Fifty Years Ago in 'America': A Playful Poem on 'Pacem in Terris'

From the May 18, 1963 edition of America, a playful poem on the reaction to Pope John XXIII's encyclical, Pacem In Terris. The author, John Cogley, was an editor at Commonweal and an adviser to the Kennedy presidential campaign.

"How To Read an Encyclical"

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David Lawrence read it Right
Lippmann saw a liberal light
William Buckley sounded coolish
Pearson's line was mostly foolish
Courtney Murray wasn't certain
(We haven't heard from Thomas Merton)
Nation-readers learned to hope
That J.F.K. would heed his Pope
Welch saw Red, red, redder than titian
As Rome fell under Birch suspicion
Time caressed each Lucid text
While Playboy found it undersexed
Pravda praised the portions peacenik
(No comment on the UN policenik)
The Dept of State was terribly kind
The Pope, it said, had us in mind
By now we know the simple trick
Of how to read Pope John's encyc
To play the game, you choose your snippet
Of Peace on Earth and boldly clip it

In the coming weeks we will continue to highlight what America was writing about 50 years ago.

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Tim Reidy
5 years 5 months ago

I should mention that I get some, but not all, of these references. Perhaps our readers can fill in the gaps. David Lawrence? And who were Welch and Pearson?

Vincent Gaitley
5 years 5 months ago
Drew Pearson, a syndicated columnist at the time. Wm. F. Buckley once created a "Committee to Horsewhip Drew Pearson", so you get the idea. Welch was Robert Welch, the head of the John Birch Society, who was rabidly anti-communist prone to see "Red, red, redder".
Vincent Gaitley
5 years 5 months ago
Forgot to mention that David Lawrence was the first Catholic governor of Pennsylvania (Democrat). I believe his mandated single term ended in 1963. He had been mayor of Pittsburgh, too.
Vincent Gaitley
5 years 5 months ago
I should say also that Playboy is a monthly magazine for naughty Methodists.

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