. She sat in on the Center classes during the day, and went happily on with her preparations for her wedding.