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The Weblog at The View from the Core - Wed. 10/23/02 08:46:51 AM

"Mater si, Magistra no"? Revisited

It seems that William F. Buckley, Jr., really did not write an editorial by that name, or with that theme.

Kevin Miller has directed me to this webpage, documenting (in brief) some commentary on Mater et magistra. Here are the quotations from National Review:

National Review (29 July 1961) 38. "Whatever its final effect, it must strike many as a venture in triviality coming at this particular time in history" since "there is scant mention" of the successes of the Communists and "insufficient notice is taken (of) the extraordinary material well-being" of countries like Japan, West Germany, and the United States.
National Review (12 August 1961) 77. "Going the rounds in conservative circles: 'Mater si, Magistra no.'"
William F. Buckley, Jr. National Review (26 August 1961) 114. "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."
William F. Buckley, Jr. National Review (23 September 1961) 188. "The editorial in question spoke not one word of criticism of the intrinsic merit of Mater et Magistra. Our disappointment was confined to the matter of emphasis, and timing, and by implication, to the document's exploitability by the enemies of Christendom, a premonition rapidly confirmed by the Encyclical's obscene cooption by such declared enemies of the spiritual order as the New Statesman and the Manchester Guardian, which hailed the conversion of the Pope to Socialism!"

I asked on an e-mail list if anybody could verify the claim that Buckley had really written the editorial he is typically alleged to have written, with reference to the quotations above. Another subscriber verified the quotations, with a minor correction noted below. He also provided the following descriptions of the items:

The July 29 issue has one paragraph about the encyclical in the "The Week" column (p. 38). It appears that each item in the "The Week" column is only one paragraph, although the length of the paragraph varies. This paragraph is 26 and a half lines long. None of the items have individual titles or headlines, nor are they signed.
The Aug. 12 issue has on p. 77 a boxed column entitled "For the Record", which is brief notes on various current matters set down "for the record". It is unsigned. The last item at the botton of the page is "Going the rounds in Catholic conservative circles: 'Mater si, Magistra no.'" (Note that the web site has a slight misquotation, omitting the word "Catholic".
The September 23 issue has on p. 187-188 "An Open Letter to Father Thurston Davis, S.J., Editor, America," by William F. Buckley, Jr. in which he examimes the controvery about the previous two items. He included a cartoon from the Providence Joural showing Buckley very well-dressed with a vest (waistcoat) and chain across it and a crown on his head. He is holding a huge pen of the kind that was dipped in an inkwell that has a hammer tied to the other end. There is a drawing of the St. Peter's labelled "Wisdom of 2000 years" on which has been nailed a sheet of paper saying "Mater Si Magistra No The National Review." He is saying, "I did it with a few wild swings."

He provides some interesting historical context for the now-famous remark:

To set the Mater Si comment in context for those too young to remember, after Fidel Castro seized control of Cuba in 1959 and established his Communist dictatorship he held mass rallies at which he delivered hours-long orations, frequently interrupted by the crowds chanting "Cuba Si, Yanqui No" repeatedly. "Cuba Si, Yankee No" was picked up by American leftists and chanted at many rallies here. The "Mater Si, Magistra No" was just a play on that current phenomenon.

And he reminds me where the onus probandi lies:

As I'm sure you realize, someone who claims that William F. Buckley, Jr. did write an article with that title bears the burden of proving with at least a bibliographic citation that interested parties could check in a library.

(See "Mater si, Magistra no"?)

P.S. (Thu. 02/28/08 11:54:51 PM) In the wake of Buckley's death yesterday, it seems apropos to provide the following information concerning the source of the observation concerning Mater si, Magistra no, as provided by WFB himself in an interview, Oct. 6, 2005:

.... 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....

[Follow-up: William F. Buckley, Jr., and Mater Si, Magistra No.]

Lane Core Jr. CIW P — Wed. 10/23/02 08:46:51 AM
Categorized as Religious.


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