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Feeneyism is the doctrinal position associated with Leonard Feeney (1897–1978), a Jesuit priest and founder of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who advocated a strict interpretation of the doctrine extra Ecclesiam nulla salus ("outside the Church there is no salvation").

Fr. Leonard Feeney[edit]

Fr. Feeney was a Roman Catholic priest and a member of the Jesuits. The Jesuit order dismissed Fr. Feeney in 1949 on account of disobedience, and on 4 February 1953, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (known then as The Holy Office) declared him excommunicated "on account of grave disobedience to Church Authority, being unmoved by repeated warnings".[1] He was reconciled to the Church in 1972.[2] Fr. Feeney co-founded the group known as the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Salvation and baptism[edit]

Catholics traditionally believe that sacramental baptism ("baptism of water") is the only way to be properly baptized. In addition, "the Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament."[3]

Fr. Feeney felt that, in the previous two centuries, some tended to broaden the notion of "baptism of desire" to cover the situation of all who try to live good lives, even to those who desired no relationship with the Catholic Church. Fr. Feeney argued that those who are truly sincere will be led by God to the Catholic Church. He also accepted no form of baptism as opening the way to salvation other than by water and only within the Catholic Church, but he did say that this was an opinion. He denied the salvational efficacy of the mere wish alone, even the explicit wish to be baptized, and held that God must have provided those martyrs who apparently died for the faith without being baptized with a minister and water to baptize them before their death.[4]

Father Feeney and his followers maintain that there is a contradiction between the Second Vatican Council's document Lumen gentium and earlier authoritative statements that they interpret as saying that non-Catholics are indiscriminately damned. His followers interpret the Catholic Church's declarations that outside of the Church there is no salvation as excluding from salvation people like the American Indians who lived between the times of Christ and Columbus, because they could not have been baptized, except on the hypothesis that some Christian missionaries did manage to reach them and baptize them in the Catholic faith.[5]


After Fr. Feeney's death, his spiritual descendants soon split into several groups due to various power struggles. The two most prominent both use the name Saint Benedict Center.

The branch of the Saint Benedict Center in Still River, Massachusetts (now known as St. Benedict Abbey) follows the Benedictine Order.[6] The community at Still River was reconciled with the Catholic Church and is listed on the website of the Diocese of Worcester. The form of Mass used is Latin Tridentine Mass.[7]

The other branch, located in Richmond, New Hampshire, had no official recognition from the Catholic Church before 2010,[8] but professed to be in communion with the Pope.[9] In a move toward reconciliation, in October 2010, the Richmond community announced that Bishop John McCormack of the Diocese of Manchester had granted permission for the group's chapel and appointed an official chaplain for it.[10]

The Southern Poverty Law Center has claimed the center in Richmond to be an "anti-Semitic hate group."[11] The center denies this characterization, saying it does not hate Jews, but simply wants to convert them, and all other Americans, to the Catholic faith.[12]


  1. ^ Documents
  2. ^ Patrick Madrid and Pete Vere (2004). More Catholic Than The Pope. Our Sunday Visitor. p. 72. 
  3. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1258.
  4. ^ Father Feeney and Catholic Doctrine — A Reply to Verbum
  5. ^ The Salvation of the Pre-Columbian Amerindians
  6. ^ "Our History". Sisters of Saint Benedict Center, Still River. Retrieved June 22, 2008. 
  7. ^ "Latin Tridentine Mass". Sisters of Saint Benedict Center, Still River. Retrieved June 22, 2008. 
  8. ^ Buchanan, Susy (Summer 2007). "Trouble in Paradise: N.H. Town Split by Radical Traditionalists". Intelligence Report. Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved June 22, 2008. 
  9. ^ "Our Status in the Church". Crusade of Saint Benedict Center, Richmond. Retrieved June 22, 2008. 
  10. ^ "Very Good News: a new priest for SBC!". Saint Benedict Center. 
  11. ^ "Active U.S. Hate Groups: Radical Traditionalist Catholic". Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved June 22, 2008. 
  12. ^ "Way off Center: The Southern Poverty Law Center on St. Benedict Center". Crusade of Saint Benedict Center, Richmond. August 8, 2007. Retrieved June 22, 2008. 

External links[edit]

In favor of the Feeney view
Against the Feeney view