William F. Buckley, Gary Wills and Eugene Kennedy:
I post below a comment that is very apropos for us to consider this morning and it is written by an anonymous author named "Anonymous Boy" and as a comment on another post about Pope Francis' splendid encyclical. I do not know who Anonymous Boy is, but his comment deserves a post since it is so well reasoned and written!
What I did not know is that Gary Wills, one of the most strident and obnoxious liberal voices in the Church (an aging Catholic like so many Catholics of his age), was a very conservative and traditional Catholic up until about 1969. He, like so many Catholics his age today, is a study in how a well-disciplined traditional Catholic from the 1950's, a Cusp Catholic bridging Pre-Vatican II to Post Vatican II became such a post-Catholic type. Many, many, many Catholics well-formed in the pre-Vatican II Church made dramatic, almost personality disordered, flip flops toward the mid to late 1960's. I mean, many, many, many sound Catholics of pre-Vatican II formation became something else in the late 1960's. That is a study worth studying before these aging dinosaurs die out!
But Anonymous Boy's historical analysis is a wake-up call to the new Cafeteria Catholics in terms of Pope Francis' new encyclical and gives a good, but brief, overview of how Cafeteria Catholicism developed and keeps on going like the energizer bunny!
His comments are based on a very good article from The New Republic which you can read by pressing this sentence!
Here are his comments:
For those of you following the reaction to the pope's encyclical and the
history of popes mixing into politics, I recommend this fascinating
article, which describes how American conservatives reacted to Pope John
XXIII's "Mater and Magistrat."
Much of this sound and fury will
sound familiar. Here's the "boom" line: "One lesson from the Mater et
Magistra contretemps is that almost all Catholics are cafeteria
"(William F.) Buckley’s feud with the Catholic left
came to a boil when Pope John XXIII released the encyclical Mater et
Magistra (Mother and Teacher) in 1961, which reaffirmed the church’s
support for government welfare programs and coupled them with calls to
fight poverty in the Third World and end colonialism. The
anti-imperialism of Mater et Magistra was particularly repellent to
National Review conservatives, who thought that European domination of
Africa, the Middle East, and Asia was essential for fending off
In an angry editorial, National Review described Mater
et Magistra as a “venture in triviality.” The magazine also published a
joking note saying “Going the rounds in Catholic conservative circles,
‘Mater Si, Magistra no.’” (The joke was first made by Garry Wills, who
was playing off a slogan of the Cuban Revolution: “Cuba si, Yanqui no.”)
liberals responded in kind. America described the National Review
editorial as “slanderous” and the Reverend William J. Smith
characterized Buckley as a “hypercritical pigmy.”
to his learned friend Garry Wills to work out a more theoretically
satisfying response to liberal Catholics. A former seminarian, Wills
tried to resolve the argument by writing a pioneering scholarly treatise
on the nature of encyclicals, titled Politics and Catholic Freedom
(1964). In this book, Wills argued that encyclicals are merely advisory,
and not binding on specific policies.
The Mater et Magistra
dispute led to many ironic consequences. In defending National Review’s
capitalist Catholicism, Buckley and Wills had provided a rationale for
social liberals to ignore church teachings on sexual matters, which was
especially pertinent after the Vatican released the encyclical Humanae
Vitae (1968), reiterating opposition to birth control and abortion.
Wills himself moved to the left in the late 1960s, breaking with Buckley
over the Vietnam War and civil rights. About the core issue of the
Mater et Magistra debate, Wills argued in his 1979 book Confessions of a
Conservative that “[t]here is something about laissez-faire
individualism that is historically at odds with Catholic tradition—but
this is a matter not reachable by papal fiat or by those who challenge
the sincerity of their fellow believer’s religion.”
By the late
1960s, as Wills also noted, the two sides had flipped, with “‘liberals’
now denouncing encyclicals rather than using encyclicals to denounce
others, ‘conservatives’ sticking with the Pope even when he had issued
his disastrous encyclical on contraceptives.” One lesson from the Mater
et Magistra contretemps is that almost all Catholics are cafeteria
That article doesn't mention it, but the conservatives' reaction was
much the same to XXIII's "Pacem en Terris," written in 1963 after the
Cuban missile crisis, which called for an end to the arms race and a ban
on nuclear weapons and asked nations to agree on disarmament.
I'm assuming that no Catholic politician was ever denied Communion for flouting "Pacem in Terris."