Feeneyism is a term for the Roman Catholic theology associated with Leonard Feeney (1897-1978), a Jesuit priest and founder of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Fr. Feeney favoured a strict interpretation of the doctrine extra Ecclesiam nulla salus ("outside the church there is no salvation").

Fr. Leonard Feeney

Fr. Feeney had originally been a Roman Catholic priest and a member of the Jesuits. The Jesuit order dismissed Fr. Feeney in 1949 on account of disobedience, and on 4 February 1953 the Holy Office (now the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) declared him excommunicated "on account of grave disobedience to Church Authority, being unmoved by repeated warnings". [1] He was reconciled to the Church in 1972. Fr. Feeney co-founded the group known as the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Salvation and baptism

It is traditionally believed that sacramental baptism ("baptism of water") is the only way to be properly baptized. In addition, "the Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament."[2] Fr. Feeney felt that, in the previous two centuries, some tended to broaden the notion of "baptism of desire" to cover the situation of all who try to live good lives, even to those who desired no relationship with the Catholic Church. Fr. Feeney argued, as Fr. Michael Müller did, that those who are truly sincere will be led by God to Catholicism.

Father Feeney also accepted no form of baptism other than by water and only within the Catholic Church as opening the way to salvation, but he did say that this was an opinion. He denied the salvational efficacy of the mere wish alone, even the explicit wish to be baptized, and held that God must have provided those martyrs who apparently died for the faith without being baptized with a minister and water to baptize them before their death.[3]

Father Feeney and his followers maintain that there is a contradiction between the Second Vatican Council's document Lumen Gentium and earlier authoritative statements that they interpret as saying that non-Catholics are indiscriminately damned.

Followers of Father Feeney interpret the Catholic Church's declarations that outside of the Church there is no salvation as excluding from salvation people like the American Indians who lived between the times of Christ and Columbus, because they could not have been baptized, except on the hypothesis that some Christian missionaries did manage to reach them and baptize them in the Catholic faith. [4]

Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

After Fr. Feeney's death, his spiritual descendants soon split into several groups due to various power struggles. The two most prominent both use the name Saint Benedict Center.

The branch of the Saint Benedict Center in Still River, Massachusetts follows the Benedictine Order.[5] The community at Still River was reconciled with the Catholic Church and is listed on the website of the Diocese of Worcester; it is the site of a regular celebration of the Mass according to the Tridentine form of the Roman Rite[6]

The other, located in Richmond, New Hampshire, is considered by its rival in Still River to be a cult.[7] Paul Anthony Melanson, a Catholic lay-philosopher and apologist, has characterised its theology as flawed and its teachings as anti-Semitic.[7]The Southern Poverty Law Center has listed the center in Richmond as an anti-Semitic hate group.[8] The center denies this characterisation, saying it does not hate Jews, but simply wants to convert them, and all other Americans, to Roman Catholicism.[9] It has no official recognition from the Catholic Church,[7] but professes to be in communion with the Pope.[10]


  1. [1] Documents
  2. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1258.
  3. Father Feeney and Catholic Doctrine — A Reply to Verbum
  4. The Salvation of the Pre-Columbian Amerindians
  5. "Our History". Sisters of Saint Benedict Center, Still River. Retrieved 2008-06-22. 
  6. "Our Community". Sisters of Saint Benedict Center, Still River. Retrieved 2008-06-22. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Buchanan, Susy (Summer 2007). "Trouble in Paradise: N.H. Town Split by Radical Traditionalists". Intelligence Report (Southern Poverty Law Center). Retrieved 2008-06-22. 
  8. "Active U.S. Hate Groups: Radical Traditionalist Catholic". Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved 2008-06-22. 
  9. Template:Cite blog
  10. "Our Status in the Church". Crusade of Saint Benedict Center, Richmond. Retrieved 2008-06-22. 

External links

Against the Feeney view

In favour of the Feeney view

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