NH schismatics, Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, can no longer offer sacraments

The Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, an ultra-traditionalist, schismatic, antisemitic group based in Richmond, NH, has been placed under sanctions by Bishop Peter Libasci after rejecting repeated chances to come back into compliance with Church teaching.

Damien Fisher (who is my husband) reported in the Union Leader that the Slaves can no longer offer the sacraments at their compound and cannot describe themselves as Catholic. These sanctions “could be ratcheted up if the group does not comply with orders by church leaders, especially orders to stop preaching the doctrine that only Catholics go to heaven.”

The Vatican ordered them two years ago to stop teaching a strict, literalist interpretation of the idea that there is no salvation outside the Church.

According to the Union Leader story:

In recent years, Manchester Bishop Peter Libasci has allowed a priest in good standing from another diocese to minister to the Slaves and their congregation, celebrating Mass in the traditional Latin rite, and administering other Catholic sacraments. According to a statement released Monday by the Diocese, the Slaves have used that allowance to imply they were an approved Catholic organization.

They were offered several chances since 2016 to come into compliance to remain in the good graces of the Church, but they persisted in disobeying the diocese, in presenting themselves as an independent congregation, and in teaching false doctrine as Catholic.

The group has been in Richmond since the mid 80’s, and they operate the St. Benedict Center, a school, as well as publications, a radio show, and websites. They are an offshoot of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart in Still River, MA, which was founded by Fr. Leonard Feeney. Fr. Feeney was excommunicated in 1953 after he persisted in teaching that no one can be saved if they are not baptized Catholic; but he made a deathbed conversion and died in communion with the Church. Many of his followers do not acknowledge that he repented of his heretical beliefs, and the Richmond group is one of the most radical splinter groups to form from the original Fenneyites.

The St. Benedict Center in Still River is not affiliated with the Richmond group, and is in full communion with the Church.

In 1958, Feeney wrote that “the Jewish race constitutes a united anti-Christian bloc within Christian society, and is working for the overthrow of that society by every means at its disposal.” 

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the leader of the Richmond Group, Louis Villarrubia, who calls himself “Brother Andre Marie,” stated in 2004:

“If anti-Semitism means opposing the Jews on religious matters, opposing the Zionist state in Palestine (as St. Pius X did), or opposing the Jewish tendency to undermine public morals (widely acknowledged by Catholic writers before the present age of PC [political correctness]), then we could rightly be considered such.”

The SPLC has classified the Slaves as a hate group. It says that Richmond Selectman Doug Bersaw, also member of the Slaves, sometimes known as Brother Anthony Mary, is a Holocaust denier. The SPLC quotes Bersaw as saying:

“There’s a lot of controversy among people who study the so-called Holocaust. There’s a misperception that Hitler had a position to kill all the Jews. It’s all a fraud. Six million people… it didn’t occur.”

In 2009, the Slaves were sanctioned by the diocese of Manchester for their antisemitic teachings, and have since made those ideas less prominent.

According to the Union Leader story, the diocese of Manchester released a statement saying:

“Catholics are not permitted, under any circumstances, to receive the sacraments of the church at the Saint Benedict Center, and its associated locations, nor should they participate in any activity provided by this group or school.”

The diocese is eager to provide a spiritual home for the congregation left without sacraments because of their leaders’ rebelliousness. According to the UL:

[T]he diocese is instituting a sanctioned Latin Mass for people to attend at St. Stanislaus Parish in Winchester.

Photo: Damien Fisher

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79 thoughts on “NH schismatics, Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, can no longer offer sacraments”

  1. The teaching of the Catholic Church, as explicated by the by Boniface VIII and the Council of Florence is that there are no objective means of salvation outside of the Catholic Church. Subjectively the only way to be saved outside the Church is by an extraordinary act of mercy on God’s part. The Church does not judge souls, so this remains a possibility but never something we can presume.

    Baptism of desire and baptism of blood remain questions of legitimate theological debate. The Church has never settled that controversy. Therefore, Fr. Feeney is not a heretic and neither is the St. Benedict Center.

    I think it is always rich when progressivists like Simcha Fischer start using terms like “schismatic” or “heretic”. It shows they really do believe in militancy: not for the Catholic Church, though, but for this Gnostic Vatican II feel-good religion.

    1. Fischer muddies the progress of all this a little bit. The nuance expressed by the Benedict Center does in fact mean that they aren’t heretical, which is why the Slaves at the Benedict Center (whom she acknowledges are not associated with the NH slaves) were given canonical juridical status in late 2017.

      Feeney’s status as a provocateur means that what he really thought, systemically, will always be something of a debate – but the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart in NH are not only anti-Semitic, but are in fact, in a way Feeney never really was, in direct disobedience to instruction from both the Vatican and their local bishop. These are real problems. And it is worth noting, that any teaching on “without the Church there is no salvation,” needs to keep in mind Pius IX’s input as well as the Council of Florence’s, and it appears to me at least that they do not preserve this tension.

      1. it is frustrating that she ends the article with info from 2009, which she early in the article acknowledges is no longer true.

  2. Ms. Fisher:

    It appears that you and your husband have screwed up royally. The Slaves in writing state that they believe what the Church teaches on this matter.

    Which raises the question. Did you and your husband coordinate the instant article with the Diocese beforehand in order to help estroy the Slaves?

    You should not be doing the Devil’s work but Christ’s.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  3. Isn’t it best to just take Christ at his word that salvation only comes though Him and the Church he founded. But acknowledging, of course that God has unlimited mercy and may save anyone –who are we to know.

    The true heresy afoot is that all people are saved and go to Heaven – certainly Christians of all brands , Jews and “true Muslims.” There is no reason to follow Christ’s instruction to evangelize anyone (and definitely not the Jews). There is really no reason to be Catholic – unless you just like hanging with the folks and it makes you feel good.

      1. The Sacraments are not a “perk”. They are the ordinary means of salvation. Non-Catholics do not have access to the Sacraments except baptism, and even in that they are deprived of the graces and aids of the Catholic baptismal rite.

    1. “There is really no reason to be Catholic” …..Actually Christ Himself established only ONE Church = HIS Church = THE Catholic Church …SO There IS a reason to Be Catholic – Because Christ Said SO !!

  4. Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus … IS a Fact of the Catholic Church ! Period !
    looks like little Damien Fisher is upset with Catholic teaching …so he takes pen in hand to make an attempt to discrete those who state the truth… very sad !
    little Damien failed miserably !

  5. Simcha, have you ever attended mass there? We do not frequent it but have attended. Very solemn, holy environment. We also know many who do attend there. Very good people. And as far as I understand it, they simply practice Catholicism the way it always had been practiced prior to the V2 disaster. This article and that written by your husband come across as personal axe grinding. Maybe stick to food and politics.

  6. It saddens me that the amount disinformation, ignorance and deception surrounds this truth still exists. If any catholic denies the defined dogma of Outside the Church the is no salvation that person becomes at least a material heretic. The disinfo in the story is this : If the group is schismatic then they don’t recognize the authority of the Bishop and sanctions are meaningless. Is the Bishop going to sanction the local Orthodox church which is definitely in schism. No, he isn’t he can’t. The fact that sanctions are mentioned is because they are Catholics. This demonic stupidity. The church teaches you must be justified to be saved which means in a state of grace which is only achieved in the Catholic Church. To deny this truth is the commission of a mortal.

    1. Amen.

      I became Catholic for one reason: “There is no salvation outside of the Catholic Church”. I gave up much for the sake of that Dogmatic Truth.

      “Then the Master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in that my house may be filled'”, (Luke 14:23)

      It is a great mercy to spread the Gospel of Jesus to those who are lost, saved to eternal life through Holy Mother Church.

      It is evil to encourage those on the wide road to perdition to increase their pace and stay where they are to their destiny of death.

      I stick with the Catechism of the Council Of Trent: Word for word and every punctuation mark. Salvation is a very small road, through a very narrow gate and few find it. It is our job to spread that Gospel to “Jews” and “Greek” alike.

  7. Here comes Simcha to the rescue to warn us of the “anti-semitism” of this group. It’s odd that attention would even be focused on such a tiny group. Your husband obviously seems to have a bone to pick with these folks, with the labels used at the start: “ultra-traditionalist,” “schismatic.” The latter also makes no sense for if they are schismatic, then the local bishop has no authority over them. The fact that he does, or claims to, means they are not. As others have said here, using the SPLC for your claims is useless. I would thus question the quotations provided by them. Further, 2 quotations are the only examples cited. Are there other examples? Is there any evidence the group at large holds such views? Gone are the days when facts mattered and real reporting was done.

  8. While I have no use for the teachings of the Feeneyites, the SPLC itself is an anti-Christian “hate group” and an agitprop front for the godless left. Shame on you for citing it as some sort of “authority.”

        1. well, yeah. they have 0 credibility. they think there is a hate group hiding under all our beds, and that 5 racist not-monks in NH = neo-nazi riot.

    1. Glad you brought that up. Tbe Soughern Poverty Law Center is a deceptive, manipulative, communist front group. A vreat chamelean. I stopped reading at its mention.

  9. Simcha, what is your response to this letter from Br. André Marie? I originally assumed their community were hard-core Feeneyites, but in fact judging from their letter, they seem to be much more nuanced:

    https://df9ixb8c8gy4m.cloudfront.net/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2019/01/20170307-Letter.pdf

    The last line in the interdict letter from the diocese: “Any perceived or real disobedience will be interpreted as obstinacy.”

    I didn’t know church bureaucrats still talked that way. They certainly didn’t do that with groups like the LCWR, who are so far off the Catholic reservation and still operate with impunity.

    1. Hmm. I now find this all very odd. Br. André’s letter seems to repudiate the standard Feeneyite teachings and even go on to affirm the loosey-goosey Vatican II teachings on salvation. So why does the diocese leave the impression that there’s some sort of doctrinal problem?

      1. In his letter, André professes to submit to the Church’s teachings on salvation, but on the official website of his establishment, the St. Benedict Center in Richmond, NH, there remains material that explicitly contradicts Church teaching. Villarrubia is speaking out of both sides of his mouth.

        Ex. On the Feeneyite website, there is an article called “Desire, Justification, and Salvation at the Council of Trent.” This article claims that the Church has never officially taught Baptism of Desire. Instead, the article claims that liberal theologians have been attempting to foist the idea on docile Catholics. Here’s the link: https://catholicism.org/desire-justification-salvation.html

        Now, contrast that with what St. Alphonsus Liguori says: “It is de fide that men are also saved by Baptism of Desire.” So, does that mean Liguori is a liberal theologian?

        These statements made by Villarrubia insisting that he and his community are faithful to the teachings of the Church are worthless because they are lies.

        1. I will stick with the Catechism of The Council Of Trent. It is Dogmatic. I suggest whatever St. Alphonsus Liguori posited on theological topics he placed within Trent’s structure to help understand what he meant.

          Catechism of Trent is Dogmatic. I accept all of it down to punctuation marks.

          1. And Trent says:

            1. COUNCIL OF TRENT (1545-1563)

            Canons on the Sacraments in General (Canon 4):
            “If anyone shall say that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary for salvation, but are superfluous, and that although all are not necessary for every individual, without them or WITHOUT THE DESIRE OF THEM (sine eis aut eorum voto), through faith alone men obtain from God the grace of justiflcation; let him be anathema.”

            Decree on Justification (Session 6, Chapter 4):
            “In these words a description of the justification of a sinner is given as being a translation from that state in which man is born a child of the first Adam to the state of grace and of the ‘adoption of the Sons’ (Rom. 8:15) of God through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Savior and this translation after the promulgation of the Gospel cannot be effected except through the layer of regeneration or A DESIRE FOR IT, (sine lavacro regenerationis aut eius voto) as it is written: ‘Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter in the kingdom of God’ (John 3:5).”

            St. Alphonsus understood that Trent teaches Baptism of Desire. The Feeneyites reject Trent.

            1. From the above cited passage you yourself quoted, it reads:

              ‘Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter in the kingdom of God’ (John 3:5)

                1. Justification is possible from desire.

                  Salvation is not possible from desire.

                  That is the clear assertion of the Catechism Of Trent.

            2. I notice you excerpted one paragraph on justification.

              Interesting, because that is the essence of why the Online Journal you link to goes into some detail in clarifying the difference between justification and salvation … from the Catechism Of Trent.

              I like their method better. You make the same mistake here, they allude to in your linked article (excerpt follows):

              “The Council of Trent held in the mid 1500s dealt with the subject of desire and resolve to receive the sacraments, which implies of course desire for baptism, and the role this resolve and desire play in the justification and salvation of mankind. To help clear the air in terms of what the Council of Trent taught in this regard, it will suffice to show in what context desire and resolve to receive the sacraments exist as part of the infallible truths taught at the Council of Trent. The following five points with supporting documentation will put before the reader the proper understanding of the Church’s teaching on justification, salvation, and desire for the sacraments.”

              Your excerpt above is slanted to misdirect to your preferred outcome. Read in detail again your own link. It clearly explains the nuance between justification and salvation in terms of baptism of desire. It does not support your position.

              A very interesting article. As soon as I began reading, I had the sense of safety in Truth I always get when tappped into timeless Dogma. It all makes sense and fits together. And there is never emotion involved. Just pure assertion and logical progression. I learned something new from it. Thank you.

              1. From the SSPX link:

                Error III: the Council of Trent teaches that baptism of desire is sufficient for justification “but not for salvation”

                Baptism is the sacrament of justification, the sacrament of the beginning of the Christian life. If one has received sanctifying grace, which is the reality of the sacrament—res sacramenti—of baptism, he only needs to persevere in that grace to be saved.

                When and if circumstances independent of our will prevent us from fulfilling such a precept, the principle taught by St. Cyprian, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, and others is to be applied: “God takes the will as the fact.”[9] This means that God accepts the intention to receive the sacrament of baptism as equivalent to the actual reception of the sacrament.

        2. Thanks for the link. I see what you mean. As regards baptism of desire, this bunch is the same as the other Feeneyites I’ve come across.

          I gave a lecture to a nest of them down in Kentucky several years ago, and pointed out that their real error was to reject the theological principles that the Church uses to separate truth from error. The talk won no converts, but this was no surprise. The false principles are so ingrained in the typical Feeneyite that it would probably be easier to teach demons.

          Here’s a link to my notes:

          http://www.traditionalmass.org/images/articles/BaptDes-Proofed.pdf

          1. “… it would probably be easier to teach demons.”

            Your experience among the Feeneyites of Kentucky must really have been something!

            1. In fairness, there were a good number of non-Feeneyites present, too. One of them, an old-time Catholic who had little formal education but knew his faith, piped up during the question period and said, “Golly, Father, how can baptism of desire be heresy if it was taught in the Baltimore Catechism?”

              And that, of course, was precisely my point.

          2. Father Cekada, I want you to know that the information contained in your notes is fantastic! I have been reading and studying it carefully. It is presented so clearly! Thank you very much for all of it!

            1. Thank you, J.A.

              The false principle of the Feeneyites that one is not obliged to adhere to a doctrine unless it is “solemnly defined” does in a whole host of other teachings as well: one could deny, for instance, the existence of guardian angels or that abortion is mortally sinful.

              1. Fr. Cekada,
                I know exactly what you mean. When I was a child and attending Catholic schools, I was taught that the guardian angels are part of the faith. But decades later when I married, my Catholic spouse told me that belief in the guardian angels is optional because it had not been solemnly declared and was merely a theological opinion. I happened to mention that to one of my parish priests one day, and he just about had a cow. He explained to me that belief in the guardian angels is obligatory! I went back and told my spouse who accepted correction. My point is that I have lived one of the scenarios that you mention.

                It is critical that Catholics understand that many things of the faith are not solemnly defined, and our acceptance of these things is necessary. Keep preaching, Father!

  10. Delicate things and matters of eternity are dealt here.
    In matters of fact, however, common sense and prudence are called for:
    so in order to show strict impartiality it may be asked, is schematics a term that if officially accurate? then, next, is the Update on their Mass schedule website this article first refers people to visit a sign of the contradiction that it reads that they are not scheduled here and then go on to read the schedule as contradictory as the not allowed to promote their website and literature as to then ask people to visit it or reference it. However, the distinction that there is another group in good standing with the Church is consoling; however, both claim fidelity to the Holy Father, Francis. I hope, there really is nothing but a pure pursuit of facts and truth as much as possession of it in Catholic charity as also humble spirit of Pope Francis to seek reconciliation instead of excommunication. Unless the term schismatic be explicitly found as public source to the Diocesan authorities, this might be rather harsh, even it is a proximate material description which is lamentable. All Catholics are bound to believe the Truth revealed in the same sense and in the same sentence. Hence, let’s make acts of Faith, Hope and Love in JMJ

  11. Orthodoxy – disciplined.

    Heterodoxy – promoted.

    What does “One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic ” mean to these persecutors, one wonders.

    1. The Feeneyites are not orthodox. They publish material that explicitly contradicts Church teaching. Look at their official website catholicism.org and research “Baptism of Desire.” In one article, one of the Feeneyites writes that it is untrue that Baptism of Desire has ever been officially taught by the Church. The author says that Baptism of Desire is an idea that liberal theologians have been foisting on the docile Catholic faithful.

      Contrast that with St. Alphonsus Liguori who says that it is “de fide” that men are also saved by Baptism of Desire.
      https://catholicism.org/desire-justification-salvation.html

      1. What? They quoted the Catechism of the Council Of Trent. With limited commentary in support of its Dogmatic conclusions. With an appended change, suggested by a Priest from the Spartan orthodox Catholics of SSPX.

        So, they support Dogmatic Church Teaching.

        What am I missing? What’s the problem, because I still don’t see it.

        1. Due to the length of the article, it is not possible to dissect and analyse every line of it here, but one can zero in on a very important statement made in the very first paragraph. Here’s the statement: “That this expression [Baptism of Desire] has been around for a long time nobody denies, but that it has been officially taught by the Church is simply not true.”

          That is straightforward enough, I think. The Feeneyites claim that Baptism of Desire is not an official teaching of the Church. That right there is a big problem. It IS an official teaching of the Church.

          St. Alphonsus knew that. Denzinger 847 states it.(http://www.clerus.org/bibliaclerusonline/en/dxa.htm)

          Even the SSPX , with all of its issues, knows it. http://sspx.org/en/errors-feeneyites (I never thought I’d be linking to anything by the SSPX.)

          Deny even just one article of faith, and one becomes a heretic. The Feeneyites are heretics.

          1. Great links. I will study them more when I have time. The last one requires some slow, thoughtful reading (from SSPX, so of course it does).

            It appears that the crux of the matter is justification viz salvation.

            It simply amazes me, either way, how disputes like this are 100% of the time, always directed at good-hearted orthodox Catholics living out Traditional Orthodox Catholic Faith, (with all their heart, soul, mind and strength). Theirs is an earnest desire to live and teach Dogmatic Truth properly, not a gross attempt to give Holy Eucharist to a manifest sinner or redefine the nature of sodomy as less than gravely sinful, or declare Christ-rejecting Jews already saved.

            It is incorrect at a most fundamental level to state that Jews and Muslims and many other religions have all they need for salvation within themselves. Yet that seems to be current mainstream Catholicism – while this theological dispute leads these faithful men and women to schism? It’s weird. So much persecution of orthodoxy. So little defense against obvious heresy.

            1. What the Feeneyites of the St. Benedict Center preach is not orthodoxy. They preach heresy and that needs to be corrected.

              That said, without a doubt, there is elsewhere in the Church a great deal of other kinds of heresy that is ignored. That is gross negligence on the part of the Church’s shepherds, and they will answer to God for this grave sin of omission.

  12. Are not devotees of the homosexualist Fr. James Martin schematics – as they have separated themselves from the Law of Christ in matters of sex? Every gay practicing parish and “ministry” is in heretical schism from the millennial teaching of the Church.

  13. Why are you quoting the SPLC? This group seems to be a “hate group” themselves, since they label many groups that espouse 2 millennia of Christian teaching (such as the definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman) as hate groups (https://youtu.be/qNFNH0lmYdM). One would think a more neutral or reliable source of information is available.

  14. Good work for both you and your husband bringing this subject back. There have been two books written about this so called religious group and how they tore apart a small NH town. Deliver Us and Lead us Not both describe the growth of this religious cult through recent years. The Boston Globe article in 2004 has the original quote denying the Holocaust.

    1. Your comments about Father Feeney are factually wrong. You have libeled a holy priest with outright lies. Your article is a disgrace.

      1. That’s correct. Fr. Feeney only taught what was ex-cathedra defined dogma, that EENS meant a Catholic baptism with water and in communion with the Church (Papal Bull Cantatae Domino, Eugene IV, 1441, Council of Florence). Many other theologians have also taught about Baptisms of Desire and Blood, but they’ve never been solemnly defined as dogmatic.

        1. The underlying principle your statement implies — that Catholics are obliged to adhere only to doctrine “solemnly defined as dogmatic” — is condemned by the Syllabus of Errors. (Dz 1722).

          Furthermore, the theological notes attached to the standard teaching on baptism of blood and baptism of desire mean that those who deny these doctrine commit a sin against the virtue of faith, either directly or indirectly, and, according to some, are also guilty of heresy.

          See my article on the topic, Baptism of Desire and Theological Principles: http://www.traditionalmass.org/images/articles/BaptDes-Proofed.pdf

          1. Thank you, Rev. Cekada, for your remarks. One of the things that I myself have heard from Feeneyites is that Baptism of Desire hasn’t been solemnly defined, so Catholics aren’t obliged to accept it. Doctrine doesn’t have to be solemnly defined to be de fide.

          2. Reverend, I think I ought to just tote you around everywhere, especially when I am assailed by Feeneyites and accused of rejecting EENS.

    1. They – the article writers and Whomever (emphasis mine) it is that wanted them to write this – intentionally used the talismanic word “compound” so people would think the St. Benedict Center is a cult.

      In reality, any monastery or place where people live in common on some acreage could be called a “compound”. The use of this language is deceptive.

    1. They were granted official status in 2017. They are fundraising to expand their school, which has a waiting list. I’ve never heard heresy taught from their priest-chaplains in their sermons.

      1. “They were granted official status in 2017.”

        Not according to the Diocese of Manchester. This is from the FAQ section on the official diocesan website: “In the past, the Bishop of Manchester has granted permission for a priest in good standing to offer ministry at the Saint Benedict Center. This fact was manipulated by the Slaves and the Center to imply support or recognition by the Church.”

        https://www.catholicnh.org/about/stay-informed/frequently-asked-questions/

      2. Whoops! I goofed. I thought you were speaking of the Slaves in N.H. You are speaking of the St. Benedict Center in Massachusetts. Yes, the St. Benedict Center in Massachusetts is in communion with the Church. Sorry for my error.

    2. I’m sure this would never be written to intentionally give vibes of a cult, especially since they cite such exceptional sources like the Southern Poverty Law Center.
      The severe actions taken against the Center are not being done through charity and it is clearly an attempt to destroy them. Once this is done they will move on to others, except, of course, those who publicly promote sins which cry to Heaven for Vengeance.
      For shame. If we are not to follow the true teachings of the Church, what good is it that I was received Easter last as a Catholic, leaving behind the Episcopal Church? God in his infinite wisdom is at work here. Of all groups to be attacking, sorry, “CORRECTING,” the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart should not be the focus.

      1. Of course we are supposed to follow the true teachings of the Church. However, the St. Benedict Center does not teach the truth. For a concrete example of the heresy of the SBC, scroll higher up in the comments section to see the discussion about this link: https://catholicism.org/desire-justification-salvation.html

        It is to a heretical article that appears on the official St. Benedict Center website. This article is discussed in detail above as you will see if you take the time to look . The Rev. Anthony Cekada offers some excellent commentary and information about it.

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