By Dr. Boyd D. Cathey at The Remnant Newspaper
Politico Magazine, in its May/June 2017 issue, featured a long essay by writer Tim Alberta about Pat Buchanan and his role in American politics and culture, and in particular, the role he has had in sustaining a vision of a more Christian nation, and what that means during the Trump Era. And Alberta highlights one very central element in Buchananâ€™s life: his strong Catholic faith. He and his wife, Shelley, are regular communicants at the Saint Mary Mother of God Church in Washington. His Catholic faith has influenced him throughout his seventy-eight years, beginning with his childhood as one of nine children in an archetypical Catholic family of the 1950s, through his experience in parochial school, and then at Georgetown University and at the Columbia School of Journalism, on into writing, serving two American presidents, and running for president three times.
He has recounted that active life in his autobiographical work, Right from the Beginning. In that volume (1988), Buchanan devotes a significant portion to his abiding faith and belief as a Catholic. That faith provided himâ€”and continues to provide himâ€”he relates, with â€œa code of morality, a code of conduct, a sure knowledge of right and wrong, a way of acknowledging personal guilt and of seeking out and attaining forgiveness and absolution.â€ Growing up, he continues, â€œWe had a hierarchy of values; we knew where we were going and how to get there; even in childhood, we were not confused. We had certitude.â€ (pp. 77-78) And for Pat Buchanan, this was a unique grace that came to him and his family from Our Lord and membership in His Church.
The radical changes that resulted from Vatican II, he believes, have been disastrous:
â€œâ€˜The smoke of Hell has entered the vestibule of the Church.â€™ In the last quarter-century, the Roman Catholic Church in the United States has been utterly demystifiedâ€”as a prelude to the establishment of an American Catholic Church. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as prescribed by the Council of Trent has been replaced by a communal meal celebrated in the vernacular. The Latin is gone; the Sacred Liturgy has been transformed; a banal English is the lingua franca of the American Church; many of the new churches look on the inside like assembly halls, college classrooms, or off-Broadway theaters. The Douay-Rheims version of the Old and New Testaments, a rival to the King James Bible in the majesty of its prose, has been re-written again and again by tin-eared clerics who never learned that language is the music of thought, that tone-deaf people ought not to re-write Mozart.â€ (p. 78)
Now, fifty-two years on since the end of the Council, we echo what Buchananâ€”his faith still strongâ€”said in 1987: â€œWe need another Council of Trent.â€
For younger millennials and those below the age of thirty, Buchananâ€™s name may not ring as familiar as it does to those a bit older and with longer memories. Yet his importance politically and, even more so, culturally during his fifty years in the public eye cannot be gainsaid.
Over the years, Buchananâ€™s brisk prose and his ability to encapsulate concisely and pinpoint exactly the significant questions of the day have made him one of the country’s leading and most perceptive writers and thinkers. His faith undergirds that ability; he understands that at the base of every political issue, there is a religious question, however remote. As Tim Alberta indicates, in a way Buchanan has been a kind of a combative precursor of Donald Trump, foreshadowing the advent of an agenda that arguably reflects the older beliefs, faith, and traditional morality of millions of citizens who have been marginalized by unelected managerial elites and the Washington and Wall Street establishment. That is, 2016 represented a kind ofâ€”perhaps unfocusedâ€”counter-revolution by the under-siege middle class, by the out-of-a-job Rust Belt workers, by underemployed and depressed agricultural folks, by those who see what is left of â€œChristian Americaâ€ destroyed by a rampant and anti-Christian secularism, by those deeply affected by bad trade deals, and by those who simply want to reclaim an America that they believe once existed.
patbuchannan1I have called Pat Buchanan a friend for over twenty-seven years; I hoped he would run for president in 1988. Then, in 1991 I hosted his second campaign event which took place in Raleigh, NC, when he flew directly here from his campaign announcement in New Hampshire (December 10, 1991). I was proud to serve as his North Carolina chairman, in what was to prove eventually a losing cause (it was not or nor would it be my last losing cause!).
Yet, in that campaign, as again in 1996, and then as the Reform Party candidate in 2000, Pat offered a vision that would not disappear, despite the intense and massive assault from the media, the political class, Hollywood, and academia. I still have hopes that that fragile vision may come to fruition.
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As Pat expresses it, even in the Age of Trump the signs are troubling, and there are indications that the hoped-for counter-revolution of 2016 may have possibly come too late, that the managerial elites and their termite-like destruction of America may have advanced too far for real restoration. Indeed, the Neoconservatives, who hold Pat’s views of America First as anathema, continue their efforts to surround the president and subvert the “Trump Agenda,” while the Left wing of the Deep State establishment and their media allies continue their frontal assaults to derail and overthrow him.
I think Pat would agree: we must always have Hope, indeed, the conviction that everything we do on behalf of our ideals and our beliefs has value. Each of us in our spheres of action is tasked with obligations; each of us is granted specific “talents,” as the Parable of the Talents in the Gospel of St. Matthew tells us.
History is a fickle mistress: who would have suspected that the German High Command sending exiled Vladimir Lenin back to St. Petersburg in a blinded box car in 1917 would eventually create the conditions for the overthrow and end of the world’s largest empire? What might have happened had not those poor North Carolina Confederate troopers mistaken Stonewall Jackson for an enemy in the darkness at the Battle of Chancellorsville (1863) and he had lived to command at Gettysburg? We can think of countless other “what ifs” and “if nots” that populate the existence of humanity….
As Catholics and believers we have one powerful weapon that cannot be taken away from us, and that is prayer, and with it, confidence in Providence. But prayer and faith impel, necessarily, the requisite action, even if the “talent” employed seems small in comparison to that of others around us. Yet, as C. S. Lewis once wrote, no good act, however small, is ever wasted. And if God so wills it, and we serve as His vessels, history may produce the most unimagined and miraculous of results.
More than a century ago St. Pius X prophesized this future:
â€œ…that the great movement of apostasy being organized in every country for the establishment of a One-World Church which shall have neither dogmas, nor hierarchy, neither discipline for the mind, nor curb for the passions, and which, under the pretext of freedom and human dignity, would bring back to the world the reign of legalized cunning and force, and the oppression of the weak, and of all those who toil and suffer. […] Indeed, the true friends of the people are neither revolutionaries, nor innovators: they are traditionalists.â€
And our response must be that of St. Piusâ€™s predecessor, Leo XIII: â€œChristians are born for combat, whereof the greater the vehemence, the more assured, God willing, the triumph: ‘Have confidence; I have overcome the worldâ€™.â€
Reading about Pat’s fascinating life and career assists us, perhaps, to see ourselves better, to understand maybe a bit more about our recent history and about who we are as a people. And, more, about what extreme and difficult challenges that now confront us….and the hope we have to overcome them. We shall be not abandoned. Buchanan answers by citing the Holy Scriptures, that like St. Peter, when asked by Our Lord, â€œAnd will you, too, leave?â€ we respond, â€œWhere else shall we go, Lord? Thou hast the words of Eternal Life.â€ (p. 79)
I think my friend Pat understands this; his life richly illustrates it in big ways. I deeply regret that he did not become our president in 1993. But then, perhaps, it was his witness and his critical role to keep a vision of a better America, a more humane and more reverent nation, alive, to keep it sustained, and to pass on that vision to newer generations.
For that, and for a life well-lived, we should be grateful!
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