Saturday, July 26, 2008

There are many ways to fall...Feeneyism is one of them

In his classic work entitled Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton so eloquently explains that: "This is the thrilling romance of Orthodoxy. People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy. It was sanity: and to be sane is more dramatic than to be mad. It was the equilibrium of a man behind madly rushing horses, seeming to stoop this way and to sway that, yet in every attitude having the grace of statuary and the accuracy of arithmetic. The Church in its early days went fierce and fast with any warhorse; yet it is utterly unhistoric to say that she merely went mad along one idea, like a vulgar fanaticism. She swerved to left and right, so exactly as to avoid enormous obstacles. She left on one hand the huge bulk of Arianism, buttressed by all the worldly powers to make Christianity too worldly. The next instant she was swerving to avoid an orientalism, which would have made it too unworldly. The orthodox Church never took the tame course or accepted the conventions; the orthodox Church was never respectable. It would have been easier to have accepted the earthly power of the Arians. It would have been easy, in the Calvinistic seventeenth century, to fall into the bottomless pit of predestination. It is easy to be a madman: it is easy to be a heretic. It is always easy to let the age have its head; the difficult thing is to keep one's own. It is always easy to be a modernist; as it is easy to be a snob. To have fallen into any of those open traps of error and exaggeration which fashion after fashion and sect after sect set along the historic path of Christendom -- that would indeed have been simple. It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands. To have fallen into any one of the fads from Gnosticism to Christian Science would indeed have been obvious and tame. But to have avoided them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect."

"It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls." Truer words were never spoken. This is so because men are tempted by pride to prefer their own opinions and preferences to the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ through the Magisterium of His Church. Such people forget that, "..the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed." (Dei Verbum, No. 10).

Many of those who adhere to Fr. Leonard Feeney's interpretation of Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus are in this category. Others are simply confused as to what the Church actually teaches. Dr. Germain Grisez provides us with clarification on this teaching:

"Because the Church is the unique new covenant community, outside her there is no savation, as Lateran IV solemnly teaches: 'There is but one universal Church of the faithful outside which no one at all is saved' (DS 802/430). Vatican II reaffirms this definitive teaching (see LG, 14, AG, 7). But it must be rightly understood. Already in 1863, Pius IX, while absolutely rejecting indifferentism, teaches (as something taken for granted by both himself and the bishops) that those who are ready to submit to God but are separated from the true faith and Catholic unity by invincible ignorance can receive God's grace, live uprightly, and be saved (see Quanto conficiamur moerore, Pii IX Pontificis maximi acta, 3.1 [Rome 1868], 612-614 [DS 2865-67/1677]; PE, 60.6-8). Also, in a 1949 decree approved by Pius XII, the Holy Office rejected a more restrictive interpretation (see DS 3866-73). What is new in Vatican II's teaching is the clarification that, although the one and only Church subsists in the Catholic Church (see LG, 8; UR, 4; DH, 1), she also embraces in various ways all who 'sincerely seek God and, moved by grace, strive by their deeds to do his will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience" (LG, 16; GS, 22)...Thus, it remains true that there is no salvation outside the Church, but it is now recognized that those who are in good faith in not wishing to be inside the Catholic Church are not entirely outside her (see UR, 3; CMP, 30.2)."

In the mid-1990's, I tried to explain this to Mother Teresa Benaway of St. Ann House in Still River, Massachusetts. I had written Mother because a local priest had advanced Fr. Leonard Feeney's strict interpretation of Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus during Holy Mass at St. Ann House. I also contacted The Most Reverend Daniel P. Reilly, then Bishop of the Worcester Diocese, with my concerns. This after Mother Benaway asked me not to return to St. Ann House for Holy Mass. His Excellency explained to Mother why she was in the wrong and that I could return to Mass there if I so desired (for the sake of prudence, I decided not to). He also explained to Mother Benaway that should he receive additional complaints that Fr. Feeney's strict interpretation of Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus was being advanced, he would take away the indult for celebrating the Latin Mass.

It is always simple to fall. But when we stand with the teaching of the Magisterium, we have Christ's teaching. And we will not fall.


Anonymous said...

Those Feeneyites who obstinately cling to Father Feeney's strict (and rejected) interpretation of the Dogma have succumbed to pride. They possess absolutely no logic. Since they reject the Church's interpretation of the Dogma, they are really saying that the Church cannot be trusted in matters of faith or morals.

Why then should anyone accept what the Church teaches on abortion, contraception, homosexuality or anything else for that matter? If private opinion is to rule the day, then people should be permitted to prefer their own opinions on these matters as well.

The Saint Benedict Center in NH is on a slippery slope.

Sanctus Belle said...

Its seems to me, more and more that the two keys to NOT falling from Truth are obedience to the teachings of the Catholic Church - whether you agree or not, whether you understand or not...AND devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who's prayers we are in so much need to keep on on the correct path. I believe it is she who is the narrow gate through which I hope with all my soul to pass when my earthly days are done. Amen+

Paul Anthony Melanson said... are not far from the Kingdom of God sister. With Our Lady's help (Jesus can refuse her nothing) we will inherit the Kingdom and worship Truth for all eternity.

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