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May he rest in peace.

February 27, 2008

William F. Buckley (1925-2008): requiescat in pace.

Ipsi Domine, et omnibus
in Christo quiescentibus,
locum refrigerii, lucis et
pacis, ut indulgeas,
deprecamur.

Cecini pascua, rura, duces.

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84 Comments
  1. jonathanjones02 permalink
    February 27, 2008 4:36 pm

    Wow.

    What a life!

    He was a great man who will be missed. RIP.

  2. February 27, 2008 4:58 pm

    A long-time hero of mine. He will be dearly missed.

  3. G Alkon permalink
    February 27, 2008 5:33 pm

    Buckley’s greatest sin was domesticating Catholic teaching for American consumption.

    He, more than anyone else, worked hard to conceal the actual teachings of the actual living Popes from the American public, allowing American Catholics to delude themselves into believing that they were conservative Protestants like the elites they aspired to be.

    Thus his epochal article from the sixties “Mater Si, Magistra No,” publicly refusing the title of a papal encyclical on the basis that the Church was the mother of Catholics but not their Master–for only the State could claim that authority.

    That Catholics might have allegiances that superseded their obedience to state power was not something Buckley could tolerate.

    Buckley essentially renounced his Catholicism in public and then spent his career deceiving American Catholics and destroying church authority.

  4. G Alkon permalink
    February 27, 2008 5:34 pm

    correction: not ‘sixties but 1956

  5. jonathanjones02 permalink
    February 27, 2008 5:39 pm

    “Buckley essentially renounced his Catholicism in public and then spent his career deceiving American Catholics and destroying church authority.”

    Ridiculous, false, and wholly uncharitable.

    “refusing the title of a papal encyclical on the basis that the Church was the mother of Catholics but not their Master–for only the State could claim that authority.”

    You have no idea what you are talking about. The phrase probably came from Garry Wills, who shared a view – quite common at the time, well within the possibilities of criticism, and quite possibly right, although history may judge – that John XIII could be naive when it came to matters of “openness” and economics.

    Heck, members of the Curia had criticism for that and other encyclicals! And good for them, right or wrong. No one denied the authority of the Holy Father and the Church.

    Let’s not make everything political. We can and do disagree.

    Buckley was a faithful Catholic and a hugely accomplished man. We were blessed by his existence.

  6. February 27, 2008 5:46 pm

    Rest in peace, Mr. Buckley.

  7. February 27, 2008 6:03 pm

    He wrote an article in 1956 decrying an encyclical dated 1961? By a pope that wasn’t elected to the papacy until 1958?

    If someone has a link to the text of the article (I haven’t been able to find one) it might possibly be discussed, but attacking WFB because of the title seems rather rude and peremptory on the day of his death.

    By all accounts he was a deeply kind and gracious person — a trait which doubtless all of us can admire and attempt to emulate. He was also a brilliant writer, and an inspiration to many. God rest his soul.

  8. Mark D. permalink*
    February 27, 2008 6:13 pm

    I understand that strips of wool cloth from those blue blazers worn on Firing Line are currently being auctionned off at Ebay, in the religious goods section.

  9. G Alkon permalink
    February 27, 2008 6:23 pm

    I got the dates wrong. Sincere apologies.

    And of course condolences to all touched by the passing of Mr. Buckley–though I presume those in mourning are not reading this blog.

    I also presume–no doubt incorrectly–that those who are reading this blog are interested in the truth.

    Buckley gave an entire issue of his magazine, National Review, to coverage of the 1961 encyclical Mater et Magistra.

    On the cover was emblazoned in big letters: “Mater, Si; Magistra, No!”

    This was also the title of the editorial for which Mr. Buckley took credit.

    The point of this flat rejection of papal authority, in public, was that the Catholic Church should have nothing to say to Catholics about politics, economics, and social policy. No doubt Mr. Buckley rejected papal authority out of heartfelt love for the Church.

    These are widely known facts. Any American Catholic with even the remotest interest in truth will know about them.

    You will not have trouble finding about these facts using the Internet, an information resource you might have heard of. In fact, you will be able to read about these facts in the Buckley obituaries soon to be published. Enjoy!

    —-

    Certainly it is not uncharitable to give credit to Mr. Buckley for his life’s work. It just happens that his life’s work was sinful and was manifestly destructive to the Church. And he carried out this destruction all the more effectively because he masqueraded as a Catholic.

  10. February 27, 2008 6:29 pm

    GA-

    Here’s hoping you receive the same “gracious” treatment that you’ve given WFB on the day of your passing.

  11. G Alkon permalink
    February 27, 2008 6:36 pm

    I’m sure Buckley has bigger problems than me right now.

    In any case, as truth and love are, finally, one in Jesus Christ, I am acting on the assumption that debunking falsehoods is good, even on the day of a death.

    Just to clarify this once and for all.

    This is from the current Archbishop of Denver Colorado, Charles Chaput, in a speech he delivered in 2002:

    ” ‘Very often we treat the Church the same way we treat our flesh and blood mothers. We want the mommy part, but we don’t want the teacher part. We want her around to feed us, encourage us and comfort us when things are going badly. But we don’t want her advice, especially when it interferes with our plans. When Pope John XXIII’s encyclical first came out, the conservative author William Buckley, who didn’t like the Pope’s economics, wrote a famous column called, “Mater si, Magistra no!” – mother yes, teacher no. That led Louise and Mark Zwick to characterize him in the Houston Catholic Worker as “the inventor of cafeteria Catholicism and the pro-choice stance (at least in economics), who accepted encyclicals he agreed with and rejected others.” I think they’re right. ”

    Anyone interested in current, mainstream teaching about William Buckley and his ilk, see more here:

    http://www.archden.org/archbishop/docs/2_23_02_catechetical_conference.htm

  12. Stuart Buck permalink
    February 27, 2008 6:39 pm

    Alkon — do you have any evidence for this?

    Buckley gave an entire issue of his magazine, National Review, to coverage of the 1961 encyclical Mater et Magistra.

    On the cover was emblazoned in big letters: “Mater, Si; Magistra, No!”

    This was also the title of the editorial for which Mr. Buckley took credit.

    If this page is correct, then not a word of what you wrote is true:

    Fr. Collins suggests that journalist William F. Buckley’s discussions of Mater et Magistra in National Review [NR] shortly after the encyclical’s 1961 publication are “the manifesto of capitalist proportionalism.” Was Buckley guilty of the bald rejection of Church economic teaching that Collins suggests? An examination of the related National Review articles indicates not. Because of the seriousness of Collins’ charge, and because of the fame of the exchange which Buckley and the more politically liberal Jesuit editors of America magazine had over the encyclical, it is worth taking some space to set the record straight….

    Two weeks later, a single line in NR’s gossip column quipped: “Going the rounds in Catholic conservative circles: Mater si, Magistra, no.” (Contrary to Fr. Collins’ assertion, Buckley wrote no essay with this title, seminal or otherwise). America [that is, the magazine by that name] subsequently condemned NR for these remarks, on grounds that it was presumptuous and disrespectful to even appear to criticize an encyclical. However, as Buckley noted in the August 26 NR, “National Review has made no substantive criticism of Mater et Magistra.” It merely pointed out that “coming at this particular time in history, parts of it may be considered as trivial.” ….

    On September 23, Buckley published in NR a letter he had written to America editor Fr. Thurston Davis, SJ, which Davis had refused to publish. The Mater si quote, Buckley explained, spoken “by a Catholic scholar in Virginia, was flippancy pure and simple. I take no objection to your denouncing the flippancy as having been in imperfect taste: I am quite prepared to subject myself to the criticism of my elders on such matters.”

    And for what it’s worth, Buckley later said that reprinting Gary Wills’ quip is something he regretted:

    Lopez: Anything you wrote during your tenure that you regret?

    Buckley: I had belated second thoughts about the wisdom of republishing a quip of Garry Wills’s in my “For the Record” column. It was the phrase: “Mater si, Magistra no,” in response to a papal encyclical that got us into lots and lots of trouble with the liberal Catholic press over lots and lots of years.

  13. February 27, 2008 6:40 pm

    Alkon,

    Actually, before I responded to you I took the time to look around a bit to see if the editorial or issue in question was available on the internet, but although I find passing mentions to it in several places, I have not been able to find the issue or editorial itself. Being the knowledgable creature you are, you may know that the internet was not widely used in 1961 or for some years afterwards. If you have a link (have you even read the issue, or only heard of it?) I ask that you share it.

    I can judge things only by what I know of them. What I know of Buckley and National Review is that I have found both him and the magazine he founded to be deeply respectful of Catholicism over the last ten years during which I have read them. I have also found the debates which Buckley participated in and hosted to suggest an intellectually astute and faithful Catholic.

    Certainly, I have found him far wiser in his words and more charitable towards his adversarites than the verbal spewing in which you choose to engage.

  14. G Alkon permalink
    February 27, 2008 6:57 pm

    Did you read the lecture by Archbishop Chaput?

    Do you care?

  15. February 27, 2008 7:01 pm

    Yes, I read the lecture. It was a very good lecture — in which Buckley’s quip (according to Stuart Buck’s piece above, a quote in the “Notes” column from Garry Wills) was mentioned briefly.

    I agree with every word of Caput’s lecture — and it would not surprise me if WFB would have as well, excepting perhaps the Houston Catholic Worker’s summary of his position, which given that neither of us have read the original article may or may not have been a fair one.

  16. February 27, 2008 7:02 pm

    If what Stuart has written is true, it reminds me of Charles Wilson’s arrogant quip that “What’s good for GM is good for the country.”

    Except that Wilson never actually said it. He was misquoted and what he said was, in fact, just the opposite.

  17. G Alkon permalink
    February 27, 2008 7:03 pm

    Buck–

    Wills’ quip was voluntarily taken by Buckley as the title for the editorial column (as Buckley was the EDITOR, the editorial was taken as HIS opinion–as he intended.)

    He later regretted voluntarily adopting Wills’ words as his own.

    What you quoted above is more than enough to condemn Buckley.

    What you quoted above has Buckley saying this–“I didn’t condemn the encyclical–I just dismissed half of it as ‘trivial'” —

    And you know what “trivial” means, don’t you, Buck?

    It means not important, not necessary to follow.

    Once again, do you care about the teaching of one of the most eminent Archbishops in the American Church today?

    Perhaps you might read the lecture of Archbishop Chaput that I linked to, if you find my own words so repulsive?

    Or are Archbishops like Chaput also prone to “spewings” in your view?

    It was not me but Archbishop Chaput who agreed that William F Buckley, that great American, was the “father of cafeteria Catholicism”.

  18. G Alkon permalink
    February 27, 2008 7:11 pm

    Jay Anderson,

    Believe whatever you want.

    Buck’s own quotation in defense of Buckley proves my point–
    for in August 1961, AFTER the Jesuits — those communists
    — got angry at him, the great Buckley himself said that
    he wasn’t rejecting the encyclical, just noting that
    “coming at this particlar point in history, parts of it may be considered trivial.”

    What do you think he meant by “trivial”? And which “parts”?

    You can judge as you see fit.

    Darwin — if you agree with every word of the lecture, then you agree that Buckley is the father of cafeteria catholicism– for Chaput himself says that is what he thinks…

    The premise of all of my posts is that cafeteria Catholicism is a serious thing, and shouldn’t be swept under the rug in assessments of the life contributions of the great American Catholic William F Buckley.

  19. February 27, 2008 7:14 pm

    And you know what “trivial” means, don’t you, Buck?

    It means not important, not necessary to follow.

    Do you know what the phrase “trivially true” means, Alkon?

    It was not me but Archbishop Chaput who agreed that William F Buckley, that great American, was the “father of cafeteria Catholicism”.

    Archbishop Chaput quoted the Houston Catholic Worker, and may well simply have taken their word for it in regards to interpreting Buckley’s position. However, Chaputs point was not that Buckley was the “father of cafeteria Catholicism”, it was that we must unequivacably accept the Church as both Mother and Master.

    Look, I haven’t read Buckley’s editorial, so I can’t judge whether it was an appropriate response to the encyclical. Have you read it? Your account certainly doesn’t match the one that Stuart has linked to. And from what I know of the two publications in their modern incarnation, I have found National Review to be more loyal to the popes than America.

    If you can provide a link to Buckley’s original editorial, I will certainly read it, and perhaps change my opinion of him somewhat. But right now, everything I have read by Buckley in reference to Catholicism has deeply impressed me.

  20. Stuart Buck permalink
    February 27, 2008 7:17 pm

    Alkon —

    1. The article that I posted says that Buckley never wrote any article with the “Mater Si, Magistra No” title. Do you have any actual evidence to the contrary?

    2. Do you concede that it was wrong for you to claim that Buckley devoted an entire issue to that encyclical, or that he “emblazoned” the quip on National Review’s cover? You’ve claimed that other people are not concerned about the “truth,” so you might want to be especially careful not to make reckless or untrue claims.

    3. “Necessary to follow”? Do you really think that everything in Mater et Magistra (such as the paragraphs urging agricultural price controls) is binding as a matter of conscience?

  21. February 27, 2008 7:24 pm

    I said “if” Stuart is correct, it reminds me of the Wilson misquote. That’s all I said. It’s not about “believing what I want”.

    I certainly have the utmost respect for Archbishop Chaput, and will gladly listen to and take to heart anything he says. Yet, if Archbishop Chaput were to attribute to Charles Wilson the quote “What’s good for GM is good for the country”, I would believe his excellency to be under a misperception.

    Like Darwin, I haven’t read the Buckley column at issue, but I’ve heard about it for years. If Buckley adopted Wills’ quip as his own, to express his own feelings on the matter of the encyclical, then that is grave indeed. But it sounds as though he has publicly expressed his regret for using the Wills quote.

    On the other hand, if he was using the Wills quip as illustrative of the sort of reception the encyclical had received, then, in context, it might be less damning. I’d have to read the thing to know for sure.

    That’s all I’m saying.

  22. Donald R. McClarey permalink
    February 27, 2008 7:29 pm

    Mater Si, Magistra No appeared in National Review in 1961 I believe. It was written by Gary Wills.

    Rest in peace Mr. Buckley. Unlike most of your detractors you will be remembered fondly.

  23. G Alkon permalink
    February 27, 2008 7:32 pm

    It was wrong of me to say it was on the cover. Nor was it the title of an article. My mistake.

    On July 29, 1961, Buckley said about Mater et Magistra, in a staff editorial (for which he, as editor, was responsible):

    “Whatever its final effect, it must strike many as a venture in triviality coming at this particular time in history.”

    On August 12, 1961, Buckley said, in his own “For the Record column,”: “Going the rounds in conservative circles: ‘Mater si, Magistra no.'” [later Wills said that he mentioned this phrase to Buckley]

    Then on August 26, 1961, in response to the criticism from the Jesuits, Buckley wrote in a staff editorial: “Actually, National Review has made no substantive criticism of Mater et Magistra. Simplistic interpretations in secular terms are notoriously unwise. It merely pointed out that ‘coming at this particular time in history,’ parts of it may be considered as trivial.”

    —–

    Really all of this is beside the point: why is Chaput deliberately denouncing this most visible of great American Catholics as the “father of cafeteria catholicism” ?

    The answer is: Chaput knows that Buckley was a lifetime standard bearer for evil and deadly economic teachings, which were always, at every point, against the teachings of the Catholic Church.

  24. G Alkon permalink
    February 27, 2008 7:33 pm

    Quotes from the theology library at Spring Hill College, the Jesuit College of the South:

    http://web2.shc.edu/theolibrary/

  25. Donald R. McClarey permalink
    February 27, 2008 7:34 pm

    Here is America on the controversy. The mind boggles at the idea of Jesuits defending papal encyclicals. How the times have changed!

    http://www.americamagazine.org/blog/entry.cfm?blog_id=2&id=5BD878F9-5056-8960-3214F646041B8A7B

  26. Katerina permalink*
    February 27, 2008 7:35 pm

    Pardon my ignorance… who was Buckley?

  27. G Alkon permalink
    February 27, 2008 7:37 pm

    He was the progenitor of Michael Novak, George Weigel, and other men with blood on their heads and hands.

  28. Blackadder permalink
    February 27, 2008 7:45 pm

    Katerina,

    He was the founder of National Review and, according to many, the father of modern conservatism. Biographical info available here.

  29. Donald R. McClarey permalink
    February 27, 2008 7:46 pm

    Buckley on Pope John Paul II:

    http://www.time.com/time/time100/leaders/profile/popejohn.html

  30. Stuart Buck permalink
    February 27, 2008 7:47 pm

    Thanks, Alkon, for admitting that you erred; certain other people would have just let the error stand uncorrected. It does, however, very much lessen your point; a one-line quip from Garry Wills is a far cry from an “entire” issue, the cover of the issue, and a Buckley-written editorial. Moreover, you haven’t answered whether you think that people are actually obliged to obey all of the agricultural musings in Mater et Magistra.

  31. February 27, 2008 7:49 pm

    Really all of this is beside the point: why is Chaput deliberately denouncing this most visible of great American Catholics as the “father of cafeteria catholicism” ?

    The answer is: Chaput knows that Buckley was a lifetime standard bearer for evil and deadly economic teachings, which were always, at every point, against the teachings of the Catholic Church.

    In that case, Chaput was curiously indirect, since he said absolutely nothing about Buckley being a “standard bearer for evil and deadly economic teachings” in his lecture. His title is “Mater et Magistra: Who the Church is, and why she teaches with authority” and his subject is why we must obey the teaching of the Church.

    Given the power of Google and the fame of this run-in, it’s not a surprise that in looking up good examples to discuss in regards to this, Chaput ran into a discussion of the “mater si, magister no” phrase, though he (assumedly basing this on the Catholic Worker piece he mentions) makes the same mistake you did in regards to that being the title of a Buckley editorial.

    I agree with Chaput on many things, among them his statement that he can currently see no proportionate reason that would cause him to support a pro-choice candidate. It may well be that if I could read Buckley’s commentary on Mater et Magister I would agree with Chaput’s criticism. But it may also be that Chaput picked up a well (but incorrectly) known incident and used it as an example in a talk without knowing all the facts — while at the same time making a very good point. Great Catholics sometimes make that mistake. If Dante can do it, I’m sure Abp. Chaput can.

  32. Morning's Minion permalink*
    February 27, 2008 7:50 pm

    It’s really stunning to see so much venom, obfuscation, and misdirection against G Alkon for simply telling the truth about Buckley. So what if Garry Wills coined the infamous phrase– it perfectly embodied Buckley’s contemptuous approach to that great encyclical. And lest we forget, the very same Buckley was– at that time– defending segregation in the south. Now, I am happy to pray for his soul, but please: let’s not pretend Buckley was a great man. He was just another cafeteria Catholic who simply refused to put the Church ahead of his secular ideological leanings. And yes, he is responsible for the errors of Novak, Weigel etc.

  33. Eddie permalink
    February 27, 2008 7:51 pm

    “Really all of this is beside the point: why is Chaput deliberately denouncing this most visible of great American Catholics as the “father of cafeteria catholicism” ?
    The answer is: Chaput knows that Buckley was a lifetime standard bearer for evil and deadly economic teachings, which were always, at every point, against the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

    In other words, your original charge didn’t stick, and so we are to dwell on one comment by Archbishop Chaput as the defining statement on Buckley’s life. Your comments are in bad taste.

    It may be that Chaput’s comments were the result of long and careful study of Buckley. It seems equally or more likely to me that Archbishop Chaput (who is a wonderful gift to the American Church) may have been misled on certain points by people such as yourself that casually hurtle defamatory half-truths.

  34. February 27, 2008 7:52 pm

    While I disagree with aspects of Novak’s and Weigel’s views, I think it’s completely inappropriate to refer to them as “having blood on their hands”. Weigel, in particular, was — it is safe to say — a friend of JPII’s, and it would be rather strange to conclude that the late Great Holy Father didn’t see Weigel for what he was, which one must if Alkon’s own quip is correct.

  35. February 27, 2008 7:53 pm

    Like a commenter said at another site: “I’ve respected Buckley for his intelligence and wit. He was one of those people one is glad to have as an adversary, even while almost never agreeing with him.”

    That pretty much sums up my feelings today. RIP, Mr. Buckley.

  36. Stuart Buck permalink
    February 27, 2008 7:58 pm

    It’s really stunning to see so much venom, obfuscation, and misdirection against G Alkon for simply telling the truth about Buckley

    Telling the truth is the one thing that Alkon failed to do, at least in his first several posts. He himself now admits that he erred. But you’re still maintaining that he was “simply telling the truth”? That’s amazing.

  37. February 27, 2008 7:59 pm

    MM:

    In your rush to denouce Buckley, you failed to notice that everyone pointed out that Alkon was mistaken. Is it now venom to point out the factual errors that other people make?

    He was no Cafeteria Catholic, and I really ashamed for you for writing that,

  38. G Alkon permalink
    February 27, 2008 8:01 pm

    The charge sticks. You’d see that if you weren’t invested in denying it.

    see the exact quotations in my comment above:

    http://vox-nova.com/2008/02/27/may-he-rest-in-peace/#comment-13895

    Buckley dismissed the encyclical as an “exercise in triviality.”
    He circulated Wills’ quip voluntarily, under his own byline.
    And then he insisted, when poople got angry, that the encyclical was trivial.

    And his entire subsequent career evidenced similar contempt for papal social teaching.

    And that is why Chaput called him the “father of cafeteria Catholicism.”

    As for JPII’s friendship with George Weigel–

    I accept most (not all) of the Holy Father’s teachings. I don’t mock as “trivial” the ones I don’t accept. But my respect for the Holy Father does not prevent me from noting the rather obvious fact that the pope, like every other major public figure after a long career, cannot be praised or blamed for every one of his “friends.”

  39. Blackadder permalink
    February 27, 2008 8:01 pm

    “It’s really stunning to see so much venom, obfuscation, and misdirection against G Alkon for simply telling the truth about Buckley.”

    When I read the above exchange, most of the venom I see is not being directly at G. Alkon, but is coming from him; and far from telling the truth about Buckley, he has said a number of things which even he nows admits were inaccurate (just as, I suspect, that charge that Buckley supported segregation is inaccurate). It almost makes me wonder if Morning’s Minion and I don’t live in alternate dimensions.

  40. February 27, 2008 8:04 pm

    The charge sticks

    Unbelieveable.

  41. G Alkon permalink
    February 27, 2008 8:06 pm

    Buckley dismissed the encyclical as an “exercise in triviality.”
    He circulated Wills’ quip voluntarily, under his own byline.
    And then he insisted, when poople got angry, that the encyclical was trivial.

    And his entire subsequent career evidenced similar contempt for papal social teaching.

  42. February 27, 2008 8:07 pm

    Vechnaya Pamyat (sorry, no Latin from me ;) )

    (I am, obviously no fan of Buckley, and I think criticism of his response to CST is just; perhaps Alkon was a bit off in his initial presentation, accidents like that happen in comments; but let’s not neglect Archbishop Chaput’s thoughts on him — and others following him– and how they lend validity to the charges being made. It would probably be best for someone to make a critical post on this very topic so we can continue the discussion elsewhere; I think it is a valuable discussion and it is even just to do it; but now that we know that such a need is there, moving it to a side post which can work these out in more detail will help everyone and also allow this post be for his soul. On the other hand, if everyone wants to just keep it here, it’s fine, since one can carry multiple conversations, but I think someone moving this out of the comments to a full post would make an important topic become more than a sideline).

  43. Stuart Buck permalink
    February 27, 2008 8:09 pm

    Alkon — you still haven’t shown that Buckley was actually wrong. That is, you haven’t made a serious argument defending the notion that all Catholics are morally bound to fall in line with the agricultural policies (including price controls, tax rates, etc.) recommended in Mater et Magistra.

  44. M.Z. Forrest permalink
    February 27, 2008 8:14 pm

    Why should he have such a burden Stuart? In matters of dissent, the burden is typically on the dissenter’s foot.

    As to Mr. Buckley, may God grant him eternal rest.

  45. February 27, 2008 8:14 pm

    I must’ve missed the “venom, obfuscation, and misdirection against G. Alkon”. I’ve seen disagreement, doubt, and a willingness to know more about a subject on which the original source seems to be scarce. Most of the argumentation, in my view, has been reasoned, not inflammatory.

    That said, certainly one should be able to understand that people might take offense to speaking ill of a man who is an intellectual icon to many on the very day he has passed away. I know that I am not thrilled to see the term “cafeteria Catholic” applied to a man who seems to have been a faithful Catholic over something that he may or may not have written 45 years ago.

  46. Blackadder permalink
    February 27, 2008 8:15 pm

    G. Alkon,

    You keep saying that Buckley dismissed Mater et Magistra as an “exercise in triviality.” The only quote I’ve seen by Buckley on the encyclical is his statement that “coming at this particular time in history, parts of it may be considered as trivial.” As someone who professes to care about truth (so much that he feels bound to say awful things about a man on the day of his death), do you not think it is important to quote people accurately, and in context?

  47. Katerina permalink*
    February 27, 2008 8:16 pm

    I agree with Henry… I’d like to see a post on him.

  48. February 27, 2008 8:16 pm

    And his entire subsequent career evidenced similar contempt for papal social teaching.

    If the read the link to America above, he appears to have felt that the encyclical was too hard on “capitalism” in the context of a world in which capitalism was seen as the primary alternative to communism, which in 1961 seemed very likely to dominate if not annhilate the world. Now, I think this may suggest a somewhat un-nuanced view of the spirit in which John XXIII (and his successors) have critiqued capitalism. Buckley himself wrote that if their critique amounted to no more than saying that the institutions of capitalism should not be seen as a license to unbridled greed, than he say no problem with them, though he thought them to be so obvious as to hardly need restating. (Which, incidentally, is what “trivially true” means.)

    I accept most (not all) of the Holy Father’s teachings. I don’t mock as “trivial” the ones I don’t accept.

    Setting aside the possibility that you’re misconstruing Buckley’s use of “trivial”, are we really supposed to be deeply impressed (and encouraged to fall in line behind you) when you say that there are papal teachings that you consider important, yet refuse to accept? If you’re going to defy the pope, is it _better_ that you think it’s an important teaching you’re defying rather than an unimportant one?

  49. February 27, 2008 8:25 pm

    Although I disagree with Buckley on some issues, I think it is a bit much to say he has blood on his hands. In fact, what he stood for, the vigorous discourse of ideas, rational debate, civil argument–this is his real legacy in my opinion. Like many Catholics he disagreed with the Church’s teaching on contraception (as far as I know–he wrote about this in his spiritual biography, Nearer My God). Does this mean he no longer deserves my respect, or that he has nothing to offer in the great conversation? Hardly.

    I think polemics do little to advance discourse about the common good, likewise with soundbite and pigeon-holing. It’s the political currency of the day, I’m afraid. Reactionary sentimentalism. (And just to note: the present climate of cafeteria Catholicism owes far more to Michael Novak who was the first lay person to write positively about contraception in America, in the early sixties. He wrote much more of similar ilk until his conversion in the late seventies.)

    I lean more on the Schindler-MacIntyre-Distributist side of the spectrum, but being a paleoconservative of sorts doesn’t mean I don’t need to engage those whom I disagree with. All the more. And all the more must I maintain humility in order to keep truth more sacred, more important, than partisanism (it’s always a temptation). They may be able to teach me something; even more, we may each learn something from the shared labor of that discourse.

    It is undeniable that W.F.B. is one of the five most important political figures of the last sixty years. Furthermore, he was a practicing Catholic. He also seems to have been a generous, loving man.

    Therefore, the notice I posted, and the prayers for him. I’ll otherwise leave judgment for God.

  50. Stuart Buck permalink
    February 27, 2008 8:27 pm

    Forrest: Why should he have such a burden Stuart?

    Because Alkon denied that any “part” of Mater et Magistra could be deemed as trivial, and therefore implied that every paragraph in that encyclical is “necessary to follow.” So I’m asking him whether he really believes what he said. It seems to me that, for example, the question whether agricultural price controls have good or ill effects cannot be decided by extremely cursory and entirely abstract reasoning in an encyclical.

  51. February 27, 2008 8:40 pm

    As for the discussion on the encyclical, I think it is important to remember that not everything a Pope writes shares equal authority. Nor are encyclicals infallible (in the strict sense). They may repeat or rephrase ordinarily infallible truths, but otherwise they are an exercise of a Pope’s normative pastoral teaching authority. This does not mean we should cavalierly dismiss them (as some do); but it does not mean that we should slavishly read them. We need to read them in the Tradition, and distinguish those parts that touch on doctrine, on prudential matters, and those parts that are more time-bound and circumstantial. A Catholic can certainly disagree with parts of Mater et Magistra in good conscience (I myself am uncomfortable with the emphasis in Pacem et Terra on “rights”)–it’s just important to know the difference between what is infallible doctrine, and what is prudential and circumstantial (which is not to say, is no longer authoritative–there are different levels and kinds of authority, which admit different degrees and possibilities for dissent).

  52. February 27, 2008 8:44 pm

    And Buckley’s biographer is taking questions and answering them over at the NYTimes; good stuff.

    http://papercuts.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/02/27/qa-with-sam-tanenhaus-on-william-f-buckley/

  53. M.Z. Forrest permalink
    February 27, 2008 8:47 pm

    I’m not going to play the game where we all pretend to walk into an argument ignorantly. The ground is well trod. We all know when conservatives speak of economics, triviality, and encyclicals they are not broaching a minor point of disagreement; they are stating a fundamental philosophical difference. Unlike Mr. Alkon, I don’t really care to take this time to rehash those arguments. I could just as easily bring up his opposition to the Iraq War and give him an attaboy. I have no interest in using his death to score points.

  54. Morning's Minion permalink*
    February 27, 2008 8:55 pm

    As much as I disagree with him on so many issues, Buckley’s death represents the passing of an older style of discourse– one more polite, respectful, intellectual. See Sullivan’s link to his debate with Chomsky to see that in action. But we have come a long way from Buckley and Kirk to Coulter and Limbaugh. And what public figure could quote Aeschylus– as Bobby Kennedy did upon Martin Luther King’s death– without getting hammered for “elitism” today by the “Fox News” barbarians?

    But again– Buckley was in no way a true conservative. See an earlier post, which was not about Buckley directly, but he fits in: http://vox-nova.com/2008/01/29/conservatism-and-christianity/.

    Buckley embodied an aspect of conservatism– its suspicion of messianic endeavors and the emphasis on evolution over revolution. But at the same time, he fully supported the individualism of laissez-faire liberalism at least as it pertained to enonomic matters. Authentic conservatives believe that society must be ordered to the common good in line with God’s law (and no, that does not mean theocracy) rather than as an attempt to balance competing interests of autonomous individuals. So a true conservative would respect the will of God in matters of abortion, in matters of marriage and family, in matters of sexuality– but also in matters of social justice, war, and environmental stewardship. God’s law is rational, it is not divided, it is not schizophrenic.

    Buckley’s rejection of the underlying anthropology of Pope John’s teaching shows that he is indeed a cafeteria Catholic in this area, and not an authentic conservative at all. I’m talking here about the pope’s emphasis on solidarity, on the common dependence of mankind, that led him to argue that true prosperity depends more on the equitable distribution of resources than the mere accumulation fo wealth. Trying to take pieces of the encylical out of context to downplay this powerful message (I’m looking at you, Stuart Buck) is not only wrong, but very… Protestant.

  55. Stuart Buck permalink
    February 27, 2008 9:06 pm

    MM — I’m just pointing out the speculative paragraphs that are the most obvious candidates for what Buckley might have meant in saying that “parts” of Mater et Magistra were “trivial.” That does NOT mean that I’m “downplaying” the rest of the encyclical, and don’t pretend otherwise.

  56. Stuart Buck permalink
    February 27, 2008 9:19 pm

    This reminds me: there needs to be a term whose meaning would be opposite of “cafeteria Catholic.” It would apply to people who, for partisan reasons, dig up statements from encyclicals or USCCB position papers or even just random Vatican officials, and then act like those statements have placed the Church’s infallible stamp of approval on various policy proposals of modern American liberals.

  57. M.Z. Forrest permalink
    February 27, 2008 9:27 pm

    Infallibility is the refuge of scoundrels.

  58. Stuart Buck permalink
    February 27, 2008 9:29 pm

    Exactly.

  59. M.Z. Forrest permalink
    February 27, 2008 9:37 pm

    Considering many of the economic teachings have been affirmed by popes and bishops over at least the past 200 years, one could make a reasonable argument that they have been infallibly taught by the ordinary magisterium.

  60. jonathanjones02 permalink
    February 27, 2008 9:43 pm

    MM, Buckley did not support segregation in the South. Once again, your biases and worldview get in the way of your factual history.

    and matthew, you are right on this point: Buckley was an excellent example of civilized and intelligent debate. That will be one of his most lasting legacies.

    I look forward to the new biography by Sam Tanenhaus. The John Judis bio is a bit of a hatched job, and S.T. did well W. Chambers.

  61. jonathanjones02 permalink
    February 27, 2008 9:46 pm

    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200407/buckley

    Ross Douthat links to an Atlantic essay about sailing.

    He was one of those I really looked up to….RIP.

  62. RPFN permalink
    February 27, 2008 10:03 pm

    As I recall, he did support states’ rights when it came to desegregation. Much later in life he cited that as one of his greatest mistakes.

    What I don’t like is how neo-cons are now claiming his legacy while attacking those with similar views as “liberal.” We’ve seen it done with JP2 and they’re doing it again.

  63. Phillip permalink
    February 27, 2008 10:07 pm

    So much analysis on the passing of the man. Well I hope there won’t be those here upset when the Clintons and Obama go to their reward. Just remember these discussions. On the day of a their deaths it will be okay to put them down.

  64. T. Shaw permalink
    February 27, 2008 10:31 pm

    Hamlet Act 1, Scene 2:

    “He was a man, take him for all in all,
    I shall not look upon his like again.”

    May he rest in peace.

    Now, boys and girls: I suggest a few of you bone up on the sins of calumny and detraction; and examine your consciences.

    Nate W. would rightly tell you to love your enemies.

  65. Morning's Minion permalink*
    February 27, 2008 10:48 pm

    Jonathan: in 1957, the National Review can an editorial entitled “Why the South Must Prevail”. It said “The central question that emerges…is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas where it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes—the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race”. It made that case based on the ”cultural superiority of white over Negro” Now, I do believe Buckley was the editor at the time. Or maybe you want to claim that Garry Wills wrote that one too!

    As we all know: racism is listed as an example of an intrinsically evil act in teh USCCB’s Faithful Citizenship document.

    I’m not saying Buckley never repented this position. But Jonathan is claiming that he did not support segregation at all.

  66. digbydolben permalink
    February 27, 2008 11:00 pm

    In my callow youth I did not respect Bill Buckley as much as I do now, and I still do not agree with his laissez-faire economic beliefs.

    However, he was a scholarly man of great integrity, and this is nowhere so clearly proved as by his rejection of the “neo-conservatism” of the present Presidential incumbent’s foreign policy.

    And I would venture to suggest that almost all Americans are “cafateria Catholics” of some sort or another; it’s almost impossible not to be, when one grows up in a culture that is so deeply imbued with Protestant spirituality and sensibilities as this one is. While it may be true that Buckley was more of an American than he was a Catholic, I think it is likely, given his background and sensibilities, that he was more of an old world Hispanic Catholic than anything else.

    And I completely resist the notion that he was an evil man: certain of his positions may have given aid and comfort to the most selfish elements in American society, but he, perhaps mistakenly, obviously conceived of them as being protective of liberties, rather than as being detrimental to the poor.

  67. jonathanjones02 permalink
    February 27, 2008 11:13 pm

    Why didn’t you link to the whole text?

    Buckley and the magazine were, until the 70s, against Brown on federalist grounds and for restricting the franchise. They also stated the inferiority of much of popular black culture. Their positions have changed (not unlike the changing positions over racialist eugenics and support for Mussolini among TNR and many other progressive/leftist publications earlier in the century).

    To suggest, however, that he viewed other races as inherently inferior by virtue of their genetic difference is simply false and cannot be supported by any writing.

  68. Morning's Minion permalink*
    February 27, 2008 11:18 pm

    “advanced race,,,cultural superiority of white over negro..” Are you honestly trying to say that that was not racist? Take a shovel. Keep digging.

  69. jonathanjones02 permalink
    February 27, 2008 11:21 pm

    Link to the essay for context and try to engage in a serious dialogue about it if you care about anything other than scoring cheap “points.”

    I’m willing. But that challenge has been laid down before, more than once, to no avail.

  70. February 28, 2008 12:36 am

    Buckley later apologized for his defense of the South and opposition to civil rights legislation.

    I’m glad repentance and charity are not concepts taught in papal encyclicals, as it would intolerably cramp the style of those who insist on slavish devotion thereto.

  71. jonathanjones02 permalink
    February 28, 2008 12:43 am

    http://www.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/why-william-f-buckley-was-my-role-model

    From Rick Perlstein, a prominent leftist writer.

  72. Morning's Minion permalink*
    February 28, 2008 12:45 am

    Adam: that is to his credit…but still, to get it so wrong on something that is instrinsically evil, not prudential… well, one has to wonder.

    And there is Jonthan trying to “spin” a “Why the South must prevail” argument as not supporting segregation….now that boggles the mind.

  73. none permalink
    February 28, 2008 12:51 am

    “advanced race,,,cultural superiority of white over negro..” Are you honestly trying to say that that was not racist? Take a shovel. Keep digging.

    So all cultures are intrinsically equal? To recognize that some cultures are better than others is not racist.

    And there is Jonthan trying to “spin” a “Why the South must prevail” argument as not supporting segregation….now that boggles the mind.

    You don’t understand the point he is making about Federalism and a proper understanding of the Constitution. One can think segregation is wrong but oppose Brown because it is not constitutional.

  74. jonathanjones02 permalink
    February 28, 2008 12:59 am

    http://papercuts.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/02/27/qa-with-sam-tanenhaus-on-william-f-buckley/

    Tanenhaus, his biographer, takes questions.

    May his passing inspire greater reasoned and calm discourse.

  75. jonathanjones02 permalink
    February 28, 2008 1:34 am

    http://www.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/527481/rip-william-fbuckley-jr.thtml

    A Charlie Rose retrospective.

  76. Policraticus permalink*
    February 28, 2008 2:28 am

    So all cultures are intrinsically equal? To recognize that some cultures are better than others is not racist.

    This question hinges on the how the term ‘culture’ is being used. What constitutes ‘culture’?

  77. February 28, 2008 3:21 am

    Digbydolben,

    Thank you for that. I don’t know that I’ve ever agreed with anything else that you’ve written, but your remarks here today about William F. Buckley are very much appreciated.

  78. February 28, 2008 5:09 am

    1. Whatever WFB’s actual views of _Mater et Magistra_, it was 40 years ago! A person can change a lot in 40 years. Like Fr. Apostoli said of Fulton Sheen’s cause: “You don’t have to prove he was a saint his whole life; just the last part.”
    2. One can find the humor in a satirical comment one agrees with, partially. I sometimes find humor with, and quote, comments that people make where I don’t 100% agree with them.
    3. _Mater et Magistra_ has always been grossly misrepresented by those on both sides of the political spectrum. I don’t see how anyone can say it’s anti-capitalist. It’s very pro-property, pro-industrialization. Bl. John XXIII points to contraception as one of the major economic dangers facing America.
    4. I haven’t read all of _Nearer, My God_, but my understanding of WFB’s position is not that he supported artificial contraception but that he thought it was a religious issue, not a natural law issue. Natural law being a matter of Catholic philosophy, there is room to debate that particular point. It would be hard to ague that *all* forms of contraception are wrong from a strictly Natural law perspective, without reference to the Church.

  79. February 28, 2008 4:12 pm

    “well, one has to wonder”

    Not on his death day, one doesn’t. Anyway, I’d guess that whites in South Carolina were on average culturally superior to blacks, who after all had been denied education and economic opportunities. Though I’m not sure how that would justify segregation–rather the opposite, I would think.

  80. thomas tucker permalink
    February 28, 2008 5:19 pm

    Buckley did dissent from Human Vitae.
    I also read a column from him that I took to be somewhat disrespectful of JP II.
    Buckley was a great man, not a perfect man.

  81. Mark D. permalink*
    February 28, 2008 9:02 pm

    And then there is that infamous Senator McCarthy book…

  82. February 29, 2008 12:04 am

    It is nice to see DarwinCatholic and MichaelJFish (and a scant few others kine JC) have a sense of both proportion as well as sanity on these matters. Similarly is the case for Digbydolben who disagrees with WFB but does so with both class and humility. Would that more in this time of increasing incivility act in like fashion but in an election year that is less likely. (Though one would hope to see some attempts during Lent of all seasons in this direction but I digress.)

    WFB: God rest your soul

    http://rerum-novarum.blogspot.com/2008_02_24_archive.html#2867123166077618601

  83. February 29, 2008 12:06 am

    The part that reads “kine JC” should read “like JC.”

  84. Matt permalink
    March 1, 2008 10:14 am

    Does anyone really think that there is an inherent genetic connection between biological race and culture? I’m certain that is not what Buckley was suggesting it, but the left seems to. They suggest if we criticize black culture as practiced in certain areas then we are racist. I submit that the converse is true. If we accept that black culture in certain places is inherent to “blacks” then they are practicing the not-so-subtle racism of low expectations.

    I still do not agree with Buckley’s earlier inclination, as he indicated it was his greatest error (to Obama trying to help a woman’s family prevent her murder was his greatest mistake). I can understand it though, and the manner in which desegragation, and moreso, the forced integration (bussing) caused deep damage to the moral culture of the entire nation. It is a fact that not all cultures are equal, that is a myth of the left and it is not Catholic doctrine. Buckley’s position was not intrinsicly evil, and it can not be demonstrated as such through authoritative documents and his actual words (possibly through rampant mischaracterizations).

    God Bless,

    Matt

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