Catholics and the Conservative Movement

An excellent article by George Packer in this week’s New Yorker traces the steady disintegration of the conservative movement. Packer’s history is a reminder that from its earliest days American conservativism was deeply attractive to many Catholics. Writing about William J. Buckley’s memorial Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Packer notes that "the service reminded me of the movement’s philosophical origins, in the forties and fifties, in a Catholic sense of alarm at the relativism that was rampant in American life, and an insistence on human frailty." Indeed, Buckley evidently believed that it was crucial for his magazine to have some Christian foundation:
Last year, writing in The New Republic, Sam Tanenhaus revealed a 1997 memo in which Buckley--who had originally hired [David] Brooks at National Review on the strength of a brilliant undergraduate parody that he had written of Buckley--refused to anoint him as his heir because Brooks, a Jew, is not a "believing Christian."
The allegiance of the Catholics to the Democratic party is much written about, but the Catholic connection to conservative movement also seems worthy of attention. I’m reminded of a story about Garry Wills. When he left the Jesuits, he supposedly submitted his resume to two publications: Commonweal and National Review. National Review was the first to respond, and it was Bill Buckley who hired him. Tim Reidy
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