The Point – March 1952

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

March, 1952

POINTERS

Now that Elizabeth is the ruler of England, she will have to find time in between her many governmental duties for a few of the functions of her other hereditary office, that of being the visible head of the Anglican Church.

Here in New England, our only experience with lady heads-of-churches has been in the person of Mrs. Eddy, risible head of the Christian Science Church. In their respectively old and New Englands, however, neither Queen Elizabeth nor Mrs. Eddy has much chance of survival in anyone’s religious love. Elizabeth will probably one day be only an item in a history book. A newspaper has already supplanted Mrs. Eddy.

The University of Chicago Press has recently published a book by Joseph H. Fichter, sociologist, S. J. We gather that it is a book in which Fr. Fichter applies to a Catholic parish the kind of questionnaire he learned about in a Harvard classroom.

Father Fichter reports that the Catholic masses are not too well-informed on Catholic matters. His findings are not, however, to be confused with Blanshard’s babblings on the same theme. Mr. Blanshard is a loyal Protestant protecting Americans against the menace of the Blessed Sacrament. Fr. Fichter is merely a loyal Harvard-man using Catholics as guinea pigs for a sociological survey.

Fr. Joseph Fichter S.J. Image via Loyola University.
Fr. Joseph Fichter S.J.
Image via Loyola University.

One of the faces that lately appeared on the front page of the New York Times Book Review Section was that of Mr. Graham Greene of England. Beneath the photograph, the New York Times explained that it was indebted to Life magazine for this likeness of the English author. In the text which surrounded the picture, it was made clear that Mr. Greene is the kind of “Catholic” writer who can win the favor of both Life magazine and the Times. Combining an Oxford manner with a brothel interest, his books are sufficiently literary for the Times, and lustful enough for Life

Graham Greene, July 1951 Image via Life Photo Archive.
Graham Greene, July 1951
Image via Life Photo Archive.

We have lately come across a book giving an account of the “apostolate” of Father Vincent McNabb, O. P., who was one of the speakers in a series of outdoor talks sponsored by England’s Catholic Evidence Guild. Father McNabb was in a position to do for London’s Hyde Park what Father Leonard Feeney is doing for Boston’s Common. How miserably the Dominican failed, with his namby-pamby presentation of the truths of the Faith, may be seen from the following dialogue, reproduced from the book:

Heckler: “You say that a man must follow his conscience?”

Fr. McNabb: “I do.”

Heckler: “Then if my conscience tells me that the Catholic Church is wrong, I am right in keeping out of it?”

Fr. McNabb: “That’s right, you are.”

Heckler: “Then if I am right in keeping out of it, you must be wrong in keeping in it. So you’d better come out of it.”

During the month of February, the Harvard chapter of the Ku Klux Klan burned a large cross in Harvard Yard. When news of the episode finally leaked out to Boston newspapers, eleven days after it happened. Harvard’s way of dismissing the whole affair was to laugh it off as the kind of good-natured Harvard prank that everyone ought to expect and no one ought to be shocked at.

At the same time as the cross-burning, Harvard’s president, J. B. Conant, announced plans to spend seven million dollars on the Harvard Divinity School, the purpose being to instruct the rest of the world in the kind of religion Harvard men practice.

THE THREAT OF A NATIONAL CHURCH

Washington National Airport, March 8, 1965 Singing "We Shall Overcome" before boarding a flight to Montgomery, Alabama for a Civil Rights Movement march. Rabbi Richard A. Hirsch (second from left), Bishop John Wesley Lord (fourth from left), Rt. Rev. George L. Gringas (second from right) Image via Madison.com
Washington National Airport, March 8, 1965
Singing “We Shall Overcome” before boarding a flight to Montgomery, Alabama for a Civil Rights Movement march.
Rabbi Richard A. Hirsch (second from left), Bishop John Wesley Lord (fourth from left), Rt. Rev. George L. Gringas (second from right)
Image via Madison.com

In a recent speech in Worcester, Mass., Bishop John Wesley Lord of the Methodist Church predicted that soon Catholics in this country would disavow all loyalty to the Pope in Rome and form an American Catholic Church. Most Catholics reading this statement were probably amused at what they considered Lord’s ignorance of the Faith. “As though we could ever give up the Pope!” they probably exclaimed. “He just doesn’t realize what he’s suggesting.”

The fact of the matter is, however, Lord is not at all ignorant of the Faith, and he did realize exactly what he was suggesting. He knows that Catholics in this country could never be persuaded to give up all vestiges of their Faith and go over wholesale to one of the Protestant sects, but he knows that, given the proper provocation and encouragement, they might well form themselves into a national church — a church which, though still calling itself Catholic and preserving all the prayers and devotions and other externals, would no longer require submission to the Pope as its Head.

There is, furthermore, in Lord’s statement a thinly-veiled threat: “We give you an ultimatum. You must be either American Catholics or Roman Catholics. If you decide to become American Catholics, we’ll give you a big pat on the back and congratulate you on your loyalty. But if you decide to go on being Roman Catholics — with allegiance to that foreign power, the Pope — then we’ll really start to bear down in our accusations of you as a subversive, disloyal group.”

There used to be a time when hatred of the Church expressed itself in such things as Maria Monk fables and in denunciations of Catholic devotional practices. But now anti-Catholicism in this country — which is becoming every day more widespread, open, and intense — has a new line. It is that there is something about the Church that is fundamentally undemocratic — that it is impossible to be both a good Catholic and a good American. This is the line that Blanshard uses, and his success is proof enough of its effectiveness and popularity.

And how are these attacks answered by Catholics? They are answered — at least by the official Catholic spokesmen, the newspapers and magazines and speech-makers — not by insisting on the truth and the necessity of the Faith, which would be the only effective answer, but rather by trying to prove that Catholics really are good Americans. Instead of defending the Faith, they defend their patriotism. They accept the charge that the Church is un-American as an honest objection, instead of treating it as simply another manifestation of anti-Catholic bigotry. The louder the bigots protest against the Faith, the more antics these official Catholic spokesmen go through to prove what Yankee Doodle Americans they are.

This reaction is just what Bp. Lord and his fellow Protestants want. They are delighted at the way Catholics become much more upset by slurs against their patriotism than by slurs against their Faith. They think this clearly shows that if Catholics in this country are ever asked to decide between being good Catholics and good Americans, they will choose to be good Americans. And this is the decision that Lord and the Protestants hope to bring about. Their intention is to keep rubbing it in that as long as Catholics take their orders from Rome, their loyalty as Americans is suspect. By doing this, they think they can make it so uncomfortable for the Catholics that it will be comparatively easy to maneuver them into forming an American Catholic Church — a church in which they could be good Americans, according to Protestant standards of Americanism, and at the same time still pretend to be Catholics (they could have everything but the Pope). These Protestants rejoice in the many signs already present that point to the formation of just such a national church: the growing independence of Catholic American bishops, as shown by such things as their defiance of the Pope in his ban on Rotary Clubs; the general watering down of Catholic doctrine so as so make it “inoffensive”; the preaching, by Catholics, that it does not matter what church a person belongs to as long as he is sincere.

In the midst of all this Protestant encouragement of Catholic weakness, there has been heard one clear voice, that of Father Leonard Feeney, professing the Faith in its purity: “There is no salvation outside the Catholic Church, nor without personal submission to our Holy Father the Pope.”

This challenge of the Church’s absolute necessity makes charges of un-Americanism look pretty ineffectual (is it un-American to have certitude in the matter of salvation?); and the possibility of forming a national church becomes absurd. When other priests and bishops have the courage to follow Fr. Feeney’s lead in proclaiming the Faith purely and strongly, then, and only then, will the idea of a national church cease to exist, both for Protestants as a hope and for Catholics as a refuge.

BY FATHER FEENEY

The British Empire is a collection of disunited lands and nations, dominated by taking swift advantage of every dissension. The overt act by which Henry VIII indicated to the world the pattern of England’s apostasy, was a divorce of his throne from the Chair of Peter, with a divorce of himself from his lawful Queen. With both its spiritual and its secular interests the fruit of unwedded allegiances, it is no wonder there is no unity in what London does. It has lost all sense of the unity of a bridegroom and a bride.

Yet something still stays in England, which I do not know what to call. By way of showing how full of promise and emptiness it is, I call it “London Spring.” It is spring without summer; promise without fulfillment: style without substance; manners without meaning.

Every English sailor salutes the quartermaster’s deck when he passes it, aboard ship. On it there used to be a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. No sailor would pass it without acknowledging it. The Mary images have been removed from English ships. But the empty salutes still go on.

I once heard John Galsworthy lecture in the refectory of one of Oxford’s colleges. He entered, dressed in clerical robe and hat, and stood at one end of the refectory, in the manner of a visiting abbot. He saluted an empty niche in the wall. This again was a place where a statue of the Blessed Virgin used to be kept, and is kept no longer.

The Oxford and Cambridge colors are blue. Oxford has dark blue. Cambridge has light blue. This is in honor of the colors in Mary’s mantle. God’s Mother has departed. Nothing remains, but the color of her dress.

And so, on and on we could go, through all the English emptiness, through all the haunted places. A sweet odor still lingers everywhere, but a death and a departure have most surely occurred.

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

THE CHRISTOPHERS — Change the world to what?

On the Set: You Can Change the World (1950) Standing (L-R) Jack Benny, William Holden, Paul Douglas Seated (L-R) Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, Loretta Young, Fr. James Keller, Irene Dunne, Ann Blyth Image via Life Photo Archive</a
On the Set: You Can Change the World (1950)
Standing (L-R) Jack Benny, William Holden, Paul Douglas
Seated (L-R) Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, Loretta Young, Fr. James Keller, Irene Dunne, Ann Blyth
Image via Life Photo Archive

Perhaps you are one of the “nearly 500,000 individuals” who receive the Christopher News Notes every month. This incredible single sheet of paper is the official contact between Father James Keller of Maryknoll, a Roman Catholic “missionary” priest, and his many followers (nearly 500,000, as his News Notes states.)

We have often wondered what kind of shape “religion” would have to assume in order to comply with the American idea that “one religion is as good as another.” With his Christopher movement, Fr. Keller seems to have hit on the ideal solution. Here at last is the leveling of all creeds to a common-denominator “religion.” No matter what you believe about God or man, YOU can be a Christopher. Fr. Keller goes to great etymological pains to let you know that being a Christopher means being a “Christ-bearer.” You take your idea of what Christ means and bear it about, thereby effecting something which Fr. Keller hopes will be comparable to lighting a match in a dark room. As a matter of fact, Fr. Keller is given just such incendiary encouragement in a current “News Note” from Stratford, Connecticut. It runs: “Please keep up your good work and inspire more to ‘light a match.’ ” This may pass as good “Christ-bearing” with Fr. Keller, but it strikes us as little more than good business for the match companies.

Although the Christopher movement is headed and guided by a Catholic priest, the work of a Christopher is to counteract those who “hate the basic truth upon which this nation is founded.” It is, therefore, purely a patriotic movement, and not a Catholic one. As head of the Christophers, Fr. Keller joins that vast parade of priests and prelates who are so persistently waving a flag — to let people know that being a Roman Catholic does not mean being a disloyal American.

In his monthly communication, Fr. Keller states that the “basic truth” upon which this nation (and the Christophers) is founded is: “every human being is a child of God, deriving his rights from God, not the State.” Every Catholic who learned his penny catechism knows that this statement is in direct opposition to Catholic teaching. Fr. Keller must know it too! Fr. Keller must remember learning that people are not born into the world as children of God. As a matter of fact, one of the reasons why Fr. Keller is a priest is because people have to be made children of God at Baptism. And after Baptism there begins the struggle to keep one’s childhood with God by remaining in the state of Sanctifying Grace. Fr. Keller wears a Roman collar precisely because God has equipped him to dispense the Sacraments and thereby to keep baptized people the Children of God.

Americans are thus presented with the paradox of a Catholic priest whose message to them is to defend the “basic truth” that they are already children of God. Their need for Fr. Keller is not in his Sacrament of Holy Orders but in his unlimited ability to “change the world” by lighting matches. The initial success of Fr. Keller’s panacea books and his Farmers’ Almanac theology indicates that he is just what America wants by way of a Catholic priest. He will probably continue, successfully, until some new Keller — perhaps a rabbi this time — introduces a more advanced development of the “inter-faith” scheme of things. We suggest a rabbi because from where we stand, it sounds as though Fr. Keller will have some difficulty in accustoming his Jewish friends to “bear Christ” in other than profanity.

“It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” This is the ultimate in Christopher dogma, as deemed by Fr. Keller and consented to by all faithful Christophers. To encourage this liturgical version of “Brighten the Corner Where You Are,” Fr. Keller supplies 500,000 monthly reports on the progress of candle-lighters throughout the nation. We do not object to a Catholic priest’s having such quantitative influence; we grieve that a Catholic priest should be in such a position and not be using it for God’s glory and the fulfillment of his priestly obligations.

Fr. Keller will one day have to face Our Lord in Judgment and account for that Light which was hidden in all of his Christopherisms … the Lumen de Lumine, the Light of Light, which Fr. Keller called GOD at Communion time every morning and then forgot for the rest of the day.

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