One of the Center's most renowned members was a convert and godson of Catherine Clarke, who later became the late Avery Cardinal Dulles. Reminiscing about the “early days” he remarked, “Life at the Center had an indelible effect on all the associates. Before long 100 members of the Center had accepted vocations to the religious life…and at least 200 became converts to the Faith.”
Years passed and under Father Feeney’s guidance the influence of Saint Benedict Center at Harvard and other colleges continued to grow. Inevitably, however, a conflict began to develop when Catholic values and beliefs clashed with atheistic philosophies and teaching at the universities attended by the students. Notably among these was Harvard, where a number of students/Center associates came from influential families. On fire with enthusiasm, they began to defend the Faith and challenge any teaching contrary to it. Some, especially those converted to Catholicism through the Center, went so far as to withdraw from their respective academic institutions, either to protest or join religious institutions. Leaving just months before graduation, predictably, such actions caused no little upset, both to the universities and to the students’ families.
Political pressure was exerted on Cardinal Cushing, who at one time promoted the great work of the Center, to now close it. Invited to functions at Harvard, the Cardinal could not withstand the pressure and sought ways to stop the evangelizing by causing a transfer of Father from the Center, through his Jesuit superiors. Father Feeney, identifying the ruse, knew his departure was signaling the surrender of the Faith to political powers. Father refused to obey the order, stating it was spurred on by pressure, and demanded a hearing. The fight suddenly shifted to a journalistic campaign denouncing Father for spreading the “malicious” dogma that there was “no Salvation outside the Church.”
Up to this time every Catholic believed this, a fact verified by the example of martyrs. The unrelenting condemnation of Father Feeney resulted in his supposed “excommunication” without due process. Father kept to his preaching, moving from the Center to the Boston Common. Crowds listened to him preach while others taunted him even spitting on him and his followers. Every newspaper condemned him, ruining his good name, even removing his literature from Catholic textbooks. Father appealed to Rome, but was buried in an avalanche of slander. He predicted that if the dogma of salvation was successfully obliterated in Boston, the Church would cease to exist there. Fifty years later, 84 of the churches in the Archdiocese have been closed.