Friday, June 05, 2009


Monastic life has always intrigued me. I am old enough to remember, barely, the pre Vatican II days of the Catholic church. During a kiddie mass back in 1964 we all knelt with the Grey Nuns hovering nearby, while a priest droned on about all "the changes." I remember his tone and the look of some of the nuns. Within a few years the nuns were in mufti. A few years after that the nuns were gone and so was I.

(This same church, Sacred Heart, Lexington MA, attracted a lot of negative comment a few years back when during the remodeling they got rid of the pews and the kneelers...were they saying no kneeling to pray allowed?)

So I am both horrified and fascinated, and drawn to the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. They are a religious order of sisters and brothers, with a school, out in Massachusetts. The St. Benedict Center was the later home of one Father Leonard Feeney. He was known for his rants on Boston Common fifty and more years ago, preaching one theme: Extre Ecclesia Nulla Salus. Without the Church there in No Salvation. He meant the Roman Catholic Church. He was saying out loud what was the accepted dogma when I was very young. Eventually Feeney was driven to a remote part of Central Massachusetts and that's where his adherents are today. The sisters are in the full traditional habit. The Latin Tridetene Mass is the only one celebrated. There's a busy school, there are publications and there's no use for gays, protestants, Jews, abortion rights, stem cell research...there's room only for Roman Catholic dogma. No argument, no debate. The orders don't look crowded, but they are active.

Do they anger me? No. As I said, I'm fascinated, even if I just can't go there. I wonder how many stay? Commitment and strength there certainly is, but total acceptance of any dogma without the opportunity of argument or free thought do not rounded adults make. And it seems that any group proclaiming themselves THE ONLY and better than embraces divisiveness and separation. Well, God bless 'em I guess. I'll pray that they learn to embrace their views and listen to others. Still, it touched me to know the Latin mass is still said, and that there are religious willing to live the dogma fully. I guess.


Anonymous said...

If you think the folks in Still River are hardliners, check out the Saint Benedict Center in Richmond, NH, established by Fr. Feeney's right-hand man Br. Francis Maluf after the courts rejected his bid to take control of the order after Feeney's death. SBC's leaders are a disgrace to the Catholic Church. They make no bones about their contempt for Jews, Protestants and liberal Catholics, or for those neighbors in Richmond who aren't inclined to convert to their brand of clubby, militant Catholicism or to excuse their attempts to bypass local land-use regulations as they expand their holier-than-thou empire. Oh, and wouldn't you know, they're big on Holocaust denialism, too, and thumb their noses at the Bishop of Manchester every chance they get. Read some of SBC prior Br. Andre Marie's writings and maybe you, too, will conclude that he's little more than a skinhead who traded his Doc Martens for a monk's robe.

Christopher Purdy said...

That is one scary web site. Thnak you for writing!