Friday, January 21, 2005

Saint Benedict Center in Richmond: No Stranger to Controversy

The Saint Benedict Center, a 200 acre complex located in Richmond, New Hampshire, serves as home to a community calling itself the "Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary." This community is no stranger to controversy. The Center's founder, Mr. Douglas Bersaw, has been quoted as having said that Pope John Paul II is "The worst Pope we ever had." He was also quoted as having said that, "There's a lot of controversy among people who study the so-called Holocause. There's a misperception that Hitler had a position to kill all the Jews. It's all a fraud. Six million people - it didn't occur." (Source:

Not surprisingly, Diane Murphy Quinlan, the diocese's vice chancellor, was quoted in the same article as having said that, "The St. Benedict Center has no relationship with the Diocese of Manchester and Bishop McCormack has not given them permission to do ministry in New Hampshire...They are not in union with the Church."

To say the least. And what are members of the Saint Benedict Center doing when they're not denying the Holocaust or ridiculing Pope John Paul II? Well, right now they are distributing a mailing entitled "Two Major Announcements - Epiphany 2005," in which they once again thumb their collective noses at the Church while engaging in more hateful rhetoric aimed at the Church's hierarchy. In this letter, Brother Francis, M.I.C.M., writes: "I have appointed Brother Andre Marie to succeed me as superior upon my death....As I wrote and lectured under the direct supervision of Father Feeney for many years, so Brother Andre Marie has written and lectured for several years under my guidance, taking my corrections and showing himself loyal to our school of thought."

And what is this "school of thought"? That the Church's interpretation of "Outside the Church there is no salvation" - Extra ecclesiam nulla salus - is incorrect and that Father Leonard Feeney's interpretation of this dogma is the correct one. In fact, in his letter, Brother Francis refers to "modernists in authority in the Church" who have an "ecumenical agenda" which includes a "denial of 'no salvation outside the Church.'"

This is, of course, plain nonsense. In a letter of the Holy Office to Archbishop Cushing of Boston dated August 8, 1949, the Holy Office explained that the Catholic Church is necessary for salvation because of the command of Christ and also because the Church is a necessary means for salvation. However, it was explained that since the Church is such a means only by divine institution and not by intrinsic necessity, that formal membership in the Church is not required of all men under all circumstances: "The infallible dictum which teaches us that outside the Church there is no salvation, is among the truths that the Church has always taught and will always teach. But this dogma is to be understood as the Church itself understands it. For Our Savior did not leave it to private judgment to explain what is contained in the deposit of faith, but to the doctrinal authority of the Church....Of those helps to salvation that are ordered to the last end only by divine decree, not by intrinsic necessity, God, in his infinite mercy, willed that such effects of those helps as are necessary to salvation can, in certain circumstances, be obtained when the helps are used only in desire or longing. We see this clearly stated in the Council of Trent about the sacrament of regeneration and about the sacrament of penance."

This is also the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which tells us that: "God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments." (CCC, 1257).

And what is Brother Francis' second "major announcement"? He writes, "Since the death of Father Feeney, we have never had a cleric as a religious member of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, circumstances in the Church [read their own disobedience to Church teaching and authority] making it virtually impossible to attain that goal. Regardless of this, it was the intention of our Founder to have priests in our First Order, and we have never abandoned that desire...Years of searching for priests to assist us have turned up no long-term solution.... The demands of serving our community call for a priest convinced of our position and goals. Otherwise, longevity is not likely. The most obvious question is how will it be done? We have long prayed for this goal, and sought to achieve it through proper canonical channels. Knowing how saturated the hierarchy is with modernism - from Rome on down - we have concluded that passage through these channels is impossible without compromising our Crusade. We are forced to take extraordinary measures to procure ordination. To be precise, we would be seeking ordination without dimissorial letters, the canonical permission granted by a diocesan bishop or other prelate for a man to be ordained. Is this action justified? In a word: Yes....Readers can rest assured that we would never present ourselves to a heretic or schismatic for Holy Orders. Such an action would violate the very principles we are vowed to defend."

And so these troubled people, more slaves to disobedience and pride than to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, intend to seek ordination for one of their "brothers" - specifically Andre Marie - their new "superior," without canonical permission. This comes as no real surprise. The history of the Saint Benedict Center is a sad one filled with many pages of rejection of authentic Church teaching and an angry and hateful attitude directed at the Church's hierarchy.

Unable to conform to Church teaching and to demonstrate any respect for the Church's hierarchy, this community's prayers to God for priests to serve them have gone unanswered. No surprise here either. God doesn't bless infidelity. And since God hasn't answered their prayers, these poor souls are now willing to seek ordination for one of their own without the permission of Holy Mother Church.

Since Holy Orders is a sacrament of the Church, and since members of the Saint Benedict Center intend to seek ordination of one of their "brothers" without canonical permission simply because they have never "abandoned that desire," I wonder if they consider this justified as a "Holy Orders of Desire"? The same people who deny that God is not bound by His sacraments and that "God, in his infinite mercy, willed that such effects of those helps as are necessary to salvation can, in certain circumstances, be obtained when the helps are used only in desire or longing," are now attempting to ordain a member of their community outside of canonical channels.

Small wonder that no priests have been attracted to their community.

Paul Anthony Melanson

1 comment:

Brother Andre Marie said...

Dear Paul,

Christ Jesus be praised! If this is not the same Paul Anthony Melanson that applied for membership in the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary last year, shortly after Easter, please kindly ignore the parts of this message that don’t apply to you.

“[M]ore slaves to disobedience and pride than to the Immaculate Heart of Mary...” Is that why you tried to join our community last year, withdrawing your petition because you were unwilling or unable to prove your honorable discharge from the US military?

Why did you affirm that you believed “extra ecclesiam nulla salus” exactly as we do, if we are dissidents? Why, after my thorough, personal explanation to you why we are at enmity with our liberal bishop did you agree that ours was a reasonable position? Further: why did a family member of yours attack us to friends she had made among our laity for our demanding that you meet our entrance requirements?

I find this all very perplexing. Were you lying? If so, do you often lie to gain entrance into communities you intend to denounce on your blog?

If you or any of your readers would like a reasoned, balanced, and orthodox defense of our doctrinal stance, you may visit Those who would like a canonical defense of our stance in the church vis-a-vis the ordination you find so offensive may write us to request a copy of our monograph currently in the works: “Straining Gnats and Swallowing Camels.” I will send it to those who request it from my by email (

May Our Lord have mercy on you, through the intercession of His Immaculate Mother.


In the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Brother André Marie, M.I.C.M.
SBC / FTH Publications
Post Office Box 627
Winchester, New Hampshire 03470

Ph: (603) 239-6485 or 239-4420
Fax:(603) 239-4502

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