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Holy See Excommunicates Feeney To End 4-Year Doctrinal Dispute

Vatican Cites 'Stubborn Disobedience' In Long Expected Cut of Rebel Priest

By Laurence D. Savadove

Leonard J. Feeney has been excommunicated.

The long expected action was announced last night in the Pilot, official publication of the Boston Archdiocese.

Excommunication was threatened by the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office in Rome in a letter to the rebel priest in January. Feeney has defied the Holy Office for preaching the heretical doctrine, "There is no salvation outside the Catholic Church."

When informed by newsmen of the Pilot story, Feeney said, "No, I am not excommunicated. I am once more excommunicated through channels of the Boston newspapers." He would not elaborate.

The now famous dispute erupted with the dismissal of four instructors who taught the Feeney doctrine, from Boston College in 1949. Feeney was then chaplain at St. Benedict's Center, on Bow St., opposite Adams House.

The flery white-haired preacher turned the Center into a school to teach his dogma. He "carried his message to the people" in talks on the Boston Common and in books. When he ignored Archbishop Cushing's order to be silent in 1949, he was deprived of his priestly functions and expelled from the Jesuit Society, and St. Benedict's was placed under interdict.

After he continued to carry on his work, an appeal was made to Rome. Feeney refused to answer three letters from the Pope in 1952. The letters requested him to come to Rome. The latest note, received in January, warned if he did not answer before the 30th of that month he would be excommunicated.

The decree, issued last Friday and published Monday in the official bulletin of the Vatican, declared he "automatically incurred excommunication," and "has shown stubborn disobedience to an order legitimately enjoined upon him to appear in Rome before the authority of the Sacred Congregation."

The Pilot article stated:

"The action of the Holy See is the climax and concluding act of a controversy that has done considerable harm to souls and disturbed the peace of mind in Catholic circles."

Feeney said he had not gone to Rome because he was already informed of the charges against him "as I am entitled to be under canon law."

Excommunication places Feeney "out of communion with the faithful and deprives him of the right to administer and receive the sacraments." It also subjects him to other punishments and disabilities as determined by the laws of the church, according to the statement by the Sacred Congregation.

Actually, Feeney had been deprived of his rights as a priest when he was defrocked in 1949. The interdict barred all Catholics from frequenting the Center under penalty of forfeiting the right to receive the sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist. Feeney ignored this ban and declared his right to "wear the Roman collar and teach the true faith."

Using St. Benedict's as a hub, he attempted to train young men and women, largely ex-Harvard and Radcliffe students, to "carry the truth all over the country." Although his black-garbed followers once numbered 75, in the last year almost 50 have left him in confessed doubt and confusion.

From preaching "the faith," at the start, he went on to conduct a hate campaign directed against Jews, Protestants, and the Catholic hierarchy in Boston. His sermons on the Common were often broken by violence, and a prowl car put an "amen" on many closing prayers.

Feeney also disclosed he wrote to President Eisenhower before his inauguration and told him, "Unless you become a Roman Catholic before you die, you will never save your soul."

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