“Fr.” Leonard Feeney: Unsung Hero or
Modernist Agent Provocateur?
© Copyright 2023, T. Stanfill Benns (All emphasis within quotes added by the author)
We have used the term agent provocateur in the title above to this three-part series because it most closely describes the role “Fr.” Leonard Feeney played in the drama that led to the dismantling of the juridical Catholic Church. Merriam-Webster’s definition of this term is a perfect fit: “A rebel; a person who stirs up public feelings especially of discontent; a calculating provocateur,” one who “makes a career out of controversy for its own sake.” Controversial and confrontational are other words used to explain this term. And all this certainly describes Feeney to a “T.” Feeneyites will attack the use of the word Modernist in this title, but it will be proven below that everything Feeney did during his lifetime, as well as the very cast of his personality, merits this description.
Many Traditionalists and before them approved pre-1959 theologians have adequately explained Feeney’s errors and detailed, some at great length, the extent of those errors. Always Feeney followers have thrown down their perpetual gauntlet — Feeney was the defender of the Church against the ecumenism and Modernism that seemingly engulfed her following the death of Pope Pius XII; the much-maligned champion of Catholic orthodoxy. Some of his devotees gush over his “love for the common man.” But of course the errors Feeney professed to oppose had actually taken shape long before, simmering just beneath the surface until they finally came to a rolling boil. And even though Feeney’s errors have been soundly condemned by a host of others, the real source of those errors and the nature of the methodology used to promote them has not, to this author’s knowledge, been investigated at any great length. Nor have the finer points of the arguments presented by Feeney’s followers today been fully examined and exposed as contradicting Church law and teaching, which they most certainly do.
Feeneyites bluster that the arguments they have met with from their proponents are nothing more than strawmen, which is a fallacy in logic, i.e., illogical. The person using the strawman fallacy pretends to attack their opponent’s stance, while in reality they are actually attacking a distorted version of that stance, which their opponent doesn’t necessarily support. This statement is based on their contention that Feeney was not excommunicated as a heretic — a contention that will be proven to be false, and which directly contradicts Canon Law (see Part Three). And all Catholics worthy of the name must accept the solemn excommunications of heretics by the Holy See. The denial by Feeney promoters that Feeney’s excommunication was for disobedience and not heresy and that it was null and void owing to a violation of Feeney’s “rights”(error now has rights?), is only a tactic they use to prevent their critics from arriving at the truth.
It is also an attempt to conceal the fact that these Feeneyite snake oil peddlers are resorting to fallacies in logic themselves. These are known as (a) an appeal to the populace by arousing passions and prejudices (a fallacy Feeney certainly engaged in himself, with his followers adopting the same approach) and (b) argumentation ad miseracordium, an appeal for sympathy (for the “unjustly persecuted” Feeney, rather than sticking to the actual facts of the case). These fallacies in argument are not admissible under the method of Scholasticism mandated by the popes. One theologian has aptly referred to such fallacies as “arguments in which a falsehood is hidden under the appearance of truth” (Michael J. Mahony, S.J, Essentials of Formal Logic, 1918). And Feeneyites are adept at using these fallacies to cover the ugly truth they must hide. But Catholics must believe that there is only one right way of thinking and reasoning, and this will be treated at greater length below.
There are numerous sites on the Internet that either promote a variety of Feeneyism (there are several) or sympathize with Feeney’s stand. These people actively recruit followers and present as truly Catholic when the propaganda they use to reach out to others is every bit as heretical as Feeney himself. Those who truly value their faith and wish to defend it are thus obligated to do all in their power to shed as much light as possible on this most seductive heresy for the good of souls. This we are commanded to do under Can.1325, or risk being a party to their errors ourselves. This should help readers understand that given the cunning and complex methodology employed by the Modernists, the “clever artifices” they use, the perception of disconnectedness they project and the many roles they play in promoting their errors (Pope St. Pius X in Pascendi Dominici gregis, DZ 2071), a detailed and comprehensive study of the problem must be presented to successfully expose them.
The following points, then, will be made in order to:
— dispel the illusion that Feeneyites staunchly uphold papal teaching on “outside the Church no salvation” when in fact they are in violation of a great number of de fide teachings.
— detail the Modernist and ecumenical origins of Feeney’s methods, teaching and behavior;
— demonstrate the futility of his argument that the the “implicit desire” teaching was non-existent prior to the release of Suprema haec sacra and that teaching it constituted a departure from dogma.
— disprove entirely his false claims against the papacy, Supreme haec sacra, Holy Office officials;
— prove his condemnation by the Holy See was for heresy, according to Canon Law;
— discuss the details of his reconciliation with the Novus Ordo sect.
Nearly all Feeneyites, with few exceptions, are either Traditionalists of some description or conservative Novus Ordo sectarians. Over the past two decades, we have written many pages on this site and compiled several e-books proving that anyone attending the services of Traditionalists, not to mention the NO, have separated themselves from the Church and are no longer Catholic. The Feeney stance merely serves as a means of appealing to the sympathy of those not well-grounded in Catholic dogma in order to more easily convince them that no one who does not accept outside the Church no salvation as Feeney interpretated it can hope to be saved. But far from being saved, those falling for the Feeney deception are trapped in a web of lies that will cost them their eternal salvation.
Feeney was no champion of orthodoxy, Part One
I am not sure if it is possible to describe or define the strange spirit that seems to infest those presenting as self-described apologists for Leonard Feeney and the teachings he proposed regarding the “true nature of salvation.” Trying to reason with these people or those they entrap is impossible. There is an eerie fierceness, an unmitigated pride, also a malicious streak that typifies the discourse of nearly every Feeneyite defender I have ever encountered, and I am not the only individual who has noticed this. It seems that somehow something of the character of the man they are following has been imbibed by them, and I find this most disturbing. British novelist and Catholic convert Evelyn Waugh, wrote the following after visiting Fr. Feeney at his St. Benedict Center while vacationing in the U.S.:
“I went one morning by appointment and found him surrounded by a court of bemused youths of both sexes and he stark, raving mad. All his converts have chucked their Harvard careers and go to him only for all instruction. He fell into a rambling denunciation of all secular learning which gradually became more and more violent. He shouted that Newman had done irreparable damage to the Church then started on Ronnie Knox’s Mass in Slow Motion saying ‘To think that any innocent girl of 12 could have this blasphemous and obscene book put into her hands’ as though it were Lady Chatterley’s Lover. I asked if he had read it. ‘I don’t have to eat a rotten egg to know it stinks.’ Then I got rather angry and rebuked him in strong words. His court sat absolutely aghast at hearing their holy man addressed like this. And in unbroken silence I walked out of the house. I talked to some Jesuits later and they said that he is disobeying the plain orders of his provincial by staying there. It seemed to me he needed an exorcist more than an alienist. A case of demonic possession and jolly frightening” (Wikipedia).
Examining photos of Fr. Feeney can tell us a great deal. There always seems to be a mocking cynicism around the mouth, even in his younger years, suggesting perhaps he was not quite who he appeared to be. The jutting chin silently declares the undeniable “truth” of his convictions, conveying a stubbornness that belies his incorrigibility. His eyes, said to be the windows of the soul, only confirm his intractable nature, seeming to fix the beholder with a dare to challenge him. Many may have forgotten the fact that the religious society of choice singled out to be infiltrated by the Modernists was the Jesuits, and that they were among the first to be used by the CIA and others to infiltrate the Church and dismantle Catholic doctrine. This I believe was Feeney’s secret “mission,” — to pretend to defend orthodoxy, while cleaving the doctrine of salvation in two and preparing the way for the far-left swing of the pendulum — the very endorsement by the Novus Ordo of indifferentism, universal salvation and ecumenism. The plan may well have been to use Feeney as a test balloon — to see how many of the young Catholic intelligentsia in training he had recruited from prestigious universities would rush to his defense and abandon the pope. Gauging the mindset of educated youth this way helped them better determine whether the time was right to finalize their plans to overthrow the papacy, announce the false Vatican 2 council and introduce the new liturgy. And of course their experiment reaped the much-hoped for reward.
A word here also should be said about Feeney’s publication The Point. Even after his excommunication, he used this medium to protest his ill treatment by the Vatican, defend his recruits from the charge they were spreading his heresies to other Catholic campuses, and most notably, to blame the Jews for corrupting the Church. There is no doubt that already false doctrine was being spread by not-so-closet Modernists, and that it was not just the heresy he himself had promoted regarding no salvation and implicit desire. Msgr. Joseph C. Fenton even speaks of this concern in his diaries. But to blame the Jews for this primarily and fail to place the majority of the blame on liberal bishops and lackadaisical Catholics themselves was neither prudent nor was it sanctioned by the Church. And if any tendency links Feeney to the more radical Traditionalist elements today, it is this blaming of the Jews for all the problems in the Church as expressed in The Point.
Here we also see the same irascibility and venting of the spleen noticed by Waugh and others, a personality trait he shared with the modernist and ecumenist John Courtenay Murray, as Msgr. Joseph Fenton and Rev. Francis J. Connell experienced firsthand. It was precisely the same error — Feeney’s diatribe against the Jews — that Cardinal Pacelli was sent to America by Pope Pius XI to correct regarding Fr. Coughlin, the radio priest. But then Feeney was a rebel, and at that “point,” he probably figured it didn’t matter much how far he was willing to go, or what the Vatican thought about what he wrote. Still, it is interesting that he took the same course Traditionalists would later follow, in more ways than one: projecting blame on the Jews when it fell on secretly Modernist bishops, defying papal teaching in the process regarding the dangers of anti-Semitism. And denial of papal teaching was foremost on the list.
The Popes on scholasticism
There are many dogmas other than “no salvation” that the Church demands her faithful to believe, among them the adherence to the scholastic method and obedience to Canon Law, considered negatively infallible. The Popes have long proclaimed St. Thomas Aquinas’ scholastic method of reasoning as exceptional and have designated it as the only method to be used in the seminaries and by Her theologians. If Feeneyites wish to bully everyone by banging them over the head with their monotonous mantra that the popes of the past have never failed to teach there is no salvation outside the Church then they should scarcely hesitate to accept the constant teaching of the popes regarding the necessity of adhering to the teachings of St. Thomas, given the following:
Pope John XXII, speaking about St. Thomas before his canonization: “His life was saintly and his doctrine could only be miraculous … because he enlightened the Church more than all the other doctors. By the use of his works a man could profit more in one year than if he studies the doctrine of others for his whole life.”
Pope Innocent V wrote: “The doctrine of this Doctor, beyond all others, has fitness of words, manner of expression, and truth of opinions; so that he who holds it will never swerve from the path of truth; and, on the contrary, he who attacks it must always be suspected.”
Pope St. Pius V declared him a Doctor of The Church, calling him “the most brilliant light of the Church,” and his works “the most certain rule of Christian doctrine by which he enlightened the Apostolic Church in answering conclusively numberless errors … which illumination has often been evident in the past and recently stood forth prominently in the decrees of the Council of Trent.”
Pope Benedict XIII told the Dominicans they should “…pursue with energy your Doctor’s works, more brilliant than the sun and written without the shadow of error. These works made the Church illustrious with wonderful erudition, since they march ahead and proceed with unimpeded step, protecting and vindicating by the surest rule of Christian doctrine, the truth of our holy religion.”
Pope Leo XIII stated: “This is the greatest glory of Thomas, altogether his own and shared with no other Catholic Doctor, that the Fathers of Trent, in order to proceed in an orderly fashion during the conclave, desired to have opened upon the altar together with the Scriptures and the decrees of the Supreme Pontiffs, the Summa of St. Thomas Aquinas whence they could draw counsel, reasons and answers.”
Again from Leo XIII: “This point is vital, that Bishops expend every effort to see that young men destined to be the hope of the Church should be imbued with the holy and heavenly doctrine of the Angelic Doctor. In those places where young men have devoted themselves to the patronage and doctrine of St. Thomas, true wisdom will flourish, drawn as it is from solid principles and explained by reason in an orderly fashion … Theology proceeding correctly and well according to the plan and method of Aquinas is in accordance with our command. Every day We become more clearly aware how powerfully Sacred Doctrine taught by its master and patron, Thomas, affords the greatest possible utility for both clergy and laity.”
Pope St. Pius X said that the chief of Leo’s achievements is his restoration of the doctrine of St. Thomas. For he “restored the Angelic Doctor … as the leader and master of theology, whose divine genius fashioned weapons marvelously suited to protect the truth and destroy the many errors of the times. Indeed those principles of wisdom, useful for all time, which the holy Doctors passed on to us, have been organized by no one more aptly than by Thomas, and no one has explained them more clearly.” Indeed, Pius said, those who depart from the teaching of St. Thomas “seem to effect ultimately their withdrawal from the Church… As we have said, one may not desert Aquinas, especially in philosophy and theology, without great harm; following him is the safest way to the knowledge of divine things… If the doctrine of any other author or saint has ever been approved at any time by us or our predecessors with singular commendation joined with an invitation and order to propagate and to defend it, it may be easily understood that it was commended only insofar as it agreed with the principles of Aquinas or was in no way opposed to them.” Theology professors “should also take particular care that their students develop a deep affection for the Summa … In this way and no other will theology be restored to its pristine dignity, and the proper order and value will be restored to all sacred studies, and the province of the intellect and reason flower again in a second spring.”
Pope Benedict XV stated that, “The manifold honours paid by the Holy See to St. Thomas Aquinas exclude forever any doubt from the mind of Catholics with regard to his being raised up by God as the Master of Doctrine to be followed by the Church through all ages” (from his Papal Brief approving the Catechism of the “Summa Theologica” of Saint Thomas Aquinas For the Use of the Faithful, Feb. 5, 1919).
Pope Pius XI said: “Indeed, We so approve of the tributes paid to his almost divine brilliance that we believe Thomas should be called not only Angelic but Common or Universal Doctor of the Church. As innumerable documents of every kind attest, the Church has adopted his doctrine for her own.… It is no wonder that the Church has made this light her own and has adorned herself with it, and has illustrated her immortal doctrine with it … It is no wonder that all the popes have vied with one another in exalting him, proposing him, inculcating him, as a model, master, doctor, patron and protector of all schools … Just as it was said of old to the Egyptians in time of famine: ‘Go to Joseph,’ so that they should receive a supply of corn to nourish their bodies, so to those who are now in quest of truth We now say: ‘Go to Thomas’ that they may ask from him the food of solid doctrine of which he has an abundance to nourish their souls unto eternal life.”
But of course these sanctimonious Feeneyites reject St. Thomas Aquinas’ clear teaching that men can be saved by baptism of desire or blood, giving as their reason that he cannot gainsay the popes, despite their unqualified endorsement of his works above. And they likewise defame the scholastic theologians approved by the Church who condemn Feeney and defend the papacy. Pope St. Pius X describes their attitude as follows: “Against scholastic philosophy and theology they use the weapons of ridicule and contempt. Whether it is ignorance or fear, or both, that inspires this conduct in them, certain it is that the passion for novelty is always united in them with hatred of scholasticism, and there is no surer sign that a man is tending to Modernism than when he begins to show his dislike for the scholastic method” (Pascendi Dominici gregis, on the doctrine of the Modernists.) And here we see described the very behavior of those who claim that we cannot trust theologians because, as one Feeneyite stated, they “…are not infallible and when their commentary runs contrary to the defined teachings of the Catholic Church, then we default to what the Church teaches and not their erroneous opinion.” But how can any of us make such decisions without a true pope?!
Let’s properly digest this comment before continuing. To begin with, it is always the popes we must go to first, NOT the theologians. I have repeatedly stressed this in all I have written, which anyone who has taken the time to actually read articles on this site well know. Secondly, only the most trustworthy theologians should be consulted. Nearly all would agree that theologians such as Henry Cardinal Manning, Garrigou-Lagrange, Louis Cardinal Billot, Msgr. Van Noort, Abp. Yelle, Rev. Tanquerey, Rev. Herve and others are irreproachable. Anyone recommended by the Holy See could scarcely be held suspect, such as the writers Fr. Felix Sarda y Salvany, commended for his work on the heresy of Liberalism by Pope Leo XIII; the British convert William Allies, whose work on the defense of the papacy was personally endorsed by Pope Pius IX; also Msgr. Joseph C. Fenton and Rev. Francis J. Connell, awarded the medal Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (for Church and pope) by Pope Pius XII for their loyalty to papal teaching. Monsignor Fenton, in fact, was a student of Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange.
Thirdly, the term “defined teachings” in the quote above is ambiguous, since there is the tendency among Traditionalists to believe that decrees of the Holy Office and Sacred Congregations are not strictly binding, and that even those teachings of the ordinary magisterium are subject to appeal at a later date. As Msgr. Fenton explains in his work, The Concept of Sacred Theology, the most common mistakes made by aspiring theologians today is the failure to harmonize past teachings of the Church to the definitions of the Vatican Council and more modern Pontiffs, (ending with Pope Pius XII). This is true particularly where the heresies of the Gallicanists, Jansenists, Quietists, Liberals, Americanists, Traditionalists and various shades of Modernists are concerned. Feenyites pride themselves on adhering only to the constant teachings of the popes regarding “no salvation outside the Church.” But they must demolish all other papal teaching on those topics specific to their claims in order to defend their heretical beliefs. This is proven below.
The only scholastic teaching Feeneyites even bother to mention is the existence among their opponents of fallacies in logic such as the strawman fallacy mentioned above. Pinch scholasticism into their search engines and the don’t even bother discussing it. But they are loyal defenders of papal teaching? Not according to what follows.
Feeney defenders do not adhere to papal teaching
It is not just scholasticism that Feeneyites refuse to accept as Church dogma. Pope Pius IX teaches in Tuas Libentur, (1863): “It is not sufficient for learned Catholics to accept and revere the aforesaid dogmas of the Church… It is also necessary to subject themselves to the decisions pertaining to doctrine which are issued by the Pontifical Congregations…” And again from Pope St. Pius X, 1907: “They are to be considered free of blame who consider of no account the reprobations published by the Sacred Congregation of the Index or by other sacred Roman Congregations,” (DZ 2008). And the Holy Office is pre-eminently one of those Congregations, the same Holy Office which issued Suprema haec sacra and excommunicated Leonard Feeney, an instruction and an excommunication they refuse to accept. So this subterfuge they terrorize their opponents with — that they alone obey and observe all the papal teachings in every respect regarding “no salvation outside the Church” and all others are to be treated as heretics — is an odious subterfuge that must be exploded and discarded, just as their teachings on the approved theologians of the Church.
Again from Tuas libentur: “It is also necessary to subject themselves …to those forms of doctrine which are held by the common and constant consent of Catholics as theological truths and conclusions, so certain that opinions opposed to these same forms of doctrine, although they cannot be called heretical, nevertheless deserve some other censure,” (DZ 1684). Msgr. Fenton further notes: “The man who is privileged to teach the science of sacred theology should never allow himself to lose sight of the fact that he is one of those called in by the apostolic college to aid in a teaching work to which that apostolic college alone has been divinely commissioned.
“The doctrine which the theologian is expected to teach clearly, accurately, and unequivocally is not some teaching which has been discovered by men, but rather the supernatural revelation of the Triune God. The teacher of or writer in sacred theology is carrying out his task by the orders and under the direction of the apostolic magisterium itself. He accomplishes his work successfully only in the measure that he wholeheartedly accepts the doctrinal decisions addressed to the universal Church by the visible head of the Church” (“The Doctrinal Authority of Papal Allocutions,” The American Ecclesiastical Review, February 1956). So it is clear that the teachings of approved theologians are to be accepted not on their own authority, but on the authority of those who have been divinely commissioned to authorize that teaching.
Another papal teaching they recklessly violate is that of Pope Pius XII in Humani generis, that issues once decided by the Holy See are not to be discussed anew as if there had never been a decision, (and this would include Feeney’s excommunication). Humani generis is duly entered into the AAS as a teaching of the ordinary magisterium. Those who think Feeney’s case should be reopened could be inviting their own condemnation. They need to read the document here regarding Pope St. Pius V’s teaching that even if previously exonerated by the Holy Office, those heretics (and schismatics) who have proven they never truly converted can be retried and condemned as a danger to the faith of others.
And while they cite papal teachings galore, they fail to mention Can. 737 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law, which states: “Baptism — the door and foundation of all other Sacraments, the Sacrament, which if we are to attain salvation, must be either actually received or at least desired — is given validly only by ablution with truly natural water and the pronouncing of the prescribed form of words.” The footnote to this canon cites numerous previous canons prior to the Code, professions of faith, the Council of Trent and other councils, at least six popes in addition to those presiding at Trent, a good number of instructions from the Sacred Congregations, and many other sources. What about these popes and councils, these decrees of the Sacred Congregations? Are they not denying them as well? And it should also be noted that during an interregnum, Pius XII forbids the violation of Canon Law and nullifies all actions attempting to bypass or change these laws.
“The laws issued by Roman Pontiffs in no way can be corrected or changed by the assembly of Cardinals of the Roman Church while it is without a Pope, nor can anything be subtracted from them or added or dispensed in any way whatsoever with respect to said laws or any part of them… In truth, if anything adverse to this command should by chance happen to come about or be attempted, We declare it, BY OUR SUPREME AUTHORITY, to be null and void” (Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis, 1945). Here is yet another papal law violated, and this one is clearly infallible. The Code was written long before this controversy arose, and obviously it is not questioning the Council of Trent’s teaching on this dogma. It nullifies anything the Feeneyites have dared to teach to the contrary regarding Baptism of desire, so no one is obliged to believe a word they say regarding it. Indeed, all their efforts to promote this false teaching were long ago voided by the same Pope who excommunicated their founder.
If the Feeney bunch is really serious about their contentions that Feeney’s excommunication was not valid and Suprema haec sacra was an invention of cardinals operating without papal approval, they have the bounden duty to PROVE this rather than insinuating it was all a conspiracy connected to Vatican 2. Otherwise their claims have no value whatsoever. Even Feeney knew this when he accused Pope Pius XII of heresy. Here they violate another Canon, 2232, which states that without proof, no censure can be incurred. Since Feeneyites accuse others of heresy, they are obligated to show that not only is Baptism of desire not a Church teaching (which is impossible) but that such a teaching was actually condemned by the Church in the past. Where is their evidence against the cardinals and Holy Office officials? They provide only suppositions and hypotheses, which haven’t won even a secular court case yet, and certainly are not admissible in ecclesiastical courts. Since Pope Pius XII is the prefect of the Congregation of the Holy Office, they would need to also bring a case to indict him as complicit. Some of them pretend that they have, which involves them in a direct denial of the Vatican Council decrees. For:
“This gift of truth and a never-failing faith was divinely conferred upon Peter and his successors in this Chair… If anyone thus speaks that the Roman Pontiff has only the office of inspection or direction but not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the universal Church, not only in things which pertain to faith and morals but also in those which pertain to the discipline and government of the Church spread over the whole world… let him be anathema” (DZ 1831, 1837). So even if Feeney’s excommunication was only a disciplinary matter, which it was certainly not, this anathema applies to all Feeneyites. For even those Feeneyites and Traditionalists disingenuously contending that Feeney was not excommunicated “as a heretic” or that his excommunication was not latae sententiae, but only ferendae sententiae, (meaning it was not intended as an excommunication for heresy), contradict the Sacred Canons in maintaining this. (For further proofs of the true status of Feeney’s excommunication and other topics treated above see part three of this series.)
The key word Feeneyites miss in the “no salvation…” teaching
As the chroniclers of the 1869-70 Vatican Council explain, “Originally the council, the 20th ecumenical council of the Church, had planned to define much more on the constitution and nature of the Church but there was not enough time to complete its work. The first draft of the constitution contains no official teaching on the part of the Church since it was never voted upon by the fathers and solemn assembly. However, since it had been carefully prepared by theologians and presented to the fathers of the council, the draft may be said to reflect the mind of the teaching church at that time period. It’s theological value is further attested by the conformity evident between it and later papal pronouncements on the nature and properties of the Church” (The Church Teaches, Jesuits of St. Mary’s College, KS, 1955).
This was the first attempt to arrive at a fuller explanation of the Church as a whole, which was interrupted by the civil war then being waged in Italy. It is a fair representation of the mind of the bishops at that time. And while it does not specifically address implicit desire, it does address invincible ignorance, grace and justification.
“It is a dogma of faith that no one can be saved outside of the Church. Nevertheless, those who are invincibly ignorant of Christ and His Church are not to be judged worthy of eternal punishment because of this ignorance. For they are innocent in the eyes of the Lord of any fault in this matter. God wishes all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth and if one does what he can God does not withhold the grace for him to obtain justification and eternal life. But no one obtains eternal life if he dies separated from the unity of faith or from communion with the Church through his own fault.” And to this we might add the teaching of a well-respected theologian, Rev. E. Sylvester. Berry, who in his The Church of Christ, written in 1927, almost exactly anticipated what Pope Pius XII would later teach:
“COROLLARY I. A person who knowingly and willingly remains outside of the Church and dies in that condition, cannot hope for salvation; he has rejected Christ by rejecting His Church: “He that despiseth you, despiseth me.” But a person who is out of the Church through no fault of his own, can obtain salvation by an act of perfect contrition, or perfect love of God and, at least, an implicit desire to belong to the Church. He is then a member of the Church, both body and soul, not in fact but in desire, — non in re sed in voto. The desire to belong to the Church is implicitly contained in the general desire to do all that Christ commands, even though the person never heard of the Church or actually rejects it through ignorance of its real character.
“COROLLARY II. All men are bound to belong to the true Church of Christ, because He has so commanded, and also because it is the means established by Him for our salvation. Therefore, it is absolutely wrong to maintain that it matters not to what Church a man belongs, provided he accept Christ as his personal Saviour and lead a virtuous life. Even those in good faith, sincerely believing that they really belong to the true Church, are far less secure of their salvation than they would be in the Church with the use of the Sacraments and other means of salvation found there.
COROLLARY III. As all men are bound to belong to the true Church of Christ, so also are they bound to use all possible efforts to find and embrace it, despite any temporal losses that may ensue. The amount of effort necessary will depend upon each one’s ability and the opportunity presented for study and investigation. Investigation is impossible for the person who sincerely and firmly believes that he already possesses the true Church, but the moment a doubt or suspicion arises in his mind, he is bound to use all means at his command to discover the truth. If a sincere and serious effort fails to bring him to the truth, he is still in invincible ignorance and, therefore, guiltless of his errors before God.”
So to pretend that somehow the Suprema haec sacra was an innovation and that the Church never held or taught the possibility of implicit desire, or to audaciously assert that the previous teachings of the Fathers and Doctors, also the Council of Trent, were misquoted and misunderstood is a rank and shameful falsehood. The best way to further explain the meaning of this document just quoted is provided by Msgr. Fenton:
“It is one of the most frequently and insistently taught dogmas of the Catholic faith that outside of the Catholic Church no one at all is saved, that outside of this society there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins. According to the mechanics of the English language, one who is not “outside of” some physical or social entity must be said to be, in some way or other, “within” it. Hence it must be said that any non-member of the Catholic Church who has the remission of sins, which is to say the gift of sanctifying grace, or who dies in the state of grace so as to attain eternal salvation, must be or have died in some way “within” the Catholic Church in a status other than that of a member… Thus it is apparent that the man who is not a member or a part of the Church, but who has a salvific intention or desire to enter it and to remain within it, is actually praying and working along with the Church for the objectives of Jesus Christ. In this way he is truly “within” the Church. And, since the work of the Church is accomplished in the face of serious and never-ending opposition, the non-member of the Church who has a salvific intention to join it is actually fighting for Our Lord “within” His company. He is actually serving God with his whole mind and his whole heart, and thus he is joined to the Church even in his status as a non-member of this society.
“It is quite obvious that this condition can exist only as long as, for one reason or another, membership in the Church is impossible for this individual. When it becomes possible for a man to become a member of the Church, or when he becomes aware of the true status of the Catholic Church in the supernatural order, he can no longer work effectively for Our Lord except as a member of His Church” (“Questions About Membership in the Church,” The American Ecclesiastical Review, 1961). The true nature of the Church would not be infallibly defined until Pope Pius XII wrote his Mystici Corporis Christi. So when Feeney and his followers reiterate the dogma “Outside the Church no salvation” they fail to properly define the Church as the Roman Pontiff has defined Her, and that includes the explanation of that definition in Suprema haec sacra. For no proof whatsoever exists that this document was not read, approved and fully sanctioned by Pope Pius XII as head of the Holy Office.
In the very mantra-like iteration of this dogma “Outside the Church no salvation,” repeated over and over again like some magic charm, we find yet another sophistic expression, a fallacy of argument according to scholastic philosophy known as equivocation: using the same word(s) in different senses within the same argument. Those using this term expect their hearers to interpret it in the same fashion as those then expressing this dogma, at that time in the past, understood it. They do not allow nor admit in any way whatsoever that the Church could ever expand upon the definition of this dogma even though, as we saw above, the Church definitely can and not infrequently does add to the greater understanding and appreciation of Her dogmatic formulas. This will be discussed at length in Part 2.
For decades Feeney followers have gotten by with pretending that they alone hold the true interpretation of “no salvation outside the Church” as taught by Leonard Feeney, a condemned heretic. They’ve been able to do this because only in retrospect have the real reasons for and real sources behind Feeney’s errors come to light. This was done by various people, for, as said above, some Traditionalists have written credibly about Feeney, Clarence Kelly among them. But still, all of them missed the real components of what Feeney actually did and why he was successful in making it appear that “no salvation…” was an orthodox teaching and not a novelty. He was able to do this because so many people were ignorant of their faith and did not and do not understand the totality of Catholic teaching. If it wasn’t for the work of the scholastic theologians such as Msgr. Fenton, none of us would understand any of this. As Msgr. Fenton explains above, it was their duty to explain to us what the popes have taught and help us to better understand that teaching. And it is OUR duty to pray for that understanding.
The reason that the Feeneyites are so dead set against the theologians, a totally Modernist stance, is because they cannot and will not admit that theologians loyal to papal teaching have anything cogent to say in defending the true interpretation of “no salvation outside the Church.” Because if they did so admit this, they would be forced to abandon their exalted stance as commentators speaking in the name of the Church, any clerical or religious title they might pretend to hold and to satisfy Catholic moral teaching and Canon Law, they would need to withdraw from their position and publicly retract their errors.
There certainly were no theologians of any repute defending Feeney in the 1940s-1950s given his defiance to his superiors and later excommunication. What one has to do is to search for the actual seeds of this heresy in other places, and if you do that you will find them. What initiated the problem with Feeney was something that had plagued the Church ever since the Modernist heresy was first condemned. And that heresy later morphed into something other than what it had been at the beginning, which later contributed to the teachings set out at Vatican 2.
So inquirers must connect the dots. And once that is done, then a straight line can be drawn from the Modernist heresy right through the Feeney camp and into Vatican 2. In Part 2 we will explain exactly how such a thing occurred — a Modernist scam intended to actually promote rather than oppose ecumenism.