Thursday, July 24, 2008

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus is "simple-minded" and "naive"?

In a Blog post which may be found here, a Catholic by the name of Mary Alexander writes:

"Fr Neuhaus says (after glowing praise of the book - Philip Lawler's The Faithful Departed):

"I differ with Philip Lawler on a number of points in his telling of the story. For instance, his treatment of the 1940s conflict between Father Leonard Feeney and Cardinal Cushing is, I think, too uncritical of Father Feeney. Feeney was out of line in the way he pressed the claim that only Catholics can be saved."

And what struck me was this. We are talking about priests- a handful of whom have become familiar names- Shanley, Geoghan, who were serial abusers of children. Men who left a wake of human destruction who exploited childhood innocence, who manipulated and cheated and who were able to continue their careers of child abuse for decades and then we have Fr. Feeney. (The man that Fr. Neuhaus can really become exorcised about!)I mean child abuse is bad and all but then we have Fr. Feeney!And what did Fr. Feeney do?- teach the Catholic Faith- adhere to its tenets inspite a loss of human respect, a safe career path, a reputation built on his talents, political considerations and plead for the conversion of souls.- do what he thought was right- remain steadfast- speak alone as a voice crying in the wilderness- accept the abandonment of friends and his religious order (and we know how THAT turned out!) Versus child abusers. Right, wrong or insane, how does Fr. Feeney even merit the ire of Fr. Neuhaus?

Ms. Alexander suggests an answer:

"It's simple. Propaganda. Simplemindedness. Naivete. If you are confused about the events that surround the case of Fr. Feeney I think there is only one thing that you need to know. Fr. Feeney was never asked to retract anything that he taught. If, Fr. Feeney were a heretic he would have to retract what he had erroneously taught."


Really? Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, one of the foremost priest-scholars of our time, the Editor of First Things (which is one of the most highly respected journals in the world of Catholic academe) is "simple-minded" and "naive"? More likely Mary that these qualities should be attributed to you. In his excellent refutation of Fr. Feeney's rigid interpretation of Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus, Fr. William Most, an internationally acclaimed Scripture scholar and theologian writes: "In the late 1940s Leonard Feeney, S. J. began to teach that there is no salvation outside the Church. He was correct in saying that there were official teachings, even definitions, on that score. But his tragic error came when he adopted Protestant method, thinking that in that way he would be one of the only true Catholics! We spoke of his protestant method with good reason. First, he was excommunicated for disobedience, refusing to go to Rome to explain his position. Then the Holy Office, under Pius XII, sent a letter to the Archbishop of Boston, condemning Feeney's error. (It is known that Pius XII personally checked the English text of that letter). In the very first paragraph pointed out what is obvious: we must avoid private interpretation of Scripture -- for that is strictly Protestant. But then the letter said we must also avoid private interpretation of the official texts of the Church. To insist on our own private interpretation, especially when the Church contradicts that, is pure Protestant attitude...

What the disobedient Feeney said amounted to this: he insisted that all who did not formally enter the Church would go to hell. Hence he had to say, and he did say, that unbaptized babies go to hell. Further, all adults who did not formally enter the Church - get their names on a parish register - would also go to hell, even if they never had a chance to hear there was a Church, e.g., those in the western hemisphere during the long centuries before Columbus. Therefore Feeney consigned literally millions upon millions to hell, even though He gave them no chance. Not just the documents of the Church as interpreted by the Church should have kept him from this: merely common sense, and the realization that God is not only not a monster, but is infinitely good - that alone should have stopped him. We have, then, most ample reason for calling his error tragic. Even the sexually immoral do not deny that God is good. Feeney does worse than they."


Why then was Fr. Feeney not required to recant his erroneous interpretation of Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus? Fr. Most explains:

"When Feeney was old, some church authorities out of sorrow for him, let him be reconciled to the Church. As part of the unfortunate looseness we se so often today, they did not demand that he recant. So he did not. As a result, some former followers of his came back to the Church. Others even today insist that the lack of demanding a recantation meant Feeney had been right all along. Of course not. We have proved that abundantly with official texts above and the texts of the Fathers of the Church." For these proofs, visit this link.

It is very troubling that Mr. Philip Lawler will be attending the 2008 Saint Benedict Center Conference which is to be held in Nashua, New Hampshire next month. This because the Center has no relationship with the Roman Catholic Church and has been listed as an anti-Semitic hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.


In a letter to Mrs. Terri O'Rorke (which was referenced on the television program Chronicle, Fr. Edward J. Arsenault, Moderator of the Curia for the Diocese of Manchester (NH) wrote:

"I write to you in reply to your letter dated May 24, 2007. I share your concern about the ongoing controversy and difficulties with the Saint Benedict Center. As you know, the Saint Benedict Center has no permission or authority to exercise any Ministry on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church in New Hampshire.Bishop McCormack has and will continue to do all that he can to encourage people to refrain from participating in any of the spiritual exercises at the Saint Benedict Center. For my part, I will continue to make it clear that Saint Benedict Center has no affiliation with the Roman Catholic Church in any way. Please know that I will continue to pray for you and all those who are affected by difficulties that have been created by the Saint Benedict Center."

Related reading: The real status of Fr. Feeney's doctrinal position.




12 comments:

Ellen Wironken said...

The Catechism of the Catholic Church represents "a sure norm" according to Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum.

And the Catechism affirms that:

1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them. Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are "reborn of water and the Spirit." God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.

1258 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.

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.

1260 "Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery." Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.

God is not bound by His sacraments. This should be common sense. The all-powerful God is not limited by His sacraments. Even if they represent the ordinary way to salvation.

As for Lawler's appearance at the SBC Conference next month, that is just bizarre. Is this evidence that he is moving away from the teaching of the Magisterium regarding the dogma Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus? Does he share the anti-Semitic views of the SBC in Richmond?

I hope not.

Elizabeth said...

Brother Anthony Mary of the Saint Benedict Center, the same one who refused to be interviewed on Chronicle, has said that, "the perpetual enemy of Christ is the Jewish nation” and that they should be dealt with using "blood and terror if it’s required." He has also denied the Holocaust. Brother Andre Marie has accused the Jewish people of undermining morality.

And Mr. Lawler is going to be a guest speaker at the Saint Benedict Center's 2008 conference? Does he identify with this hate group? Does he share their belief that the Holocaust never happened, that it didn't occur?

John Ansley said...

I think I now understand why Mr. Lawler takes it so easy on Fr. Feeney in his book. The fact that he is scheduled to speak at the SBC Conference in New Hampshire would suggest that he is sympathetic toward Feeneyism and perhaps even the hate-filled anti-Semitism and Holocaust-denial which is part and parcel of the Center. Why else would he be attending their conference? Surely he is able to find other venues for promoting his book and engaging the culture?

Elizabeth said...

John, I would tend to agree. Although I'm not prepared to say definitively that Mr. Lawler is anti-semitic, the fact that he would choose to speak at a function held by anti-semites is not one easily overlooked. I mean, honestly, what are Catholics supposed to think? I don't think this helps his credibility in any way but only serves to diminish it. And that's too bad because he has written what is overall a wonderful book.

Phil said...

No, I do not endorse or support anti-semitism or Holocaust denial. Anyone who knows me realizes that those charges are outrageous.

If I had been aware of the statements attributed above to the St. Benedict Center, I would have reconsidered my appearance (which has already taken place). And if anyone can demonstrate that those quotes are accurate I will denounce them.

Now I have a question: If you were concerned about my beliefs and/or affiliations, why not raise those concerns directly to me, rather than post slanderous accusations in a public forum that I might never see?

- Phil Lawler

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

Mr. Lawler, it is good to know that you are not supportive of anti-Semitism. And no one here has accused you of such. Therefore, kindly refrain from suggesting otherwise.

You write, "If I had been aware of the statements attributed above to the St. Benedict Center, I would have reconsidered my appearance (which has already taken place). And if anyone can demonstrate that those quotes are accurate I will denounce them."

If you had taken the time to familiarize yourself with the Saint Benedict Center in Richmond before agreeing to appear as a guest speaker at their Conference, you would have learned that the local Ordinary, The Most Rev. John B. McCormack, has referred to statements issued by the Center as being offensive to all people of good will. You would have familiarized yourself with the article published by The Boston Globe and entitled "Cherishing an older Catholicism" which states that, "The St. Benedict Center has no relationship with the Diocese of Manchester, and Bishop [John B.] McCormack has not given them permission to do ministry in New Hampshire," said Diane Murphy Quinlan, the diocese's vice chancellor. "They are not in union with the church."

If you had taken the time to familiarize yourself with the Center, you would have learned that the television program Chronicle devoted an episode to the anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial of the Center.

Perhaps in the future you should exercise some common sense and good judgment before associating yourself with an organization which is so questionable. The Saint Benedict Center is not in communion or affiliated in any way with the Roman Catholic Church. A simple google search would have revealed this to you. If you're still not satisfied, why not contact the Diocese of Manchester yourself?

Lastly, you write, "I have a question: If you were concerned about my beliefs and/or affiliations, why not raise those concerns directly to me, rather than post slanderous accusations in a public forum that I might never see?"

Once again, no one at this Blog has made any accusations regarding your person. But you really cannot blame people for having concerns in light of the anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial of the Saint Benedict Center. Not to mention the fact that the Center is not affiliated with the Church and has no permission to do ministry. As for addressing my concerns with you directly, I couldn't. Not having your email address. Having said that, I believe people have a right to know about your associations since you have cast yourself into the public forum.

Now I have a question for you Mr. Lawler. Will you now contact the Diocese of Manchester, the Southern overty Law Center, The Boston Globe and those responsible for producing the television program Chronicle to hear what they have to say about the Saint Benedict Center? And, if you can verify that the Saint Benedict Center made the offensive statements in question, will you denounce them?

Bexo said...

Paul, with all due respect, I would encourage you to do your homework about St. Benedict Center before posting about it. You're incorrect in saying that the SBC has no connection to Rome. First of all, there are numerous communities which call themselves the SBC, and all hail Father F as their founder. Which community are you referring to? One of these communities is now a Benedictine monastery, totally regularized and recognized by Rome. Many of Father F's first followers currently reside there. There is also St. Ann's house next door which houses the majority of Sisters who knew Father F personally. Prior to the Motu Proprio, St. Ann's house, the "Sisters of Saint Benedict Center," had their Mass listed as the official indult Mass for the diocese of Worcester Massachusetts. It was listed on the official website of the Archdiocese of Worcester. There is also another community in Massachusetts where Bishop McManus, the bishop of Worcester, Confirmed all of the children in the traditional rite. He has visited their school numerous times and has even said Mass in their chapel. Like it or not, Mother Church permits her members to hold a strict interpretation of Extra Ecclesia Nulla Salus (EENS): "In our discussions with the Congregation (for the Doctrine of the Faith) it seems rather clear that proponents of a strict interpretation of the doctrine (EENS) should be given the same latitude for teaching and discussion as those who would hold more liberal views." (May 4th, 1988, Rev. Lawrence A. Deery, JCL, Vicar for Canonical Affairs, Judicial Vicar). So if you have an issue with a strict interpretation of EENS, perhaps you should take it up with Mother Church instead of Ms. Alexander. Father F was never asked to recant anything he said, and the excommunication was lifted prior to his death.

Alzina said...

Funny how Mr. Lawler couldn't find the lengthy cyber-space trail of documentation exposing the SBC's anti-semitism but was somehow able to find this Blog when his association with the SBC was merely questioned.

Makes you wonder how deeply he is committed to the truth. I mean this Blog has been exposing the Center in New Hampshire for some four years. Russell Provost's Blog (SBC Watch) for about a year and a half. There are the two SPLC articles, the Boston Globe piece, the Factnet article, the Chronicle piece, and many others.

Ellen Wironken said...

I'd like to know if Mr. Lawler accepts the Church's teaching and understanding of Extra ecclesiam nulla salus. Or does he prefer Father Leonard Feeney's rigid (and incorrect) interpretation? And, if he accepts the Church's interpretation, what does he think of the Saint Benedict Center's obstinate refusal to accept the Church's teaching?

Perhaps he would be so kind as to let us know?

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

Bexo, I have made it clear time and again that the Saint Benedict Center in Richmond, New Hampshire has no relationship with the Roman Catholic Church and the Diocese of Manchester has confirmed this. At no time have I ever suggested that the Saint Benedict Center in Still River is not in communion with the Church. Please read my posts very carefully. I have taken great pains to make this abundantly clear.

As for Fr. Feeney not being required to recant his position, I would refer you to Fr. William Most's article which I cite in this post.

Feeney was wrong. Period. Holy Mother Church has spoken. Let's be obedient to her shall we?

Phil said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Roger said...

Bexo wrote "Paul, with all due respect, I would encourage you to do your homework about St. Benedict Center before posting about it....if you have an issue with a strict interpretation of EENS, perhaps you should take it up with Mother Church instead of Ms. Alexander. Father F was never asked to recant anything he said, and the excommunication was lifted prior to his death."

It is Bexo who needs to do her homework. In a letter of the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office to then Archbishop Cushing on August 8, 1949, Mother Church said clearly:


"Your Excellency:

This Supreme Sacred Congregation has followed very attentively the rise and the course of the grave controversy stirred up by certain associates of "St. Benedict Center" and "Boston College" in regard to the interpretation of that axiom: "Outside the Church there is no salvation."

After having examined all the documents that are necessary or useful in this matter, among them information from your Chancery, as well as appeals and reports in which the associates of "St. Benedict Center" explain their opinions and complaints, and also many other documents pertinent to the controversy, officially collected, the same Sacred Congregation is convinced that the unfortunate controversy arose from the fact that the axiom, "outside the Church there is no salvation," was not correctly understood and weighed, and that the same controversy was rendered more bitter by serious disturbance of discipline arising from the fact that some of the associates of the institutions mentioned above refused reverence and obedience to legitimate authorities.

Accordingly, the Most Eminent and Most Reverend Cardinals of this Supreme Congregation, in a plenary session held on Wednesday, July 27, 1949, decreed, and the august Pontiff in an audience on the following Thursday, July 28, 1949, deigned to give his approval, that the following explanations pertinent to the doctrine, and also that invitations and exhortations relevant to discipline be given:

We are bound by divine and Catholic faith to believe all those things which are contained in the word of God, whether it be Scripture or Tradition, and are proposed by the Church to be believed as divinely revealed, not only through solemn judgment but also through the ordinary and universal teaching office (Denzinger), n. 1792).

Now, among those things which the Church has always preached and will never cease to preach is contained also that infallible statement by which we are taught that there is no salvation outside the Church.

However, this dogma must be understood in that sense in which the Church herself understands it. For, it was not to private judgments that Our Savior gave for explanation those things that are contained in the deposit of faith, but to the teaching authority of the Church.

Now, in the first place, the Church teaches that in this matter there is question of a most strict command of Jesus Christ. For He explicitly enjoined on His apostles to teach all nations to observe all things whatsoever He Himself had commanded (Matt. 28: 19-20).

Now, among the commandments of Christ, that one holds not the least place by which we are commanded to be incorporated by baptism into the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church, and to remain united to Christ and to His Vicar, through whom He Himself in a visible manner governs the Church on earth.

Therefore, no one will be saved who, knowing the Church to have been divinely established by Christ, nevertheless refuses to submit to the Church or withholds obedience from the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ on earth.

Not only did the Savior command that all nations should enter the Church, but He also decreed the Church to be a means of salvation without which no one can enter the kingdom of eternal glory.

In His infinite mercy God has willed that the effects, necessary for one to be saved, of those helps to salvation which are directed toward man's final end, not by intrinsic necessity, but only by divine institution, can also be obtained in certain circumstances when those helps are used only in desire and longing. This we see clearly stated in the Sacred Council of Trent, both in reference to the sacrament of regeneration and in reference to the sacrament of penance (Denzinger), nn. 797, 807).

The same in its own degree must be asserted of the Church, in as far as she is the general help to salvation. Therefore, that one may obtain eternal salvation, it is not always required that he be incorporated into the Church actually as a member, but it is necessary that at least he be united to her by desire and longing.

However, this desire need not always be explicit, as it is in catechumens; but when a person is involved in invincible ignorance God accepts also an implicit desire, so called because it is included in that good disposition of soul whereby a person wishes his will to be conformed to the will of God.

These things are clearly taught in that dogmatic letter which was issued by the Sovereign Pontiff, Pope Pius XII, on June 29, 1943, (On the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ) (AAS, Vol. 35, an. 1943, p. 193 ff.). For in this letter the Sovereign Pontiff clearly distinguishes between those who are actually incorporated into the Church as members, and those who are united to the Church only by desire.

Discussing the members of which the Mystical Body is-composed here on earth, the same august Pontiff says: "Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed."

Toward the end of this same encyclical letter, when most affectionately inviting to unity those who do not belong to the body of the Catholic Church, he mentions those who "are related to the Mystical Body of the Redeemer by a certain unconscious yearning and desire," and these he by no means excludes from eternal salvation, but on the other hand states that they are in a condition "in which they cannot be sure of their salvation" since "they still remain deprived of those many heavenly gifts and helps which can only be enjoyed in the Catholic Church" (AAS, 1. c., p. 243). With these wise words he reproves both those who exclude from eternal salvation all united to the Church only by implicit desire, and those who falsely assert that men can be saved equally well in every religion (cf. Pope Pius IX, Allocution, (Singulari quadam), in (Denzinger), n. 1641 ff.; also Pope Pius IX in the encyclical letter, (Quanto conficiamur moerore), in (Denzinger), n. 1677).

But it must not be thought that any kind of desire of entering the Church suffices that one may be saved. It is necessary that the desire by which one is related to the Church be animated by perfect charity. Nor can an implicit desire produce its effect, unless a person has supernatural faith: "For he who comes to God must believe that God exists and is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Heb. 11:6). The Council of Trent declares (Session VI, chap. 8): "Faith is the beginning of man's salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please God and attain to the fellowship of His children" (Denzinger, n. 801).

From what has been said it is evident that those things which are proposed in the periodical (From the Housetops), fascicle 3, as the genuine teaching of the Catholic Church are far from being such and are very harmful both to those within the Church and those without.

From these declarations which pertain to doctrine, certain conclusions follow which regard discipline and conduct, and which cannot be unknown to those who vigorously defend the necessity by which all are bound' of belonging to the true Church and of submitting to the authority of the Roman Pontiff and of the Bishops "whom the Holy Ghost has placed . . . to rule the Church" (Acts 20:28).

Hence, one cannot understand how the St. Benedict Center can consistently claim to be a Catholic school and wish to be accounted such, and yet not conform to the prescriptions of canons 1381 and 1382 of the Code of Canon Law, and continue to exist as a source of discord and rebellion against ecclesiastical authority and as a source of the disturbance of many consciences.

Furthermore, it is beyond understanding how a member of a religious Institute, namely Father Feeney, presents himself as a "Defender of the Faith," and at the same time does not hesitate to attack the catechetical instruction proposed by lawful authorities, and has not even feared to incur grave sanctions threatened by the sacred canons because of his serious violations of his duties as a religious, a priest, and an ordinary member of the Church.

Finally, it is in no wise to be tolerated that certain Catholics shall claim for themselves the right to publish a periodical, for the purpose of spreading theological doctrines, without the permission of competent Church authority, called the "imprimatur," which is prescribed by the sacred canons.

Therefore, let them who in grave peril are ranged against the Church seriously bear in mind that after "Rome has spoken" they cannot be excused even by reasons of good faith. Certainly, their bond and duty of obedience toward the Church is much graver than that of those who as yet are related to the Church "only by an unconscious desire." Let them realize that they are children of the Church, lovingly nourished by her with the milk of doctrine and the sacraments, and hence, having heard the clear voice of their Mother, they cannot be excused from culpable ignorance, and therefore to them apply without any restriction that principle: submission to the Catholic Church and to the Sovereign Pontiff is required as necessary for salvation.

In sending this letter, I declare my profound esteem, and remain,

Your Excellency's most devoted,

F. Cardinal Marchetti-Selvaggiani.

A. Ottaviani, Assessor.

(Private); Holy Office, 8 Aug., 1949.


There it is Bexo. Put away your pride and listen to Christ as He speaks through His Church. In other wrds, do YOUR homework.

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