Leonard Edward Feeney
February 18, 1897|
|Died||January 30, 1978
|Occupation||Priest, poet, lyricist, editor, theologian, chaplain|
He articulated and defended a strict interpretation of the Roman Catholic doctrine, extra Ecclesiam nulla salus ("outside the Church there is no salvation"). He took the position that baptism of blood and baptism of desire are unavailing and that therefore no non-Catholics will be saved. Fighting against what he perceived to be the liberalization of Catholic doctrine, he came under ecclesiastical censure. He was described as Boston's homegrown version of Father Charles Coughlin for his antisemitism.
Feeney was born in Lynn, Massachusetts, on February 18, 1897.
He entered the novitiate in 1914 and was ordained a priest in 1928.
He was a professor in Boston College's graduate school, and then professor of spiritual eloquence at the Jesuit seminary in Weston, Massachusetts, before he became the priest chaplain at the Catholic Saint Benedict Center at Harvard Square in 1945. (He had first visited in 1941.) He gave incendiary speeches on the Boston Common on Sundays, leading Robert Kennedy, then a Harvard undergraduate, to write Archbishop Cushing requesting his removal. He induced some of the faithful to drop out of Harvard or Radcliffe to become students at his Center, now accredited as a Catholic school. From 1946, the Center published From the Housetops, a periodical focused on Catholic theology that enjoyed contributions from the archbishop himself. By 1949, it had begun a controversy over extra ecclesiam nulla salus that led to four of the Center's members' dismissal from their posts in the Boston College theology faculty and Boston College High School.
On August 8, 1949, Cardinal Francesco Marchetti Selvaggiani of the Holy Office sent a protocol letter to Archbishop of Boston Richard Cushing on the meaning of the dogma extra Ecclesiam nulla salus (outside the church there is no salvation), which Feeney refused to accept. This protocol was never published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis. After Feeney repeatedly refused to reply to this summons to Rome, he was excommunicated on February 13, 1953 by the Holy See for persistent disobedience to legitimate Church authority due to his refusal to comply with the summons. The decree of excommunication was later published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis. His followers said that his excommunication was invalid because Feeney was not given a reason for his summons.
Following his excommunication, Feeney set up a community called the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He was reconciled to the Roman Catholic Church in 1972, but was not required to retract or recant his interpretation of "Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus". The phrase is inscribed on his tombstone.
Speaking two decades after the controversy Cardinal Avery Dulles judged Feeney's doctrine on a series of lectures not having to do with "extra Ecclesiam..." to be quite sound. Dulles' reflections on Feeney's life did not endorse nor deny Feeney's views on extra Ecclesiam nulla salus, and spoke only to his theology, not his political views on issues such as Zionism.
Feeney died in Ayer, Massachusetts, on January 30, 1978. He received a Mass of Christian Burial by his bishop.
Feeney was editor of "The Point," which ran a mixture of theological and political articles, many of them branded anti-semitic by Feeney's critics. The newsletter frequently contained sentiments such as:
... the Church has never abandoned her absolute principle that it is possible for an individual Jew to scrap his hateful heritage, sincerely break with the synagogue, and cleanse his cursed blood with the Precious Blood of Jesus. (October 1957)
... we spoke about the plague of Marrano (secret-Jew) Catholics in Spain, and the extreme means (the Inquisition) which was necessary to keep their influence from spreading. (October 1957)
Those two powers, the chief two in the world today, are Communism and Zionism. That both movements are avowedly anti-Christian, and that both are in origin and direction Jewish, is a matter of record. (September 1958)
As surely and securely as the Jews have been behind Freemasonry, or Secularism, or Communism, they are behind the "anti-hate" drive. The Jews are advocating tolerance only for its destructive value — destructive, that is, of the Catholic Church. On their part, they still keep alive their racial rancors and antipathies." (July 1955)
A single year, 1957, saw the following article titles:
- January: "Jewish Invasion of Our Country—Our Culture Under Siege"
- February: "When Everyone Was Catholic—The Courage of the Faith in the Thirteenth Century"
- March: "Dublin's Briscoe Comes to Boston"
- April: "The Fight for the Holy City—Efforts of the Jews to Control Jerusalem"
- May: "Our Lady of Fatima Warned Us"
- June: "The Rejected People of Holy Scripture: Why the Jews Fear the Bible"
- July: "The Judaising of Christians by Jews—Tactics of the Church's Leading Enemies"
- August: "A Sure Defence Against the Jews—What Our Catholic Bishops Can Do for Us"
- September: "An Unholy People in the Holy Land—The Actions of the Jews"
- October: "The Jewish Lie About Brotherhood—the Catholic Answer—Israeli Brotherhood"
- November: "Six Pointers on the Jews"
Reactions and references
As Harvard undergraduate, Robert Kennedy attended a meeting of students at which he stood up and challenged Feeney, later storming out following the priest's assertion that there was no salvation outside the Catholic faith. A similarly negative reaction to Feeney's teaching was recorded by British novelist and Catholic convert Evelyn Waugh, who wrote of visiting the priest while in the United States:
I went one morning by appointment & found him surrounded by a court of bemused youths of both sexes & he stark, raving mad. All his converts have chucked their Harvard careers & go to him only for all instruction. He fell into a rambling denunciation of all secular learning which gradually became more & more violent. He shouted that Newman had done irreparable damage to the Church then started on Ronnie Knox's Mass in Slow Motion saying 'To think that any innocent girl of 12 could have this blasphemous & obscene book put into her hands' as though it were Lady Chatterley's Lover. I asked if he had read it. 'I don't have to eat a rotten egg to know it stinks.' Then I got rather angry and rebuked him in strong words. His court sat absolutely aghast at hearing their holy man addressed like this. And in unbroken silence I walked out of the house. I talked to some Jesuits later & they said that he is disobeying the plain orders of his provincial by staying there. It seemed to me he needed an exorcist more than an alienist. A case of demoniac possession & jolly frightening.
...on the list of [Knox's] recurrent callers, was Mr. Evelyn (pronounced Evil-in) Waugh, whose father, a London publisher, supplied his sons with early printing privileges in pornography, before one of them (Evelyn) turned to hagiography, and whitened his sepulchre with the life of a saint.
Feeney appears in Paul Theroux's My Secret History: A Novel where he delivers a fiery sermon on Boston Common while surrounded by members of his movement. The adolescent protagonist describes how he "had been scared, but... also been thrilled by his anger and conviction."
- Chanler, Theodore (194–), The children : nine songs for children's chorus and piano, words by Leonard Feeney, LCCN 88753009 Check date values in:
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- Chanler, Theodore (c. 1945), The children : song, words by Leonard Feeney ; music by Theodore Chanler, LCCN 88753008 Printed Music
- Chanler, Theodore (1945), The children, words by Leonard Feeney ; music by Theodore Chanler, LCCN 88752469 Manuscript Music
- Chanler, Theodore (1944), The flight, Theodore Chanler ; words by Leonard Feeney, LCCN 88753128 Manuscript Music
- Chanler, Theodore (194–?), Love is now : song, words by Leonard Feeney ; music by Theodore Chanler, LCCN 91759111 Check date values in:
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- Chanler, Theodore (194–?), Meet Doctor Livermore, Chanler ; words by Feeney, LCCN 91760334 Check date values in:
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- Chanler, Theodore (194–?), Meet Doctor Livermore, Chanler ; words by Feeney, LCCN 91760333 Check date values in:
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- Chanler, Theodore (194–?), Once upon a time, music by Chanler ; words by Feeney, LCCN 88753011 Check date values in:
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- Chanler, Theodore (194–?), One and one are two, music by Chanler ; words by Feeney, LCCN 88752470 Check date values in:
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- Chanler, Theodore, Sequence : five songs sung without pause, Chanler ; words by Feeney, pp. 194–?, LCCN 88753130 Manuscript Music
- Crane, Nathalia; Feeney, Leonard (1939). The ark and the alphabet, an animal collection. New York: The Macmillan Company. LCCN 39031692.
- Feeney, Leonard (1935). Boundaries. New York: The Macmillan company. LCCN 35016455.
- Feeney, Leonard (1952). Bread of life. Cambridge, Mass.: Saint Benedict Center. LCCN 53015579.
- Feeney, Leonard (1938). Elizabeth Seton, an American woman. New York: America press. LCCN 38025911.
- Feeney, Leonard (1942). Fish on Friday. London: Sheed & Ward. LCCN 42025544.
- Feeney, Leonard (1934). Fish on Friday. New York: Sheed & Ward. LCCN 34009643.
- Feeney, Leonard (1989). The gold we have gathered : selections from the writings of Father Leonard Feeney. compiled by the Sisters of Saint Benedict Center, the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Inc. Still River, Mass.: The Center. LCCN 89194125.
- Feeney, Leonard (1943). In towns and little towns. New York: The America Press. LCCN 44003675.
- Feeney, Leonard (2004). In towns and little towns : a book of poems. Fitzwilliam, N.H.: Loreto Publications. ISBN 193027842X. LCCN 2004108326.
- Feeney, Leonard (1927). In towns and little towns; a book of poems. New York: The American press. LCCN 27012847.
- Feeney, Leonard (1943). The Leonard Feeney omnibus: a collection of prose and verse, old and new. New York: Sheed & Ward. LCCN 43018459.
- Feeney, Leonard (1951). London is a place. Boston: Ravengate Press. LCCN 51005861.
- Feeney, Leonard (1947). Mother Seton, an American woman. New York: Dodd, Mead. LCCN 47011485.
- Feeney, Leonard (1975). Mother Seton : Saint Elizabeth of New York (1774–1821) (Rev. ed.). Cambridge [Mass.]: Ravengate Press. ISBN 0911218068. LCCN 75023224.
- Feeney, Leonard, ed. (1925). Poems for memory, an anthology for high school students. Chicago, Ill.: Loyola university press. LCCN 40023514.
- Feeney, Leonard (1933). Riddle and reverie. New York: The Macmillan company. LCCN 33036935.
- Feeney, Leonard (1936). Song for a listener. New York: The Macmillan company. LCCN 36021490.
- Feeney, Leonard (1980). Survival till seventeen. with an introd. by S. M. Clare (Memorial ed.). Still River, Mass.: St. Bede's Publications. ISBN 0932506089. LCCN 79025067.
- Feeney, Leonard, S.J. (1941). Survival till seventeen; some portraits of early ideas. New York: Sheed & Ward. LCCN 41002380.
- Feeney, Leonard (1970). You'd better come quietly; three sketches, some outlines and additional notes. Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press. ISBN 0836915690. LCCN 79105011.
- Feeney, Leonard (1939). You'd better come quietly; three sketches, some outlines and additional notes [by] Leonard Feeney, S. J. New York and London: Sheed & Ward. LCCN 39031329.
- Feeney, Leonard (1945). Your second childhood; verses. Pictures by Michael Cunningham. Milwaukee: Bruce Pub. Co. LCCN 48003760.
- Feeneyism, a pejorative name for Feeney's theology
- Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the community he founded
- Neumann, Br. John (February 9, 2010). "A Latter-Day Athanasius: Father Leonard Feeney". Saint Benedict Center, Richmond, New Hampshire: Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
- "Feeney Forgiven". Time Magazine. October 14, 1974. Retrieved March 25, 2014. (subscription required)
- Blakeslee, Spencer (2000). The death of American antisemitism. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 93. ISBN 0-275-96508-2. LCCN 99029576. Retrieved 2014-03-25.
After World War II, Boston was to acquire a homegrown version of Coughlin in the form of Father Leonard Feeney, a charismatic but openly antisemitic Jesuit priest, whose highly vocal insistence that Catholicism was the only path to salvation gained him a youthful following, but also roused intense anger among Jews and Protestants... Feeney's Sunday speeches on the Boston Common required a police presence to avert violence. His fiery rhetoric also divided a great many Catholics, who feared his oratory would stir a backlash that would block their entrance into the American mainstream. Although Feeney was excommunicated in the 1950s for violating Catholic doctrine, it came too slowly to satisfy many Jews who held strong memories of the Holocaust."
- Keane, James T. (April 13, 2009). "Oops! Now and then America got it wrong". America. Retrieved 2014-03-25.
The national Catholic weekly has also occasionally featured authors whose later antics brought it some embarrassment, including the articles and poetry of a literary editor with a brilliant mind and a talent for comic verse, Leonard Feeney, S.J. Feeney published frequently in America and earned a certain amount of fame for his numerous books, including a book of essays, Fish on Friday. He grew much more famous a few years later for a different reason: his excommunication from the Catholic Church in 1953 for refusing to accept the church’s definition of the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus (“there is no salvation outside the church”). Though Feeney was reconciled to the church in 1974 (Avery Dulles, S.J., wrote his obituary for America), his establishment of his own schismatic religious community, the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and his long fight with church authorities overshadowed his literary genius until his death in 1978.
- Mazza, Michael J. "Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus: Father Feeney makes a comeback". Retrieved 2014-03-25. originally published in Fidelity, 206 Marquette Avenue, South Bend, IN 46617
- Savadove, Laurence D. (December 6, 1951). "Father Feeney, Rebel from Church, Preaches Hate, Own Brand of Dogma to All Comers – One-Time Jesuit Plans To Use Ex-Harvard Men to Spread Idea". Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 2014-03-25.
- Thomas, Evan. "Tough". Robert Kennedy: His Life. p. 51. Retrieved 2014-03-25.
- Letter of the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office
- "Our History". Still River, Massachusetts: Sisters of Saint Benedict Center. Archived from the original on December 5, 2008. Retrieved June 22, 2008. Now http://sistersofstbenedictcenter.org/history.html .
- Dulles, Avery (February 25, 1978). "Leonard Feeney: In Memoriam". America. 138. pp. 135–137. Archived from the original on December 24, 2010. Please see also
- Sorensen, Ted (1970). The Kennedy Legacy. Weidenfield and Nicolson. pp. 27–28.
- The Letters of Evelyn Waugh (1980), 292–3.
- Feeney, Father Leonard, M.I.C.M. (May 18, 2005). "Fog over London". London is a Place. Retrieved March 24, 2014.
- The Father Feeney Archive – the online archive of the writings of Father Leonard Feeney
- The Point Newsletter
- The Point by Father Feeney – an online archive of all issues of Feeney's magazine
- Documents on the Excommunication
- Fr. Feeney and Catholic Doctrine
- Fr. Feeney, a Fact Sheet
- Staunch Catholic: The Life & Times of Fr. Leonard Feeney (Free Audio book) by William H. Kennedy
- Leonard Feeney at Find a Grave