January 21, 2010
vol 21, no. 21
Resuming this series after a four months-to-the-day hiatus, we can see that for the Feeneyites it is all or nothing and because of their narrow, stubborn stance they are left with nothing. Griff unravels the arguments of such Feeney 'luminaries' as Catherine Goddard Clarke and Thomas Mary Sennot again with precision as he exposes the scholastic dishonesty exhibited by those so desperate to defend Feeneyism to the point of downright deception. At St. Benedict Center it continues to be a blind alley with the blind leading the blind. While many are out of sight, they're also out of their mind to dismiss the Council of Trent's ruling and the Pope's decree of excommunication. They pick and choose what they want, then stretch the truth to try to justify their actions. It might fool a few, but in the end they can't fool God.
"But surely by now, I assume the conscientious reader, familiar with the contents of Installments 7 and 10b, should be able to see here that whatever subtle differences that might have existed between St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas would have no bearing on the questions of salvation by BOB and BOD, and that there is in fact much from the Magisterium on the matter, even if the Supreme and Extraordinary Magisterium itself has never been specifically invoked in defense of these Catholic teachings. And I would also hope that the reader has been able to see that this has not been a matter of 'my saints' versus 'Fr. Feeney's saints,' but rather one of 'What 'Fr. Feeney's saints' REALLY said as opposed to what they were being made to sound like they said.' So there really is no valid need to pit Father against Father, or the Church's teaching against certain Fathers, for the accord among them all has been quite striking, no matter how much Fr. Feeney and his followers have managed to make it appear otherwise."
Part 1 of this series discussed scholastic dishonesty in a general manner to show how quotes from the authoritative sources can be made to sound as if they have stated unreasonable propositions which they themselves obviously wouldn't. Parts 2 through 12 of this series exposed the flagrant scholastic dishonesty which is required in order to deny the Catholic doctrines of Baptism of Blood, and of Desire (hereinafter called BOB and BOD), both explicit and implicit, as presented in Peter Dimond's treatise, "Outside the Catholic Church There is Absolutely No Salvation." With Part 13, this series entered a new round in which the work of those other than the Dimonds will be addressed. Part 13 itself addressed the seminal volume, Bread of Life written by Fr. Feeney himself, and Part 14 reviewed the deceptive arguments of the article Reply to a Liberal written by Raymond Karam and published in From the Housetops.
If Fr. Leonard Feeney is to be rightly regarded as at least the spiritual head of the St. Benedict's Center, then Catherine Goddard Clarke would by all equivalence have to be regarded as its spiritual heart. She had been there from its founding days when she, together with Avery Dulles and Christopher Huntington, originally rented the facilities at the corner of Bow and Arrow Streets in Cambridge, back in March of 1940. Even more than Fr. Feeney, it was she who, with her administrative skills, immense energy, contagious enthusiasm, and dedication to the cause, who truly served as the mother hen who kept all the followers united under her wing despite various growing tensions.
After she passed away in 1968, these inner tensions gradually led to a breakup of the followers of Fr. Feeney, between those who thought the children should be raised in the religious life (as though they were born into the monastery or convent) and those who felt they should be given a more usual upbringing and then allowed to make their own decisions, between those who wanted to reconcile with the Church and those who did not, between those who were willing to soften a bit on their doctrine and those were not, and finally between various rival leaders for the group. At least eight such groups, all direct successors of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (itself the successor of the original St. Benedict's Center), presently exist in various states of reconciliation. In addition, several from its more avid readership have also formed small groups or orders or small publishing empires also defending Fr. Feeney and his doctrine.
But back at the beginning, all were united, at least as much if not more under the gentle motherly influence of Catherine Clarke. Every Thursday night Fr. Feeney would present a lecture regarding some teaching of the Church. This extends clear back to the days before "no salvation outside the Church" became their anthem. Christopher Huntington reports however that one Thursday-night lecture by Fr. Feeney had chilled him, as Fr. Feeney taught on the subject "Protestants are Christ-haters," and said during the course of that lecture to "Tell them they must enter the Catholic Church if they want salvation; and if they refuse, have nothing more to do with them." Avery Dulles attributes the unique anti-BOB-and-BOD take on "no salvation outside the Church" principally to her as well as to Fakhri Maluf, the Lebanese-born author of Sentimental Theology.
In support of the St. Benedict's Center and Fr. Feeney at the time the issue came to a head in 1949, Catherine Clarke penned her first literary account of how things had come about there, presenting a most detailed history of the Center from its original founding up to the point of the explosion of its controversy. Her book, The Loyolas and the Cabots, published in 1950, is the source of most of the information about the Center's history provided in Installment 11a, along with Gary Potter's After the Boston Heresy Case. In 1952, a second book by Catherine Goddard Clarke titled Gate of Heaven was published.
There is no room to doubt that Catherine Goddard Clarke is a most capable writer. In the accounts provided by her of the early struggles of the St. Benedict's center, one can really feel the sense of the struggle with callous church officials who seem to be neglecting the doctrinal issues in favor of mere obedience, and whose actions one could debate the justice of, even given the patent erroneousness of their doctrinal position. Surely, such serious and pious and devout souls were at least worthy of being treated with respect instead of being repeatedly blown off and ignored by those who had no way of knowing what was wrong with their teaching.
In her writings, she takes a rather simplistic approach to the "outside the Church there is no salvation" issue. Basically, one either accepts Fr. Feeney's particular interpretation of the doctrine or else one rejects the doctrine itself. With that viewpoint, any passage of Church documentation that asserts the exclusive claim of the Catholic Church, the loss of soul that comes from any defection from there or pursuit of any alternate church or other supposed means of salvation, or necessity to be subject to the Supreme Pontiff becomes ipso facto evidence to prove all of Fr. Feeney's claims about what "no salvation outside the Church" means. This simplistic approach, exemplified by the opening paragraphs of the book, as seen throughout, with little variation:
There seems to be no end to the number of reasons people can give for not facing the doctrine of the necessity of belonging to the Catholic Church for salvation.
"It is not the Church's doctrine," is the first difficulty.
"It is the Church's doctrine," we answer.
"None of the priests around here hold it," they make reply. "Archbishop Cushing of Boston certainly does not, nor Bishop Wright of Worcester."
"That may be true," we admit, "but even so you must realize that this does not mean that No Salvation Outside the Church has ceased to be the Church's doctrine on salvation. We can give you bishops and priests over nineteen hundred years who have held this doctrine, and popes who have infallibly defined it. In fact, we can give you the whole universal Church, with all its popes and cardinals, bishops and priests.
"And whether they believe the doctrine or not, Archbishop Cushing, Bishop Wright, and the priests of the Church all over the world pronounce it every time they receive a convert into the Church, and once a week when they say their Breviary in the Sunday Office."
"Is that so?" we are asked incredulously. "I find that hard to believe. You may not know that parish study clubs have spent a lot of time on this question since your case came out in the newspapers. The priests lead the discussions. I don't understand why, if they say there is no salvation outside the Church on Sunday, they teach us there is salvation outside it on Monday."
"That is something you will have to figure out for yourself," we have ruefully to say.
The quotes given thereafter in Gate of Heaven indeed show that the Church teaches "no salvation outside the Church," but nowhere do any of the quotes provide any basis for the rejection of BOB and BOD. Indeed, none of the quotations given in this section near the beginning of Gate of Heaven even mention water Baptism at all as something essential in all conditions for salvation. I give the quote in full, as presented on pages 6 through 16 of that work:
Not only do our Catholic priests recite the doctrine of No Salvation Outside the Church on the two occasions I have just given, but they read it many times in their Office throughout the year, in the Martyrologies. For instance, the Martyrology for February 20th reads as follows:
... At Damascus, (in the year 743), St. Peter Mavimeno. Some Arabs came to see him while he was ill, and to them he said, "Whoever does not embrace the Catholic Christian religion will be damned, as your false prophet Mohammed is"; whereupon they killed him.
Note there the use of the phrase "does not" instead of "has not." It continues:
The Second Nocturn in the Priest's Office for November 25th, relates the story of the martyrdom of St. Catherine of Alexandria:
When she saw many diversely tormented and hauled to death by command of Maximin, because they professed the Catholic religion, she went boldly to him, and rebuking him for his savage cruelty, she affirmed with wisest reasons that the faith of Christ is necessary for salvation.
In the Office for September 27th, the feast of the Holy Martyrs, Sts. Cosmas and Damian, it is told:
... and then, for as much as they freely acknowledged themselves Catholics, and the Catholic faith necessary for salvation, he commanded them to worship the gods, under threats of torments and a most cruel death.
These saints, no one can deny, were martyred because they held there was No Salvation Outside the Catholic Church.
These here speak of faith, which was never the issue here, but water baptism, which the Church's acknowledgement of even some few unbaptized martyrs readily demonstrated. It continues:
The Office for May 4th tells the story of the Blessed Martyrs, John Cardinal Fisher, Thomas More, and their Companions, who died for the second doctrine for which St. Benedict Center is fighting, namely, that there is no salvation without personal submission to our Holy Father, the Pope. St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More died, the Martyrology tells us, "strenuously fighting for the Catholic Faith and the Primacy of Peter."
While St. Thomas More was awaiting death in the tower of London, the prosecutor for King Henry VIII came to see him. He reminded St. Thomas More that he was being disobedient to every Catholic Bishop in England by his stubborn stand on the doctrine of the Primacy of the Pope.
"My lord," Thomas More answered him, "for one bishop of your opinion, I have a hundred saints of mine; for one parliament of yours, and God knows of what kind, I have all the General Councils of the Church for a thousand years."
It was a Pope of our day - for those who think the Church can change - who canonized Thomas More. Pope Pius XI, in 1935, canonized both St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher. St. John Fisher was the Bishop who refused to follow the other Bishops of England into heresy, and who was therefore martyred, with St. Thomas More, for the doctrine of the Primacy of the Pope and the necessity of submission to him, as Christ's Vicar.
Every catechumen, to be a catechumen in good standing such that Baptism of desire could even be legitimately spoken of as applying to him should he die peremptorily, must of necessity be already subject to the commands of the Pope and Church. In the case where implicit Baptism of desire could apply, it would be by submission to the will of God as evidenced to him through the Actual Graces afforded him that presently lead him to the Church, and in obedience to those Actual Graces he is, however indirectly, being obedient to the Pope and Church as well. It continues:
Then there is James Duckett, the heroic English bookseller, who was beatified with other English Martyrs in 1929. Blessed James Duckett was martyred on the 19th of April, 1602, in London. The Catholic book center which today, in London, bears his name, has published the story of his life and death. Of his death, the story relates:
James Duckett showed great alacrity in his mind, and spoke boldly and cheerfully, to the astonishment of many beholders. He said of how he professed that he died a Catholic, and that so he had lived; ... telling the people in general that he was most willing to die for that cause, and that it was as impossible for any to be saved outside of the Catholic Church as for any to avoid the deluge that was outside of Noah's Ark. ... And so the cart was drawn from him.
Of the illustration of the Ark of Noah and its true meaning, this was dealt with in quite some detail in Installment 10b. It continues:
We have, in the Holy Gospel according to St. John (15:5-6) the words of Our Lord, Himself, on salvation:
... for without me you can do nothing. If anyone abide not in me, he shall be cast forth as a branch, and shall wither, and they shall gather him up, and cast him into the fire, and he burneth.
St. Cyprian, the great Bishop of Carthage, who was born in the year 210 and suffered martyrdom in 258 A.D., wrote:
The bride of Christ cannot be falsified; she is chaste and incorrupt. She knows but one home; she with scrupulous chastity keeps inviolate her one bridechamber. She it is who preserves us for God; she finds places in the Kingdom for the children she has begotten. Whosoever separates himself from the Church is joined to an adulterer and has cut himself off from the promises made to the Church; no one who quits the Church of Christ will attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger, profane, an enemy. He cannot have God for his Father who has not the Church for his mother. If anyone who was outside the Ark of Noah was able to escape (and we know no one was), then whosoever is outside the Church escapes.
St. Cyprian, who was the greatest man in the Western Church from St. Irenaeus to St. Augustine, wrote also, in his book on the Unity of the Church:
If such (heretics or schismatics) should even suffer martyrdom for the name of Christ, they would not expiate their crime. There can be no such thing as a martyr out of the Church. Though they should be thrown into the fire, or be exposed to the fury of wild beasts, such a death will never be esteemed a crown of their faith and constancy, but rather a punishment of their perfidy. Such a man may be put to death, but cannot be crowned... If the schismatic should suffer out of the church of Christ, he will never thence become entitled to the recompense which none can claim who are not in it. There is but one God, one Christ, one church, one faith, and one entire body of Christian people. Whatever shall be separated from the fountain of life, can have no life remaining in it, after having lost all communication with its vital principle.
St. Jerome, the great saint and Doctor of the Church, who lived from 342 to 420, wrote to Pope Damasus:
I, following no leader save Christ, am associated in fellowship with your Blessedness, that is, with the See of Peter. On that rock I know the Church was built. Whosoever eats the Lamb outside that house is profane. If anyone shall be outside the Ark of Noah he shall perish when the flood prevails.
Each of the above quotes speaks of those who depart from the unity of the Church, having already joined it, and the condemnation that falls upon those who die in such a condition of willful departure. There is in none of these the slightest hint of any condemnation of those who happen to die before their initial process of joining should be completed, especially providing of course that they are found still pressing forward into the Church at the time of their visitation. It continues:
St. John Chrysostom, the golden-mouthed Doctor of the Church, 347-407, speaking on the dignity of the priesthood, says:
For it is manifest folly to despise so great a ministry - without which we could obtain neither salvation nor the good things that have been promised. For as no man can enter into the kingdom of heaven, unless he be born again of water and the Holy Ghost; and except he eat the Flesh of the Lord, and drink His Blood, he shall be excluded from everlasting life; and as all these things are ministered only by the consecrated hands of priests, how could anyone without them either escape the fire of hell or obtain the crown that is prepared?
The great Bishop, Confessor and Doctor of the Church, St. Augustine, 354-430, who was loved and venerated in every century, said in a sermon to the people of Caesarea:
No man can find salvation save in the Catholic Church. Outside the Catholic Church he can find everything except salvation. He can have dignities, he can have the Sacraments, can sing "Alleluia," answer "Amen," accept the Gospels, have faith in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, and preach it, too, but never except in the Catholic Church can he find salvation.
St. Augustine's writings were filled with the doctrine of No Salvation Outside the Church. He said on another occasion:
Because we fight for the honor and unity of the Church, let us not concede to the heretics what we know to be false, but rather let us teach them by arguments that they cannot attain salvation through unity unless they come to that same unity. For the water of the Church is faithful and salutary and holy for those who use it well. But outside of the Church no one can use it well. ... Therefore we are right in censuring, anathematizing, abhorring and abominating the perversity of heart shown by heretics; ...
Each of the above speaks again of those who despise the ministry of the Church and its ministers, never of those who seek them. It continues:
A collection of canons has come down to us from the early Church called, "Ancient Statutes of the Church." The very first of the 104 canons in this collection reads:
He who is to be ordained bishop must first be examined whether he is prudent, teachable, of gentle manners, etc.; above all, whether he openly acknowledges the chief points of the faith, i.e. that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God, that Christ has two natures, and yet is only one Person; whether he believes that the Old and New Testaments have only one Author and God; that the devil is not wicked by nature, but of his own free will; whether he believes in the resurrection of this flesh, and in the judgment; whether he does not disapprove marriage, or condemn second marriages, or the eating of flesh; whether he has communion with reconciled penitents, and believes that in baptism all sins, original sin as well as willful sins, are remitted, and that extra Ecclesiam Catholicam nullus salvatur (outside the Catholic Church no one is saved). If he passes the examination he shall be consecrated bishop, with the consent of the clergy and laity...
This here is even the only mention of Baptism at all, and mentions here merely its ability to remit "all sins, original sin as well as willful sins," not a thing here about whether this would even apply to Baptism of Blood or of Desire or indeed anything about them, one way or the other. The key interest of including this paragraph seems to be simply the use of a close approximation of their favorite phrase. Given the examples above, I trust the authentic Catholic response to her attempts to misquote and misapply the words of the saints to being any sort of denial of BOB and BOD should be obvious, and I leave the rest as an exercise for the reader as it continues:
St. Fulgentius, 468-533, Bishop of Ruspe, eminent among the Fathers of the Church and principal theologian of the 6th century (not counting Pope St. Gregory the Great) writes:
Hold most firmly, and do not doubt at all, that everyone baptized outside the Catholic Church cannot be made partaker of eternal life, if before the end of this earthly life he does not return to the Catholic Church and become incorporated with it. ...
Pope Pelagius II, 578-590, writing to some schismatical bishops, says: "Consider therefore that whoever is not in the peace and unity of the Church cannot have God."
Hold most firmly, and do not doubt at all, that not only all the pagans, but also all the Jews, and all the heretics and schismatics who end the present life outside the Catholic Church, will go into the eternal fire, "which was prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matt. 25;41)
Pope Innocent III, in 1208, in a "Profession of Faith" prescribed to the Waldensians, says:
With our hearts we believe and with our lips we confess but one Church, not that of the heretics, but the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church, outside which we believe that no one is saved.
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) teaches throughout his writings that it is necessary to belong to the one true Church of Jesus Christ in order to be saved. In his treatise Against the Errors of the Greeks, St. Thomas wrote:
To be subject to the Roman Pontiff is necessary for salvation.
St. Bonaventure, a Doctor of the Church who lived in the same century with St. Thomas Aquinas, and who died in the same year (1274), says in his Breviloguium:
Because outside of the unity of faith and love which makes us sons and members of the Church, no one can be saved, hence if the Sacraments are received outside the Church, they are not effective for salvation, although they are true Sacraments. However, they can become useful if one returns to Holy Mother the Church, the only Spouse of Christ, whose sons alone Christ the Spouse deems worthy of eternal inheritance.
Pope Clement VI, in the fourteenth century, writing to the Armenian Patriarch, says:
We ask if you believe, and the Armenians obedient to you, that no man of those traveling outside the faith of the same Church and the obedience to the Pontiff of the Romans can finally be saved; ... if you have believed and believe that all those who set themselves up against the faith of the Roman Church and died in final impenitence will be damned and descend to the perpetual torments of hell.
Pope Pius IV, in the sixteenth century, speaks of "this true Catholic faith, outside of which no one can be saved."
Two of the three sixteenth century saints who were made Doctors of the Church were Jesuits. They were St. Peter Canisius (1521-1597), and St. Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621). Both these Doctors professed again and again the doctrine of no salvation outside the one true Church, nor without personal submission to Christ's Vicar, the Roman Pontiff. And, like every saint, both were devoted children of Christ's Mother. St. Peter Canisius wrote a Catechism of Catholic doctrine. In his Catechism, he says:
Outside of this communion (as outside of the Ark of Noah) there is absolutely no salvation for mortals: not to Jews or Pagans, who never received the faith of the Church; not to heretics who, having received it, forsook or corrupted it; not to schismatics who left the peace and unity of the Church; finally neither to excommunicates who for any other serious cause deserved to be put away and separated from the body of the Church, like pernicious members. ... For the rule of Cyprian and Augustine is certain: he will not have God for his Father who would not have the Church for his Mother.
St. Peter Canisius in his Catechism asks: "Who is to be called a Christian?" And he answers:
He who confesses the salutary doctrine of Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, in His Church. Hence, he who is truly a Christian condemns and detests thoroughly all cults and sects which are found outside the doctrine and Church of Christ, everywhere, and among all peoples, as for example, the Jewish, the Mohammedan, and the heretical cults and sects; and he firmly assents to the same doctrine of Christ.
The Jesuit saint, Robert Bellarmine, who strongly defends the doctrine that Outside the Catholic Church No One can be Saved, defines the Catholic Church as:
The congregation of men bound together by the profession of the same Christian Faith, and by the communion of the same Sacraments, under the rule of the legitimate pastors, and especially of the one Vicar of Christ on earth, the Roman Pontiff.
In the eighteenth century, Pope Benedict XIV, in a profession of faith prescribed to the Orientals, writes of:
... this faith of the Catholic Church, outside of which no one can be saved.
In the nineteenth century, Pope Gregory XVI, in his famous encyclical against Félicité de Lamennais, writes:
Now we set forth another most fruitful cause of evils, by which we bewail that the Church is at present afflicted, namely, Indifferentism, or that perverse opinion, which has become prevalent by the deceit of the wicked, from all sides: that, by whatever profession of faith, the eternal salvation of the soul can be attained, if one's morals conform to the norm of a right and honest life. ...
In the nineteenth century, also, Pope Pius IX published his Syllabus of Modern Errors. Pope Pius IX was writing against the Indifferentists. The Indifferentists of the nineteenth century have become the Liberals of the twentieth century, and their doctrines are the false teachings which St. Benedict Center is fighting today. Pope Pius IX declared - in the Syllabus of Modern Errors:
It is error to believe that: 16. "Men can, in the cult of any religion, find the way of eternal salvation and attain eternal salvation."
It is error to believe that: 17. "One ought at least to have good hope for the eternal salvation of all those who in no way dwell in the true Church of Christ."
It is error to believe that: 18. "Protestantism is anything else than a different form of the same Christian religion, in which, equally as in the Catholic Church, it is given to please God."
After this, the book is finished with quoting saints and Scripture to any great extent, indeed only a couple passing mentions of Cornelius as visited by St. Peter and the Ethiopian eunuch by Philip (basically just another example of the same - God obviously had far bigger plans for him than simply to take him directly to Heaven in that moment of desiring to learn of the Gospel (and subsequent desire to be baptized). The book goes on to mention many reasonable (and perhaps even often quite valid) complaints as to the lackadaisical attitudes of many American clergy, even as found back then (in 1951), though predictably ascribing that to the absence of anyone preaching Fr. Feeney's doctrine instead of where the blame really and obviously belonged, namely merely to the lack of any serious piety on the part of those clerics themselves personally.
On page 97 of Gate of Heaven we are finally treated to Catherine Clarke's opinion as to the question raised but not answered in the Reply Piece as to whether God condemns the non-culpable or if it is contended that every non-Catholic under any circumstance is personally culpable for their failure to become Catholic. She opts with the former, when she states, "In absolute literalness, we must admit that it is possible for a human being to lose his soul without being guilty of any sin committed by himself."
Later on, on page 122, out of the whole Reply Piece, she manages to mention only the most insulting point it made, namely that of accusing Fr. Donnelly of actually having confused justification with salvation. Of course, Fr. Donnelly plainly knows more than that, and reiterating that point here was purely for purposes of insult. The book finishes out with a short recounting of what few events had transpired since the publication of The Loyolas and The Cabots, and as the saying goes, "that's all she wrote."
As we know, Fr. Feeney would soon go on to publish his Bread of Life, the Holy Office would summon him to Rome, he would not go, and finally he found himself excommunicated in 1953. There matters continued to lie until well after Catherine Clarke herself passed away in 1968. Since that time, various pressures pulled various groupings of Fr. Feeney's followers in various directions. Of the most interest here however are those who grew tired of standing off away from the Church and who (quite cautiously and with much hesitation at first) gradually began to seek reconciliation.
Of those who reconciled, perhaps the one volume that best exemplifies their nature would be the book They Fought the Good Fight by Thomas Mary Sennot. Rather anomalously, much of this book is devoted not to the present situation with regards to Fr. Feeney and his various followers, reconciled or not, but with the life and times and writings of a man who lived in this country almost exactly a hundred years before Fr. Feeney, one Orestes Brownson.
Orestes Brownson (1803 - 1876) became a convert to Catholicism in 1844, a time when America was much more virulently Protestant, and had in his time come to be known as one of the great American Catholic apologists. He also could boast close and friendly relations with such noted figures as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Amos Bronson Alcott, being from the same geographical area, and his association with those who founded Fruitland farm and purchased Walden Pond.
The more one gets into Orestes Brownson the more one ends up wondering what he and Fr. Feeney ever had in common. Orestes wrote all that he wrote in active cooperation with his bishops, and with their blessing while Fr. Feeney managed to lose the cooperation and support of every bishop that his former popularity had previously engendered. More to the point, Orestes clearly did not share Fr. Feeney's unique take on the Church's teaching on "No Salvation Outside the Church," particularly as it relates to the sacrament of baptism.
In his essay, The Great Question, Orestes Brownson writes:
What Bellarmine, Billuart, Perrone, and others say of persons pertaining to the soul and yet not to the body of the church makes nothing against this conclusion [Outside external communion with the true Church of Jesus Christ, there is no salvation]. They indeed, teach that there is a class of persons that may be saved, who cannot be said to be actu et proprie in the church. Bellarmine and Billuart instance catechumens and excommunicated persons, in case they have faith, hope, and charity; Perrone, so far as we have seen, instances catechumens only; and it is evident from the whole scope of their reasoning that all they say on this point must be restricted to catechumens, and such as are substantially in the same category with them [i. e. excommunicates who have faith, hope, and charity, but potentially also, others who are of such subjective interior attachment to the Church as might be included]; for they instance no others, and we are bound to construe every exception to the rule strictly, so as to make as little of an exception as possible. If, then, our conclusion holds true, not withstanding the apparent exception in the case of catechumens and those substantially in the same category, nothing these authors say can prevent it from holding true universally.
Catechumens are persons who have not yet received the visible sacrament of baptism in re, and therefore are not actu et proprie in the church, since it is only by baptism that we are made members of Christ and incorporated into his body.
It is evident, both from Bellarmine and Billuart, that no one can be saved unless he belongs to the visible communion of the Church, either actually or virtually, and also that salvation of catechumens can be asserted only because they do so belong; that is, because they are in the vestibule, for the purpose of entering, - have already entered in their will and proximate disposition. St. Thomas teaches with regard to these, in case they have faith working by love, that all they lack is the reception of the visible sacrament in re; but if they are prevented by death from receiving it in re before the church is ready to administer it, that God supplies the defect, accepts the will for the deed, and reputes them to be baptized. If the defect is supplied, and God reputes them to be baptized, they are so in effect, have in effect received the visible sacrament, are truly members of the external communion of the church, and therefore are saved in it, not out of it.
As we know, Fr. Feeney would disagree with St. Robert Bellarmine, Billuart, Perrone, and Orestes Brownson, claiming that catechumens who die without being baptized in water are not saved. Before leaving off the topic of Orestes Brownson altogether, some other thoughts of his regarding the somewhat related topic of religious liberty bear some comment. Recall that Orestes lived in a rather hostile environment to Catholicism, namely a quite Protestant nation, despite official liberty existing with regards one's religion. The anti-Catholic Know-Nothing movement was at its peak in his lifetime. One can understand him trying to cut the Protestant-leaning secular powers as much slack as possible, by proposing a position that had not as yet been addressed by the Church, either to affirm or refute.
Brownson wrote in Civil and Religious Toleration, "Religious liberty, as we understand it, is the absolute freedom of religion, in its doctrines, discipline, and worship, from all human authority, and therefore implies the absolute incompetency, in spirituals, of all human authority, whether public or private." While that may well have rendered Catholicism more palatable to Americans whose suspicion of Catholics in particular and Catholicism in general genuinely needed to come down a notch or two, there is a serious problem with this claim.
In what is generally accepted as the Golden years of a Catholic ascendancy which spanned from (perhaps) about the time of Emperor Charlemagne until the rise of the Protestant Reformation, national governments throughout Europe (and often in other lands as well) readily and accepted without question that the Catholic Faith was true and morally binding upon all within their respective realms. They were, in point of fact, Catholic nations. This was a time when the King of Kings truly had many earthly kings who readily submitted their whole kingdoms to the Kingship of He who rules in Heaven, and for that reason even their own little (and sometimes not so little) secular realms were but extensions of the original Kingdom of God, Christ's Kingdom, hence they were called "Christendom."
But now along comes Orestes claiming that secular authorities (e. g. kings, etc.) are necessarily and intrinsically incompetent to judge or discern spiritual matters. If taken as some sort of actual Catholic teaching or solemn truth to be truly believed by all everywhere, this would invalidate the whole of the Christendom that existed for that whole significant historical period.
Behind that lurks a bigger and more serious error however. Why and how should (for example) a king be incompetent? Is he not a human being, of whom all are required to render an account to God? Are we all also therefore incompetent to make spiritual choices, thus rendering our ecclesiastical choices merely one of chance, like choosing the winning door at a gameshow? Or does the procurement of such kingly power and authority somehow deprive an otherwise competent person of this necessary competence?
More to the point, is the truth objectively discoverable? Could any really fair, objective, and reliable test for truth fail to confirm the Catholic Faith as the true one that must be believed? Up until the time of Orestes writing what he wrote, the Church universally believed that it was discoverable, or at least verifiable, in that no heresy could ever be written off as some sort of legitimate mistake. If a true investigation can lead to a false conclusion, then perhaps it really doesn't matter what one believes, since any belief would have as much claim to our allegiance as any other belief.
It is true that kings, just like ordinary persons, can be deceived, maneuvered, seduced, pressured, bought, forced, influenced, or by any number of other means made to reach a wrong conclusion about this. And it is also true that when such a thing happens to someone with power over others the result will invariably work a significant injustice, persecution, and so forth. But conversely, any person, be he king or not, is also capable of avoiding these influences and being therefore totally fair and objective, and thereby must reach the true conclusion when doing so. To say that a king cannot be trusted, even where he truly is fair and objective, is to say that fairness and objectivity themselves are not enough to guarantee a victory for the Gospel.
In They Fought the Good Fight, the claim is made (quoting a mysterious and unknown Fr. Ryan) that this writing of Orestes' in some way anticipates the Vatican II schema on Religious Liberty. What it really anticipates is the position taken by John Courtney Murray, S. J. during the same Council. (Yes, this is the same John Courtney Murray who had been silenced by the Vatican in 1954 for teaching this, and also who argued against the teaching contained in Humanae Vitae, the encyclical against the use of artificial birth control).
Gerard V. Bradley, Esq. contends in an article titled simply "Religious Liberty" in the Summer 2008 Issue of the Latin Mass magazine, that "It is true that Murray's conclusion about the civil liberty of non-Catholics to publicly profess and practice their faiths is found in Dignitatis Humanae: non-Catholics (the Council Fathers taught) have a right to immunity from coercion when they do so (within due limits). But Murray's supporting arguments differed from those of the Fathers. His central argument against repressing heresy was also the central aim of all his church-state reflections: the state - in some necessary or universal sense - is incompetent to recognize the true religion. But the Council rejected that proposition."
It is one thing for a given state, on its own initiative, to proclaim its incompetence in these matters, which may or may not be as bad as proclaiming some false religion to be its official state religion, and this is certainly in the realm of the possible, as the United States really could be taken as having done, but quite another for the Church to claim that a state, merely be virtue of being some secular state, is of itself intrinsically incompetent in all such matters. The latter has no place, and really is outside what the Church could ever be capable of.
Thomas Mary Sennot, author/compiler of They Fought the Good Fight, is among those who have been reconciled to the Diocese of Worcester, and this volume boasts an Imprimi potest from Timothy J. Harrington, Bishop of Worcester, dated January 15, 1987. So this brings up the question, "What about the Feeney followers who reconciled? Does not their acceptance into the Church show that their teaching and Fr. Feeney's might have some validity after all?"
This book, They Fought the Good Fight, is quick to point out that "Father Feeney was not required to retract his literal interpretation of the doctrine 'outside the Church there is no salvation,' Father Shmaruk said," and again, "The only condition set down in receiving the men and women into the Church, the Bishop said, was that each individual 'make the usual profession of faith according to the traditional formula,' Each did so, he said, in his presence."
This point gets misused over and over again not only by those who reconciled, but even by those who have not reconciled. The impression is conveyed that Fr. Feeney and his followers were accepted back "into the fold" without having to abjure their unique take on the doctrine, and that therefore their position must now be taken seriously. Certainly, it has classically been the case for centuries that for someone expulsed for their heresy to be welcomed back without any obligation to repudiate their heresy would indeed constitute some sort of affirmation to their heresy (which is why that never happened). Now we are being made to think we at last have the thing before us, and so therefore we must accept their unique teachings. That's what this contention boils down to, in a nutshell.
Now, if their position really had any merit to it, say, as some sort of legitimate theological opinion that can be held freely, alongside other such opinions of a differing and rival nature, then certainly that should be the official position of the Church. But do we find any evidence of any such thing? Let us go back to the lines in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church (1997 Edition), paragraphs 1257 through 1260, as quoted back in Installment 12b. In that there is no hint of any opinion, even as a possibility, that only those baptized with the Sacrament with water could be saved, or even that only they could have any assurance of salvation.
It states (in paragraph 1259), "For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament." Note that it states this, not as some theory or as some opinion, or even as some majority opinion, but simply as a bare fact, as if it were something that is in no way challenged or questioned. Surely, if reconciliation of Fr. Feeney and some of his followers meant some sort of acceptance of their doctrinal position, would not at least some faint imprint of it be found in the Catechism?
For the first time I must turn to a source that some would take as generally critical of Fr. Feeney and his St. Benedict's Center community. Not that the writers of this book claim any theological expertise to discuss the details of their teaching authoritatively, but rather that the history and sociology of the St. Benedict's Center priest and following would be presented in some detail, and with a careful attention to historical facts about the Center itself and its members. I quote The Boston Heresy Case in View of the Secularization of Religion: A Case Study in the Sociology of Religion by George B. Pepper. He writes, "Observers may find it disconcerting that no retraction of their extra ecclesiam position nor statement of wrongdoing and penance were asked of Fr. Feeney and the reconciled group."
But let us look closer at the details regarding this reconciliation and what it actually entailed, and the circumstances that led up to it and the purposes of those who instigated it. In all this reconciliation, it was plainly Fr. Shmaruk who served as point man in representing Archbishop Medeiros and Bishop Flanagan. In his own statement of his purposes one gleans a sense of what all Vatican-side participants were working for and striving to achieve here:
In a personal letter, Fr. Shmaruk first listed his own reasons for advancing Fr. Feeney's reconciliation. As a youngster in Lynn, Mass., the same city in which Fr. Feeney grew up, Fr. Shmaruk was introduced to Fr. Feeney's writings. "These stories," Shmaruk wrote, "perhaps more than anything else at the time, excited me with their color and imagination, and I became fascinated with the idea that it could be perfectly consistent to be a highly respected priest and a gifted writer at the same time. This was probably the earliest and most serious influence on my work as a priest-journalist many years later."
Besides these personal reasons, derived from his youth, Fr. Shmaruk's later work as a priest contributed several pastoral reasons for advancing Fr. Feeney's reconciliation. Fr. Shmaruk had done extensive work in ecumenical affairs, and this prompted him to approach Archbishop Medeiros about Feeney. "...we had gone out to heal divisions with other Christian Churches," Fr. Shmaruk explained to the Archbishop, "but nothing was being done about that scandalous rift that exists with one of our very own." That is, Vatican II had set a new standard of reconciliation as well as renewal, and Fr. Shmaruk believed this standard should be extended to Fr. Feeney as much as it was to non-Catholics.
Vatican II had also set new procedures for ecclesial penalties. For example, Roman Catholics who were married invalidly before a non-Catholic Christian minister were no longer automatically excommunicated as they had been in the past. And since "...Fr. Feeney's excommunication had nothing at all to do with the theological issue of salvation," but with disobedience, the penalty "...after twenty-five years had served its purpose and was no longer necessary or, indeed, helpful in finding a solution to the Church's problem with Leonard Feeney."
Furthermore, Fr. Shmaruk wrote, although "...I never felt the Church should be tolerant about Feeney's rigid position of intolerance for non-Catholics, I did feel, however, that because of his advanced age and ill health and the evidence of senility, there was even less justification for the continued existence of the excommunication."
The explanation Fr. Shmaruk gives as to why he pressed for an unconditional lifting of the excommunication - except for an expression of faith - without any requirement of penance or statement of wrongdoing is: "...I feared one day critics and historians might accuse the Church of taking advantage of this old man in his dotage against his will. Not only would this seem very cruel and inhumane, it would leave the Church vulnerable to the accusation that deceit and trickery were employed in the process."
The final reason Fr. Shmaruk gave for his position involves a profound irony. In advancing his extra ecclesiam stand, Fr. Feeney played an "...unwitting role in bringing the Church to an historical and theological turning point - that letter of Pope Pius XII (Suprema haec Sacra) putting on record in a definitive manner the recognition that people of good will outside the Roman Catholic community can also find salvation for themselves…In my estimation this document of Pius XII set the stage for the Ecumenical Movement in the Catholic Church and, in fact, for the ecumenical theology declared by Vatican II."
While Fr. Shmaruk's opinion regarding any actual theological continuity between Suprema haec Sacra and the far vaster and qualitatively different ecumenism of Vatican II is most certainly open to debate, there is no denying that the Church's reaction against Fr. Feeney and his followers did serve to leave it far more open to the extraordinary ecumenism that Vatican II would propound.
Most important to note in all of this was their desire to reconcile him without the illusion of having taken advantage of his dotage, perhaps to have wrangled out of him some repentance that he might not have ever been willing to intend in previous times of better health. This pretty much required that his role be as absolutely passive as they felt they could make it.
Another thing to note is that clearly there was not intended any acceptance of Fr. Feeney's "intolerant" doctrine but in fact a repudiation of it, if not necessarily from Father himself. His reconciliation, such as it was, was clearly not intended to serve as any sort of affirmation of his unique doctrine in any sense whatsoever.
Yet another thing to note is the technicality of the nature of the excommunication itself. Since it had been, itself specifically for disobedience (in that Fr. Feeney refused to go to Rome to be questioned regarding his unique doctrine), and not, strictly speaking, for the actual errors or heresies he and his Center had been putting forth, its lifting need not have anything more to do with his doctrine itself than its imposition did. He had merely disobeyed a specific order, but otherwise did not seem to be disobedient in his disposition, and especially now in his old age when very little could ever yet be commanded from him.
Finally, it is important to note that this was above all a PASTORAL solution to his case, not a doctrinal one, and so seen by Fr. Shmaruk and those he represented. And along Fr. Shmaruk's intentions the events more or less actually unfolded. The George Pepper book continues:
Over the next four months a protracted and complicated process was undertaken to work out an arrangement by which Fr. Feeney's reconciliation could be effected. Two major difficulties stood in the way: Fr. Feeney's state of health and mind made it questionable as to what demands could be made of him; and any news of the reconciliation would create an intense reaction in the smaller group, among those who opposed the reconciliation, and would move them to work their influence in Fr. Feeney. Equally important was the possible effect a reconciliation could have on Fr. Feeney's continuing presence at the Center. Since it was the only home Feeney had known over the last twenty-odd years, and the members were the only community with whom he had any acceptance, jeopardizing Fr. Feeney's life in the community was to be avoided, Fr. Shmaruk wrote.
The first suggestion offered was that Fr. Feeney would be required to make a positive expression of faith, by professing the simple creed now in use for reception into the Church, and expressing sorrow for any scandal that may have been caused by his acts of disobedience and erroneous teaching The members of the Center, after a full week of deliberations, reached the conclusion that Fr. Feeney could not meet these two conditions.
Archbishop Medeiros requested later that Bishop Lawrence Riley join Fr. Shmaruk in the reconciliation effort. Several members of the Center met with the Bishop and Fr. Shmaruk, and offered to do anything asked of them to advance the cause of Fr. Feeney's and their own reconciliation. Bishop Riley stated that some expression of remorse for any scandal caused would be needed. Again this requirement was seen as too onerous for Fr. Feeney to meet, for both his state of mind and the jeopardy he might be placed in about staying at the Center. Eventually it was agreed that all that was necessary was a simple profession of faith with the recitation of the creed.
Finally a meeting at the Center for the evening of 23 August 1972 was arranged. Bishop Riley and Fr. Shmaruk would attend as official witnesses to Fr. Feeney's profession of faith. Bishop Riley's request to have Fr. Feeney make a statement of wrongdoing was waived. And the other questions the Bishop raised, about the irregularity of Fr. Feeney's celebrating Mass and hearing confessions without faculties, were also set aside in favor of a purely pastoral concern for the spiritual well-being of one of the Church's loyal, albeit troublesome, sons. On 24 August 1972 a letter attesting to Fr. Feeney's act of faith in the Church, signed by Bishop Riley and Fr. Shmaruk, was sent to Archbishop Medeiros. The Bishop then wrote Bishop Flanagan of the matter and relayed the information to the Vatican for attention through the Apostolic Delegate.
Concern that this act of pastoral care could be misinterpreted was soon borne out. Brother Hugh McIsaac, who was leader of one group opposed to any reconciliation, and two of his community went to see Fr. Shmaruk to August 31. They cagily questioned him to find out if any settlement was reached with the Church by the larger community. Once Fr. Shmaruk learned that they were not from the larger community which had arranged for Fr. Feeney's reconciliation, he explained to them the Church's interest. Never was theology at issue, he said. Fr. Feeney's well-being was the only concern that Archbishop Medeiros and Bishop Flanagan had in mind. In the present climate of the Church's affairs, Fr. Shmaruk noted, cordial relations had been extended to the Baptists, the Lutherans, and the Episcopalians, but nothing had been done for "one of our own." And what was done for Fr. Feeney "...did not mean any theological settlement" or any other kind of settlement, i.e., property.
Br. McIsaac and two of his community later visited Archbishop Medeiros and Bishop Riley to explain their side of the issue. The Archbishop was disconcerted; he felt that he was not told the full story, and that McIsaac's group may have been the more faithful representatives of Fr. Feeney's position, and that the authorities in Rome may have been misled. Fr. Shmaruk reviewed with him the terms of the reconciliation, and resolved whatever misgivings the Archbishop had. The theological issue was in no way treated. Fr. Feeney's relationship with the Church was re-established personally; neither was a retraction asked for, nor was approval of his views implied. Since several theologians in the Church were now advancing positions in sharp divergence from traditional teaching without suffering ecclesial penalties, Shmaruk explained, there was no reason why Fr. Feeney should not enjoy the same consideration. Reconciling Fr. Feeney was an act of pastoral care for the spiritual welfare of one of the Church's faithful.
Fr. Shmaruk's explanation of the issues here is one priest's expression of the answer the Church would give to the extra ecclesiam controversy. Not only would it deny that Fr. Feeney and his followers had ability to know definitively, through a clear and distinct formula, when a person was beyond the reach of God's mercy. Despite the cumbersome and unclear language by which the Church sought to express how the mystery of God's mercy operates in the hearts of those either unaware of the Catholic faith or unable to accept its formulated teachings, the Church's very act of reconciling Fr. Feeney affirmed the more embracing reality of a person's life before God. The concern extended to Fr. Feeney was but another expression of the Church's ancient mission of care for fallible souls.
One sees here the true meaning of the reconciliation, by those directly involved in bringing it about. True, there was "no retraction asked for," but neither "was approval of his views implied." Indeed, as the last paragraph shows, the true nature of the reconciliation was an expression, not of any affirmation of his views, but of the most contrary view that broadmindedly welcomes in anyone of whatever belief. In the words of another commentator, "The very idea he opposed - that it was possible for those outside the Church to come to heaven - was the major reason why he was reconciled to the Church!" (Richard M. Hogan, Dissent From the Creed, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division)
There was in fact just a little more compromise on the part of Fr. Feeney and his followers than meets the eye however. Notice all of those seemingly redundant requests for him (and then his followers, when those following him into his path of reconciliation officially did so) of reciting a creed. Basic to any Creed of the Church from the Apostle's Creed onward is a belief in a particular Church, a Church which has consistently and clearly taught the possibility of salvation by Baptism of Blood or Desire from the very beginning onward, and indeed has never taught otherwise. So therefore, implicit in that recitation is a repudiation of their entire reason for ever having made their accusations against Archbishop Cushing and Bishop Wright and many others for supposed heresy on their part.
And with at least one, maybe two groups, things clearly have gone even farther (though perhaps with some layer of deception). The George Pepper book continues:
Subsequently, the reconciliation process for Br. Gabriel's group was advanced. On 6 October 1973, Fr. Shmaruk met with Brothers Gabriel and Cyril to go over the material they intended to submit to Rome for reconciliation. At that meeting, Br. Cyril stated: "The brothers hold firmly to the position that there is a Baptism of desire and a Baptism of Blood." Br. Gabriel also gave Fr. Shmaruk copies of three letters which could be used in neutralizing the possible effects produced by the statement published by the Maluf group. One, dated 17 September 1973, and signed by Fr. Feeney, stated that while he believed there was no salvation outside the Church, he also was a loyal subject of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. The second letter, with the same date and also signed by Fr. Feeney, stated that he had met with Cardinal Medeiros and Bishop Riley, and that he authorized no one to speak for him. The third letter was one signed by Fakhri Maluf addressed to Br. Gabriel, asking for "...copies of all the documents in the archives of our order, which concern us."
Furthermore, in the most recent explanation of the Center's position, a narrow interpretation is presented. Avenues to salvation are not denied non-Catholics, but it is to the mystery of God's movement in the lives of these people that this is attributed. That movement would involve some understanding of the truths of the Catholic faith. Thus, rather than seek out those theological positions in non-Catholic religions with which Catholics could agree, the Center members choose to affirm the authenticity and completeness of Catholic doctrine as the basis for any interchurch dialogue, and leave the question of salvation non-Catholics to Divine Mystery. It seems problematic whether this orientation is conductive for advancing ecumenical efforts, and the directions taken in Vatican II constitute a very different approach. Yet the Center members believe that their refined position is not inconsistent with Church teaching, support for which can be found in some contemporary theologians; for example, the views of Fr. Louis Bouyer were identified by Fr. Cyril as those which best represent his position. Moreover, explained Fr. Gabriel, no decision taken by authorities, either in the reconciliations or in the move to become a Benedictine foundation, has required anything different of the Center.
Probably the most stark statement that stands out in all of that is Brother Gabriel's statement that (presumably he, and) the other brothers all "hold firmly to the position that there is a Baptism of desire and a Baptism of Blood." Is that a complete capitulation? Unfortunately, this is what happens when those who started a case, i. e. Pope Pius XII and the members of the Holy Office in 1949, are no longer around to be the ones to resolve the case. I have no doubt that the Vatican, when Fr. Shmaruk heard that, accepted it at face value as a complete capitulation. But Fr. Feeney did not deny that these things existed; he only denied that they could ever be salvific.
Still, all of those appeals to "the mystery of God's movement in the lives of these people" and to "Divine Mystery" do in some serious way water down the whole contention for which Fr. Feeney preferred exile in disgrace instead of compromise. If these mysteries are possible - and the Church has always accepted them as Baptism of Blood and Baptism of Desire, both explicit and implicit - then Fr. Feeney's denials that anyone not actually and literally baptized in water could ever be saved, have been repudiated. There is therefore, on all of these various levels, absolutely no reason to point to their reconciliation as any sort of affirmation of Fr. Feeney's unique take on the doctrine that there is no salvation outside the Church.
In response to Fr. Laisney having written a book originally titled Baptism of Desire but later retitled Is Feeneyism Catholic? for its revised and expanded edition, the same Thomas Mary Sennot wrote an attack which he titled Is Laisneyism Catholic?. At the time he wrote it, the SSPX (of which Fr. Laisney is a member priest) was as yet still regarded in Vatican circles as being excommunicated, a state that equally had applied to the Saint Benedict's Center for many years before any of them could be reconciled. Given that such excommunication is no longer applied by the Vatican to the SSPX either (as of 21 January 2009), such "nyaah-nyaah-ing" in print can now only be regarded as embarrassing in hindsight.
But are any new arguments posed? Not really. It might be interesting to see a few of the attempts by a reconciled follower of Fr. Feeney to defend what the bare fact of reconciliation in fact implies a repudiation of:
Father Laisney's thesis on baptism of desire and baptism of blood cannot possibly be true. We certainly would have heard of it before now, and from some more reliable source than the Society of St. Pius X, like the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, or through our own bishop. On the contrary, when Father Feeney was "reconciled" to the Church in 1972 with the approval of Pope Paul VI, through the good offices of Cardinal Medeiros of Boston, and Bishop Flanagan of Worcester, he was not required to retract any of his speculations on baptism of desire or baptism of blood. Also my book They Fought the Good Fight (1987) (which, incidentally Father Laisney does not include in his bibliography) which included Father Feeney's speculations on baptism of desire and baptism of blood, received the Imprimi potest from Bishop Timothy J. Harrington of Worcester, and the retired bishop of Worcester, Bernard J. Flanagan, acted as Censor deputatus. (4) Of course Father Laisney's book has no Imprimatur.
But of course they did hear it before from the 1949 Holy Office, from Archbisop Cushing and Bishop Wright and Fr. Donnelly and Msgr. Clifford Fenton, and from so many others whom instead of being listened to were simply accused of heresy by those of the Saint Benedict's Center. See again how much mileage he attempts to obtain from the bare fact of the reconciliation, but concealing its true purpose, intent, and meaning as known and documented by its principal architect, Fr. Shmaruk. And before we begin thinking that all of these official "stamps" are meant to confer approval upon Fr. Feeney's views, one might want to consult the copyright page of They Fought the Good Fight which reads:
The Imprimi potest is an official declaration that a book or pamphlet is free of doctrinal or moral error. No implication is contained therein that he who has granted the Imprimi potest agrees with the contents, opinions or statements expressed.
Even here, the first sentence does not imply that there is nothing doctrinally incorrect stated, only that the book itself is not stating anything doctrinally incorrect, as something that must be believed. To illustrate an example of this, it would be perfectly acceptable for a volume with the Imprimi potest to state in its contents that "Joe Schmoe says that God is dead." Though "God is dead" would obviously be doctrinally incorrect, the book containing the full quote would not be doctrinally incorrect since that is, after all, merely what Joe Schmoe says, and not (necessarily) what the authors of the book attempt to impose upon the reader as their own position. Or as his "Laisneyism" piece would clarify, "Father Feeney always considered his position on Baptism of Desire an opinion." And perhaps Bishop Harrington felt that the errors of the included text of "Reply to a Liberal" was sufficiently balanced by the inclusion of the Letter of the Holy Office "Suprema haec Sacra."
As an exercise I put forth a couple specimens of Thomas Mary Sennot's scholastic dishonesty in attempting a defense of Fr. Feeney's error/heresy:
In a second edition of They Fought the Good Fight which has never been published, I added:
"Father Feeney was strongly attracted to this opinion of St. Augustine, but there is nothing from the Solemn Magisterium to settle the matter. To make this particular point then, the essential part of Father Feeney's "doctrinal crusade," is to reduce the crusade to a mere theological opinion. As Fr. Dennis Smith writes: 'My rule of thumb is whenever presenting a doctrinal position, stick with authoritative sources; "my saint tops your saint" or "my commentator tops your commentator" is a game no one can win. In the end it is only what the Church says which really counts.' The Church has not yet told us who was correct on this particular point, St. Thomas or St. Augustine, but she has told us that there is no salvation without her, and that is what really matters."
But surely by now, I assume the conscientious reader, familiar with the contents of Installments 7 and 10b, should be able to see here that whatever subtle differences that might have existed between St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas would have no bearing on the questions of salvation by BOB and BOD, and that there is in fact much from the Magisterium on the matter, even if the Supreme and Extraordinary Magisterium itself has never been specifically invoked in defense of these Catholic teachings. And I would also hope that the reader has been able to see that this has not been a matter of "my saints" versus "Fr. Feeney's saints," but rather one of "What 'Fr. Feeney's saints' REALLY said as opposed to what they were being made to sound like they said." So there really is no valid need to pit Father against Father, or the Church's teaching against certain Fathers, for the accord among them all has been quite striking, no matter how much Fr. Feeney and his followers have managed to make it appear otherwise.
Father Laisney is writing about Father J. Bainvel, S.J. who was one of the main authorities of Fr. Philip J. Donnelly, S.J. a professor of theology at Weston College, who wrote the Jesuit position paper entitled Some Observations on the Question of Salvation Outside the Church. Raymond Karam rebutted (one Jesuit said "buried") this paper in a masterly article entitled "Reply to a Liberal" in From the Housetops.
No, Mr. Sennot, Fr. Bainvel was in no way any authority used or cited by Fr. Donnelly in his first quick response to the Fr. Feeney error. Raymond Karam's rebuttals to Fr. Bainvel's work in no way carries any weight against Fr. Donnelly and for that matter very little against Fr. Bainvel either. I feel that I can trust that there would therefore remain little if anything in the Is Laisneyism Catholic piece that my conscientious reader should have the least trouble seeing through, so I need not discuss its "case" any further.
In it however, Thomas Mary Sennot also writes:
Father Laisney spends most of his time attacking the books of what he calls the "followers" of Father Feeney. I know or knew (some are dead) all of these followers, and have read all their books. Most of them did not know Father Feeney in his prime, but in his later years when he was afflicted with Parkinson's disease. Some of these authors we hardly knew; they just attached themselves to our crusade, and we had no control over them. Everybody is looking for some kind of a crusade. Their books were not submitted to Father Feeney for his approval, so it is unfair to say the least, to hold him responsible for statements in them.
Well, the fact is there are few books out there by anyone closer to the original Fr. Feeney apart from Fr. Feeney's own book which doesn't expound his doctrine in all that much detail, obviously leaving the details of his arguments to some other forum which never saw print in his own day (and the few written by Catherine Goddard Clarke which are seldom even seen these days). So really there is little for Fr. Laisney to have taken on other than those later writers who built upon what Fr. Feeney had originated, tweaked and advanced it in the face of some of the more devastating evidences that had been brought against it since those early days, and which were far more current and commonly read by nearly all of Fr. Feeney's followers today.
Well, Fr. Feeney started it, and as the end can be seen from the beginning, one of the most poignant scenes to play out in all of this is that of an aging Fr. Feeney, as depicted in Sr. Mary Clare's biography of Fr. Feeney titled "Survival Till Seventeen," as quoted in George Pepper's book:
Berated and blamed by certain members for not taking sides, the elderly priest would often break down like a child and weep. Incredibly this only engendered hostility. A victim of Parkinson's disease, his health steadily declining, he continued to be pulled apart, caught between all groups. He loved every one of his followers, and he tried to unite them, but his efforts came to naught. Groping pathetically for answers he couldn't find, the old man would give up and sit helplessly by the hour, staring in a solitary, silent grief.
Fr. Feeney's stark and dramatic stance had begun with trumpets of glory and great denunciations against long-held Church teachings, and now here, having cut himself off from the authority the Church would gladly have provided him if only he were to return to the true Faith, he now found himself powerless to unite his own followers, or to see any sustainment of the thing he had started. And see how instead of feeling compassion for him, perhaps at least pretending to unite before him out of that compassion, they instead merely turned on him, shockingly bereft of that compassion that must always shine from every truly Christian and Catholic heart.
Griff L. Ruby
Griff's book is available from iUniverse.com Books for $26.95 or can be read on-line at www.the-pope.com We at The Daily Catholic strongly urge you to share it with all you can for that could be the gentle shove that moves your friends back to where the True Faith resides forever, rooted in the Truths and Traditions of Holy Mother Church as Christ intended and promised.
Griff Ruby's STRAIGHT STUFF Thursday, January 21, 2010,
Volume 21, no. 21