Tuesday, December 20, 2005

James Carroll’s Historical Revisionism

Pope John Paul II, in his Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis, reminded us that "the various critical attitudes attacking ab intra, internally, the Church, her institutions and structures, and ecclesiastics and their activities...was certainly due to various causes and we are furthermore sure that it was not always without sincere love for the Church. Undoubtedly one of the tendencies it displayed was to overcome what has been called triumphalism, about which there was frequent discussion during the Council. While it is right that, in accordance with the example of her Master, who is ‘humble in heart,’ the Church also should have humility as her foundation, that she should have a critical sense with regard to all that goes to make up her human character and activity, and that she should always be very demanding on herself, nevertheless criticism too should have its just limits. Otherwise it ceases to be constructive and does not reveal truth, love and thankfulness for the grace in which we become sharers principally and fully in and through the Church. Furthermore such criticism does not express an attitude of service but rather a wish to direct the opinion of others in accordance with one’s own, which is at times spread abroad in too thoughtless a manner" (RH, No. 4).

Mr. James Carroll should reflect very carefully upon these words. For in his zeal to promote a Christian faith which offends no one, his criticism of the Church has exceeded any "just limits" and has degenerated into historical revisionism and bad logic. In an editorial for The Boston Globe, he writes, "The dispute over whether it is appropriate, in public, to say ‘Happy Holidays’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas’ puts me in mind of Cardinal Richard Cushing. He was my boss when I was Catholic Chaplain at Boston University, and I loved him. In the early 1950's, Cushing forced one of the great changes in Catholic theology by excommunicating Father Leonard Feeney for preaching on Boston Common that ‘there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church.’ As is true of today’s exclusivist claims for a Christian meaning of ‘the holidays,’ there was an undercurrent of antisemitism in Feeney’s exclusivist claim for Catholicism. An inch below all Christian triumphalism is special contempt for Jews who reject the idea that Jesus is the saving Messiah. Robust assertions of the one meaning of the winter celebration are a version of the claim that there is only one way to God. Jews may not accept that, but how dare they forbid the dominant Christian culture from celebrating its dominance."

First of all, the Church has never taught that membership in the Church is required of all men under all circumstances. Therefore, it is dishonest for Mr. Carroll to assert that Cardinal Cushing "forced one of the great changes in Catholic theology." In a letter of the Holy Office to Archbishop Cushing dated August 8, 1949, the Holy Office explained that, "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 The same, in due proportion, should be said of the Church insofar as it is a general help to salvation. To gain eternal salvation it is not always required that a person be incorporated in fact as a member of the Church, but it is required that he belong to it at least in desire and longing."

The teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that "God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments" (No. 1257) does not represent a "change" in the perennial teaching of the Church. For example, Peter Lombard (1095-1160), taught that Christ has not made his grace dependent on the sacraments: "Ad excellentiam potestatis Christi pertinet quod ipse potuit effectum sacramentorum sine exteriori sacramento conferre" (Sent. IV d I c 5). But this does not suggest that we should ignore the great importance of the sacramental path to salvation in the Church which is the Mystical Body of the Incarnate Son of God and which He founded as a means for our salvation. Such an attitude would be disastrous.

Weaving a story as fascinating and intricate as The Da Vinci Code (and just as idiotic), Mr. Carroll continues with his fiction: "Why was Cardinal Cushing the one to force this change? Cushing’s sister Dolly, an MTA toll taker, was married to Dick Pearlstein, who, with his father Louis, ran the haberdashery that was on the way to being Boston’s best men’s store, which it remains. Cardinal Cushing was often in the Pearlstein home, and he had ample occasion to experience his brother-in-law’s innate goodness. There came to be no question for Cushing as to whether his sister’s beloved husband was beloved of God. That Dick Pearlstein was Jewish - a ‘non-Catholic’ - ceased to have decisive meaning, and Cushing began to take Feeney’s ‘orthodox’ preaching as an insult to his own family. An abstract principle of theology was upended by the sort of cross-group interaction that had become common in America."

What a lovely story about American pluralism overcoming the ugly "bigotry" and "rigid fanaticism" of the Church with love and a message of "tolerance." Problem is, not a shred of it is true except for the fact that Fr. Leonard Feeney had indeed reduced the doctrine of Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus - "Outside the Church there is no salvation" - to the absurd. In fact, Fr. Feeney and his followers had also mistranslated the Latin. For when the Latin Word "extra" is combined with a preposition, it is properly translated as "without." This is significant because, as Pope John Paul II reminded us in his best selling book "Crossing the threshold of Hope": "The Council speaks of membership in the Church for Christians and of being related to the Church for non-Christian believers in God, for people of goodwill (cf. Lumen Gentium 15-16). Both these dimensions are important for salvation, and each one possesses varying levels. People are saved through the Church, they are saved in the Church, but they always are saved by the grace of Christ. Besides formal membership in the Church, the sphere of salvation can also include other forms of relation to the Church....This is the authentic meaning of the well-known statement ‘Outside the Church there is no salvation.’ It would be difficult to deny that this doctrine is extremely open. It cannot be accused of an ecclesiological exclusivism. Those who rebel against claims allegedly made by the Catholic Church probably do not have an adequate understanding of this teaching." (pp. 140-141).

How do we know this story is false? Well, once again, the Church had never taught Fr. Feeney’s interpretation of the dogma Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. And then we have the word of Joseph Dever, the well-known novelist and one-time feature writer for the Boston Sunday Herald. In his book "Cushing of Boston: A Candid Portrait," Mr. Dever writes that, "In any event, Cushing’s failure to get the Red Hat in 1946 had nothing to do with the Feeney affair, since ‘the contumacious Irishman,’ as Evelyn Waugh once called the latter, did not become defiant of ecclesiastical authority until the early fifties. When we asked Cardinal Cushing about the Feeney case, he threw up his hands in wry alarm and exclaimed: ‘I had nothing to do with it!’" (p. 143).

So much for Mr. Carroll’s fictionalized account of the Fr. Leonard Feeney affair and his claim that this unhappy episode served as some sort of catalyst for a change in Church teaching. What of Mr. Carroll’s belief that we should jettison the words "Merry Christmas" at this time of year and replace this Christian greeting with "Happy Holidays," since the former represents a form of "Christian triumphalism" and "special contempt for Jews who reject the idea that Jesus is the saving Messiah"? It is Mr. Carroll’s contention that the greeting "Merry Christmas" is just another example of a "dominant Christian culture..celebrating its dominance."

If this be true, why then does he advocate the use of "Happy Holidays" as an alternative? After all, by his own admission, "The word means holy." To which he adds, "I recognize in the derided word ‘holidays’ a welcome signal of respect for everyone." Really? What about atheists who feel dominated and excluded by others who wish them a "holy day"? Shouldn’t we respect their feelings as well? And while we’re at it, perhaps we should re-fashion those signs at the zoo which read "Caution: Man-eating lion." After all, lions eat women as well don’t they? I could continue. But you get the idea.

This is a predominantly Christian nation. Therefore, most of us are going to acknowledge our Lord during this season in which we honor His birth. If Mr. Carroll has a problem with this, perhaps he should relocate to a Muslim country where there is so much more respect for diversity and religious freedom.

Paul Anthony Melanson


Anonymous said...

I love it....haha. Mr. Carroll continues to embarass himself with his silly op-ed pieces. It is small wonder that he left the priesthood. If he really believes what he writes, then his understanding of Church teaching and the Church herself is just abysmal.

Keep up your great work Paul! Your pieces are having an impact.

Anonymous said...

The fact that the Saint Benedict Center cannot find a validly ordained priest to offer Holy Mass there should tell these people something. Not to mention the fact that two of the five brothers there are in their 90's.

The Holy Spirit will not bless the Saint Benedict Center in Richmond with growth because their work is of man and not of God.

Anonymous said...

James Carroll really has forfeited his credibility. You have proven that he is engaging in revisionist history Paul and that his version of the Father Leonard Feeney affair is a fraud.

I love the quote from Pope John Paul II on the Church's understanding of Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. That quote alone destroys the claims of the Saint Benedict Center.

Anonymous said...


Those at the St. Benedict Center certainly have a misunderstanding about the teaching of the Catholic Church, but it's a theological point that can be obscure to some. We should look on them with charity and realize it may only be a small point that separates us.

I know the Holy Father does so. He visited one of the Brothers in the 80s to dicuss certain matter, and apparently corresponds with him to some degree to this day.


Paul Anthony Melanson said...

Anonymous, you are of course correct. Charity in all things. However, if we're not committed to bringing people the truth, our charity is counterfeit.

I believe Robert has hit upon a valid point. The Saint Benedict Center is not attracting young men because it does not embrace the Church's authentic teaching on the dogma Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus.

Moreover, this schismatic community intends to seek ordination for one of its members - Andre Marie - without dimissorial letters (the canonical permission) to do so.

Disobedience is not a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Anonymous said...

What is really sad is that the folks over at the saint benedict center continue to accuse the Church of teaching error and reject the authoritative teaching of the Catechism. This is not how Catholics behave. The Catechism is a book of "opinions." It is authoritative and a "sure norm" as Pope John Paul II said.

Anonymous said...

I meant to write, "The Catechism IS NOT a book of opinions.."


Anonymous said...

The Diocese of Manchester has said publicly that the Saint Benedict Center is not in communion with the Church. Since they are in schism, I would caution everyone who reads this to stay clear of them. Satan is prowling about like a roaring lion seeking souls to devour.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Leonard Feeney was NEVER accused or formally charged for teaching heresy. His and SBC's "interpretation" is and has always been based on Ex Cathedra statements, JPII and Benedict XVI's private theological opinions do not settle the matter definitively. In Ratzinger's own work TRUTH AND TOLERANCE (2003) he acknowledges the "exclusivist's claims" as legitimate, if outdated and unpopular. As for SBC's status, all 3 groups in Still River MA have been regularised and still hold ECNS as taught by Fr. Feeney (which would not be possible if they preached heresy). As for the Richmond group, lack of formal communion does not prove schism, and those who know this and continue to spread it are guilty of calumny. It as also false that they lack a properly ordained priest, as they have been served by Fr. Michael Jarecki, a retired diocesan priest in good standing, for over 20 years. In the name of justice and charity, you all should really get your facts straight before you detract and calumniate fellow Catholics publicly, some of whom are REGULAR PROFESSED and ORDAINED RELIGIOUS, adding the crime of sacrilege. Hope that you don't consider this admonition a hate crime! Merry Christmas! +JMJ+ Steve Kampe

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

Dear Mr. Kampe,

No one has posted anything at this website regarding the Saint Benedict Center in Still River Massachusetts. It is the community in Richmond, New Hampshire which is not in communion with the Church and the Diocese of Manchester has addressed this fact.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is our norm. Here's what it says regarding Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus:

"Outside the Church there is no salvation"

846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers?335 Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:

Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.336
847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.337
848 "Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men."338

In opposition to this authoritative teaching of Holy Mother Church, a teaching which Pope John Paul II said represents a "sure norm" in his Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum, you wrote:

"Fr. Leonard Feeney was NEVER accused or formally charged for teaching heresy. His and SBC's "interpretation" is and has always been based on Ex Cathedra statements, JPII and Benedict XVI's private theological opinions do not settle the matter definitively."

The interpretation of this dogma maintained by the SBC in Richmond, New Hampshire is not based upon Ex Cathedra statements but upon private interpretation of these Ex Cathedra statements.

You also wrote, "It as also false that they lack a properly ordained priest, as they have been served by Fr. Michael Jarecki, a retired diocesan priest in good standing, for over 20 years. In the name of justice and charity, you all should really get your facts straight before you detract and calumniate fellow Catholics publicly.."

Actually, it was a visitor to this website (Robert) who made this claim. But you should know that valid ordination is not the only prerequisite for a priest administering the sacraments within a particular church (a diocese).

Canon Law states quite clearly that:

"Every cleric must be incardinated into some particular church or personal prelature or into an institute of consecrated life or society endowed with this faculty, so that unattached or transient clerics are NOT ALLOWED at all." (Canon 265).

Furthermore, Canon 267 states clearly that:(1) "In order for a cleric already incardinated to be incardinated VALIDLY into another particular church, he must obtain from the diocesan Bishop a letter of excardination signed by the Bishop; he must likewise obtain from the diocesan Bishop of the particular church into which he desires to be incardinated a letter of incardination signed by that Bishop."

And (2): "Excardination thus granted does not take effect unless incardination into another particular church has been obtained."

Until you can show me a letter of incardination signed by The Most Rev. John B. McCormack as well as a letter of excardination from Fr. Jarecki's previous ordinary, I must assume that Fr. Jarecki has no faculties to confer the sacraments within the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire.

The ball is in your court Mr. Kampe. In the future, I would advise you to spend some time with the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the documents of Vatican II (and especially Lumen Gentium, Nos. 14-14).

God love you,

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

Errata and correction:

Should read: Lumen Gentium, Nos. 14-16.

Anonymous said...

Brother Andre of the St. Benedict Center is pursuing ordination outside of the Church's hierarchy from the "independent" Bishop Fulham.

I'll say it again, the Saint Benedict Center is in schism. Members of this community have placed their souls in peril.

Anonymous said...

I have researched this so-called "Bishop" Fuller. He is not a Bishop of the Catholic Church and he is part of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in Spring Hill, Florida. This "independent" church is roughly 45 miles from Tampa, Florida and falls under the jurisdiction of legitimate Catholic Bishop Robert N. Lynch - the Ordinary of the Diocese of St. Petersburg.

This schismatic movement maintains a website: http://www.olfatima.com/ and pictures of the schismatic "Bishop" Fuller (who intends to "ordain" Andre Marie, M.I.C.M.) may be found here: http://www.olfatima.com/sodality.html

At this website, there is a page for "frequently asked questions." The first question posted? This should speak much to people: "Are you really Catholics?" And the answer? This: "Most certainly yes. We remain faithful to the liturgy and beliefs of the Catholic Church prior to the Second Vatican Council."

In other words, they do not accept as legitimate the Second Vatican Council or the liturgy which we have today.

Robert is right. Andre Marie and his followers are schismatics.

Anonymous said...

This statement: "Bro. Andre of the St. Benedict Center is pursuing ordination outside of Benedict XVI’s hierarchy from the independent Bishop Fulham!" may be found here: http://www.mostholyfamilymonastery.com/BishopFulham_Bro.Andre_andtheSBC.html

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