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Our Divine Saviour commanded His apostles: "Going, therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in
the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," adding that "He that believes and is
baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be condemned." Since then the Church has never
lacked heroic men and women who have taken this command literally, despite the suffering and
hardship involved, sacrificing even their lives for the love of God and the salvation of their neighbor.
At the present time the need is greater than ever to form apostles who will make known the simple
truths necessary for salvation, while opposing the humanistic and masonic ideas spewed out by the
devil on the world today. We pray that Mary Immaculate will show her compassion on the world by
forming many such apostles, who shall with the pure intention of the glory of god and the salvation of
souls, go wheresoever the Holy Ghost shall call them leaving behind them, where they have been,
nothing but the gold of charity which is the fulfillment of the whole law.

The Center achieved immediate success, filling, as it did,

the spiritual vacuum created by an obvious deficiency in
the neighboring academic institutions. It was attended in large and ever-growing numbers.
In 1942 the well-known and loved Jesuit, Father Leonard Feeney, became associated with the work of
the Center, counseling students, lecturing, and eventually
becoming-by general demand and by appointment from his
superiors and the Archdiocesan authorities-the spiritual director of
Saint Benedict Center.
The eldest of three brothers who had entered the priesthood, Father
Feeney, at forty-five, was already famous. He was acknowledged
by his colleagues as a pre-eminent theologian. In fact, his
Provincial Superior in the Jesuit Order, Father John McEleney-
later to become Archbishop of Jamaica-once referred to him as...
"the greatest theologian we have in the United States, by far." His
appointment to direct the Center apostolate, therefore, was
received universally with joy and gratitude.
Under Father's guidance the influence of Saint Benedict Center
continued to grow. As was inevitable, however, the simple
Catholic affirmations being taught there began to clash with the
atheistic trends of thought at the universities in the vicinity-notably

Harvard. Students-a number of them from influential families-began to defend the Faith and protest
against teachings contrary to it. Some, especially those converted to Catholicism through the Center,
went so far as to withdraw from their respective academic institutions. Predictably, such actions caused
no little upset, both to the universities and to many of the students' families.
Nonetheless, with such a mission and against such odds, the Center gradually became an institute of
studies of intense interest to a growing number of men and women, who sought to be educated entirely
by it. As the students studied the Catholic Faith more deeply, they became aware of the dogma-namely,
"Outside the Church there is no salvation"-the displacement of which had made Catholic liberalism
As the late Father Denis Fahey has reminded us. "Satan wants men to forget that there is one true
religion." The message of Saint Benedict Center, therefore, was bound to run into opposition.
It was amid those circumstances that Saint Benedict Center became a religious congregation taking as
its name "The Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary" (Mancipia Immaculati Cordis Mariae). The
date of this important development is January 17, 1949, when all those who were then lay members of
the Center bound themselves by a vow to the doctrinal crusade. The words of the co-founder, Catherine
Goddard Clarke (henceforth to be referred to as Sister Catherine, M.I.C.M.), explain the reason for this
common dedication.
"We were beginning to realize the character of the battle before us, not only for the preservation of the
sacred dogmas of the Church, but actually for their restoration. It was to prepare ourselves by prayer
and discipline, and to secure graces enough to enable us to face such a battle, that we became a
religious order."

The History of Saint Benedict


Described as colorful, talented, devoted and controversial, Father

Leonard Feeney holds a unique place in 20th Century Catholicism.
Throughout his 50 years of priestly service, Father Feeney taught and
defended the Catholic faith with apostolic fervor. As poet, essayist
and lecturer he entertained as he taught. As preacher he warned with
prophetic zeal.
Most people know Father Feeney as the principle figure in a storm of
doctrinal controversy back in the 1940s and into the early 1950s. He
is known as the priest who taught that there is no salvation outside the
Catholic Church. And most people are under the impression that he
was excommunicated for his stubborn profession of faith.
The mixing of fact and fiction, truth and misrepresentation has
clouded Father Feeney’s story throughout the years. It is our hope that
this presentation will clarify and bring to light the story, the issues – the man and his mission.

In 1940, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a Catholic woman named Catherine Goddard Clarke founded,
“Saint Benedict Center.” It was located in Harvard Square, in the shadow of St. Paul’s Church. The
Center provided Catholic literature, discussion groups and lectures for students attending non-Catholic
universities in the area.

Soon after it’s founding, the well-known Jesuit, Father Leonard Feeney, became associated with the
work of the Center. Father Feeney had already achieved notoriety as a popular author, poet, and
speaker. From Lynn Massachusetts, he entered the Society of Jesus in 1914 and was ordained in 1928.
His two brothers also became priests, one a Jesuit and the other of the diocesan clergy.

After completing graduate studies at Oxford, Father

Feeney quickly rose to prominence in the United States as
one of the Jesuit’s foremost intellectuals and theologians.
His book Fish on Friday, sketches and stories on Catholic
themes, became a national best seller in 1934. From 1936
to 1940 he served as literary editor for the Jesuit magazine
America. As a popular speaker, Father Feeney was often
called upon to preach, to give retreats and lectures. NBC
Radio aired a series of his talks on the Catholic Hour.

Under Father Feeney’s direction, Saint Benedict Center

attracted many students especially from Harvard and
Radcliff. It is not surprising that his Thursday evening
lectures drew overflowing crowds. The students, Catholic and non-Catholic had found something
unique at the Center: clear refutations of the slanted secularism taught in the neighboring academic
institutions; and solid, eloquent presentations of authentic Catholic doctrine.

Hundreds of conversions, religious vocations, and good Catholic marriages were the tangible fruits of
Father Feeney’s preaching and personal direction. Both Archbishop Cushing and the Jesuit Provincial
superior, Father John McEleny, publicly expressed their appreciation for the exceptionally good work
being done at Saint Benedict Center.

The wheels of activity at Saint Benedict Center continued in full motion during World War II. The
Church was apparently thriving as never before.
The Allied victory, however, brought with it new concerns about international issues of vital
importance. The first use of weapons of mass destruction and the alarming spread of atheistic
communism challenged the modern world.
At Fatima Portugal, in 1917, Our Lady had made urgent requests for reparation and for the
consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart. If not heeded, she had warned, God would punish the
The punishments came - World War II, the annihilation of nations – the spread of communism
throughout the world - all precisely as Our Lady of Fatima had foretold.
In the Marxist assault on religion, innumerable Catholics were imprisoned, tortured and martyred for
their faith. In Europe, in the Far East, wherever the Communists launched their revolutions, the pattern
was the same… terrorism, the persecution of the Church and the exaltation of atheism.

Anti-Communist sentiment in the United States was strong but not as strong as might have been
expected. The foundations for Marxist ideology – materialism, secularism and atheism – were alive and
well in the U.S., especially among American liberals.
Universities throughout the country - from Berkley to Harvard - had become the seedbeds for atheism.
The anthropology of Darwin, the philosophy of Hegel, the psychology of Freud and the sociology of
Marx had become well entrenched in American higher education. These Godless “evangelists” of the
New Age proclaimed the autonomy of man in every aspect of his private and social life. These were the
very same doctrines that had brought on Nazism and the War… and now the spread of Communism.

The work of Saint Benedict Center became all the more intense, all the more necessary at this time. The
Catholic faith was the answer, the remedy for the morbid and destructive doctrines of atheism
threatening the world.
Following the war, Father Feeney and his associates at the Center were determined to give the
challenge of Christ – not only to students – but to any one willing to listen.

In September 1946 they published the first issue of a quarterly magazine, From
the Housetops. With the approbation of Archbishop Cushing, the periodical
presented the thoughts of many distinguished Catholic writers. The Archbishop
himself contributed several articles.

The more clearly the Center taught the full, uncompromising message of the
Catholic faith, the more converts Father Feeney received into the Church.
Many were the students from influential families who became Catholics and
resigned from their respective schools to protest the anti-Catholicism taught
there. The grandson of New York financier, J.P. Morgan, for example, attended
lectures at the Center and eventually came into the Church in the spring of
1947. Soon after, he resigned from Harvard just weeks before commencement.
Tension between the Center and the secular schools in the area began to mount. America’s elite had no
intention of allowing their sons and daughters to be influenced by Father Feeney. With powerful allies
at Harvard, they established contacts with Archbishop Cushing and the Jesuit Provincial. Their
objective: to remove Father Feeney from Saint Benedict Center.

The Center soon began to encounter opposition from where it least expected it. Auxiliary Bishop John
Wright informed Father Feeney that there were complaints against Saint Benedict Center – issues
involving, first, the students who left their colleges, and second, certain articles in From the Housetops
that supported the teaching “outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation.”

The Center, in a word, had become controversial; prominent Catholics in Boston were embarrassed,
and Archdiocesan authorities were not pleased.

Peaceful co-existence had become a longstanding tradition for Catholics in Boston. William Cardinal
O’Connell had virtually wiped away the prevailing controversy between Catholics and non-Catholics
of the 19th Century. His successors in the Archdiocese were determined to keep the status quo.


Catholicism in Boston had become more and more conspicuous for its total lack of doctrinal
affirmation. Most of the students who left the secular schools of prestige and enrolled in Catholic
colleges were sorely disappointed. They were searching for the truth. But instead of receiving the clear,
uncompromising message of the Gospel and the infallible teaching authority of the Church defining,
defending and preaching the truth about salvation, they found themselves submerged in the vague,
totally compromising message of Liberalism.

At Boston College, the Jesuit institution, where both faculty and students of
Saint Benedict Center were active - one priest during a fundraising
campaign made the amazing statement: “You know that Boston College is
for all denominations. We do not proselytize here. Students come to Boston
College from all religions, and nobody bothers them about their beliefs.”
Loyolas and Cabots, p.90

Well-entrenched Liberalism had been perfecting and teaching its system of

compromise for centuries. The most odious church teaching, in the mind of
a Liberal, is the truth that only in the Catholic Church can salvation be
found. Liberals, through a misdirected sense of compassion, by their own
verdict have come to the conclusion that there must be salvation outside the
Catholic Church. Notwithstanding the clear teaching of Sacred Scripture and the definitive teaching of
the Church – according to some, there still have to be exceptions to the rule.

The necessity of the Church for salvation has been taught repeatedly in solemn definition:

Pope Innocent III - Lateran IV – 1215

“There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside of which no one at all can be saved.” Denz.

Boniface VIII - Unam Sanctam - 1302

“We are obliged by our faith to believe and to hold that the Church is one, holy, catholic, and also
apostolic; We firmly believe in her, and we confess absolutely that outside of this church there is
neither salvation nor the remission of sins… Furthermore, we declare, state, define and pronounce that
it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.”
Denz. #468,469

Eugene IV - Council of Florence – 1441

“The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes, and preaches that none of those existing
outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a
share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire ‘which was prepared for the devil and his
angels,’ unless before death they are joined to Her…” Denz. #714

The only alternative to authoritative teaching is ultimately no authority at all. The mind that refuses
assent to the things revealed by God is blown to and fro “by every wind of doctrine” – by opinions
drawn for the most part from sheer human sentiment.

The extent to which the denial of the doctrine on salvation had plummeted, the extent to which opinion
and sentiment had replaced revealed truth, was clearly demonstrated by the Jesuits at Boston College.

One priest made these remarkable statements in class:

* “It is possible for any man to be saved outside the Catholic Church.”
* “Any man who would say that there is no salvation outside the Church is a heretic.”
* “If you say that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church, you are a heretic and cannot save
your soul.”
* “The Catholic Church never defined or even suggested that there is no salvation outside it. No Pope,
no Council, no Doctor of the Church ever taught that no one can be saved outside the Catholic
* “Not only is it possible to be saved outside the Catholic Church, it is even possible to be saved while
being an enemy of the Church and actively fighting against it.”
* “Saint Paul was not sinning while persecuting Christ and His Church.”
* “The teaching that there is no salvation outside the Church applies exclusively to Catholics who have
personally left the Church.”
* “When a Pope or Council defines, or when a Doctor of the Church says that there is no salvation
outside the Church, the meaning of this statement depends on what is meant by the Catholic Church.”
* “Baptism is not necessary for salvation.”
* “Many people who are totally ignorant of Christ and His Church can be saved because their
ignorance excuses them and confers on them baptism of desire.”

How far the sons of St. Ignatius had strayed from the teachings of their own Doctor of the Church, St.
Robert Bellarmine! In refuting the Protestant denial of the necessity of Baptism, Bellarmine wrote, “…
those who imagine that there is another remedy besides baptism, openly contradict the Gospel, the
Councils, the Fathers, and the consensus of the Universal Church.”

Just thirty years prior to the controversy in Boston, Pope Benedict XV (1914-1922) had emphasized the
importance of teaching the truth without compromise. During World War I he stated:

“In the midst of the present upheavals, it is important to repeat to men that by her divine institution, the
Catholic Church is the only ark of salvation for the human race... Accordingly, it is more reasonable
than ever to teach that the truth which liberates, not only individuals, but societies, is supernatural truth
in all its fullness and in all its purity, without attenuation, diminution or compromise in a word, exactly
as Our Lord Jesus Christ delivered it to the world.” Kingship of Christ and Conversion of Jewish
Nation, p.6

Teach the truth “exactly as Our Lord delivered it to the world” – this is just what Father Feeney and
Saint Benedict Center were attempting to do in the 1940s. But it became painfully clear that the
deterioration of Catholic doctrine and the undermining of authoritative Catholic teaching were to be
aided by the policy of expediency.

Although already assigned to Saint Benedict Center, Father Feeney was suddenly ordered by his

superiors to relinquish his position in August 1948, shortly before sessions for the new academic year
were to begin.

Though the actual reason was never openly stated, Father Feeney was being ordered out of Saint
Benedict Center — ordered out of the Archdiocese of Boston — precisely because the doctrine on
salvation was too controversial for American pluralism.

For an entire year (Sept. 1948 - Sept. 1949), his Jesuit superiors refused to address the doctrinal issues
raised by Father Feeney. “Legal process” -not the sacred dogmas of the Faith - “was to be the absolute
rule of a priest’s conscience.” Loyolas and Cabots, p.279

Because the salvation of souls and the upholding of the Catholic faith are the first responsibilities of
every Catholic priest, Father Feeney contested this unjust order calculated to destroy the work of the

With much prayer, reflection and counsel, he concluded that the circumstances were serious enough to
delay compliance. A doctrine of the faith was in question. Dogma always supersedes discipline in the
law of the Church. Aquinas, moreover, had taught that to obey in matters that are not lawful constitutes
“indiscreet obedience.”

Once the issues had been brought clearly to light, when he saw the faith under attack – Father Feeney
simply could not leave Saint Benedict Center and abandon the defense of the dogma on salvation.
Father Feeney and all who defend the dogma have the greatest certitude that what they hold is true.
Dogmas are truths revealed by God and taught by the Church. They are not meant to be interpreted but

There was no question here of personal preference but of sacred obligation. No one felt more keenly
than Father Feeney the predicament of being apparently “disobedient.” As a member of the Society of
Jesus, Father had always followed the path of that congregation’s great saints – its founder St. Ignatius,
St. Francis Xavier, St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Peter Canisius and the like.

The Inquisition had vindicated St. Ignatius – Father Feeney was simply asking for a hearing and this
was being denied him. The work of the Center was being done entirely for the love of God and the
salvation of souls. It seemed a pathetic irony that the Center should be faced with opposition from the
very Church it was seeking to defend, from the hierarchy entrusted with the task of upholding the faith.


In April 1949 the controversy came to a head. Four teachers, three

professors at Boston College and one at BC High, were fired for
accusing the Jesuits of teaching heresy, and for reporting this to the
Superior General.

Father William L. Keleher, president of BC, told newspaper reporters

the reason for their dismissal. They were spreading ideas “contrary to

the traditional teaching of the Church” that lead to “bigotry and intolerance.”

For publicly defending the teachers, Father Feeney was silenced by Archbishop Cushing and the Center
placed under interdict. Appeals to the Archbishop, to the Jesuits and to Rome received no response.

On September 3, 1949, four months later, The Pilot, the Archdiocesan newspaper, carried the headlines:
“Holy Office* Condemns Teaching and Actions of St. Benedict’s Center.” (*Now the Sacred
Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith)

The article announced that Archbishop Cushing received a letter from Rome, bearing the signature of
His Eminence Cardinal Marchetti-Salveggiani. This letter, it was said, answered the “opinions and
contentions of Saint Benedict Center.”

Only parts of the letter from the Holy Office were reprinted in The Pilot. Archbishop Cushing
immediately sent notices to the parishes and religious houses throughout the archdiocese commanding
silence on the matter. There were to be no sermons or even conversations about the doctrine. This was
indeed a rather strange “decree” from Rome and an even stranger one from the archbishop. Rome had
supposedly passed final judgment on a doctrinal issue and no one can talk about it? The full text of the
letter was not published in The Pilot until three years later — in September 1952.

The doctrinal significance of this letter cannot be underestimated. It is frequently quoted as the
“authoritative” statement about the doctrine on salvation. Yet, its non-infallible teaching does not,
because it cannot, nullify the numerous infallible statements previously made on this subject. It is the
classic illustration of a revealed truth being “re-interpreted.”

“Outside the Church there is no salvation” is an “infallible doctrine,” the letter states. “However, this
dogma must be understood in the sense in which the Church itself
understands it. For our Savior did not grant the explanation of the
truths of the deposit of faith to private interpretation, but restricted this
prerogative to the magisterium of the Church.”

There were no “private interpretations” coming from Saint Benedict

Center – but rather the Church’s definitive teaching on the subject. As
for understanding the dogma “in the sense in which the Church itself
understands it…”

*Blessed Pius IX (1846-78) taught that no distinction is to be made

between dogma as it is defined and its meaning. Dogma must be
understood “by the very sense by which it is defined.”

*Vatican I (1869–70) decreed “… that understanding of its sacred

dogmas must be perpetually retained, which Holy Mother Church has
once declared; and there must never be recession from that meaning under the specious name of a
deeper understanding.” Dei Filius, Ch 4

*Pope St. Pius X (1903-14) in the Oath Against Modernism rejected the “development of dogma” as a
change from one meaning to another. “Nothing else is to be believed other than the words,” taught the

pope. The truth is absolute, unchangeable, according to Pope St. Pius X – it “is to be understood in no
other way than by the words.”

The letter also claimed that the Center’s position contradicts the pronouncements of Pius XII
concerning the relationship to the Church of those who are not of the Fold. The reference here is to the
encyclical Mystici Corporis of 1943.

But Pope Pius XII states very clearly that: “only those to be included as members of the Church are
those who have been baptized and profess the true faith.”

Again in paragraph #22, Pius teaches that those “divided by faith or government cannot be living in the
unity of such a body, nor living the life of its one Divine Spirit.”

He concluded his letter with an appeal to non-Catholics – and this is deliberately mistranslated in the
letter to Archbishop Cushing. In addressing those who are not yet members of the Church, Pope Pius
XII declared that the Church desires “nothing more ardently than that they may have life and have it
more abundantly.” He already said those separated from the faith and unity of the Church “cannot be
living the life of its one Divine Spirit.”

“For even though by an unconscious desire and longing they have a certain relationship with the
Mystical Body of the Redeemer, they still remain deprived of those many heavenly gifts and helps
which can only be enjoyed in the Catholic Church.” #103

Though other religions may possess some elements of truth – whether they realize it or not - what they
have of truth rightfully belongs to Christ’s Church, the recipient and guardian of the truth. This may be
enough to establish “a certain relationship” with the Church but nothing more.

The letter to Archbishop Cushing goes far beyond Pius’ “certain relationship.” It describes those
outside the Church as those “who unsuspectingly belong to the Mystical Body by some kind of desire
and longing.”

The letter also states:

Christ “established the church as the sole means of salvation, without which (sine quo) no one can enter
the kingdom of heavenly glory.”

It should be noted that the definitive, infallible teaching is “outside the Church there is no salvation,”
“extra ecclesiam nulla salus” not “sine ecclesiam nulla salus” - “without the Church there is no

The twist assumes that non-believers can be saved, even when they do not renounce their errors or
enter the Church because their sincerity somehow links them to the Church. One little word (sine) is all
it takes to undermine a foundational dogma of the faith.

What Father Feeney particularly objected to was the letter’s affirmation that: “It is not always
necessary that one be incorporated as a member of the Church actually to attain eternal salvation, but it
is required that one at least be joined by wish or desire.” It further states that this “wish” can even be
implicit – that is, somehow present in a person ignorant of the true Church and its teaching.

The Council of Trent clearly teaches the necessity of faith and baptism – that these are the
indispensable means for justification and salvation. These indispensable means are the road to the goal,
the means to the end. This being so, even if you sincerely take the wrong road you cannot arrive at the
desired destination. According to Trent, an implicit desire isn’t even enough to get somebody justified,
let alone saved!

This undoubtedly is not “the sense in which the Church herself understands this dogma.” To pretend
Trent teaches that implicit desire is sufficient for salvation is wishful thinking.

Along the same lines, Modernists were attempting to mystically unite non-believers and partial
believers to the Mystical Body as members of the “Soul” of the Church. This theory of vague
membership attributable to some kind of “spiritual” connection with the Church was spread despite the
clear teaching on the matter by Pope Leo XIII; “Let it suffice to say that, as Christ is the Head of the
Church, so is the Holy Spirit her soul.” Divinum Illud

Again, Pope Pius XII’s Mystici Corporis quotes this passage from Leo XIII and elaborating on it adds
that while the Spirit of Jesus Christ (the Holy Spirit) “by His grace… provides for the continual growth
of the Church, He yet refuses to dwell through sanctifying grace in those members that are wholly
severed from the Body.”#55

He states elsewhere in the same encyclical, “For in one Spirit” says the Apostle, “were we all baptized
into one Body…” 1Cor. 12:13

As previously cited from the same encyclical, it follows that those who are not united by faith and
communion (government) with the true Church “cannot be living in the unity of such a body…” #21

For more on the theological questions concerning salvation see the suggested reading list at end of this


The dogma on salvation has been an integral part of Catholic teaching and Catholic life throughout the
Church’s history. Revealed by God, preserved in Sacred Scripture, taught with infallible authority by
the Church, defended by the Fathers and Doctors…

What more proof do we need, what more proof could we have for the truth of this teaching? This truth
filtered down to the clergy and faithful through the liturgical, sacramental, and devotional life of the

In the Divine Office - every Sunday - the Athanasian Creed was recited:

“Whosoever wishes to be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith…
Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish eternally…”

This was deleted in the revised liturgy.


Every time a convert was received into the Church the “Abjuration of Heresy or Profession of Faith”
was made by the person becoming Catholic:

“I _______, having before me the holy Gospels, which I touch with my hands, and knowing that no one
can be saved without that faith which the Holy Catholic Apostolic Roman Church holds, believes and
teaches, against which I grieve that I have greatly erred…”

This is no longer required.

It was a truth the saints died defending. Saints Peter Mavimenus (Feb 21), Catherine of Alexandria
(Nov 25), Cosmas and Damian (Sep 27) each died professing this doctrine – and because they
professed it.

St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher died for the doctrine that there is no salvation without personal
submission to the Pope.

Many thousands of martyrs gave their lives during the “Reformation” – rather than deny that there is
one true Church – outside of which there is no salvation.

Many thousands of missionaries gave their lives attempting to bring the message of salvation to distant
lands and peoples lead into ignorance and denial of the truth by their ancestors.

The Church officially prayed for the conversion of all not of the fold. Our Lady, Refuge of Sinners, is
implored for poor heretics, schismatics, and all those “miserably enfolded in the darkness of ignorance
and sin, that they may clearly know that the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church is the one true
Church of Jesus Christ, outside of which neither holiness nor salvation can be found…” Indulgence 500
days granted by Pope Pius IX, Raccolta, No. 579

And how quickly, since the “Boston Heresy” case, this teaching was denied and abandoned.

A rather curious fact about the letter of the Holy Office to Archbishop Cushing in 1949 “explaining”
the dogma on salvation – is that it was never included in or listed as one of the Vatican’s official
decrees. These are published in what is known as the Acta Apostolicae Sedis – “The Acts of the
Apostolic See.” The entire text was not printed anywhere until after the death of the writer, Cardinal
Marchetti-Selvaggiani, a few years later.

Nearly ten years later, the letter was inserted into the well-known handbook of dogmatic teaching,
Denzinger’s Enchiridion Symbolorum. The editor responsible for this was none other than Karl Rahner,
S.J., the liberal theologian whose influence on the Church, particularly at Vatican II, is still very much
with us today. Now, thanks to Rahner, the letter to Archbishop Cushing is looked upon as an
authoritative decree.

By slipping it into the Enchiridion, Rahner gave the impression that the infallible, definitive teachings
of popes and councils must be understood only in the light of this letter – a document never
acknowledged by Rome as bearing the authority of an official act, let alone an authoritative


Father Feeney’s attempts to defend himself and the Center were not successful. In his appeal to the
General of the Society of Jesus, John Baptist Janssens, S.J., in May 1949, he reminded his superior of
the scandal caused; what harm was being done by not protecting one of his priests who is defending the
faith. He asked for an investigation of the orthodoxy of the Jesuits directing the New England Province.

A response came four months later, a summons for Father Feeney

to appear before a tribunal, for his dismissal from the Society. The
judge was to be a noted Jesuit canonist from the Gregorian
University in Rome. Father Feeney protested this because he was
clearly being judged for disobedience. The doctrinal issue was
again being scuttled.

He wrote another letter to the General of the Society – a long

detailed account of the dispute.
He again revealed what the Superior surely already knew because
it was part of his policy of expediency:

“I cannot stop repeating that it is totally impossible to understand

and judge the dispute between my Provincial and myself if the
prime factor, the doctrine of the necessity of the Church and of
submission to the Roman Pontiff for salvation, is constantly
neglected and voluntarily ignored,” wrote Father Feeney.

As a professed Father in the Society, Father Feeney asserted his right to refuse to be judged by a
tribunal that had already reached its verdict. Even concerning the purely disciplinary issue of
obedience, due process demanded that Father Feeney’s accusation that his superior was guilty of
tyrannical and unjust government be likewise heard.

Father concluded his letter, “I am perfectly willing to appear before an impartial court in order to
defend myself against the false accusations of my adversaries, if my judges do not persistently try to
ignore the doctrinal controversy, for it is the basis of my so-called “disobedience” and the cause of
everything that has taken place since last September…”

He reminded the General that the controversy had taken place because his Provincial and the
archdiocesan authorities oppose his orthodox doctrines and wish to destroy them. He also reasserted his
position that this is a matter of conscience as a priest and a Jesuit whose first duty is to preserve intact
the Catholic Faith against every innovation and every heresy.
Due process, it was evident, was not going to be followed. Father was dismissed from the Jesuits in
October 1949 for “serious and permanent disobedience.”

Nearly a year later, in August 1950, there appeared Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Humani Generis in
which, without naming the culprits, he addressed the many false opinions entering the Church and
undermining Catholic doctrine. Catholic theologians had been hard at work “demythologizing” the
very foundations of the Catholic faith. In the process, the doctrine of original sin, and all related

dogmatic teaching about man, sin and redemption were consequently being “reinterpreted.”

Of great importance are these statements in the encyclical: “Some think that they are not bound by the
doctrine… (in Mystici Corporis) which teaches that the Mystical Body of Christ and the Church are
one and the same… Some reduce to a empty (meaningless) formula the necessity of belonging to the
true Church in order to attain eternal salvation.”

This is the exact wording Father Feeney had used in a statement to the press when he was silenced –
“theologians today are making the doctrines of the Church absolutely meaningless.” Reporters from
UPI and the New York Times picked it up right away. The Pope was saying the same thing as Father
Feeney. The Holy Father had confirmed the Church’s solemn doctrine, to the great joy and relief of
Father Feeney and Saint Benedict Center. Their elation came to a sudden end, however, when American
theologians began to analyze the Pope’s statements. These self appointed interpreters of the Pope’s
encyclical were soon informing the readers of the American Ecclesiastical Review that the ones who
“reduce to a meaningless formula the necessity of belonging to the true Church” are Father Feeney and
Saint Benedict Center! Sister Catherine in Gate of Heaven answers this absurdity with, “And what is
Father Feeney and Saint Benedict Center saying about the doctrine which makes it meaningless? They
are saying it means exactly what it says.” p. 24

While the encyclical was soon forgotten, the 1949 letter to the Archbishop of Boston was not. Cushing
demanded the impossible - compliance with the letter from Rome even though it had never been
communicated in its entirety to Father Feeney or anyone at Saint Benedict Center.

Shortly after the death of Cardinal Marchetti-Salvagianni and the publication of his entire letter, Father
Feeney received an official communication from Rome in October 1952. Cardinal Joseph Pizzardo of
the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office summoned him to a hearing.

Church law, of course, provides reasonable measures of due process to assure a just resolution of any
judicial case.

Father Feeney responded: “A hearing or trial presupposes some formal complaint or accusation which
serves as a legal basis for the proceedings and which also informs the accused of the charge against him
so that he can prepare to defend himself. Before I can participate in a trial I would like to know with
more adequate particularity what I am to be tried for.”

Cardinal Pizzardo, ignoring this legitimate request, answered by accusing Father of “evading the issue”
and by demanding his immediate presence in Rome and threatening canonical penalties for failing to
do so.

Father Feeney answered with canon law:

#1715 - requires a formal statement of charges against a defendant.
#1723 - states that a non-canonical summons is void.
#1959 - forbids penalties without a trial.
#1842/1843 - require the defendant be informed both of the charges against him and the nature of the

Not only did the Holy Office totally disregard Father Feeney’s rights in this matter, but Cardinal

Pizzardo responded with the threat of automatic excommunication for failing to comply.

At this same time some unknown source either at the Holy Office or in the Archdiocese was informing
the press in the United States about the proceedings – matters strictly confidential in nature. By way of
ironic twist, Father Feeney pointed out in one of his letters to Cardinal Pizzardo that he or whoever was
responsible for the breach of confidentiality could be ipso facto excommunicated… according to canon

Under these circumstances Father Feeney chose not to go to Rome and participate in this obvious
charade. In February 1953, he was declared, “excommunicated” for “grave disobedience” to the

An appeal, an official “complaint of nullity” was sent to Rome in the summer of 1953 to the Secretariat
for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs headed by Msgr. Giovanni Battista Montini, who later became
Pope Paul VI. The “excommunication” – the complaint argued – was uncanonical and consequently
null and void. The “decree” was defective for these important reasons:

- A sentence that is unsupported by a legal proceeding, in which the accused has been notified of the
charges against him, so that he would have an opportunity to defend himself, is void on its face.
- For validity, the judgment of a court must be over the signature of one of its judges, one of the
cardinals on the tribunal, whereas a notary alone signed it.
- The decree lacked the seal of the Holy Office.
- Neither the sentence itself nor a copy was ever transmitted to the accused. Father Feeney heard about
it through representatives of the secular press.

Again, Rome never responded to these objections.

Both his doctrinal position and the authority of canon law undoubtedly protected Father Feeney. No
injustice by those who abuse the authority of the Church could change this. Many of the saints, it
should be noted, were vilified, interdicted, excommunicated, even martyred by those of their own faith.

The press, both Catholic and secular, took up the story and spread the deliberate misrepresentation, the
big lie that has been repeated ever since: “Father Feeney was excommunicated for teaching ‘extra
ecclesiam nulla salus’- and let that be a lesson to anyone else who tries.”

To this day the myth continues. Father Peter Stravinskas, as editor of Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholic
Encyclopedia, allowed this to be published: “From these authoritative teachings, it would seem clear
that there is only one conclusion: anyone who dies without Baptism in the Roman Catholic Church is
condemned to hell. For maintaining exactly this conclusion, however, an American Jesuit, Father
Leonard Feeney, S.J., was first expelled from the Society of Jesus and then excommunicated in the


The story may well have ended with the Center closed and its director apparently excommunicated. But
with rare foresight and courage, Father Feeney, Catherine Clark and their associates, in the midst of the
controversy, formed the religious congregation, The Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Sister Catherine in the Epilogue of

her book, Gate of Heaven (1951)
states that the congregation was
founded in “…January, 1949, three
months before we were disciplined
by our Archbishop for continuing to
profess the defined doctrines of the
Church on salvation… We were
beginning to realize the character of
the battle before us, not only for the
preservation of the sacred dogmas
of the Church, but actually for their
restoration. It was to prepare
ourselves by prayer and discipline,
and to secure graces enough to
enable us to face such a battle, that
we became a religious order.”

Father Feeney and the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary continued to fearlessly teach the faith
“in season and out of season”. For seven years they preached to crowds on Boston Common every
Sunday. Through their publishing apostolate they distributed hundreds of thousands of doctrinal and
devotional books nation-wide.

In 1958 the community moved from Cambridge to Still River. Ten years later, in 1968, Sister Catherine
Clarke died.

In 1972 all the apparent censures were lifted from Father Feeney, without his having to retract any of
his teachings. Had he been, as some say, “condemned for his doctrine” he would have been required to
repudiate his error. The reason for this is clearly stated by Pope Innocent I who taught that
“Communion once broken off cannot be renewed until the persons concerned give proof that the
reasons for which communion was broken off are no longer operative.”

On January 30, 1978, Father Feeney died, a Catholic and a priest in good standing, united to the Church
from which, he rightfully claimed, he never had been separated.

Father Feeney’s legacy lives on. In the turbulent years following Vatican II, The Slaves of the
Immaculate Heart of Mary retained their steadfast adherence to the traditions of the faith, in particular
the Tridentine Latin Mass and the dogma “no salvation outside the Church.” Under Mary’s protection,
the congregation was preserved from the devastation that has plagued the post-conciliar era.

The last 25 years have been highlighted by constant growth and development at Saint Benedict Center.
The Brothers and dedicated lay associates have completed major building projects made necessary by
the increasing interest in the Center’s apostolate. The complex in Still River includes a beautifully
ornamented chapel, a school, workshops, print shop, bookstore and houses for the religious.

The Order’s multifaceted mission has also made significant advances. Evangelization remains a vital
part of the Congregation’s work. The From the Housetops publication, with its uncompromising
Catholic message and its attractive format has become a favorite for traditional Catholics throughout
the country and abroad.

In addition to publishing, the order offers a program of adult religious education. The classes present a
complete over-view of the Catholic Faith through the study of Sacred Scripture, Church history,
theology, spirituality and Catholic current events.

Elementary, intermediate and high school education continue to be another indispensable facet of the
congregation’s mission. Immaculate Heart of Mary School, grades one through twelve, established in
1976, is in effect an extension of the order’s missionary work.
The school claims a sacred function: to make known the
authentic teachings of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic
Church; to provide an excellent curriculum in which the subjects
are presented in the light of the truth; and ultimately, to send
forth academically qualified graduates, who most importantly are
knowledgeable and responsible members of Christ’s Mystical

The Congregation’s commitment to Catholic youth extends also

to its summer camps, Morning Star Camp for girls, under the
Sister’s direction, and the Brother’s Camp Montfort for boys.
Each provides one week of wholesome activities and religious
instruction for Catholic children, nine to seventeen years of age.

The Center each year draws more Catholics who wish to share its
rich liturgical and educational life. Faithful supporters have come
to regard the Center as “an oasis” of Catholic tradition. A Third Order has been established to provide
the laity with the opportunity to participate in the community’s spiritual and apostolic endeavors. Third
Order spirituality also rests on St. Louis de Monfort’s total consecration to Mary. To help members live
their consecration they are encouraged to sanctify themselves by means of the daily morning offering,
the Angelus, and the family Rosary. The Brown Scapular and the Miraculous Medal are also
recommended devotions and in keeping with Our Lady’s requests, the First Saturdays are faithfully to

be observed. Fulfilling these basic requirements, Third Order members have at hand the easiest, surest
means of sanctifying and uniting their families. They may also actively participate in the Center’s
apostolic works by praying and sacrificing for conversions, by promoting and distributing the Center’s
literature, and by many other corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

The Catholic Church now, more than ever, needs the wholehearted dedication of its faithful sons and
daughters. This calls for unwavering loyalty to the Church’s doctrine as sent forth in papal
pronouncements and all the traditional teachings of the Church. The Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of
Mary have consecrated their entire lives to this most sacred end. Pray that Our Lady will show her
compassion on the world by forming many such apostles, who setting aside all personal ambition and
gain work solely for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.

Suggested reading for more information about the all-important issues of the Church and Salvation:

Apostolic Digest, Michael Malone - The authentic teaching of the Catholic Church in fully indexed
quotations from Sacred Scripture, papal and conciliar decrees, Fathers, Doctors and saints. This is an
exhaustively researched and thoroughly documented reference book of dogma.

Bread of Life, Fr. Leonard Feeney – The founder of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
penetrates the mysteries of the Faith and confronts the errors of the day in his characteristically
uncompromising manner.

The One True Church, Fr. Arnold Damen, SJ – Proves without a doubt that the only Church Christ
established is the Catholic Church.

The Church or the Bible, Fr. Arnold Damen, SJ - Refutes the Protestant error of private interpretation
of the Bible.

Life-Giving Waters, The Sacrament of Baptism, Adam Miller – An excellent study of Baptism in a
question and answer format. Using the infallible teaching authority of the Church, this little booklet
explains and clarifies the nature and the necessity of this all-important sacrament.