An Open Letter to President Eisenhower
Saint Benedict Center
23 Arrow Street
Dear President Eisenhower:
I am writing this letter in the week of your inauguration to the great dignity which our people have bestowed on you. By the time you are permitted to read this letter, the ceremonies of inauguration will be completed and you will be President Eisenhower, indeed.
I am writing to you as a Roman Catholic priest, living in the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts. I am the Superior of a little American Catholic Religious Order, recently founded, and called The Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I promise to Your Excellency, as President of our great nation, my respect, my allegiance, and my loyalty — in all the things which God has permitted to be put under your charge, which are many indeed, and are endowed with God’s own authority to the extent to which He permits you to share it.
As President of our great nation, you are somehow a function; but you are also irrevocably a person, responsible both to God and to your nation for what you do. It is with regard to your personal responsibility to God that I wish to appeal, as one of Jesus Christ’s Catholic priests, privileged to be able to speak to you freely, in a free country, at this great time of your installation. And here is what I have to tell you, Dwight Eisenhower, Mr. President, head of our great nation:
Unless you become a Catholic, a Roman Catholic, before you die and unless you give your spiritual allegiance to Christ’s Vicar upon earth; unless you become an adopted son of God the Father, by the incorporate requirements of Baptism, and a child of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, by the incorporate fulfilments of the Blessed Eucharist, you will never save your soul.
You cannot plead ignorance of this great challenge where twenty-six million of your subjects are Roman Catholics, where nearly fifty thousand of your subjects are Catholic priests, where one hundred and fifty thousand of your subjects are Catholic nuns — in a nation dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, where the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is in every town, abundantly and super-abundantly in every great city of our nation, in the Catholic churches you have so frequently passed.
This Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, living and breathing in all His adorability in the Catholic churches of your nation, can use the humblest instrument through which to speak to you. I am a beleaguered Catholic priest, whom some are denying the privilege of speaking freely to the President of this nation, in a land that boasts that it favors the practice of freedom of religion.
I do believe that, as a Catholic priest in a free America, dedicated to the Mother of God, I am free to say to you what I now say: Unless your “Our Fathers” are appeals for the Blessed Eucharist, unless you learn the beautiful “Hail Mary,” and call Christ’s Mother the Mother of God, you will never save your soul.
The end of some of our past Presidents has been sad, indeed. President Harding’s, for instance, and President Wilson’s, and very much, indeed, President Roosevelt’s. I do not want your end to be such a one, and I do not want to have to stand before the Judgment Seat of God, as a Roman Catholic priest in a free nation, who has been afraid to tell our President what are his obligations to God and to God’s only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord, the Word Who became flesh and dwelt amongst us.
Respectfully yours in the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Leonard Feeney, S. I. H. M.
The urgent message of the Catholic Faith demands a quick and total response. With the East of Europe under Communist domination, and the West of it frightened by the prospect, America remains as our one large hope for such responses. And we are the more hopeful because we have known Americans to be generous and eager for much lesser causes than the one to which we call them — the cause of the Queen of Heaven and Earth, the Mother of God, who long ago saw to it that America was dedicated to her Immaculate Conception.
The Monsignor’s latest theory, as announced in his Register column, is that many Protestant ministers are really Catholics “without realizing this,” and that what they are teaching is not Protestantism, as they thought, but the Catholic Faith, and that “such Catholicity as they unwittingly teach is saving many souls.”
We feel we ought to warn Msgr. Smith that, if he continues this sort of thing much longer, the Protestants are going eventually to get on to him and realize that two can play this game. They are going to conclude that Msgr. Smith, and priests like him, are really unwitting Protestants, and that what they are teaching is not the Catholic Faith at all, but sheer, unadulterated Protestantism.
As a further sad proof that Catholic America is fast abandoning even its lipservice loyalty to Our Holy Father, the burials of these two anti-papists were accompanied by eulogies in our Catholic press.
Says the Traveler: “It’s time for television to clean itself up and stay clean. The Milton Berle show, for example. Thousands of parents must have watched it with their children, suffering indignation and embarrassment ... ”
Says Bishop Sheen: “Milton Berle is a good friend of mine, and we’ve had conversations about our programs ... Yes, I bear the deepest affection for Milton Berle and I love his program intensely.”
Saint Ignatius: “Outside the Church there is nothing good. Whoever is not united with this mystical body will not receive from its Head, Jesus Christ, Divine grace which vivifies the soul and prepares it for everlasting life.”
Comment: Would this pass for good editorial policy in current Jesuit periodicals?
Saint Ignatius: “All that proceeds from heretics should be suspected, especially books, however good they may be. ”
Comment: And what would Saint Ignatius have to say about those Jesuits who of late are studying under heretics at heretical universities?
A television ordination is a fitting beginning for the kind of ecclesiastical career that some of our priests have aspired to, and a few have achieved. But the survival of the Faith in America must depend on priests who are willing to let their “light shine before men” without the aid of footlights. There is great inspiration for such priests as are willing to work simply for the salvation of souls, as well as a terrible warning to those who are busy about other things, in the words of the Cure of Ars: “Next to God, the priest is everything. Leave a parish without a priest for twenty years, and it will worship the brutes.”
With this issue, The Point begins its second year of publication. But before going on, we thought to pause and take a look at ourselves, partly to make sure we are still recognizable and partly to answer some of the questions we have received, asking us why we say the things that we say in the way that we say them. Here, then, is our declaration:
We believe that the Catholic Faith is not being preached in its purity and strength here in the United States. We believe that this is a cheated country — a country cheated of the one important and necessary thing: the knowledge of what a man must do to attain eternal life. We believe that this has happened because certain conspicuous Catholics, knowing neither America nor the Faith, have taken it upon themselves to make the Faith more agreeable to America — by putting it on a par with other religions and denying the point of its existence, which is to be the single divinely-ordained way to salvation.
It is at these distorters of the Faith, no matter who they may be, that The Point is aimed: and if it sometimes seems barbed, it is barbed with a reason. Whatever methods we can most effectively use to combat and expose these men, those are the methods we will use. If we can do it by satire, we will satirize them. If we can do it by making them look ridiculous, we will ridicule them. If we can do it by contrasting them with the saints, we will contrast them.
We would like to see our country become Catholic, and we know this can never be done by watering the Faith down in order to make it more palatable. We think Americans will be brought into the Faith by open, vigorous preaching of it, by the kind of appeal Father Leonard Feeney makes to President Eisenhower on the front page of this issue. We think Americans are tired of Catholic pussyfooting on the subject of their eternal salvation. They want to be told the Truth clearly, simply, and challengingly. We think, too, that American Catholics are beginning to wake up to this and to realize that there is something terribly wrong and out of line about the way the Faith is being preached in this country. And we think that is the significance of the tremendous and overwhelming response to The Point in its first year.
However else it may have distinguished itself, the year lately ended will not go down in American ecclesiastical history as an illustrious one for the Catholic Faith. 1952 will be remembered as the year in which Cardinal Spellman liked Ike, and in which Catholic Canada dared to dislike Bishop Sheen. It will be remembered as the year in which our last vestiges of Catholic dogma went up in smoke, after Father Keller’s continued insistence that “It is better to light a Camel than to curse the darkness.”
And it will be remembered that during 1952 the zeal of American priests was responsible for our customary quota of converts: 0.001 per cent of non-Catholic America was persuaded to join the True Faith.
From the arrival in America of the first timid Catholics, the spirit of American Catholicism has never been apostolic. The Faith has been content in America merely to “get along,” hoping that the time might one day come when a Catholic would be thought just as “acceptable” as a Congregationalist or a Baptist. After one hundred and fifty years of watering down our doctrines and playing up our Americanism, we are finally approaching our goal. By now, Catholicism’s American evolution has won for Catholics a nation-wide toleration, which in many localities might even pass for respect.
While they were still striving for this toleration, the Catholics of America could never risk becoming apostolic. Their growth in numbers was caused not by their zeal to convert Protestants, but by the willingness of European Catholics to abandon the “old country” in exchange for whatever livelihood was available in the mills and factories of American freemasons. The resulting dependence upon Protestant pay-rolls served to keep Catholic mouths well-closed on the subject of conversions.
After a couple of generations of closed mouths, American Catholics came to feel that maybe conversions were not so important after all. Maybe the old folks got it wrong in Ireland, or Poland, or Italy; maybe the way to Heaven is not quite so narrow as Our Lord seemed to indicate; maybe the Blessed Virgin Mary is just the Catholics’ Gate of Heaven and there are other, less devotional entrances for Protestants and Jews.
The tragedy of the American Church is that these maybe’s have now replaced the dogmas which they contradict. Thus, American Catholics have not become merely apathetic about the conversion of their country; they have talked themselves out of the one and imperative reason why their country needs to be converted. This relaxed outlook on conversions explains the current “wasn’t-it-good-of-you-to-join-us” attitude of Catholics toward converts. It also helps to explain that contemporary religious phenomenon, the “noted convert” — whose fanfared entrance into the Church immediately establishes him, he feels, as a spokesman on all matters Catholic.
Perhaps the two who have assumed their role of spokesman most successfully of late are Clare “Kiss the Boys Goodbye” Luce, and Thomas “Seven Story” Merton. By becoming Catholics, the ex-congresswoman, Clare Luce, and the pseudo-mystic, Thomas Merton, have found new opportunities for advancement in their respective fields of endeavor.
Mrs. Luce’s Catholicism has lately made her the central figure in one of the shrewdest diplomatic deals of the century: General Eisenhower’s appointment of a prominent Catholic as Ambassador to Italy, a move which both smoothes over the “Vatican representative” row and rewards the conspicuous political support of New York’s Archbishop.
Thomas Merton’s Catholicism has provided him a long-sought try at literary self-expression. He discovered that an excellent way of having people publish what you say is to join the Trappists and vow never to say anything.
For those loyal Catholics who have been concerned over the American collapse of Catholic doctrine, and the subsequent influx of Mertons and Luces, there is one dogmatic consolation in all of this convert chaos. There has, as yet, been no tampering with the Profession of Faith required of every convert. He must enter the Church, the Priest’s Ritual still says, “Knowing that no one can he saved without that faith which the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Roman Church holds, believes, and teaches ... ”