Walled-In: The True Story of a Cult

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More About This Book

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780451086624
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/1/1979
  • Series: A Signet Book
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 308
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 5.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2008

    America's First Boston Catholic Cult?

    'Sensationalistic' describes the cover and inside blurbs of the 1979 Signet paperback edition of Robert Connor's WALLED IN: THE TRUE STORY OF A CULT. The promo texts make us expect 'merciless atrocities ... hate and fear your neighbors ... see nothing, hear nothing, read nothing, think nothing.' But in reality WALLED IN is a sober, serious, low-key narrative of growing through childhood to manhood within a small schismatic Roman Catholic cult in Massachusetts. There was good at the Saint Benedict Center, there was bad. There was idealism, there was also the weird, the offbeat and the indefensible. *** This is a strikingly good book. It rewards reading and rereading for its apparent honesty and pitiless self- revelation. Reading by whom? By sociologists and historians of religion in America, for starts. Don't let its small scale make you underestimate Saint Benedict Center, sited first in Cambridge, later at Still River. *** What was undertaken by Father Leonard Feeney and more than a hundred lay Roman Catholic men, women, children and infants in Massachusetts from 1946 till Feeney's death in 1978 is as serious a religious experiment as those of the Quakers, Shakers, Mennonites, Rappites and Zoarites. Some of what Feeney and his chief administrator Catherine Goddard Clarke attempted in urban Cambridge and more particularly on their farm in Still River had been tried before in places like The Woman in the Wilderness in Pennsylvania and in New Harmony, Indiana, at Brook Farm and Oneida. The big difference was that Feeney's Utopia was a Roman Catholic Utopia.*** Sensitive to the feelings of those he lived with for over twenty years in Cambridge and Still River, the author of WALLED IN calls himself Robert Connor. His real name is Robert Colopy, Jr. His father had met and married his mother Loretta, later Sister Mary Lucy when both were disciples of Father Feeney at Saint Benedict Center in Cambridge, just outside Harvard University. Connor's book tells of his growing up raised increasingly communally by women after the separation of himself and his four brothers from their parents once the Center moved into the country. In 1962 his father failed to persuade his mother to leave the Center and resume marital and family relations. He then won custody of his five sons and took them to live with their grandparents, an unhappy experience. *** Read the book for details of what came to be known as 'The Boston Heresy Case.' See Father Feeney and 80 followers doing battle for Jesus and Mary for 7 1/2 years every Sunday in Boston Common from their soapboxes, protected by mounted policemen. Travel from city to city with teen age Bob and other Center members selling self- generated and often surprisingly good literature to promote their cause that 'outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation.' See through young Bob's eyes the disciplining of boys and girls and the psychological pressures placed upon youngsters to vow themselves to a life of monastic prayer -- contrary to Catholic canon law. Feeney himself was expelled from his Jesuit Order and excommunicated by Pope Pius XII. In 1972 he was peaceably reconciled to the Vatican. *** All this was long before Jonestown, Guyana or the recent Mormon child abuse allegations in Texas. Saint Benedict Center and the Boston Heresy Case should have sounded an alarm. Many of the Center laymen and women returned to the world, to their marriages and the raising of their families. Some stayed at Still River or decamped to successor communities elsewhere. Most were ultimately reconciled to Rome, some men and women even founding conservative Benedictine religious houses. The reputations of Father Feeney and Mrs Clarke grow steadily in certain orthodox but ultra- conservative American Catholics today. God works in mysterious ways. -OOO-

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