One of the purposes of this book is to make a filial and loving appeal to the American Catholic Bishops. It is to entreat them to go back to teaching us once more the dogmas of our Holy Faith as they were given to the Church by Our Lord, Jesus Christ, through His Apostles, and as they have been taught throughout the ages.
The story of St. Benedict Center and its fight for doctrine is told in The Loyolas and The Cabots, the account of the Boston Heresy Case. Many who have read this book have written or telephoned the Center to ask what has happened to us since the day in 1949 when our story ended in The Loyolas and The Cabots. Many have said, too, that they wish I had written at more length on the doctrines which are the basis for the controversy in the so-called Boston Heresy Case.
And so, as well as being an appeal to the Catholic Bishops of America, this book is a statement of our doctrinal position, put in the simple form a layman is bound to write in, with, perhaps, the added advantage of a year more of study. We have had a good deal of time in which to study, during the two years we have been cut off from the world. We live, it might almost be said, in a little Catholic ghetto.
These past two years have been ones not only of study, but of persecution — unbelievable persecution. However, persecution has never been known to hurt the Faith. It has hurt us, it is true, but this has been pain which has purged our souls, as it healed them.
We have had rich blessings from the Blessed Mother of God. She has given us a deeper knowledge of her Son and His Church. We have been able to defend her against her enemies, on Boston Common. When Archbishop Cushing interdicted us — which by the way is a different penalty from excommunication, though no Boston Catholic knew, or was told, how to distinguish this — the crowds which used to flock to St. Benedict Center began to diminish. We realized then that it was time for us to go out into the highways and the byways, and we selected as our highway the central mall on Boston Common. Every Sunday afternoon, rain or shine, Father Leonard Feeney and the boys of St. Benedict Center are to be found professing their Catholic Faith from this spot on the Common.
We have had an inestimable blessing, during these past two years, in the company and inspiration of a brave and devoted priest — in a battle against odds so overwhelming that were we to stop to count them we would be overcome with fear for him. We have never had fear, thanks be to God, either for Father Feeney or for ourselves. Somehow, Our Lady has always sustained us. We even seem to borrow from her at times, for weak and poor and harassed and little as we are, every now and then, like our Queen, we actually feel “terrible as an army set in array.” We seem to sense her anger at the murderous things being done to her Son in the world. Her vast sadness fills our souls, and it is on those moments that we think our voice could reach to the ends of the earth. We know from what her anguish stems.
And so we have had no personal fear through all the things that have happened to us as a result of our teaching that it is a defined doctrine of the Catholic Church that there is no salvation outside it, nor without personal submission to our Holy Father, the Pope. We have taught that this dogma, like all defined dogmas, must be taken to mean literally just what it says, and that it cannot be interpreted in such a way as to change its meaning. Such a change would constitute heresy.
At the end of this book, for those who have inquired and those who are interested, I will give, in as much detail as I am able, the story of what we are doing at present.
Each of us has had, along with the sufferings which befell us as a group, some personal renunciation to make in the way of family and old friends. These renunciations have, in almost every case, been heartbreaking and hard. One of our members, a gentle and sensitive girl, had to face the knowledge, as she sat with us in the Cambridge Criminal Court, that we were there: the first time because of the trumped-up malice of her father; and the second time because of the equally trumped-up malice of her mother.
One of the miscreants we discovered sitting in the courtroom with us, but inside the enclosure provided for those whose nocturnal adventures are, for the most part, alcoholically inspired, was Jeff, a harmless and lovable old character who lives in our neighborhood. It is impossible not to like old Jeff, in spite of his shortcomings. He has an ageless, shaggy look, and whenever he sees Father Feeney coming, he whips off his hat, snaps himself into what would pass, with him, for attention, and begins to recite — the Hail Mary.
This morning of which I speak, Jeff spotted Father, sitting amongst us in the courtroom. His eyes became sheepish, and his face flushed. He sat up, very straight. And there, on the lapel of his coat, the same as on ours, was the medal of Our Lady of the Bowed Head which Father Feeney had pinned there one morning when Jeff had come to tell him his troubles.
We all saw it at once. Father Feeney’s face lit up. There came into his eyes love for his elderly child across the room in the enclosure. Jeff felt it, and when finally he pigeon-toed out, as is his way, he chose the exit close to where Father was sitting. He did not look up as he passed, nor did he speak, but he eloquently rubbed, with the end of his shabby sleeve, the little medal on his coat lapel. The tragedy of our being there went out of our hearts. We were light-hearted and joyous again. We had no reputation to lose. That had been lost long ago, for Our Lady. And we knew, no matter how futile it proved for us to try to tell our story in a court or before a board, Our Lady would this time, as always, protect us.
The matter which brought us on this particular morning to the Cambridge Criminal Court was more serious even than our case before the Supreme Court of Massachusetts. We had pleaded before the Supreme Court that our G. I. Bill be not taken away from the veterans attending our school. St. Benedict Center School had had without question the approval of the State Board of Collegiate Authority for nine terms. When we publicly defended a defined doctrine of the Catholic Church that there is no salvation outside it, and we were, as a result of this defense, placed under religious interdict, our G. I. Bill was first threatened, and then finally taken away from us.
We were in the Cambridge Criminal Court because our enemies had found a way at last to violate the privacy of Father Feeney’s home, through the city officials of Cambridge. The pretext was a letter (our lawyer called it a “poison pen letter”) which was written by a woman whose husband had tried to use the city offices against us just a year before. She complained that Father’s house is old (it is on the edge of the slums, but the Center boys, by their own labor, have reinforced it). She listed the doors which open in, instead of out (she was worried about fire, so she said). She recounted the bathing facilities (she did not know there were none when Fakhri and Mary Maluf first found the house, three years before, during Cambridge’s housing shortage, and that most of Father’s neighbors have no bathrooms or hot water).
She built up her story, against a harassed, persecuted Catholic priest, silenced and smeared in the newspapers of the world for Catholic doctrine, without a fair hearing or a real chance to defend himself. She built up her evidence, purported to have been obtained from a man Father Feeney had shortly before befriended. And finally she stated that, way in the recesses of the old house, so she was told, Father Feeney was privately — saying his daily Mass.
That is why we sat that morning in the Cambridge Criminal Court. We had refused, from such malevolent testimony, to allow an inspector to enter Father Feeney’s home.
It is true that ten years ago, at St. Benedict Center, we were not talking as strongly upon doctrine as we are now. We were, at that time, as a matter of fact, unaware of many things which we are painfully aware of now. Father Leonard Feeney then was the well-known and greatly loved Jesuit poet, essayist, lecturer and teacher. Every priest and nun in this country and in England knew and admired his writings. The nuns used them in the schools. His earlier poems the children were taught to memorize. His essays, stories, and later poems were studied by students in secondary schools and Catholic colleges.
Father Feeney’s mother and father have told me that no matter where they were traveling, in the United States or in Europe, in the course of the journey some person they met was sure to ask:
“Are you Father Leonard Feeney’s parents? Your son’s books have given me many pleasant hours.” Or, “Will you tell Father Leonard that I met a fellow on a train once who was a double for his Charlie Maloney, in Fish on Friday?” Or, “Say, Mr. Feeney, the school master in my home was the image of the old master your son tells about in Skheenarinka!”
Once, in California, a young priest carne in Father Feeney’s room and asked him if he would come over to the sick-bed of his mother. She was dying, the young priest said, and all her life she had prayed that when she was dying Father Feeney would be with her, to say for her her favorite poem.
Father actually stood at the bedside of his unknown friend, and in the presence of her priest son and her nurse, he recited, to the very end, the poem of his which she loved so much. It was.
Angela died to-day and went to Heaven;
We counted her summers up and they were seven.
But why does that trouble you, unloosened shutter ,
That flap at my window in the wind’s wild flutter!
Angela’s eyes to-night are cold and dim ,
Off in the land of song and Seraphim.
But what does that mean to you, O creaking stair,
And mice in the wall that gnaw the plaster there!
Angela’s little hands are folded white,
Deep in the meadow, under the starry night.
But why should an ugly gnat keep finely whining
Around the candle-flame beside me shining!
And never again- and never again will she
Come running across the field to welcome me.
But, little sheep-bells, out on the distant hill,
Why, at this hour, do you wake and tinkle still!
And not any more- alas!- and not any more,
Will she climb the stairs and knock at my lonely door.
But, moaning owl in the hayloft overhead,
How did you come to know that she was dead!
This took place in Los Angeles, California, in the Hospital of the Holy Angels.
Father Feeney entered the Jesuit Order when he was seventeen years old, from his home in Lynn, Massachusetts. He had two younger brothers and a sister. His two younger brothers became priests, also, one a Jesuit and the other a secular priest. Father’s mother and father are still living, thank God. They have both been a source of strength and joy to us during what would have been, for most parents, a time of humiliation. They have suffered with us, but always gallantly and nobly. They were taught “our” doctrine as children, and they never doubted our cause was any other than that of the Blessed Mother of God, for the protection of the Church of her Divine Son.
After he had made his Jesuit studies in America, Father Feeney was sent to England and France for further study. When he returned to the United States, he taught in the Graduate School at Boston College, and from there he was sent to New York, to be Literary Editor of America, the national Jesuit weekly. Father spent four years in New York, writing, editing, lecturing — part of the intellectual life of a great city.
Cardinal Hayes, of New York, was his friend, and so was Monsignor Lavelle, the Vicar General of the Archdiocese. Father gave the course of sermons for Advent, in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He lectured to Catholic audiences in New York, and from there was sent off for lectures all over the country.
He confessed, however, to being; lonely for parish work, such as he had done in Manchester, England, while he was studying there. And so he found a small apostolate for himself among the taxicab drivers, in New York City. These friends have never left him. They have remained faithful to this day.
Father found work to do also among college students. His message to both groups was exactly the same. It is Father Feeney’s message to everybody: the Holy Catholic Church for salvation; the Son of God in the Holy Eucharist for adoration; and Mary, God’s Mother, for our Mother.
This is Father’s message today, at St. Benedict Center. (Father Feeney came to Weston College from New York, and to St. Benedict Center from Weston College.) His message has never changed. He gave it in New York, made notable conversions by it, and was praised and admired. He gives it in Boston — very much stronger, I grant, for the times have grown more evil, but the same message nevertheless — and now he is punished for it. He is silenced, and St. Benedict Center is put under interdict. But it is the same message.
There is one difference, it is true; a very significant one. Father Feeney preached this same message, and we all preach it, at St. Benedict Center, in challenge to the godless teaching of Harvard University. Father Feeney made many conversions at Harvard College, and a number of students resigned from Harvard as a result of these conversions. Now this is a serious thing to bring about, in the most powerful university in America, even though a Catholic priest is ordained for just such a purpose. A Catholic priest is ordained to save men from the occasions of sin, and from all that threatens their eternal salvation.
Archbishop Cushing and Bishop Wright, finally, were invited, on separate evenings, to Harvard, for dinner. Influential Harvard Catholics, anxious to preserve social prestige for the Church, exerted pressure in the right places. And so Father Feeney, when Archbishop Cushing and Bishop Wright were out at sea on a pilgrimage (both had promised us a hearing should anything threaten us), was transferred out of the diocese, to Holy Cross College, in Worcester, to teach English.
Another Jesuit, despite our protest, was assigned to St. Benedict Center. He was to get out of our heads what Father Feeney had put into them. He was to preach, by manner and by doctrine, a message less embarrassing to Harvard College and to social liberal Catholics than the blunt, honest, unequivocal doctrine of Jesus Christ, for which the martyrs had died and the saints suffered.
We prevailed upon Father to give us his protection by remaining with us, at least until we were given the hearing which Archbishop Cushing and Bishop Wright had promised us. We convinced him that he was in conscience bound to remain with his children in a doctrinal crisis of such serious nature.
Father remained with us, knowing full well that it might mean the sacrifice of everything in his life that he held dear: his reputation as a completely devoted and zealous priest; the love of little children who knew him through his poetry; the apostolate of his writing; the comfort, in their last years, of his parents; and service in that Society which he had entered thirty-four years before. He offered it all to the Mother of God, and she accepted it. Father remained with us, and in Holy Week of the same year, the whole thing came to a head. Four courageous and strong Catholic teachers, Fakhri Maluf, James Walsh, Charles Ewaskio, and David Supple, were dismissed from their positions at Boston College and Boston College High School for teaching the defined doctrines of the Church that there is no salvation outside it, nor without personal submission to our Holy Father, the Pope. The Boston Heresy Case, so-called, went out all over the world.
And so we come back to where we started. This book is written to make a filial and loving appeal to the American Catholic Bishops. It is to tell them that we are worried because they seem to be so busy establishing their reputations as good Americans that they do not have time to maintain the dogmas that preserve our Holy Faith. We have even come to wonder if they know the doctrines. It appears that the Holy Father may be wondering about this, too. He as much as said so, in his encyclical, Humani Generis, released on August 21, 1950, when he declared concerning his sons, the Bishops:
43: Some reduce to a meaningless formula the necessity of belonging to the True Church in order to gain salvation. . . .
44: These and like errors, it is clear, have crept in among certain of our sons who are deceived by imprudent zeal for souls or by false science. To them We are compelled with grief to repeat once again truths already well known and to point out with solicitude clear errors and dangers of error.
It is no particular virtue on the part of Cardinal Spellman of New York, Archbishop Cushing of Boston, or any of our Bishops, that they are good Americans. That is to be expected of them. We would, however, say that we have no need of their leadership in politics. Men have been duly elected, from President Truman down to the least office holder, to take care of that function for us.
We do have need of the guardianship of our Faith by our Bishops. We have need of their preservation of the Faith for us, exactly as it came from Jesus Christ through His Apostles, with no innovations. That is, with no new additions or interpretations made at the expense of doctrine, in order to appease Protestants and Jews.
Let us take up, first, the question which our American Bishops seem anxious to avoid answering. That question is this: Are those that are saved many, or are they few?
In view of the fact that Catholics are in a minority in America — they are only about one-sixth of the population — for diplomatic or political reasons, our Bishops do not want either to answer or to force this question. But it is one which must be answered if the Gospel is to be preached, and souls are to be saved.
“Are there few that are saved, Lord?” asked a certain man of Jesus.
And Jesus answered — that few are saved.
“Strive to enter by the narrow gate,” He said, “for many, I say to you, shall seek to enter, and shall not be able. . . .
“You shall begin to stand without, and knock at the door, saying: Lord, open to us. And he answering, shall say to you: I know you not, whence you are.
“Then you shall begin to say: We have eaten and drunk in thy presence. . . And he shall say to you: I know you not, whence you are: depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.
“There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you shall see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.” (Luke 13; 23- 28)
Now this is the “gentle Jesus” speaking. Father Feeney, in imitation of Jesus, speaks like this every Sunday on Boston Common. The Liberal Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, listening to him, almost with one voice, cry: “Preach love, brother! Jesus preached love! You are preaching hate!”
Father Feeney’s answer is: “Jesus preached love of His Eternal Father. He did not preach love for those who deny His Word. For these He preached eternal damnation.”
Mary, God’s Mother, whose picture is on the stand behind Father Feeney as he talks, herself admonished the three Fatima children to pray unceasingly, because vast thousands of souls were being lost. She permitted the children a glimpse of hell, in an apparition, and little Jacinta could talk of nothing else, for the short while she lived.
“Oh, if I could only show them hell!” she kept exclaiming. “So many people falling into hell! So many people in hell!”
The doctrines of the Catholic Church become very clear when one has fought and suffered for them. Thomas Sennott, of St. Benedict Center, is one who has had this privilege, and his lectures on the Prophecy of Isaias have brought home to us with what forcefulness God warned of the few who will be saved.
Isaias, the great prophet, who foretold so long before, the coming of Our Lord, and the glorious establishing and perpetual flourishing of the Church of Christ, said the elect shall be as few as the forgotten ears of corn remaining on the stalks after the harvesting. Or as few as the bunches of grapes left on the vines after the pickers have finished their work. Or as few as the olives that remain after the shaking of the olive tree. Or as two or three berries on the top of a bough. (Isa.17;5,6). And again:
Isa.10;19: And they that remain of the trees of his forest shall be so few that they shall easily be numbered, and a child shall write them down.
The Cure d’Ars, a poor parish priest in France, who was canonized by Pope Pius XI, in 1925, used these texts from Isaias in his sermons over and over, in order to help his people to realize how few are saved. He used them not only as applying in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament as well, for all time. As a result, the Cure d’Ars won hundreds of souls to God. Penitents came to him from many countries, and toward the end of his life he was obliged to remain in the confessional almost all of the night and day.
St. Francis Xavier gave up his family and his prestige at the University of Paris, to become the Apostle to the Indies. He said of the Indians, as he prayed for them: “Remember, Lord, how to Thy dishonor hell is being filled with these souls.” Some Priests, in our day, are beginning to drop this sentence of St. Francis Xavier’s from the Novena of Grace prayers. It was a Master of Novices, in a religious order, who first called Father Feeney’s attention to the sudden omission, in the Novena of Grace pamphlets, of St. Francis Xavier’s clear-cut motive for going to the Indies to preach the word of God.
St. Teresa of Avila said once that she saw, in a vision, souls falling into hell like snowflakes. “I think I would lay down a thousand lives to save even one of the men I saw being lost,” she said.
The “golden-mouthed” Doctor of the Church, St. John Chrysostom, writing about the salvation of bishops and priests, said:
I do not speak rashly, but as I feel and think. I do not think that many priests are saved, but that those who perish are far more numerous. The reason is that the office requires a great soul. For there are many things to make a priest swerve from rectitude, and he requires great vigilance on every side. Do you not perceive how many qualities a bishop must have that he may be apt to teach; patient towards the wicked, firm and faithful in teaching the word? How many difficulties herein.
Moreover the loss of others is imputed to him. I need say no more. If but one dies without baptism, does it not entirely endanger his salvation? For the loss of one soul is so great an evil as no man can understand. If the salvation of one soul is of such importance that, for its sake, the Son of God became man and suffered so much, think of the penalty the loss of one soul will entail. If he who kills a man in this life deserves death, how much more the others? Say not then to me: It was a priest or deacon who sinned. The faults of these are imputed to those who elected them. . . .
If then one were to approach to the chief priesthood as an office full of solicitude and anxiety, no one would undertake it. On the contrary, nowadays, we aspire to this dignity as if it were a secular office, for the sake of glory and honour before men. What advantage will this honour bring ? . . .
These words of St. John Chrysostom are just as true in our time. We all know far more priests who are tepid, than priests who are afire for the glory of God. It is almost impossible in America today, as many have said, to point to one single Bishop and say, “There, without any doubt, is a truly holy man.”
St. Alphonsus Liguori, the founder of the Redemptorist Order, in his book Preparation for Death, writes that Our Lord said, of those who have given scandal and robbed Him of so many souls: I will meet them as a bear that is robbed of her whelps. (Os.13;8)
St. John Chrysostom said of the city of Antioch, with its hundred thousand inhabitants:
In our city, among so many thousands, scarcely can one hundred be found who will be saved, for in the youngsters is great wickedness, and in the elders deadness.
St. Augustine compared the Church to a threshing-floor, on which there is much more chaff than grain; more reprobate than elect; more damned than saved. As men lived, he said, so they die.
We know, then, from the words of Our Divine Lord and His Saints that even though Jesus died for all men, few — in comparison with all the inhabitants of the whole world — will dwell with Him in Heaven — by their own choice.
It need not have been so.
We commonly speak of an Archbishop’s “receiving the red hat,” when he is made a Cardinal. The red hat is the distinctive mark of a Cardinal. So also are the scarlet biretta and mantle which he wears. This is the dress of Cardinal Spellman, of New York. If Archbishop Cushing, of Boston, is made a Cardinal, red will be the color of his robes.
This color, red, for the robes of the princes of the Church, was most deliberately chosen. It was chosen because of the solemn privilege and duty which it signifies. The men who wear this color in their dress are reminded, by their garments, that they are to be ready and willing, at every moment, to shed their blood — their red blood — for the preservation and protection of the Faith.
To preserve inviolate the dogmas of the Catholic Church, and to be ready to die for them if necessary, is the duty of Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops. If they do not preserve the Catholic Faith whole and entire for us, so that we may hand it down untouched to our children, they are not good shepherds. And they will, therefore, certainly go to hell when they die — and bring most of their flock with them.
Every priest and bishop is exempt from bearing arms. Priests are not, we are grateful to say, asked to shed their blood in battle. Our country leaves that to its soldiers. The blood of our bishops and priests is reserved for even a higher cause. It is to be shed for the word of Jesus Christ; for His truth. But it is to be shed for that, if necessary.
Now, our worry is not so much that Cardinal Spellman of New York, Archbishop Cushing of Boston, or Bishop Wright of Worcester, seems neither ready nor anxious to shed his blood for the Faith, sad as that is. Our worry is that what they are saying and doing makes of the Church such a pale thing, such a democratic thing, that no one will recognize it as the one true Church of Jesus Christ, or know that it is different in any way from other churches in the United States.
Our worry is that when they get through talking about the brotherhood of man in the Fatherhood of God — with no reference to Jesus Christ and His Mother, and all emphasis put upon the popular slogan “regardless of creed” — there will be no Catholic Church left for anyone, let alone themselves, to shed their blood for. And the number of the saved will be even less than it is today.
There is, in our time, a mistaken idea of the Mystical Body of Christ, and who comprise its members. Now, all men are not the sons of God. All men are the creatures of God. And a creature of God need not be a son of God.
Only those are sons of God who become so by adoption. Adoption is brought about — the adoption papers are passed, so to speak — by the reception of Baptism; and, as soon as possible, of the Holy Eucharist and the other Sacraments. We are, by these Sacraments, put into the state, the only state, in which it is possible for us to be elevated into the life of God. Baptism makes us sons of God. The Holy Eucharist nourishes, sustains, and maintains the Divine Life in us. We are at once sons of God, and children of Mary. We are by adoption — by grace — what Jesus is by nature.
No man is my brother who has not this incorporation in Jesus Christ. We may be members of the same human race, he and I, but we are not brothers. I am the adopted son of God and child of Mary. He is not.
And so our worry, therefore, is that we be mistaken, because of our Bishops’ compromises and interfaith utterances, for the Old Testament dispensation, and not for the one true Church of Jesus Christ, of the New Testament. The Old Testament was the covenant of God the Father with man. The New Testament is the covenant of God the Son. What think ye of Jesus Christ? And of His Mother?
It has been said of our American Bishops that they seem to be seeking personal popularity among Protestants and Jews. This popularity many of them have achieved, as everyone knows. The tragedy, however, is that the price has been the lessening, compromising, and diluting of the Catholic Faith, for themselves and their people. Any priest would have but to go to Boston Common on Sunday afternoon and tell the truth there, as Father Feeney does; he would have but to go around from house to house, office to office, as the members of St. Benedict Center do, to see at once in what an empty shell, in what a doctrineless waste, the Catholic Faith now resides.
While American Bishops are busy with men of other faiths, the basic doctrines which centrally protect the Catholic Faith are being denied and distorted. Catholics have not only been allowed, but have even been encouraged to hold their Faith so lightly that they believe practically everyone, without that Faith, can be saved. They say we have, of course, the comfort of the Sacraments and can congratulate ourselves on a stricter code of morals than those outside the Church, but in the end, it is all the same. Anyone who believes he is going to heaven can do so, provided he sincerely holds — the error to which he is attached!
“But sincerity only makes it the more deplorable,” you try to plead. “A man, reaching for a bottle of medicine, mistakes in the dim light the bottle of poison standing beside it for his medicine, and drinks from this wrong bottle. There is no question about his sincerity. But there is no question, either, about what happens to him. He is just as dead as if he set out to drink the poison in the first place.”
“I don’t care what you say,” is the answer we get to that. “You can’t tell me! I know Protestants who are going to heaven ahead of Catholics.”
“Do these Protestants receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord, in Holy Communion?”
“No, but they don’t believe in It. They live beautiful lives. They never tell lies; they are scrupulously honest. They never talk about other people.”
“They don’t tell lies?”
“Isn’t it a lie to say Our Lord is not truly present in the Holy Eucharist; that the Pope is not the Vicar of Christ; that Jesus was not speaking literally when He said: ‘Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you’?”
“No. For them it is not a lie to say that. It would be a lie for us, but not for them. They do not believe it, that is all.”
“You are talking about Revealed Truth!” we say desperately. “And there is no such thing as Revealed Truth being true for one, and false for another. If it is Revealed Truth, it must be true for everyone in the world. Anyone who interprets it in a way opposite to the way in which Jesus stated it, His Apostles and Evangelists recorded it in the Gospels, and the Catholic Church interpreted and preserved it for twenty centuries, is telling a lie.”
“My friends are saying what they have been taught.”
“They have been taught a lie, then. And it is up to them to discover it — which they will do, if they are really looking for the truth.”
“My friends would die rather than tell a lie.”
“In little things, yes. But in the big Thing that counts, they not only tell a lie, they live one. How can you say any life is truly beautiful — apart from the reception of the Body and Blood of Our Lord in Holy Communion.”
Catholics in our day seem to have lost all sense of the terrible Sanctity of the Revealed Truth of God — of Truth with a capital T. They put Truth about the things of God in the same class as truths about the things of man — truth with a small t.
Anyone outside the Church who is never discovered in a lie about petty things, can always count on a reputation among Catholics as a saintly upholder of the truth. His whole life may be a denial of God’s Word; he may in no way conform to God’s Truth. This makes no difference. The Liberal Catholic will award him heaven because he has honesty in passing things.
The Church teaches that never is it right to tell a lie of any kind. But it distinguishes between lies which are venial sins, and lies which are mortal sins. Lies which are mortal sins, cut the soul off from the friendship of God, and leave it in mortal darkness. Should the person committing a mortal sin die without the remission of it, he would be damned for all eternity. This is not true of lies which are venial sins.
A lie can be at once the most trivial offense it is possible to commit against the law of God, and again the most heinous and blasphemous. To lie about the number of biscuits you had for breakfast, or the number of spoons of sugar in your coffee, is trivial enough. To lie about the number of Persons in the Blessed Trinity, or the number of natures in Jesus is a blasphemy against the truth of Revelation for which one will have to pay in terms of eternal damnation.
And that a Catholic could ever feel that refusal, on the part of anyone, to receive the Holy Eucharist could be compensated for by a scrupulous telling of the truth in little things, an honesty with regard to money, or a refraining from gossip, good though these things are in the moral order, is a blasphemy beyond description. Nothing in the whole world could compensate for the receiving of one Holy Communion. It is the difference between life and death.
The only Church which preserves the Holy Eucharist, with the safeguards Our Lord left for Its protection, is the Holy Catholic Church. Of this one true Church, Our Lord said, in the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew (28;20):
. . . Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.
There can be but one Church, even as there can be but one Truth. No one denies that the Catholic Church is the one Church founded by Jesus Christ on Peter, the first Pope, and that it has come down, in the unbroken succession of Popes, straight from St. Peter to Pius XII, in our day.
We do not say that all Catholics get to heaven. But we do say that they are on the right road to heaven, and that if they stay on this road, and observe its rules, they will surely get there. As Father Feeney often has explained:
I do not say that being in the Catholic Church alone saves you. I say that it is a condition without which you cannot be saved. If you just go over and stand on the road to New York, you won’t get there. You have to go along the road. But, if you get on the wrong road to New York, it does not make any difference whether you go along it or stand on it. It is just the wrong road.
The Catholic Church is the Church in which Jesus Christ abides in the Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of His Love. It is also the Church where, since she is never found apart from Him, Mary, God’s Mother, is sure to dwell. Indeed, it is the place where every day she is loved and venerated.
Ignoring these ineffable Realities, Catholics in our day award heaven to Protestants and Jews for performances required even of any good Boy Scout. A Boy Scout must be pleasant, be thoughtful of others, be always smiling, never lose his temper, never say unkind words, never speak ill of another, must select his speech with careful precision. A polite sociologist recently made a fortune selling just such a code in more adult patterns in a book on how to make friends and influence people — not for the glory of God and love of Our Lord and His Mother, but for the speedy securing of personal popularity, prestige, power and money.
In the old days, when Catholics had the Faith, they recognized a saint as a man who, instead of wooing the world, disdained it; who, instead of accumulating money, gave it away; who, instead of fawning on and flattering the rich and powerful, excoriated and warned them; who, instead of seeking personal glory, shunned it. In our day, this ideal — which is no more than the following of Christ — is completely lost sight of.
“How can you talk this way?” a little Irish woman asked me? “Why can’t you show more loyalty to the Church, and be quiet?”
“Loyalty to the Church means doing what we are doing,” I tried to explain. “What you are asking is that we be loyal to bishops and priests who are preaching love of themselves and not love of Our Lord and Our Lady; who are weakening and watering down and losing the Faith for us all. It is cowardly to be politic and polite, cautious and not courageous in such a terrible time. Better to speak out now, in the hope of reaching some souls somewhere, than to wait until another war is upon us and an atom bomb blasts millions into hell. Someone has got to say that more are damned than saved, and now is the acceptable time! You should hear what St. Anthony of Padua preached to the people about the priests and bishops of his time.”
“St. Anthony of Padua!” she answered, “that gentle little man? He’s the humblest one of them all. I never think of him until I’ve lost something, and then he answers me right away; never holding it in for me that I forgot him in the meanwhile. He would not have the strong talk you have.”
“You just listen to him!” I said. And I read to her some sermons of St. Anthony.
St. Anthony of Padua is known for having preached to the fishes, and was the heavenly finder of lost articles. For neither of these accomplishments was he made a Doctor of the Church, but for his learned and strong writings, and his still stronger sermons. These last, few people know about. St. Anthony was called the “hammer of heretics.” He preached to great numbers, sometimes as many as twenty or thirty thousand. Like all the saints, he was scathing in his denunciation of heresy, and sin, and weak leadership — even when he had to openly to rebuke the hierarchy for their part.
Once St. Anthony was invited to preach at a synod at Bourges, in France. There was a very well-known prelate present, Archbishop Simon de Sully, who was a close friend of the King and the Pope. At the end of his sermon, St. Anthony turned to the Archbishop, and said severely, “And now I shall speak to you, O Mitred One!” Before all the gathering, he accused and upbraided the Archbishop for his lack of the virtues necessary, and to be expected, in a leader of the Church. He converted him, and no one was more grateful than the Archbishop.
When abuses needed attacking, St. Anthony did not know the meaning of fear. It never occurred to him to keep silent, or to make evasions. Famous preachers who listened to him — and who had not his love of God and His Mother or his singleness of purpose in serving Them — shivered at his boldness.
This is what St. Anthony said, in a well-known sermon on Saints Peter and Paul:
He is an idol (the priest neglectful of his flock), because he has hands for heaping up riches, but not for soothing the scars which remain from Christ’s wounds. He has feet which he employs in going forth to better his housing and to demand his tribute, but not in taking him to speak God’s Word. The praise of God is not heard from his lips. What is there in common between the Church of Christ and such a rotten image? . . .
Thus the wolf, who is the devil, scatters the flock, and the thief, who is the heretic, makes off with it. . . Tell me, ye priests, is it in the prophets or in the Gospel, in the Epistles of St. Paul or the Rules of St. Benedict and St. Augustine, that you find these disputes, these lawsuits, these intrigues for transitory and perishable things?
“What do you think of that for strong language?” I asked my friend when I had finished reading to her this sermon of St. Anthony’s. “You never knew St. Anthony was like that, did you?”
Her answer almost made me give up. “Oh,” she said airily, “but he was a Saint, a long time ago.”
In the fall of 1937, Father Leonard Feeney gave the Advent Course of sermons in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York City, in the presence of Cardinal Hayes. One Sunday morning, before Father went into the pulpit, newspaper reporters approached him, and asked:
“What is to be the topic of your sermon today, and what is its message, Father?”
Father replied, “Boys, there is not one single thing I have to say in my sermon this morning that will even remotely interest you as newspaper reporters. I am going to talk about the necessity of Sanctifying Grace so as to get into the Kingdom of Heaven, and the means whereby it may be obtained. I have nothing to say on politics, or the European situation. I have no sociological message, or even an economic report to the nation. What you had better do is to say: ‘Father Feeney preached this morning at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Sanctifying Grace, and as far as we know, all went well.'”
This evidently intrigued the reporters, and, without Father Feeney’s knowing it, they went around and sat in the congregation to listen to him preach. Spontaneously, in the midst of his sermon, Father said:
“Sanctifying Grace is given to each man, not merely to save him, but to make him a saint; to give him salvation in the fullest sense of ‘Be ye perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.’
“And by the way,” Father Feeney remarked, entirely impromptu, “it is about time we had some saints in the United States. It is not because we cannot get Sanctifying Grace to make them. We hear lots about St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony of Padua, and St. Therese of Lisieux. How about a St. Barbara of Brooklyn, a St. Helen of the Bronx, and St. Robert of Jersey City?”
The newspapers next morning came out with the caption:
PRIEST WANTS AMERICAN SAINT
SUGGESTS ST. HELEN OF THE BRONX
ST. BARBARA OF BROOKLYN
Time Magazine picked up the story. St. Francis, St. Knute, and St. Joyce — for Father Francis P. Duffy, Chaplain of the Fighting 69th Regiment; Knute Rockne, the football coach of Notre Dame; and Joyce Kilmer, the poet who wrote “Trees” — were the first candidates who came to the mind of the Time reporter when an American saint was proposed.
“Far be it from me,” Father Feeney said, “to depreciate Father Duffy as a kindly priest, Knute Rockne as a crack football coach, or Joyce Kilmer as a lovable poet, but they are about as far away from what I intended as I am, myself.”
Father Feeney has, fourteen years later, lost his reputation as a preacher and a poet, a writer and a teacher. He has been defamed and calumniated, smeared and persecuted, because his defense of the doctrines of the Catholic Church was not pleasing to a politically-minded and timid hierarchy. He still feels that what the United States needs is an American saint. That is what he preaches, now more than ever, to the courageous men and women who have followed him into exile.
Catholics in the United States have been given, for religious education, the Baltimore Catechism, and nothing else; not even the Bible. We have been left in ignorance, for the most part, of the Faith and its history. What we have gleaned from the Catechism about the doctrines, and from novena pamphlets about the saints, we seem to have sealed in a section of our minds, and labelled: The Past. That either the doctrines or the saints could still prevail in the twentieth century, Catholics for the most part refuse to consider.
When, like the horn of the Apocalypse, the Boston Heresy Case sounded the untaught doctrines of the Church on salvation out over the world, American Catholics were annoyed and shocked. The majority dismissed them, like examination questions:
1. No Salvation Outside the Catholic Church. Answer: Something the Church held for barbarians, if it held it at all. It has no possible reference to the saintly people we know as Protestants.
2. No Salvation without submission to the Pope. Answer: You could hardly ask that of people today, could you?
3. No Salvation without devotion to Mary. Answer: Shhhhhh! there’s a place for everything, and everything in its place. Devotion is all right (for us), but Protestants and Jews would not understand. They would not like it. And we have to keep peace, so we can fight the Communists.
4. The Fathers and the Doctors of the Church. Answer: Never heard of them. Name one; I might know him.
5. The Saints. Answer: We need a different kind of saint today.
6. Few there are that are saved. Answer: I could not love a God who was not merciful. And I do not believe a merciful God would send more people to hell than to heaven. If I have to believe that, and that there is no salvation outside the Church, in order to be a Catholic, then I guess I am just not a Catholic.
Comment: If the Church or our country feels that the kind of Catholic portrayed in this last answer will make a good fighter against Communism or any other threat, they are mistaken. At some point, such a person will be equally certain to say about his country: “Then I am just not an American.” Whoever has strong instincts for God, is bound to have strong instincts for everything else to which he owes service.
It has been God’s way, both in the Old Testament and in the New, to punish not only the leaders, but the people as well, when weakness, laxity, and error crept into His fold. Because they had made to themselves gods of gold, God caused to be slain in one day twenty-three thousand Israelites. And the Gospel explains that:
Exod. 32;35: The Lord therefore struck the people for the guilt on occasion of the calf which Aaron had made.
The people are responsible for knowing the truth themselves, and of being aware when their shepherds are not teaching the full truth. Just as no man would deny that he is responsible for his own salvation, so also would he not deny that God has given him equipment enough for knowing when he has heard the truth and when he has not. God’s grace is not lacking to anyone who will accept it, and the mind is made for truth, not for error.
Every Catholic knows, for instance, that when a Jewish rabbi, who denies the divinity of Christ, and a Protestant minister, who doubts it, get on a stage with a Catholic priest, who agrees to forget it for the evening (in the interests of mutual brotherhood), something is wrong. In the Catholic’s heart of hearts he knows it.
When the leading voices extolling the national slogan: “regardless of creed” belong to our priests who every morning are heard in that other, and most sacred, cry — just before the Canon of the Mass:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth. Holy, holy, holy, Lord, God of Hosts. Heaven and earth are full of thy glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord. . . .
— every Catholic knows something is wrong.
And that knowledge makes every Catholic responsible. Christ, carrying His Cross, did not say to the women of Jerusalem when He met them, bewailing and lamenting Him: “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep for the high priest and the priests who have let this awful thing be done, and have despoiled you of your spiritual heritage.” Rather, He said to them — who were apparently so innocent and grieving:
Luke 23;28: Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not over me; but weep for yourselves and your children.
There is only one bishop in the world who cannot make a mistake in doctrine; who cannot teach error. And that is the Bishop of Rome, the Holy Father. For us, that Bishop of Rome is Pope Pius XII.
The Bishop of Rome can make a mistake — unless he is speaking under certain conditions. These conditions are: (1) when he is speaking “ex cathedra” (from the Chair of Peter) ; and (2) manifests his intention of defining a doctrine of faith and morals officially for the whole Church. At such a time, the Pope’s teaching is infallible, that is, at such a time he is assisted, watched over, by the Holy Spirit so that he does not use his authority and his knowledge to mislead the Church.
There actually have been times in the history of the Church when the Pope, speaking unthinkingly and from his first hasty judgment (and not ex cathedra), has erred in a matter of doctrine. Pope John XXII made just such a mistake once, and it was the people who discovered it, and called it to his attention. He investigated the matter, acknowledged his misconception, and corrected his statement. Father Mourret tells the story:
Pope John XXII preached very often in Avignon churches. In the course of a sermon delivered on All Saints Day, he said that the souls of the blessed departed would not enjoy the full sight of God until after the general judgment. Although this opinion had been maintained by some of the Church Fathers, yet the general teaching of theologians was against it. . . The whole group of the “Spirituals” shouted “heresy!” The University of Paris was disturbed. Philip of Valois, king of France, and Louis of Bavaria, emperor of Germany, thought it proper to interfere, and, according to one chronicler, even to threaten. According to Villani, Philip of France threatened to inflict on the Pope the punishment reserved for heretics.
Pope John at first could not restrain his anger, and went so far as to imprison a Dominican friar for contradicting his view. But, after gathering an assembly of cardinals and learned theologians, he gave up his opinion. Shortly afterwards, on his death-bed, he publicly retracted the doctrine he had uttered, not as head of the Church, but simply as a private theologian. This great Pope lived after the manner of a simple monk, governing Christendom from a modest cell. (Italics ours.)
It has sometimes shocked simple people to know that it is possible, even for the Pope when he is not speaking ex cathedra, to make a mistake in doctrine. However, that this should be so with regard to the Popes, seems to us more beautiful than otherwise. Jesus did not, in our Popes, promise us Vicars who were not human. The first Pope, St. Peter, was the most attractively human of all the Apostles.
Peter’s love was always betraying him into some humiliating situation. Seeing Jesus walking upon the sea, Peter, in his love, would have nothing but that he should go to meet Him, and show his enormous faith. Casting himself from the boat, he set out on foot across the water, became frightened, began to sink, and had to be caught up from under the waves by Jesus, to Whom he was crying out for help with all his might.
When the mob came out to seize Jesus, Peter struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Jesus told Peter to put his sword back into its scabbard, this was not the time for such action. And He healed the ear of the servant.
Peter protested that should the whole world be scandalized in Jesus, he never would deny Him. And he wore furrows into his cheeks from weeping, through all the rest of his life, for his three denials of Jesus on that very night of this avowal.
That Jesus should permit Peter, with his great, generous, impulsive heart, along with his boastful weakness, to be so portrayed for us in the Gospels — and at the same time to announce that it is upon this same Peter that He plans to build His Church is at once the most touching evidence of trust in us and the most revealing credential of Emmanuel, God with us. No merely human ruler could afford such honesty, or such trust. Ballyhoo and pomp, settings for a superman, surround the presentation of worldly heads of government. Hitler or Mussolini could never have stood up under such an introduction as Peter’s. Even the stammering presence of England’s George VI is somehow covered up in the background of Queen Elizabeth’s poise and the fanfare of slim young princesses.
The Catholic Church, with the simplicity and candor of Christ, explained, in the Vatican Council of 1870, that the Pope gains his knowledge just as any other man does. The Pope’s knowledge, we are told, even when he is speaking infallibly, is not infused into him by God. Infallibility does not by any means do away with the necessity of study and learning. It simply, under certain conditions, guarantees that the conclusions drawn from study and learning are free from error. The Pope is guided by the Holy Spirit when he is defining ex cathedra so that he does not use his authority and his knowledge to mislead the Church.
The Pope, therefore, is infallible only when he is speaking ex cathedra. Bishops, Archbishops, and Cardinals are never individually infallible. They can, and often have, made mistakes in doctrine. The majority of the Bishops in England left the Catholic Church for Henry VIII’s Church of England, at the time of the Protestant Reformation. The people of England were, among other names, called Episcopalians, precisely because they followed their Bishops — the Latin name for bishop being episcopus. Most of Germany became Protestant when its Bishops and priests followed Luther into heresy. Sweden and Denmark, Norway and Holland were lost in the same way.
The Catholics who followed their bishops and priests into heresy, in these countries, were punished by God. The people, as well as their leaders, were condemned. The Church tells us this when she teaches that we can have no hope for the eternal salvation of those who died heretics as a result of following their bishops and priests into Protestantism. The Church holds that this was misguided and sinful obedience. The people should have withstood the false doctrines. What is more, they should have admonished the heretical shepherds who were leading them astray.
How, it will be asked, could the people possibly know the truth under such circumstances, if their bishops and priests did not know it? The answer is that their bishops and priests did know it — just as they now know it — but they deliberately chose heresy over truth for many reasons. They chose it because (1) they were attached to their comfortable and rich livings, and did not want to give them up; or (2) because they were poor and wished to be rich, and this was one way to accomplish that; or (3) they wanted power, or prestige, or, what is sometimes even worse — popularity. And (4) in any and all events they did not truly love Jesus Christ and His holy Mother.
But how could the people know, even granted all this of their bishops and priests who went into heresy? How could the people, in a time of such confusion, know that they should not trust their shepherds? Surely doctrine is a territory in which their trust in their bishops is rightly established. Was it not beautiful and touching that they should obey? And is the Church not brutal to teach that we may not hope for the salvation, at least of the people who followed their leaders into heresy?
The answer is that even a child can tell when its parent is not telling the truth! God never leaves a soul without sufficient grace to recognize the truth, especially where its own everlasting salvation is concerned, and especially with regard to Eternal Truth. There was, in the experience of each one of us, a time when we calmly examined the teachings of our parents and teachers, and decided what portion of it was wise in our estimation, and what portion of it was not wise; in what way we would do things differently, if only in such simple matters as running a house.
It is the richness and wisdom in a parent’s or teacher’s instruction that a child is willing to receive, not the bare substantials of it. Every child knows when a parent is doing wrong, or a teacher is telling a lie. Let me see any father try to induce his child to believe that his drunkenness or wife-beating is praiseworthy, because it is parental example. Let me see any teacher tell a child that two and two are six, or that there are more moons than one in the sky, and hear how far the child can be led astray.
A priest who tells his parishioners, or a bishop who tells his subjects, how precious Jesus, Mary, Joseph, or the Blessed Eucharist are, or how august is the dignity of the Pope, will be believed; and will have the love and support of his listeners who are of good faith. But just as soon as a priest or a bishop tries to dispense with Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the Blessed Eucharist, or the Pope, even the dullest member of his congregation or his diocese knows that he is teaching heresy. There is a point beyond which the people cannot be deceived, even by those they are disposed to love and honor, as they are their bishops and priests.
Everybody in the Archdiocese of Boston, for example, knows, in his heart, that there is no quicker way to rub out Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the Blessed Eucharist, and the Pope, than to say that there is salvation outside the Catholic Church. Neither Archbishop Cushing nor Bishop Wright — nor Cardinal Spellman — by evasive statements or scandalous science, can for very long mislead true Catholics into thinking that this country is not thoroughly infected with heresy.
The following chapters of this book will show how the quickest way in the world to rub out the Blessed Sacrament, Our Lady, St. Joseph, and the Holy Father is to say that there is salvation outside the one true Church instituted to preserve them. But even if no book were written, Catholics everywhere would still be responsible for knowing the truth and keeping the Faith.
Many times, in the history of the Church, the people have actually been the ones inspired by the Holy Spirit with regard to the true Catholic doctrine. For example, the Immaculate Conception of Our Blessed Lady was believed in the early centuries of the Church, although it was not defined. The writings of St. Ephrem alone prove this to be true. When, in later centuries, this doctrine came to be doubted, it was the people, and not the theologians, who affirmed Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception. The people held processions in the streets, proclaiming it. It was their insistence that sent the theologians back, again and again, to examine the Holy Scriptures and the Tradition of the Church, until they at last discovered what the people all along had known, from their simple faith, and had never doubted.
When the Blessed Virgin Mary was called the Mother of Christ, but not the Mother of God, by Nestorius, the Patriarch of Constantinople, in 428, it was the people who immediately rose up in protest. They marched through the streets in torchlight procession, and angrily stormed the episcopal residence shouting: “We have, indeed, an emperor, but no bishop. We have no bishop!”
Our Lord says, in the Sermon on the Mount:
Matt. 6;21: For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.
If the Faith is our treasure, and our heart is really in it, we will see that thieves do not break through nor steal it. We will guard it as our pearl of great price, which it is. And if we are not on guard at all times — as men are over worldly treasure — we will lose it. But we deserve to lose it, if we hold it so lightly, and we deserve to dwell, for that same reason, for all eternity in the depraved impoverishment of hell.
There have been thieves of all kinds in history; thieves of all kinds in Holy Scripture. There was the “thief who came in the night”; the Samaritan who “fell among thieves.” There was the bad thief, on the Cross beside Jesus. There was even the good thief, who stole heaven. But the worst thief of all time, for whom there is no honor even among thieves, was Judas. Judas was one of Christ’s chosen twelve. Jesus chose him, not only to be one of His Catholic priests, but to be one of His Bishops, as were all the Apostles.
And Judas turned out to be a thief. He sold that which was not his — the life of Jesus. It is shocking that this could happen to a bishop in the highest consistory of all, that of the twelve Apostles. But it bears a moral for us: Let us watch out that other false bishops do not, like thieves in the night, snatch from us the eternal life of our souls.