Saturday, July 5, 2014

It Just Won't Go Away

Feeneyism. It is a minority opinion. It always has been and, unless it finally dies out, it always will be. 

Feeneyism, for the uninitiated, is a reading of Extra ecclesiam nulla salus that denies the Roman concepts of Baptism through blood and through desire, and in turn renders a highly legal reading that restricts salvation to those who have undergone the Baptism rite and are in a visible, conscientious union with the Pope of Rome. Fr. Leonard Feeney was a literature professor at Boston College and a priest of the Society of Jesus in the 20th century. When he was not going on about "the Jews" and Msgr. Ronald Knox, he was pushing his reading of "the dogma" in such a fashion that it then-Archbishop, later Cardinal, Cushing, who was at the time ingratiating himself with the ambitious Kennedy family. Cushing arranged for Feeney's excommunication, which was upheld by Pius XII or by someone in his name. Feeney may have been reconciled at his death.

Historically speaking Feeney's opinion is utter rubbish. Of the three Papal documents supporters of Feeney quote, none of them are directly applicable. The first instance of the "thrice defined dogma" (suggesting that the first two were insufficient?), from the Fourth Lateran Council, states "There is one Universal Church of the faithful, outside of which there is absolutely no salvation." What they neglect to quote is the preceding text based on the Creed, which teaches that the Church and Christ's priesthood descend from the Godhead. It is a spiritual definition, not a legal canon. The second "definition" is Boniface VIII's Unam Sanctam, one of the most misunderstood bulls in history. The oft-quoted line about the necessity of union with the Roman Pontiff is less a definition than it is a thinly disguised threat of damnation to Frenchmen who paid their taxes to the despicable King Philip IV instead of to the despicable Pope who threw his saintly predecessor into prison. The last one, Cantate Domino, is by far the strongest as a teaching, although it does not necessarily lend itself to the Feeneyite interpretation. I do not know enough about how the document was interpreted at the time, so I will hold my electronic tongue, but I suspect the records of the Council of Florence might illuminate us a bit.

"The dogma," as they call it, is the result of objectifying theology, of making it an object of play, of personal manipulation, an idol to which the facts must conform rather than the other way around. I will grant to the Feeneyites that the concept of Baptism by desire is vapid. At what point is one baptized by desire? How conscious must one be of this desire? The Church cannot judge on this matter because it could only be private and subjective. What is outright mad is the denial of Baptism by martyrdom. I recall once singing Vespers on the feast of the Greek martyr St. Epimakios. Living in New Hampshire, both the priest and I were aware of the Feeneyite community an hour's drive away. One of the stichera on the psalms I sang was "Then you were baptized in your own blood, o Epimakios...." Afterward I mentioned it to the priest, who burst into laughter saying, "Oh yeah, that guy definitely went to hell." There are other examples of the Church upholding as saints those who did not undergo Baptism by water, among them the fortieth of the martyrs of Sebaste, Emerentiana, Alban, and the younger brother of Felicity. 1239 of the old, defunct Code of Canon Law stated those who died in the catechumenate are to be counted among the baptized and given a full Catholic funeral service. When these facts do not conform to "the dogma" such nonsense as angels descending to baptize those about to be martyred creeps into speculation and the journey from reality to myth is complete. Faith as this point is not so much revealed as it is reasoned.

And why is this done? To ensure that as few people enjoy the Beatific Vision as possible? If the Feeneyites were allowed to adjust the Byzantine rite, the Divine Liturgy might begin:
Limited and generally inaccessible is the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen

In tremor, let us pray to the Lord. Lord have no mercy!
For fear from on high and the damnation of most souls, let us pray to the Lord. Lord have no mercy!
Oddly, Feeneyism has a broad appeal. The local FSSP church has a Feeneyite or two, although to be fair the congregation and clergy as a totality do not hold the position. One can find a diocesan priest or two in London who hold it. The FSSPX will not touch it with a thirty-nine and a half foot pole.  Some independents hold it. Sedevacantists generally do not, clinging to true pope Pacelli's condemnation of Feeneyite. Some more extreme elements like the Dimond brothers do hold it. A friend of mine was baptized by arch-Feeneyite Fr. James Wathen of Who Shall Ascend fame. Much like Coca-Cola, Feeneyism can be had on any occasion. 

I only bring up this topic because some chap has been polluting Dr. Shaw's LMS Chairman blog with Feeneyism for the past few weeks. The United States is probably the only place where Feeneyism could get an ear, if for no other reason than that Fr. Feeney was a central figure for a while in American Catholicism during its transition from something Old World into something modern and politically palatable in a multi-cultural democracy. The topic is too obscure for much more consideration, but it gives foreign readers something to consider.

For more on Fr. Feeney and his one time meeting Evelyn Waugh, click here.


  1. "I only bring up this topic because some chap has been polluting Dr. Shaw's LMS Chairman blog with Feeneyism for the past few weeks."

    It's not the only Catholic blog he pollutes, alas.

  2. I agree with Dimonds on the EENS dogma. I'm from Croatia. That has no relation to America.

    The fact is you base your mindset on emotions and not on reason. Read the e-book from Dimonds on the issue. "Outside the Catholic Church there is absolutely no salvation" - that's the title. Google it, download it, read it.

    1. You lost me when you mentioned the Dimond brothers, raving and utter lunatics worthy of Pope Stephen VI (a good answer to the sophistries of sedevacantism).
      Thanks to my background I have heard every possible angle of the neo-Calvinist "everyone is damned but me" areas of the Tradosphere and I find their "arguments" to be laughable.

    2. You committed an ad hominem, a straw man and a red herring encompassing the two former.

    3. Your point?

      The Dimond brothers still belong in a mental institution.

    4. Also, it's not a straw man at all. I spent years in Feeneyite/Sedevacantist/SSPX churches (I was baptized by Fr. James Wathen, for crying out loud). I know these people and I find most of them to be quite nasty.

    5. Ad hominem - they're loonies, and therefore their arguments are invalid
      straw man - neo-calvinism "everybody damned but me" - i don't hold that position, neither do they

      i don't care about where you were baptized or where you spent years of your life. i don't care if some people are nasty, except in a way i would pray for them to stop being nasty. there are nasty people everywhere, but that doesn't definitively prove anything.

      i have found nowhere any old discipline of treating as equals baptized and unbaptized infants. anything you describe is probably a novelty. but be sure to provide that rite you mention. we know what councils of lyons and florence regards to those who die in original sin only. and that's the problem CCC 1261 is contrary to those definitions.
      and if you want lex orandi and lex credendi, look at the separation of catechumens and faithful in the liturgy.

      about Trent.
      you cited unimportant passages for this matter, and added a word "finally" in passage about baptism being an instrumental cause of justification. this passage says that baptism is a sacrament of faith without which(faith) nobody has ever been justified. but, effect of baptism is infusion of supernatural virtue of faith which justifies, hence noone has ever been justified without baptism. and here i'm talking about first justification, not renewing justification in sacrament of penance. i know that distinction very well. in preparation faith ex auditu is mentioned but that is not supernatural faith which is infused in souls as effect of baptism.

      one of the things you forgot to quote is: "ita, nisi in Christo renascerentur, nunquam justificarentur" from chap 3 on justification. spiritual rebirth by which man renasceretur has effects of removing guilt of original and actual sin and temporal punishment for sin. this is the effect of sacrament baptism, and we know that because Trent teaches us in sess. 5, chap 5.:

      „If any one denies, that, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is conferred in baptism, the guilt of original sin is remitted; or even asserts that the whole of that which has the true and proper nature of sin is not taken away; but says that it is only rased, or not imputed; let him be anathema. For, in those who are born again, there is nothing that God hates; because, There is no condemnation to those who are truly buried together with Christ by baptism into death; who walk not according to the flesh, but, putting off the old man, and putting on the new who is created according to God, are made innocent, immaculate, pure, harmless, and beloved of God, heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ; so that there is nothing whatever to retard their entrance into heaven.“, and also Florence: „The effect of this sacrament is the remission of all original and actual guilt, also of all penalty that is owed for that guilt. Hence no satisfaction for past sins is to be imposed on the baptized, but those who die before they incur any guilt go straight to the kingdom of heaven and the vision of God.“.

      So, effect of baptism is spiritual rebirth, i.e. being born again. But, ita, nisi in Christo renascerentur, nunquam justificarentur, i.e. if they aren't born again in Christ, they would never be justified, i.e., if they don't have both guilt of sin and temporal punishment which is due to sin remitted, they would not be justified, i.e. if they didn't receive the grace of spiritual rebirht they would never be justified. but those who teach baptism of desire(bod), among whom st. Thomas Aquinas and st. Alphonsus Liguori are most prominent, say that bod remits only guilt of sin and not the temporal punishment and that such person would have to endure purgatory upon death. that means that bod doesn't provide the grace of spiritual rebirth, which means that it cannot even justify it's recipients. it doesn't render them born again in Christ, and therefore it doesn't justify them.

    6. It's really not a straw man though. They practically believe that. If American ultra-Traddies are the "true church", then count me an apostate.

      Yes, the catechumens and and faithful are separated in practically every liturgy in existence (as the catechumens are not yet prepared to partake of the Eucharist), but - as has been previously mentioned - catechumens were also buried with the faithful. It's clear that there was a belief that the unbaptized could still achieve salvation through some means known only to God (I believe it was Aquinas who clearly stated that every soul, without exception, has the opportunity to achieve salvation).

      You know, I think I agree with you a bit more than you realize on the last point. This is backed up in the Roman Martyrology about St. Felicitas' unbaptized younger brother. She saw a vision of him suffering (where there were many other children), she prayed for his soul, and then she saw him again in paradise. Ergo, the child had to spend time in Purgatory to be cleansed of the ancestral sin and it is clear that salvation is possible if one does not literally receive baptism by water.

      I will concede that you are much better read than the typical American crop, who will take three or four quotes out of context and quote them ad infinitum.

      To lighten the conversation up a bit, how prominent is Feeneyism or Sedevacantism in Croatia or Europe in general? While I agree that it exists outside the United States, the vast majority of its proponents are from that country (the beliefs are very symptomatic of the pre-conciliar state of the Americanist Catholic church).

    7. It is a straw man because you said "nobody is saved but me", but i believe there are people who are justified except me. In fact, currently i am the one who is not in state of justification.

      About catechumens. No the practice was completely the opposite. Look at what catholic encyclopedia says: "We may add here some brief remarks on the discipline of the Church in regard to unbaptized persons. As baptism is the door of the Church, the unbaptized are entirely without its pale. As a consequence:

      Such persons, by the ordinary law of the Church, may not receive Catholic funeral rites. The reason of this regulation is given by Pope Innocent III (Decr., III, XXVIII, xii): "It has been decreed by the sacred canons that we are to have no communion with those who are dead, if we have not communicated with them while alive." " Although 1917 CIC makes the concession for catechumens, but that is a deviation from previous discipline.

      And no, nobody who has original sin will go into heavenly kingdom. That is the pronouncement of councils of Lyons and Florence, and Trent(although in other words) in session 5, chap 4. Also Pope Pius VI in Auctorem Fidei condemns those who denied limbo of children.

      About Felicitas. That's actually about Perpetua's brother DInocrates. Here's what st. Augustine says:
      "NPNF1-05. St. Augustine: Anti-Pelagian Writings

      Chapter 12 [X.]—Dinocrates, Brother of the Martyr St. Perpetua, is Said to Have Been Delivered from the State of Condemnation by the Prayers of the Saint.

      Concerning Dinocrates, however, the brother
      of St. Perpetua, there is no record in the canonical Scripture; nor does the saint herself, or whoever it was that wrote the account, say that the boy, who had died at the age of seven years, died without baptism; ". Augustine actually believes that the boy was baptized, estranged from Christ, would have incurred Hell, but was delivered by prayers of his sister.
      And truly in the said writing there is no mention that the boy wasn't baptized, only that he died at age of 7 of cancer. I don't know who perpetuated that myth that he was unbaptized because it is nowhere mentioned, and obviously it was perpetuated in st. Augustine's time since he wrote that nobody really said that the boy wasn't baptized. He isn't even sure she wrote it. And in Roman Martyrology there is only one line dedicated to sts. Perpetua and Felicitas. "Sanctarum Perpetuae et Felicitatis Martyrum, quae sequenti die gloriosam martyrii coronam a Domino receperunt./The feast of the holy martyrs Perpetua and Felicitas, who received the glorious crown of martyrdom on the 7th of this month." That's all.

      About prominence. Well...In Croatia, not even "regular traditionalism" is that prominent. Most of the people don't even know what was the state of affairs in the past. Croatia has 4,5 million people, out of which i would say that 10k at max are traddies. Sedes, there are at least 3, me and two guys :D Out of them, "feeneyites" are at least 2, me and the other guy. I don't know about any other people. In Europe sedevacantism and feeneyism is not that prominent.

      But hey. I don't go by prominence.

  3. For precision's sake, Fr. Feeny's opinion about the absolute necessity of Baptism by water was a distinct idea that (in the book excerpt I've read) he separated from the general doctrine of "EENS" and he made clear that the Church obviously hasn't defined that as dogma (not even at Florence). If I recall correctly, he thought Cyprian, Ambrose, and Augustine taught it that way.

    He probably would have been much more successful (and less crotchety and not ironically excommunicated) had he not opined openly against the Baltimore Catechism's definition of the "three baptisms" and obeyed his superiors.

    The Church could have cleared it up while reconciling him before his death, and his various followers after that, but no retractions were required of any of them.

    It seems that at the moment both "Von Balthasarites" and "Feenyites" are tolerated.

    1. Thank you for the clarification.

      His objection to the "three baptisms" I do not mind actually. I think perhaps the Latin theology on the matter would have been more successful had it simply followed St Ambrose in saying people receive the grace they desire rather than by discussing other versions of Baptism. Where I think he, or at least his followers and his more hardline modern descendants, went wrong was in, seemingly, excluding the possibility and fact that God *has* saved people who did not undergo water Baptism. I would be amenable to the statement "Baptism by water is the only form of Baptism, to which we are bound for salvation. God, however, is not bound by the Sacraments and may save whomsoever He pleases."

      Everyone is tolerated these days. It is like the Republican party in the early 1980s!

    2. Interestingly, his reading of St. Ambrose's eulogy of Valentinian is that the "grace he desired and received" was baptism by water, which Ambrose assumed/hoped someone gave him (without ceremony) on his death bed. Obviously most of the Latin tradition hasn't read it that way, but it does seem to harmonize more with St. Ambrose's otherwise quite "hardline" writings on Baptism (e.g, De Abraham, De Mysteriis).

  4. "God, however, is not bound by the Sacraments and may save whomsoever He pleases."
    You can say that for anything. even for matter and form of sacraments.
    truly a pathetic statement.
    to say that people are saved without sacrament of baptism is to say it is optional which is contrary to Trent
    Session 7, can 5
    Si quis dixerit, baptismum liberum esse, hoc est, non necessarium ad salutem: anathema, sit.
    Session 6, chap 7.
    [causa iustificationis] instrumentalis item: sacramentum baptismi, quod est sacramentum fidei, sine qua nulli umquam contigit justificatio;


    1. From the Early Fathers:
      St. John Chrysostom - Do not be surprised that I call MARTYRDOM A BAPTISM; FOR HERE TOO THE SPIRIT COMES IN GREAT HASTE AND THERE IS A TAKING AWAY OF SINS AND A WONDERFUL AND MARVELOUS CLEANSING OF THE SOUL; and just as those being baptized are washed in water, so too those being martyred.

      Tertullian - We have indeed, likewise, a second font, (itself withal one with the former,) of blood, to wit; concerning which the Lord said, "I have to be baptized with a baptism," just as John has written; that he might be baptized by the water, glorified by the blood; to make us, in like manner, called by water, chosen by blood.

      Cyprian of Carthage, 252 "The catechumens who suffer martyrdom receive the glorious and most sublime blood-Baptism". Epistle, 73, 22

      St. Gregory of Nazianzus (Oration 8) "Her whole life was a purification for her, and a perfecting. She had indeed the regeneration of the Spirit, and the assurance of this from her previous life. And, to speak boldly, the mystery (baptism) was for her practically only the seal, not the grace."

      St. Ambrose . When he talked of Emperor of Valentine II, who died without Baptism . "Tell me, what else could we have, except the will to it, the asking for it? He too had just now this DESIRE; and after he came into Italy it was begun, and a short time ago he signified that he wished to be baptized by me. Did he, then, not have the GRACE WHICH HE DESIRED? Did he not have what he eagerly sought? CERTAINLY, Because sought it, he received it. What else does it mean: "Whatever just man shall be overtaken by death, his soul shall be at rest (Wis. 4:7)? (Sympathy at the Death of Valentinian, 51. AD 392)

    2. You do realize that ecumenical Councils take precedence over fathers.
      Majority of the fathers taught that unbaptized children suffer the pains of Hell. I guess you believe that too...

    3. See my quote below as regards Trent. Feeneyism is fully reliant on quoting things out of context.

      As regards both the unbaptized children and adults I believe the teaching of Pius IX on the possible salvation of those who, without fault on their part, were unaware of the Catholic faith: those who “lead a virtuous and just life, can, with the aid of divine light and grace, attain eternal life; for God, who understands perfectly, scrutinizes and knows the minds, souls, thoughts and habits of all, in his very great goodness and patience, will not permit anyone who is not guilty of a voluntary fault to be punished with eternal torments”

      Furthermore in the Greek Catholic Churches there is only one funeral rite for infants whether baptised or not yet baptised, and the Church prays for all deceased infants that they may be received into the bosom of Abraham where there is no sorrow or anguish but only eternal life.

      So, Lex Orandi Lex Credendi.

  5. Yet the quote comes from Thomas Aquinas, who many seem to quote quite religiously. Furthermore, like all Feeneyites you have cherry-picked a quote and presented it in a vacuum.
    Quotes from Trent:
    Trent, Session 7, Chapter 7 This disposition or preparation is followed by JUSTIFICATION itself, WHICH IS NOT ONLY A REMISSION OF SINS BUT ALSO THE SANCTIFICATION AND RENEWAL OF THE INWARD MAN through the voluntary reception of the grace and gifts whereby an UNJUST MAN BECOMES JUST and from being an enemy becomes a friend, that he may be AN HEIR ACCORDING TO HOPE OF LIFE EVERLASTING.

    Trent, Session 6, Chapter 8...When the apostle says that man is justified by faith and freely, these words are to be understood in that sense in which the uninterrupted unanimity of the Catholic Church has held and expressed them, namely that we are said to be JUSTIFIED by faith, because faith is THE BEGINNING OF ALL SALVATION, the foundation and root of all JUSTIFICATION, without which it is impossible to please God and to come to the fellowship of his sons; and we are therefore said to BE JUSTIFIED gratuitously, because none of those things that precede JUSTIFICATION, whether faith or works, merit the GRACE OF JUSTIFICATION.

    Trent, Session 6, Chapter 5- It is furthermore declared that in adults the beginning of that justification must proceed from the predisposing grace of God through Jesus Christ, that is, from his vocation, whereby, without any merits on their part, they are called; that they who by sin had been cut off from God, may be disposed through his quickening and helping grace to CONVERT THEMSELVES TO THEIR OWN JUSTIFICATION by freely assenting to and cooperating with that grace;

    Trent, Session 6, Chapter 5- Causes of Justification.... The cause of this Justification are: the final cause is the glory of God and of Christ and LIFE EVERLASTING; ... meritorious cause is... our Lord Jesus Christ... merited for us JUSTIFICATION by his most holy passion on the wood of the cross and made satisfaction for us to God the Father... INSTRUMENTAL is the sacrament of baptism, which is the sacrament of faith, without which no man was ever JUSTIFIED FINALLY.

    Trent, Session 6, Chapter 14 Those who through sin have forfeited the received GRACE OF JUSTIFICATION, can again be JUSTIFIED when, moved by God, they exert themselves to obtain through the sacrament of penance the recovery, by the merits of Christ, of the GRACE lost. For THIS MANNER OF JUSTIFICATION IS RESTORATION FOR THOSE FALLEN, which the holy Fathers have aptly called a second plank after the shipwreck of grace lost.