Slaves of I.H.M. under Sanctions


To refresh the reader’s memory, this group continued to function after Father Feeney passed, yet it seems they continued to embrace his false teachings. This is just to make others aware that they are not teaching Catholic doctrine re salvation. Link

The Slaves are being sanctioned by the church for their stance on the Catholic teaching that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church. The Slaves hold to a strict interpretation of that teaching, while the Vatican holds a more nuanced view.

They must also stop describing themselves or presenting their teachings as Catholic, something the Vatican ordered them to do two years ago.

“They regularly use semantics to mislead people,” said Rev. Georges de Laire, the vicar for canonical affairs for the Diocese of Manchester.


Thanks for the update. I do follow this group as I had a book by them as a child. By “follow”, I mean I follow what’s going on. I certainly don’t subscribe to Feeneyism as it would mean my late husband went to Hell.

I note that this appears to only apply to the Richmond, New Hampshire branch of Slaves of the IHM, which to my knowledge has never had any official recognition from the Church. They also run the website.

There is another branch of the Slaves of the IHM not affiliated with this branch and located in Still River, Massachusetts, and they also have their own Saint Benedict Center there. As I understand it, the Massachusetts branch is in communion with the Church. The Massachusetts branch also states on its website ( )

Please note: Saint Benedict Center in Still River is not associated or affiliated with St. Benedict Center in Richmond, New Hampshire or


Query: what means I. H. M. ?


Immaculate Heart of Mary


Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Founded by Fr. Feeney, a Jesuit who went a bit off track.


I see. Thank you both. :slight_smile:


Thank you for that info - I was not aware that they were a separate group from the Center in Still River. One is legit and the other is under sanctions. It is critical to know the difference. :slightly_smiling_face:


I am not sure what it means for an order to be “under sanctions” if they are not connected to the Catholic Church, other than being baptized. For instance, one community was a few years ago restricted by the Vatican from doing certain things, and they abided by those restrictions, while they continued other ministries within the Catholic Church, with full permission.

But this branch of the IHM appears to be unaffected by any sanctions. They don’t appear to modify or stop any of their activities in response to the Vatican, nor do they appear to carry on any other activities with Church permission.

Nobody would say the Old Catholic churches, or the Lutherans, are “under sanctions”. How is this different?


So Simcha Fisher (who also happens to be wife of the author of the linked piece in the OP) wrote about this, too, and said, “In 2009, the Slaves were sanctioned by the diocese of Manchester for their antisemitic teachings, and have since made those ideas less prominent.”

But yeah, your overall point seems right on target, sadly.


It’s my understanding that the Diocese was letting them hold Latin Masses there or providing a priest or something. Now the Diocese has removed its official approval. Also, the statement from the Diocese sounds like a warning to this group to shape up or face possible other measures, which could include excommunication theoretically. I have also wondered how this group is allowed to use the domain catholicism dot .org and whether the Diocese might have legal grounds to make them stop.


There is nothing legally stopping the Episcopalians or the Greek Orthodox or any other group from advertising stuff as being Catholic. Hence Catholic Answers trying so hard to keep


It’s my understanding that the Catholic Church does have some intellectual property rights over the term In some contexts in the United States, which may include domain names. There’s a body of law on this, partly to prevent competitors or those denigrating your brand from starting a website with your brand name or other term you own, and putting unflattering stuff or ads for their own product or brand on it.

In this case, if a group is putting anti-Semitic speech on a website called “Catholicism dot org” then the Church may have a case to get them to stop.


Very true. This happened several years ago with Michael Voris who was disciplined by the Diocese of Detroit to remove the “Catholic” title from their domain name, since they were not in compliance. They changed it, as a consequence, to ChurchMilitant dot com.


Even if they can no longer hold licit Masses, the diocese can’t stop illicit ones. It was a mistake to let them linger on with an approved Mass, but not much influence over the group. The long delay in action by the diocese will result in a lingering sense among the faithful that this new discipline is just a temporary, partial concern, that the group is still approved but in irregular status. So they can still attend in the meantime.

These groups invariably use that inch of Church condoning to imply a mile of Church approval.


I agree that given that this is not a new group (Fr. Feeney died 50 years ago), it probably won’t go away overnight.

I think the Church making a statement was partly also to disassociate itself publicly from this group given that they’re getting bad PR for allegedly holding some girl against her will and for being on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s hate group list. The Diocese doesn’t need any more bad press or potential legal actions, in view of all the stuff it already has to contend with.


The ambiguous response to these groups, liberal or Traditional, by the Church, was well intentioned but a mistake. Invariably these groups take out of context a paragraph from the Vatican or diocese, and imply/omit a great deal. "It seems the Church has in effect recognized our status in the Church, just a few details needing to be clarified.’

Then the followers hear only what they want to hear, and grab onto any excuse to justify remaining there.


That’s putting it mildly (sigh). There are presently a large number of traditionalists that cling to E.E.N.S. (outside the Church no salvation) as a result of his teachings.


When Fr. Feeney was excommunicated, technically he was “outside the Church” and under his own teachings would have been condemned to Hell. As I understand it, he was reconciled with the Church a few years before he died and received a Mass of Christian Burial upon his death.

Interestingly, the Church never made him renounce his ideas about E.E.N.S. His excommunication was due to him disobeying a summons to come to Rome, not due to his teachings on E.E.N.S.


This letter from the Vatican may be more insightful. From my knowledge of Fr. Feeney, the Church rightfully and strongly disapproved of his teachings. Pius XII’s letter also formed the basis and understanding set forth in article 16 of V-II’s Lumen Gentium, Ch. II. “Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will** as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience**.” (19)*

The footnote (19)* reads: Cfr. Epist. S.S.C.S. Officii ad Archiep. Boston: Denz. 3869-72. It makes full reference for LG’s teaching in Art. 16 as coming from the letter of Archbishop Cushing to Fr. Feeney.

Article 848 of the CCC confirms the Church’s teaching, and references footnote 337, which gives the very same quote.

Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation. (337) Footnote 337 LG 16; cf. DS 3866-3872.

True, I read that he was reconciled before he died, but I can not find any backup that the Church allowed him to keep his views on EENS.

I simply add my own research background for those who are following this thread. They may do further research if it important for them to know the particulars.


The Church definitely disapproved of his views, but his New York Times obit says he never recanted his position on EENS to their knowledge.

I did read in another article about him called “American Heretic” (published in “American Catholic Studies” and available through the Johns Hopkins U database “Project Muse” to which I have access) that BIshop Medeiros convinced the Vatican to lift Feeney’s excommunication in 1972 and by then Feeney was old, ill and having memory problems, so he may not have been in a position mentally for the Vatican to be forcing him to recant if he could not think straight at the time. They may have just been kind to a man who was expiring.

He has EENS on his tombstone.

Michael Mazza at Catholic Culture says he was excommunicated for “persistence disobedience to legitimate Church authority” after refusing several summons to Rome, and not for his specific beliefs on EENS.

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