I have been bombarded with e-mails asking my opinion of Father Feeney. I would first like to say, that we should all pray for another priest who was so loyal to the teachings of the Catholic Church and Jesus Christ. How many priests today compromise the true teaching of the Church, just to be popular ! It may surprise many to know that Father was never excommunicated. That's right never. Lets look at the facts.
Father was a defender of the unchangeable traditional teaching/doctrine of the Catholic Church. He fought against the false doctrines of Americanism, Liberalism and Modernism, all rampant well before Vatican II Council (1962-1965). Early in his priestly career he was referred to as "the greatest theologian in America" by his Jesuit peers.
Fr. Feeney was a priest of the Society of Jesus until, in 1949, he co-founded the religious order, Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Mancipia Immaculati Cordis Mariae), whose acronym is MICM.
Fr. Feeney recognized that the root of the church's inner problems and failure to convert America (and elsewhere throughout the world) was the result of a suppression of the thrice-defined dogma that outside the Catholic church there is no salvation. He was soon after persecuted and vilified by his own fellow Jesuits, by fellow churchmen, and by his superiors. He was threatened and expelled from the Jesuit order, censored, threatened with excommunication and left out to hang with what is called a "dry martyrdom". Yet, he did not give in to the enormous pressures to "soften up" on what the Church has infallibly defined as necessary for salvation.
Now for the facts:
I. Letter of the Holy Office
On August 8, 1949 a Protocol letter came from the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office. It censored Fr. Feeney and the St. Benedict Center for teaching the dogma of no salvation outside the Church in the literal sense (this is, of course, how all defined dogmas must be understood). This letter was signed by Cardinal Marchetti-Selvaggiani and was identified as Protocol No. 122/49. It was formally defective in that it was never published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis (Acts of the Apostolic See). It is this register alone which confers an official and binding character on a document. And even then, only so long as it meets the proper forms. Consequently, this letter is without any binding effect as an act of the Holy See or any type of official Church document. Its status, then, can only be that of the opinion of one bishop, expressed in a letter to another bishop.
Fr. Feeney was charged with disobedience.
On October 25, 1952 Fr. Feeney was summoned to Rome for a hearing by Cardinal Pizzardo of the Holy Office, without being told why.
On October 30, 1952 Fr. Feeney responded by requesting a statement of the charges being made against him -- as required by Canon Law 1715. The summons by Card. Pizzardo, in violation of this canon, failed to either state the reason for the summons nor give a formal statement of charges against the defendant.
According to Canon 1723, any proceeding based on citations as defective as the Cardinal's letter, are subject to a complaint of nullity; and also renders a non-canonical summons null. The complaint of nullity is allowed under Canon 1680. A compliant of nullity was formally filed by Fr. Feeney. Yet, it was never responded to nor even acknowledged.
Instead, on November 22, 1952 Fr. Feeney was threatened by Card. Pizzardo with an imposition of a canonical penalty, without stating the crime for which it is imposed. This is in violation of Canon 2225. Canon 1959 forbids penalties without a trial.
On December 2, 1952 Fr. Feeney responded by asking with what he was being charged. Again, according to Canon 1715, this was not only Fr. Feeney's right, but it was required for those who do the summoning. Also, Canons 1842 and 1843 required that the defendant be informed both of the charges against him and the nature of the proceedings to which he had been summoned.
On January 9, 1953 Fr. Feeney was then threatened with automatic excommunication, ipso facto, if he failed to report to Rome by a certain date. this letter ignored Fr. Feeney's points concerning Canon Laws requirements, for the offense alleged against Fr. Feeney -- not obeying the summons to Rome -- is a matter for a court or judge to weigh. He could not be excommunicated ipso facto because his action did not fall under the category of crimes meriting such a sentence.
It should be noted that in the demands and threats from this member of the Roman Curia there were six (6) direct violations of Canon Law. Both the appeals and canonical rights of Fr. Feeney were ignored and disregarded. Thus, this whole ordeal is not only suspect, but fallacious and immoral.
II. Decree of Excommunication
On February 13, 1953 a letter of excommunication was released, having no statement at all in it on doctrine, but had as its reason "grave disobedience of Church authority." Though this letter was registered into the Acta, it is formally defective and thus invalid for the following reasons:
The letter lacked the seal of the Holy Office and/or of the tribunal and was only signed by a notary. In fact, it bore no seal at all. The purpose of a seal is precisely to show the genuineness of a document and its contents, and is required for validity.
The letter lacked the signature of the judge of the tribunal which issued it; where, for validity, the judgment of a court of record must have.
The decree was never properly communicated to the accused, which by laws (and fairness) it must. It was first published in America in the newspapers.
Fr. Feeney's summons to Rome was uncanonical. Therefore, the summons was null and the penalties resulting from it are void. (1) Canon 1723: "Renders an uncanonical summons null." (2) Canon 1959: "Forbids penalties without a trial."
There was never any canonical trial by a court concerning this case as proscribed by the disciplinary canons and decrees of the Council of Trent. Therefore, according to Canon Law, no valid penalties could result.
As allowed by Canon Law, Fr. Feeney sent a letter dated July 16, 1953, entering a "Complaint of Nullity" against the decree of excommunication, to the Holy Father. It was never answered. Not only was Fr. Feeney not given a fair hearing, he was given no hearing at all, though required by Canon Law.
III. The Reconciliation
In 1972 Fr. Feeney was supposedly "reconciled" to the Church. It obviously became an embarrassment to Rome. If Fr. Feeney truly needed to be reconciled, he would have had to recant his position. Yet, he was never asked to do that. Anyone who is truly excommunicated for heresy must withdraw what they once held and proclaim belief in orthodoxy. But Fr. Feeney was never asked to take back or repent from his teaching on "Outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation."
Actually, Fr. Feeney was asked to profess one of the three Creeds of the Church at a meeting at the Center without knowing the reason why he was asked to say it. So he said the Athanasian Creed. This venerable creed begins and ends with these solemn words:
Whoever wishes to be saved needs above all else to hold the Catholic Faith; unless each one preserves this whole and entire, he will without a doubt perish in eternity. … This is the Catholic Faith; unless everyone believes this faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.
Therefore, Fr. Leonard Feeney was not excommunicated for teaching that outside the Catholic Church and without submission to the Roman Pontiff no one can be saved. He couldn't be, because the Church herself has dogmatically defined this.
Rather, Fr. Leonard Feeney was unjustly treated and persecuted by fellow churchmen in positions of authority who abused the authority of the offices they held and brought up uncanonical charges of disobedience to this priest of Christ's Church. So we see Father was a modern day Saint Athanasius as he too fought and suffered for Catholic Orthodoxy. We see Fathers passion on this issue was not in vain, as we can see the results of denial of this dogma. Indifferentism abound and today many believe this dogma somehow is no longer, or worse yet that it somehow changed. It has not and never can as this dogma defined three times comes to us from God Himself.
As for Father Feeney, I have never had the pleasure of meeting him before God called him home. It is my honest hope that in years to come people recognize Father for his strength and his loyal Catholic faith. I also pray that God send us another Father Feeney , these times demand it. God Bless you Father Feeney and thank you for being a Catholic Priest and not compromising the truth.