Friday, February 29, 2008

William F. Buckley, Jr., and "Mater Si, Magistra No"

Lane Core writes:
Buckley died on Wednesday, Feb. 27. Requiescat in pace.

Since the controversy is, for the obvious reason, of current interest among Catholic bloggers, I will briefly recite some pertinent facts — known, demonstrable facts — which will probably only make sense to those who are already interested in the controversy:

  • No issue of Buckley's National Review was covered by "Mater si, Magistra no".
  • No issue of Buckley's National Review contained an editorial or article entitled or espousing "Mater si, Magistra no".
  • Buckley himself neither stated nor defended the proposition "Mater si, Magistra no".
  • According to Buckley himself, just a few years ago, the following had actually been a quip by Garry Wills: Going the rounds in Catholic conservative circles: "Mater si, Magistra no".
  • Buckley himself insisted that his publication neither criticized the substance, nor denied the intrinsic merit, of Mater et magistra.


  • Any claims contrary to the above are simply false. Having never watched Fireline, and having never read any of Buckley's books, I have no dog in this hunt but merely want to set the record straight.

    See "Mater si, Magistra no"? and "Mater si, Magistra no"? Revisited.

    See also Mater et magistra.
    Also, see Mark Stricherz' entry on WFB at GetReligion titled "Buckley wasn’t a 'conservative Catholic' ", and Ramesh Ponnuru's response thereto and the subsequent commentary.

    In other words, William F. Buckley, Jr. said "Mater si, Magistra no" in the same way Charles E. Wilson said "What's good for General Motors is good for the country".

    Meaning he didn't say it at all.


    Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
    William F. Buckley (1925-2008) - RIP

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    12 Comments:

    At 2/29/2008 11:12 AM, Blogger softwareNerd said...

    As one of the key intellectuals who sought an increased role of religion in America, Buckley was responsible for undermining the best of the pro-Capitalism foundations of the GOP. He set the country back many decades and dealt a huge blow to Capitalism and free-market ideas.

     
    At 2/29/2008 12:01 PM, Anonymous paul zummo said...

    Buckley was responsible for undermining the best of the pro-Capitalism foundations of the GOP. He set the country back many decades and dealt a huge blow to Capitalism and free-market ideas.


    Huh? Are we talking about the same William Buckley here?

     
    At 2/29/2008 12:20 PM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...

    Yeah, that's a new one on me.

    So, we have, on the one hand, MM et al saying that Buckley has had a deleterious effect on American Catholicism by introducing capitalism and free market ideas into the equation, and, on the other hand, SoftwareNerd saying that Buckley has had a deleterious effect on capitalism and free market ideas by introducing Catholicism into the equation.

    I suppose the two sentiments aren't mutually exclusive in a "You-got-your-chocolate-on-my-peanut-butter-NO-you-got-your-peanut-butter-on-my-chocolate" sort of way. But I find it interesting that Buckley is criticized from both sides in this regard.

     
    At 2/29/2008 1:25 PM, Blogger Donald R. McClarey said...

    "Yeah, that's a new one on me."

    Softwarenerd is an Objectivist, a follower of the late Ayn Rand. They've been miffed at Buckley since the 50's when he ran a devastating book review of Atlas Shrugged by Whittaker Chambers which revealed Rand as a poor novelist and a worthless philosopher. Here is a link to it.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/flashback/flashback200501050715.asp

     
    At 2/29/2008 7:19 PM, Blogger softwareNerd said...

    "Are we talking about the same William Buckley here"

    Yes. Briefly, the explanation is as follows:

    Ever since Adam Smith, supporters of Capitalism have been able to make excellent arguments for the practicality of Capitalism, and have been vindicated by the fall of most communist countries.

    Unfortunately, Adam Smith's moral defense of Capitalism was based on the "invisible hand" ensuring that selfish actions ended up creating the common good. In principle, to Adam Smith and most American conservatives, Capitalism was virtuous only because it served the common good.

    In principle, therefore, the conservatives accepted the premise of the left: i.e. that the common good was the test of a moral political system. In other words, that -- in essence -- morality was to be derived from serving others.

    If Buckley had stuck with this, it would have been wrong, but no worse than the great things that Adam Smith accomplished. However, Buckley did more. He did not merely accept the moral premise of the left. Instead, he gave that moral premise the grounding of religion.

    In doing so, he strengthened the premise and made it more difficult to undo.

    Of course, by being "Dem-lite" in the nitty-gritty details, the conservatives since Reagan managed to lift some of the heavy burdens imposed by the left. This is great. The downside was that they did this while also building up further arguments for the underlying altruistic premise. Fast forward to G.W.Bush, who's moral justification for Capitalism is that it is "compassionate". This undermining of principle, will ensure that -- in the longer run -- left-style policies will return with even more moral force.

    For a well-researched and annotated paper that explains this far better than I can, I refer you to "The Decline and Fall of the American Conservatism" by Bradley Thompson

    Finally, Donald, I didn't like Buckley's review of Rand's novel; but if that's all he did, why would I care -- it does not impact my life. What I do mourn is the direction of this greatest nation on earth. I mourn that the left would sell us down the river, and that the conservatives are unable to mount a moral defense.

     
    At 2/29/2008 9:33 PM, Blogger Donald R. McClarey said...

    "I cannot project the degree of hatred required to make those women run around in crusades against abortion. Hatred is what they certainly project, not love for the embryos, which is a piece of nonsense no one could experience, but hatred, a virulent hatred for an unnamed object...Their hatred is directed against human beings as such, against the mind, against reason, against ambition, against success, against love, against any value that brings happiness to human life. In compliance with the dishonesty that dominates today's intellectual field, they call themselves 'pro-life.'
    — Ayn Rand"


    Objectivism and Catholicism simply don't mix softwarenerd. Nor does it mix well with conservatism. That is why Objectivism is largely today only an internet cult.

     
    At 3/01/2008 11:57 PM, Blogger softwareNerd said...

    "Objectivism and Catholicism simply don't mix ..."I do agree.

    "Nor does Objectivism mix] well with conservatism."The point I was trying to make is that conservatism does not mix with Capitalism and individual rights. It's only hope is to slow -- but not stem -- the glide into government control, because of the altruistic moral philosophy that it shares with the left.

     
    At 3/02/2008 2:58 AM, Anonymous Victor said...

    You're presupposing, nerd, that "Capitalism" means "self-centered acquisition as a moral absolute." In which case, what you say does follow.

    You're welcome to that definition I suppose, in the same sense that anybody is welcome to speak his private language to himself and anyone he can persuade to speak it too. Understand though, that your definition is about as morally and practically relevant as Esperanto. And about as useful in communicating with those outside the Cult of Randians ... er ... Esperanto Speakers.

     
    At 8/08/2008 5:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Before he died, WB said the following:
    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....

    Anybody who says this was not in NR can be safely dismissed as ignorant.

     
    At 8/08/2008 5:40 PM, Anonymous Righetousness said...

    Before he died, William F. Buckley said the following;

    "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...."

    Anyone who denies that Mater,si, Magistra no was in NR is ignorant.

     
    At 8/08/2008 6:52 PM, Anonymous David A. said...

    "Anonymous" at 8/8/08 5:37 PM and "Righetousness" at 8/8/08 5:40 PM state "Anybody who says this was not in NR can be safely dismissed as ignorant" and "Anyone who denies that Mater,si, Magistra no was in NR is ignorant" respectively.

    Since these are virtually the same quotes and are pretty much the same posts, I will conclude they are from the same person, but if not, then two people have disproved nothing with regard to the points made in the original post for nowhere in it is there an assertion that the term "Mater si, Magistra no" NEVER appeared in National Review. So, the quote attributed to Buckley disproves nothing.

    Even assuming it is a true quote, the quote is not inconsistent with the original post. Note that Buckley states that NR republished the term. It does not state that it published it in the first place. The term may have been published by any number of entities before NR used it.

    The quote in the posts states it got "lots and lots of trouble with the liberal Catholic press over lots and lots of years..." which could be true, in that even if NR didn't publish it in the first place, nor subscribed to the policies inherent with the term, it did indeed get NR in lots of trouble in that the myth, if it is that, was prevalent enough to cause "trouble" for NR even if the source of that trouble is untrue.

    I suspect that Buckley was being facetious in using the term "trouble," finding pleasure, perhaps, in the controversy. It is doubtful that Buckley was very much bothered by the "liberal Catholic press" and its reference here is probably a fairly gentle ridicule.

    In any event there is no indication that he believed the "trouble" to be brought on by legitimate concerns, namely NR being the original publisher or for NR subscribing to the quotes policies.

    So, you have a quote attributed to Buckley in which he said at some time NR published the term and that it caused a a hubbub in the liberal Catholic press.

    In no way does this quote contradict anything in the original post.

    So, "anonymous" and "righteousness" are the ignorant ones.

     
    At 8/08/2008 6:56 PM, Anonymous ELC said...

    I write it up, you get the link from The Corner. God works in mysterious ways.... :-)

    Anyone who denies that Mater, si, Magistra no was in NR is ignorant.

    Anybody who sees a denial that the phrase appeared in the publication can't read very well. What I wrote, which is quoted here, contains two links to blog entries I wrote more than five years ago that acknowledge that fact, and both of those links are included here, too.

     

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