Also remaining incommunicado is Father Feeney himself, who was nowhere to be seen during the two days I visited the commune, but I was assured that he would not speak in any event. He has not uttered a public remark since moving to Harvard.
“Father is greatly saddened by the rift here,” said Brother Gabriel. “He kept his own reconciliation with the church quiet as long as he could to avoid it.” Now he must give mass twice each morning and lead the benedictions twice each evening. He is the only remaining link between the two factions.
But I did get to inspect Feeney’s tiny, sparse office in St. Theresa’s house—an office decorated with a wood-carved Last Supper relief along one wall, an amateurishly-painted oil of an attractive young woman on another, and a large framed drawing of Pope Pius XII on a third, the only Pope honored with a place in Feeney’s office and the Pope, ironically, who excommunicated Feeney in 1953 for “disobedience,” as well as for his continuing heresy.
Walls of every one of the honeycomb of other rooms in the rambling garrison house are covered with books and statues of holy figures, saints and the like.
The chapel features an impressive, hand-carved nativity scene but the items in which Brother Paschal showed the most pride were the hundreds of small, wooded crosses and things, each a relic of a saint, covering the walls of the expansive meeting room overlooking the valley at the rear of St. Theresa’s. “We have 685 first-class relics here,” he beamed.
They also have a three-foot high wooden depiction of the Infant of Prague, a vision that appeared to some holy person in the 16th Century. It was sent to Father Feeney by Cardinal Beran in 1948, before he was taken captive by the Communists. Not to be sacrilegious, but I’ve often been puzzled by the importance of all these sacred trinkets to Catholics. Still, in the midst of them in these pastoral surroundings, I confess (which is good for the soul) a slight feeling of reverence. “It’s a very popular devotion,” confided Brother Paschal as he displayed all the little dresses that the statue wears during various festive seasons.
From Humor to Heresy
No sense whatever in all of this, by the way, of the militant anti-Semitism, anti-Protestantism and anti-everyone-else-that-doesn’t-see-things-my-way—those sentiments that had Fr. Feeney labeled a nut and practically ridden out of town on a rail not that long ago. It could be that he’s mellowed in his years of solitude and commune with nature, or that he’s gone through a change of life. It wouldn’t be the first time.
“Father Feeney went through a complete and startling transformation,” said a veteran Boston newsman. “He was always a forceful and dynamic man, but he was never a fanatic in the early days.”
Indeed, the young Father Feeney, the author of humorous essays and lyrical poems—the “Moo is a Cow” Father Feeney—was even compared favorably by the press in 1945 to Bing Crosby in Going My Way (and there is a certain “Would You Like To Swing On a Star?” feeling to “Moo,” which was written as part of a show called “The Children” that the good Father put together for the kids at the Home for Destitute Catholic Children that year). How did he get from that, one wonders, to the hate-mongering heretic?