Part Seven of Seven Parts
Father Martin Stepanich, O.F.M., S.T.D.
[Editor's foreword: Although those who have been convinced that the distortion and misrepresentation of Catholic teaching on the doctrine of Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus made famous by the late Father Leonard Feeney is correct--and that all who disagree with it are execrable "heretics" who will be cast into Hell immediately upon their deaths, the truth is otherwise. Father Martin Stepanich, O.F.M., S.T.D., has been kind enough send me photocopies of seven articles that he wrote on the authentic Catholic teaching on the doctrine of Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus. These articles appeared in The Remnant between November 3, 1973, and June 7, 1974. Those possessed of the false interpretation of the doctrine of Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus made the same arguments then, with the same demonic fury and pride, that are being made today by their successors.
[It is, therefore, with great joy that I present parts five and six of this series of articles for those who are open to learning the truth of Catholic teaching, and I thank Father Martin for his kindness in forwarding these articles to me.]
Part VII: "Nobody Wrote It,"
published on June 7, 1974
A genuine Catholic Sister (in the traditional long habit) likes to tell of an assignment once given to her little grade school children, who were asked to find the names of authors of books. On this occasion, one book that the children had to inspect for its authorship happened to be a textbook with a variety of names of contributors to the book given on the title page, where the children were taught to look for the author's name. Two of the little girls put their heads together and they looked and looked for the author's name, thinking that there should be only one name. Baffled by the presence of so many names on the title page, one of them finally announced with an air of triumphant solemnity, "Nobody wrote it!"
But the same cannot be said of an anonymous pamphlet that has emanated from Fr. Feeney's St. Benedict Center in Still River, Mass., bearing the date "January, 1974". Somebody did write it, and it is anything but a compliment to its author.
This inglorious pamphlet, consisting of 18 unnumbered regular book-size pages and done up in a glorious white cover, bears the misleading title, "The Dogma of Faith", as if treating the "Dogma of Dogmas", one greater even than, e.g., the Dogmas of the Trinity and the Incarnation. Under that misleading title is the untruthful subtitle: "Outside the Church There is no Salvation' Defended Against Right-Wing Liberals". This subtitle is untruthful especially because it DOES NOT DEFEND the Church's Dogma of Salvation, but PROMOTES ONLY AN ERRONEOUS INTERPRETATION of that Dogma.
The pamphlet is labelled as "A From the Housetops" Publication, second series, No. 1." and it was supposedly published by an uncanonical group calling itself "The Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, St. Benedict Center". The coat of arms of this group is displayed in red on the cover, giving the name of the group in Latin and indicating 1949 as the year of the group's uncanonical, and therefore illicit, founding.
Though the invisible author's name is not revealed, his voice is clearly heard from the heresy-enshrouded "Housetops". Whether he did so intentionally or in a moment of carelessness, the writer suddenly, towards the end, speaks of himself in the first person singular, after having constantly used the first person plural throughout the sorry tract. On unnumbered page 16, he writes the following: "Father Stepanich is not going to like my calling him a Rationalist any more than my calling him a Liberal".
One could hardly conclude anything else but that the word "my" refers to none other than Fr. Feeney himself. In fact, there is ever indication of this already on the very first page, filled as it is with one untruth after another (thus setting the pace for the remaining 17 pages), where the anonymous writer tells how "the doctrinal (?) crusade of the Saint Benedict Center dates back to the early 1940s when we began to attack...the very evils that conservative Catholics are so concerned about now". He also untruthfully writes: "From the start we proclaimed the dogma of faith: 'Outside the Church there is no salvation'. We vowed to defend it. . ."
Fr. Feeney's unsuccessful attempt to keep himself anonymous must have been a shock to one of the most fanatical of his followers, who was want to say of us: "If Father has the truth on his side, let me him come out with it and identify himself with it". We have done exactly that, only to be greeted with insolence and contempt and unrighteous indignation on the part of various hardened Feeneyites. And now this anonymous smear pamphlet.
Since the writer wishes to keep himself anonymous, we will respect his wishes, though we must use some name for him in this article. Seeing that he has chosen to be anonymous, we do not believe he will offended if we simply call him just that--"Anonymous". If Fr. Feeney wishes to dispel the unavoidable impression that Anonymous is none other than himself, let him write an "I didn't do it letter" to The Remnant.
Since it is not necessary, while also being practically impossible, to take up every error and untruth and slander that Anonymous brings up in this pamphlet, we are confining ourselves in this brief article only to certain points. Remnant readers know that the errors of Feeneyism have been adequately dealt with in the articles that followed last November's two-part article--namely: 1) "That 'Pretty Preposterous' Salvation Article" (1-1-74). 2) "Aquinas' 'Heresy' of Baptism of Desire" (2-1-74), 3) "The 'Heresy' of Invincible Ignorance" (3-1-74), and 4) "Those Three Ex Cathedras" (4-16-74). By the time that the anonymous pamphlet came into our hands, these four articles had already been lined up, though not as yet all published. We had been tipped off by an "insider" early in January that some kind of "reply" to our November article was about to be released from St. Benedict Center, though we were not looking for any reply from there, since our article was mainly for the benefit of the pro-Feeney individuals and groups that were stirring up confusion and trouble elsewhere.
If Anonymous had known that those four additional articles were yet to come, refuting his unspeakably derogatory and confused pamphlet in advance, he might have avoided wasting his time and energy and money in writing and publishing his intemperate attack. He could have avoided repeating all those sophistries and misconceptions and distortions of his that were already too well known to us. He could have avoided his appallingly uncharitable smearing of those whom he calls "rationalists" and "liberals", as well as The Remnant, which de dubs a "professional wailer" publication, and even Walter Matt himself, whom he regards as being afflicted with the"disease" of the "heresy of liberalism"!
Anonymous imagines that we were "very little acquainted" with is own ideas and writings, and he issues an implied warning against "publications" for which, supposedly, he is "mistakenly" held responsible. Of course, we cannot see him being proud of the kind of persons who have, through letters and publications, acted as self-appointed instant mouthpieces of Feeneyism, and who have hastened to tell us, e.g., that "This is what Fr. Feeney means . . .", etc., etc. Furthermore, while hearing of schism in his own back yard, we doubt that Anonymous could be very happy i knowing that his followers elsewhere are also divided among themselves, since one group knocks another as "not being truly representative of Fr. Feeney's views. . ." Yet, remarkably enough, schism or no schism, all those groups and individuals use the very same type of false arguments as does Anonymous, pointing to him as the source of it all!
The crucial mistake of Anonymous is, course, the fact that he does not honestly and truthfully declare his own real position on salvation outside the church, as we have already noted, for example, in the April 16th article on the "Three Ex Cathedras". He imagines he is defending the Church's Dogma of Salvation, whereas he is propagating only his own false interpretation of that Dogma. Anonymous is surely not incapable of realizing this. He knows that there are two interpretations of the Dogma, yet, while demanding "infallible statements" supporting the correct interpretation, he fails to provide any "infallible statement" for his own false interpretation.
For the sake of his followers, many of whom are innocently taken in as ideal-filled young people and who mistakenly believe that they are real religious "brothers" and "sisters" who form a real religious congregation, as well as for his own sake, we must emphatically declare once again that the dogmatic principle, "Outside the Church there is no salvation," is NOT a statement of his true belief in this matter.
Here, then, is the way that principle would have to be re-worded to fit his own misconception of the Dogma:
"Outside VISIBLE MEMBERSHIP in the Church THROUGH BAPTISM OF WATER there is no salvation".
Anonymous must surely know this, but he is probably afraid to put his COMPLETE belief into one sentence like that, because he can see then all his misdirected argumentation and sophistry and distortion of facts would crumble into dust.
Since Anonymous makes the "Three Ex Cathedras" the backbone of his false doctrine, even though those papal declarations actually condemn him, we must re-word, for his benefit, at least one of them. Referring to the Popes of the "Three Ex Cathedras", he expressly asks us in his pamphlet anonymous page 5): "What terms would you have suggested more emphatic than the ones they actually used?" The Popes were emphatic enough, but here is the way that, for example, the statement of Innocent III would have to be revised to fit the thinking of Anonymous: "There is but one universal Church of the faithful, AND OUTSIDE VISIBLE MEMBERSHIP IN THAT CHURCH THROUGH BAPTISM OF WATER no one at all can be saved".
Anonymous states that for "over a quarter of a century" he had been hurling the following challenge at the liberals: "Produce one infallible statement in favor of salvation outside the Church!" Even in making this ill-advised challenge, he fails to express himself accurately, for this is the way he should say it: "Produce one infallible statement in favor of salvation outside VISIBLE MEMBERSHIP in the Church THROUGH BAPTISM OF WATER!" Here again, Anonymous must surely be capable of understanding that he himself is the one who should be producing an "infallible statement" in favor of his own erroneous idea--which, of course, he knows he cannot possibly do.
It is because of his failure to declare his own position that Anonymous is so presumptuous as to twist around and distort even the authoritative Encyclical statements of Pope Pius IX and Pius XII, which we quoted in our November 3rd article and which he vainly imagines to be in conflict with the Solemn Magisterium of the Church. Twice he refers to the quotation from Pius IX as "notorious", and he baldly asserts, without offering a shred of evidence, that this passage caused the saintly Pope "so much sorrow and pain . . . that he spent the rest of his long pontificate trying to retract it."
Since he is so liberal in rationalizing away the teaching of the Popes, it is no surprise that Anonymous sets up a doctrine of hell to fit his heresy. He spends pages and pages discussing the question of hell, which anyone rejecting the correct interpretation of a dogma, and refusing to be "subject to the Roman Pontiff:, has every reason to dread. He most untruthfully asserts that the doctrine of salvation which we based on the teachings of Popes Pius IX and Pius XII lets just about anybody and everybody into Heaven, leaving Hell practically empty!
We believe that Anonymous is capable, of seeing the falsity of his doctrine of "over a quarter of a century", which has long ben known as Feeneyism. It is time that he proclaims "from the housetops" that FEENEYISM IS DEAD!"
Thomas A. Droleskey Afteword, July 21, 2008
Is interesting to note that Pope Pius XII amplified what he wrote in Mystici Corporis, June 20, 1943, in his Address to Italian Midwives, October 29, 1951:
If what We have said up to now concerns the protection and care of natural life, much more so must it concern the supernatural life, which the newly born receives with Baptism. In the present economy there is no other way to communicate that life to the child who has not attained the use of reason. Above all, the state of grace is absolutely necessary at the moment of death without it salvation and supernatural happiness—the beatific vision of God—are impossible. An act of love is sufficient for the adult to obtain sanctifying grace and to supply the lack of baptism; to the still unborn or newly born this way is not open.
All things happen in God's Holy Providence. He knew that the late Father Leonard Feeney would cause to be promoted a misinterpretation of the doctrine of Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus at the same time that an enemy of that doctrine, whether taught properly or heretically, the then Archbishop of Boston, Richard Cushing, was busily engaged in various acts of religious indifferentism that would lead to his boasting before he died that he had never made a single convert to the Catholic Church. Cushing did not want any mention of the doctrine of Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus taking place at a time when his good friend and benefactor, Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., was grooming his son, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, then a newly elected member of the House of Representatives from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, to be the first Catholic President of the United States of American. Father Feeney's tragic misinterpretation and stubborn misrepresentation of the authentic Catholic teaching of Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus gave the arch-Americanist Cushing and other early ecumenists an opportunity to paint anyone who mentioned this doctrine of the Catholic Church as a "Feeneyite."
Although I was taught the correct doctrine in parochial school and in college and seminary, I have to admit that there were moments when those three "Ex Cathedras" looked pretty intimidating, and thus believed, at least for a time, that this was one of those matters that would be "resolved" when the modernists were no longer in "control," and was thus "open" to the possibility of either interpretation being correct, considering those who took the Feeney position to be of "good will" and people with whom those not sure of their position, such as me, could work for the promotion of the Faith.
In God's Holy Providence, however, I was disabused of that notion while recognizing that the proper teaching of Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus is not a matter open to "debate." Articles and talks by various priests explicated the matter very clearly.
As per usual, however, most of the best work on the subject has been done by the "nine," including a conference, now published, given in 1996 by His Excellency Bishop Clarence Kelly (which contains the usual gratuitous swipes at the validity of the Thuc line consecrations and at the Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen). His Excellency Bishop Daniel Dolan has given masterful sermons on the correct doctrine of the Church, and Father Anthony Cekada has written about it very clearly and very succinctly.
As Father Martin has demonstrated, the Feeney heresy is pernicious and is a denial of the Catholic Faith, giving rise to several generations of people who believe that they know quite infallibly the Particular Judgments of other human beings, expressing themselves in fits of anger and rage whenever the falsity of their position is presented.
Father Michael Muller, a Redemptorist of the Nineteenth Century, is often cited by those adhering to the heretical, rigoristic interpretation of Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus. Father Muller, while making the careful distinction that invincible ignorance neither saves nor damns anyone, states the following before quoting Pope Pius IX:
Inculpable or invincible ignorance has never been and will never be a means of salvation. To be saved, it is necessary to be justified, or to be in the state of sanctifying grace. In order to obtain sanctifying grace, it is necessary to have the proper dispositions for justification; that is, true divine faith in at least the necessary truths of salvation, confident hope in the divine Savior, sincere sorrow for sin, together with the firm purpose of doing all that God has commanded, etc. Now, these supernatural acts of faith, hope, charity, contrition, etc., which prepare the soul for receiving sanctifying grace, can never be supplied by invincible ignorance; and if invincible ignorance cannot supply the preparation for receiving sanctifying grace, much less can it bestow sanctifying grace itself. "Invincible ignorance", says St. Thomas Aquinas, "is a punishment for sin". (De Infid. q. x., art. 1.) It is, then, a curse, but not a blessing or a means of salvation.
But if we say that inculpable ignorance cannot save a man, we thereby do not say that invincible ignorance damns a man. Far from it. To say, invincible ignorance is no means of salvation, is one thing; and to say, invincible ignorance is the cause of damnation, is another. To maintain the latter would be wrong, for inculpable ignorance of the fundamental principles of faith excuses a heathen from the sin of infidelity, and a Protestant from the sin of heresy; because such invincible ignorance, being only a simple involuntary privation, is no sin.
Hence Pius IX said "that, were a man to be invincibly ignorant of the true religion, such invincible ignorance would not be sinful before God; that, if such a person should observe the precepts of the Natural Law and do the will of God to the best of his knowledge, God, in His infinite mercy, may enlighten him so as to obtain eternal life; for, the Lord, who knows the heart and thoughts of man, will, in His infinite goodness, not suffer any one to be lost forever without his own fault."
God alone knows the subjective state of the souls of others. The fact that it is possible for those who are not visible members of the true Church to save their souls by virtue of her Treasury of Grace does not mean that we know the number of those so saved, which is why the false ecumenism of the counterfeit church of conciliarism is such an exercise in spiritual cruelty. The conciliarists make no effort to seek with urgency the unconditional conversion of Protestants and Jews and Mohammedans and the Orthodox or the practitioners of various pagan superstitions, making it appear as though that their salvation is more or less assured, or, at the very least, not in too much jeopardy if they do not convert to the true Church, outside of which there is no salvation. The counterfeit church of conciliarism has abandoned the work of seeking the conversion of souls to what it claims is the Catholic Church.
We must never abandon that work. While we do indeed pass out Green Scapulars to those whom we meet and pray for the conversion of all men and their nations to the true Church, we must leave to God what is God's, namely, the Particular Judgments that he renders on the souls of other men, Judgments that will be revealed, along with our own (!), at the Last Day at the General Judgment of the Living and the Dead. And those angry souls who follow the Feeney heresy--or some variation thereof--who think that they know with certainty the fate of the soul of any person not canonized by the Catholic Church is a fool of the highest order, daring to play God, a crime for which he will have to answer at the moment of his own Particular Judgment.
Holy Mary, Mother God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.