Five Minutes With the Pope: From September 19, 1987

Before Pope John Paul IIs visit to the United States in 1987, the editors of America asked ten prominent Catholics to answer the question, "If you had 5 minutes alone with the pope, what would you say to him?" Here is the reply from William F. Buckley Jr., who died on Wednesday February 27 at the age of 82.

Your holiness, you may interrupt me if you like on the understanding that if you do so, my five minutes with you are extended to correspond with the time you take. As a layman, let me pass along apparently trivial complaints to begin with. Vatican II may indeed have been propelled by the Holy Spirit, but it did not succeed in increasing the universal appeal of the church. There isnt time to go into detail, but I take two symbolic changes that could be reversed, with fruitful consequences, even if doing so required time. One is the obligation to refrain from eating meat on Friday: I leave it to you to meditate on the advantages of returning to our communion this little fraternal stigma. The second is the loss of the Latin liturgy-not intended by Vatican II, but that has been the result; and the loss is a shared sense of historical transcendence-again, I need go no further.

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Now you should instruct the relevant periti to engage more actively in a study of the economic policies of those societies that accumulate a surplus, which then could be prudently redistributed to the poor. The accent of your encyclicals has been on distribution, with scant attention to production.

Every age has its heresies, and the one to watch in the nuclear age is that which ends by venerating life at the expense of all other values. We cannot know whether God plans the end of the earth to synchronize with the discovery of planet-shattering technology, but there is nothing in the advent of nuclear energy that authorizes the new idolatry, which is to love life better than lifes meaning.

Clarifications along these lines are in order. And related to this is the need to refine the Christians presumptive obligation to cling to life as technology permits us increasingly to cling to life-urging us on toward that distortion of Christian life that suggests that every seconds gain in animate flesh is a sign of gratitude to our Maker. Is it so, or do we need clarification?

And while I am at it, Your Holiness, let me say that though I have subjective doubts about some of the doctrinal questions you have elected to stress (e.g., contraception), I join those who believe the church is never so grand as when it defies the spirit of the age. The challenge for the effective true believer is to believe genially, to avoid the mien of an inquisitor, and this you have succeeded gloriously in doing. My time is up, I fear, but I will sneak my phone number and address to your Secretary of State in the event you should want to hear more, out of earshot of the editors of America, who 25 years ago, I kid Your Holiness not, tried to get me excommunicated!

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JOSEPH FAHEY
9 years 8 months ago
Bill Buckley was a fop who posed as a sophist; He betrayed his religion but never his class.
Vincent Gaitley
5 years 4 months ago
Buckley for sainthood now!  St. William of Yale has a certain ring to it.

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