The Point

Edited Under Fr. Leonard Feeney M.I.C.M. — Saint Benedict Center

October, 1952


A diocese in Africa and a diocese of equal size in the United States have been compared statistically by Mission magazine. The U. S. diocese, with 383 priests, made 438 conversions in one year. The African diocese, with only 38 priests, converted 19,129 during the same period.

There are two possible reasons for such totally different diocesan convert figures. (1) African natives have much more good will toward Jesus and Mary than American Protestants do, or, (2) African natives are being told to come into the Church and American Protestants are not.

We feel that it’s a combination of both.

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Father Karl Adam is one of the European “authorities” most often quoted by our compromising theologians when they are out to prove that just about everybody can and does get into Heaven. Lately, Father Adam has been endorsing the Moral Rearmament movement of Dr. Frank Buchman, a movement that has been condemned by every vigilant Catholic Bishop in Europe.

If Father Adam goes Buchmanite (adding Buchman inter-morality to Adam inter-faith), our Americatholic theologians will be in the market for a new quotable “authority.” To qualify for the job, one must be a contemporary non-saint, preferably European, who can think up adaptable schemes that will oblige Catholics to remain in the One True Church, while excusing Protestants for staying out of it.

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One day last month, Catholic religious houses throughout the world heard the following commemoration read from the Roman Martyrology: “At Saragossa in Spain, of Saint Peter of Arbues, first Inquisitor of the Faith of the Kingdom of Aragon who was cruelly butchered by relapsed Jews for the sake of that Catholic Faith which he had so zealously protected by virtue of his office. Pope Pius IX added him to the list of Martyr Saints.”

To America’s soft-peddlers of the Faith, the Spanish Inquisition is a chronic headache. And every September 17th the ache is intensified as Holy Mother Church celebrates the feast of the first Inquisitor, a man who carried on in such a way that the Jews killed him and the Pope canonized him.

St. Peter of Arbues, pray for us.

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Many American Catholic priests shifted uneasily on their Interfaith platforms when Spain’s Cardinal Segura, addressing his diocese a few weeks ago, said: “It causes one real pain to see the tolerance shown toward non-Catholic sects among us and the indifference of the Catholics toward this question.”

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King Henry VIII’s spiritual descendants congregated recently in Boston to reaffirm their allegiance to Protestant Episcopalianism. In episcopacies all over the country, gray-flanneled bishops packed up the kids and the crozier and headed east, or north, for the festivities. From across the ocean came Archbishop and Mrs. Fisher of Canterbury.

The Boston press, well trained in catering to the publicity whims of local church leaders, gave the convening Episcopalians broad (and high and low) news coverage. Caught up in this journalistic good will toward heretics, The Pilot, Boston’s weakly Catholic paper, had an editorial suggestion. Noting that the current Episcopalian trend is toward the Low Church, The Pilot hoped that some of the more liturgical Episcopalians would see fit to transfer their liturgizing to the Catholic Church. In an almost apostolic mood, The Pilot carried its suggestion to the point of coaxing — reminding the high Episcopalians that although there is, outside the Catholic Church, plenty of salvation, there is very little genuflection and practically no incense.


If you ask most Americans what the term “Boston Irish” means to them, they will tell you that it makes them think of strong, vigorous Catholicism. That this notion should prevail despite all evidences to the contrary, is due partly to the Boston Irish themselves, who like to create the impression, “Whatever we say, that’s the Faith,” and partly to the non-Catholics of the country, who feel that if this blustering, red-faced, unattractive thing can be passed off as Catholicism at its best, then they are well-excused in staying out of the Church.

The fact is, the Boston Irish have long since lost the Faith as the kind of bright, burning presence that fills the soul with joy and zeal. It has become for them merely a kind of national tradition, and they hold it not because it is true, but because that is what they were taught in Ireland.

There once was a time when the faith of the Boston Irish was strong, and they were persecuted for it — their convents were burned; they were told they need not apply for preferred jobs. But now the Boston Irish have ceased to make their Faith a challenge to those who hate it. They keep it to themselves, and try to conform to Protestant manners and Jewish morals. They are happy to take to their bosom any Yankee heretic who will agree to put on a green tie for St. Patrick’s Day and to attend a banquet given in his honor by the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick. And they can aspire to nothing higher than to send their sons to Harvard, where, they imagine, they may hobnob with the sons of rich Protestants and Jews.

The leader of the Boston Irish is His Excellency Richard J. Cushing, Archbishop of Boston. He is the official representative of Boston Irish Catholicism, its product and its pride, and the Boston Irish feel about him the way other Catholics feel about the Pope.

As spiritual shepherd of the Boston Irish, Archbishop Cushing is famous for two talents: fund-raising, and getting his picture in the newspapers. So successful has he been in the former endeavor, that salesmen and rival fund-raisers study his technique to see how he does it, and so successful has he been in the latter, that he has found it necessary, in order to provide the photographers with some variety in his pictures, to strike such unepiscopal poses as riding on a merry-go-round and playing baseball in a T-shirt. He has also staged publicity stunts like persuading a young Boston couple to be married by him at a Nuptial Mass in front of a television camera.

Besides making money and getting his picture taken, Archbishop Cushing is famous for one other thing. He is famous for denying that membership in the Catholic Church is necessary for salvation. There are others who agree with the Archbishop in this denial, but he has been obliged to carry it further and to make it more conspicuously evident than anyone else. It has become the guiding principal of his episcopate.

Archbishop Cushing is known as a person who is willing to go anywhere, address any group, praise anyone. He has appeared at conventions of Jewish rabbis, at vaudeville shows, at testimonial dinners for pillars of the Protestant church. His invariable message at these gatherings, delivered with wide-spread arms and booming voice, is to assure his audience of his deep personal affection for them all, and to let them know, once again, that they can count on him not to regard differences of creed. That is all. He never mentions the divine privileges and prerogatives of the Catholic Church; never indicates that what Our Lord said about the necessity of Baptism applies to the Jews he is talking to; never indicates that what Our Lord said about the necessity of receiving His Body and Blood applies to the Protestants he is talking to.

Archbishop Cushing thinks that the kingdom of heaven is taken not by violence, but by ignorance. He thinks that the Protestants and Jews of Boston, where there is a Catholic church on every fourth or fifth street corner, will be saved either because they are unaware of the Faith, or else because they are too thick to understand it. In his largesse, the gate of heaven is open to all — both to those who die with the sacraments and to those who die hating Christ and His Church. Here is how he puts it: “When I die and go to Heaven, if I don’t find you there, I’ll know it’s because you’re not dead yet.”

In his published statements, Archbishop Cushing sounds more like a vote-coaxing politician than like a spokesman for the Church. Here are some of them:

To the Jews, who have for 2,000 years proclaimed their rejection of the Christ he professes to love, the Archbishop offers this expression of muddled charity: “No man could have my faith concerning Christ ... without loving Him and the people who produced Him, the Jews.”

To the Protestants, he presents this modest message, letting them know that the mission of the Catholic Church in America is merely to carry on the work begun by the nation’s Protestant founders: “Catholics are standing just as and where the Protestants did when they had complete moral leadership of the community.”

To non-Catholics generally, here is his assurance that they shouldn’t give a thought to changing their religion: “In the last analysis people will learn morality best within the household of their own spiritual families.”

And, ultimately, to his clergy, here is his modernization of the Gospel admonition about the narrow path and the strait way that leadeth to life: “No priest can be content today with serving God or saving people in a circumscribed or narrow path.”

Why Archbishop Cushing should have chosen as his episcopal motto Ut cognoscant Te, an apostrophe to God which means “that they may know Thee,” is a question only the Boston Irish can answer. For it is evident that the great intention of his episcopate is not that everyone may know God, as He is revealed in the Catholic Church, but, rather, that those who are ignorant of Him should have an archbishop’s assurance that what they don’t know won’t hurt them.


John Henry Newman was constantly praised for the clarity of his English prose and the limpid lucidity of his style. That he possesses these qualities, no one can deny. But his is the cold clarity of clear water in a fish bowl, in which one looks in vain for the fish.

The more you read Newman, the less you remember what he says. He is an author whom it is impossible to quote. What you recall, after you have finished reading him, is never what the clarity of his style was revealing, but some small, unwarranted queerness that it was almost concealing. You remember that Newman said that a chandelier “depends” from a ceiling; and if you look up “depends” in the dictionary, you will find that “hangs from” is exactly what it means. You remember that Newman felt entitled to mispronounce deliberately one English word to show his proprietorship over the language. He pronounced “soldier” as sol—dee—err. You remember that Newman was perpetually fussing about Reverend E. B. Pusey, who seems, in some refined way, to have gotten under his skin.

You remember Newman was shocked that Catholics were giving Protestants the grounds for declaring that “the honor of Our Lady is dearer to Catholics than the conversion of England,” as though anything else could be the childlike truth. You remember that Newman particularly disliked the Marian writings of St. Alfonso Liguori, a Doctor of the Universal Church, and said of these writings, “They are suitable for Italy, but they are not suitable for England.” You remember that, with regard to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Newman insisted, in scholarly fashion, that “her case is essentially the same as St. John the Baptist, save for a difference of six months” — which is precisely the difference this dogma demands. You remember that, though Newman was in favor of Papal Infallibility, he was not in favor of its being infallibly defined by the Pope.

(from London is a Place, The Ravengate Press, Boston)

The Birds I View

European visitors to America traditionally comment on the vastness of our country, the variety of our landscape, and the bizarre assortment of inhabitants which, for purposes of quick dismissal, are called Americans. It is only through extreme generosity on their part that trans-Atlantic visitors submit their precise vocabularies to the flagrant laxity of giving just one name, American, to such diversified U.S.A. fauna as the debutante, the cowboy, the crooner, the hobo, the revivalist, the disc jockey and the soda jerk.

And when the European visitor is also a Catholic, even more generosity is required. For Catholicism in America has, out of convenience, made itself as plastic as possible, not by way of being “all things to all men,” but in an effort to be one thing to this man and another to that. Generally, the European Catholic comes to America well-reminded ahead of time that, despite what he finds here, it is of the Faith that the Gates of Hell will never prevail against the Church.

At first glance, the visitor from a Catholic country will be impressed by the material plant, the layout, the perpetual building fund which is American Catholicism. In among the hospitals, the colleges, and the retreat houses, however, the visitor will discover that the Catholic dwellers in these places are, like other Americans, people of many varieties.

American Catholics are not birds of a feather. The truth of this is obvious enough when a few of them are flocked together. Take these birds, for example:

The Converted Cocktailer. This species is a very exalted one. The ordinary specimen is a former Protestant, from one of the better families, who comes into the Church in Paris, reduces somewhat his alcohol consumption, has a private audience with the Pope, and then writes a book about the state of the Faith.

He is often favorably compared with Saint Augustine, and for the rest of his life is referred to, not as a Catholic, but as a “noted convert.”

The Black-Suited Back-Slapper. A clerical counterpart of the Rotarian layman, he has his greatest popularity among those of television intelligence.

Golf balls and highballs are an integral part of his week, and on Sunday morning he brings his best eighteen-hole manner to the pulpit. His “Dear Brethren” sounds much more like “Hi, Gang,” and is followed by some good, hearty, common sense reasons why the parish should all pitch in and buy a jukebox for the Catholic Youth Organization.

The Left Wing Lack-Bird. The subscription list of the Catholic Worker is a likely habitat for this variety. It is quite probable that he bears degrees from several colleges, and wears debris from several ash barrels. Among his more ardent devotions are “Our Lady of the Bread Lines,” “Saint Joseph the Proletarian” and a brief litany of obscure saints who, it is said, didn’t wash too frequently.

By combining his economic theories and his Christian dogmas, he has arrived at a Christ who is equally present in the Sacrifice of the Mass and the sacrifices of the masses.

The Liturgy Loon. Armed with an unabridged missal and a course in Gregorian chant, this migratory species travels from parish to pariah in search of a properly said Mass.

When he enters a church, his purpose is not to make a visit, but to go on a tour of inspection. And by a few liturgical scowls at the surplus statuary, he can dismiss the devotion of generations of simple Catholics. For the Liturgy Loon’s concern is not prayer, but performance; not dogma, but rubrics; not the Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, but the absence of lace on the altar boy’s surplice.

The Red, White and Blue Jay. This patriotic bird is often an S. J. He feels that the great Italian Jesuit, Saint Robert Bellarmine, made good not as a Doctor of the Universal Church but as a remote author of the United States Constitution.

Back at the start of the century, we had a visitor from Europe who wanted to turn this American aviary into an apostolate. The visitor’s name was Frances Xavier Cabrini, and she set out to find here some rare birds, indeed. She prayed she would find some Saints.

Mother Cabrini died In Chicago, in 1917, still very much a visitor, with herself the only answer to her prayers.

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