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“Freedom or Virtue?” Revisited

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“Freedom or Virtue?” Revisited

Post  MRyan on Thu Sep 20, 2012 6:13 pm

“Freedom or Virtue?” Revisited

by Christopher Shannon on March 5, 2012

http://www.frontporchrepublic.com/

About this time last year, Mitch Daniels, the Republican Governor of Indiana, stirred some controversy by calling on conservatives to declare a truce on so-called “social issues” so that they might concentrate their political energies on seemingly more pressing matters such as federal deficit reduction. At the time, many political commentators considered these statements as an effort on the part of Daniels to position himself as a national leader of his party in preparation for a 2012 presidential bid. Still, Daniels’s sense that social issues—abortion and gay marriage in particular—were distracting conservatives from their primary duty to keep government fiscally responsible speaks to a long standing tension present at the birth of the modern conservative movement in the 1950s. That tension, in a nutshell, has been between the libertarian and traditionalist wings of the movement. Libertarians understand conservatism as fundamentally a philosophy of individual freedom, particularly freedom from government constraint in matters economic. Traditionalists understand conservatism as primarily a defense of the values that have historically shaped Western civilization; traditionalists embrace some conception of liberty as one of those values, yet tend to subordinate negative liberty (freedom from constraint) to more positive, substantive values that they generally referred to as virtues. So, to take a hot-button “social issue” like abortion: the libertarian is content that government does not impose abortion on individuals, while a traditionalist would insist on prohibiting abortion in order to foster what George W. Bush, echoing Pope John Paul II, called a “culture of life.”

The locus classicus for this debate in early conservatism is L. Brent Bozell’s 1962 National Review article, “Freedom or Virtue.” Bozell is one of the most significant intellectuals of the early postwar conservatism, though largely forgotten today. By the late-1960s he had largely recused himself from the movement, yet his departure has received scant attention in mainstream histories of conservatism. Bozell left because he could no longer reconcile his commitment to traditional values—in his case, traditional Catholicism—with the libertarian freedom that seemed to steer the conservative movement as a whole. Bozell never saw freedom and virtue as mutually exclusive, but instead argued that conservatives needed to see them as hierarchically ordered, with virtue as the base, guide, and end of freedom, rather than simply a choice exercised (or not) by free individuals. His intellectual career raises troubling issues for those who would link modern conceptions of negative liberty to some notion of tradition.

As Bozell is largely a forgotten figure, I would like to start with a little biographical background. He was born 1926 in Omaha, Nebraska. Bozell converted to Catholicism while attending Creighton Preparatory School, the high school connected with Omaha’s Jesuit-run Creighton University. He served in the Merchant Marines during WWII and after the war attended Yale University. At Yale, he met an aspiring young conservative Catholic intellectual, William F. Buckley. In Buckley, Bozell found a kindred spirit. The two quickly proved to be champion debaters and defenders of political conservatism at an institution known for political liberalism. Buckley would make his first national splash as the author of God and Man at Yale (1951), a scathing expose of what he saw as the rampant secularism of the Yale professoriate.

If Buckley’s defense of Christianity—or at the very least, some generic, deistic “god”—gave him a footing in what would become the traditionalist wing of the conservative movement, we should recall that his book could just have easily been titled “The State and Man at Yale.” His first chapter exposes the Yale professoriate’s attack on Christianity, but his second chapter addresses his teachers’ attack on individualism and their promotion of statist collectivism. With a consistent tone of moral outrage across these chapters, Buckley gives divine, Christian sanction to an economic individualism that rose to dominance in the nineteenth century at the very time in which Christianity was losing its public standing in the West. Here we see an early instance of an effort to link libertarianism and traditionalism.

The two orientations would not, however, stick together by their own power. They needed some external bonding glue and found it in the third strain of American conservatism, anticommunism. After graduation from Yale, Bozell and Buckley went to work for the most controversial conservative anticommunist in American politics, Senator Joseph McCarthy. McCarthy made headlines by making unsubstantiated accusations of domestic subversion by Soviet communist agents at every level of American government and society. In 1954, he finally fell from political grace after accusing the U.S. Army of harboring communists. Bozell and Buckley (now his brother-in-law) remained committed to the cause and published a defense of McCarthy entitled McCarthy and His Enemies. The two argued that although McCarthy’s tactics might have been extreme, his cause was just, and his enemies seemed willing to let the government be overrun by communist spies.

Bozell, like many conservatives, saw the Cold War as nothing less than an all out battle between good and evil, a battle for the survival of Western civilization. Many liberals saw it the same way, but differed from Bozell and other traditionalist conservatives in their understanding of Western civilization. So-called “consensus” liberals understood Western civilization through the lens of the philosopher John Locke; for them, Western civilization meant the development of respect for individual rights and tolerance of religious and cultural diversity. Against Locke, traditionalists invoked Edmund Burke, the British/Irish critic of the French Revolution, who saw the insistence of the primacy of individual rights as a threat to family, religion, and indeed all that was sacred in traditional society. Burke attacked the whole social contract tradition—the thought of John Locke as well as Jean Jacques Rousseau—for its misunderstanding of society as being created through the consent of individuals. He argued that society was by nature organic, not contractual; the product of centuries of natural growth yet having no clear point of origin in consent. For Burke, social relations were an extension of family relations; just as you cannot choose your relatives, so you cannot create society.

Traditionalist conservatives had a hard time conveying these ideas to a popular audience. It was one thing to inveigh against godless Communism abroad; it was another to convince Americans of the danger of godless liberalism at home. Outside of elite institutions such as Yale, America in the 1950s seemed like a very godly nation. In 1955, the sociologist Will Herberg highlighted the specifically religious dimension of the liberal consensus with his classic Protestant, Catholic, Jew. Americans shared not only the Lockean values of individual rights, but also a common Judeo-Christian religious tradition. If Herberg was distressed by the superficiality of American religiosity, most Americans seemed content with Eisenhower’s famous quip, “our government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is.” Agnostic liberal intellectuals like Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. thought religion good for democracy; liberals and conservatives alike participated in the baby boom, with suburban domesticity perhaps the real religion of 1950s America.

Despite the generally religion friendly climate of public discourse in the 1950s, religion and tradition proved to be divisive issues in the early years of the conservative movement. Bozell and other conservatives staked out their claim to leadership not on their credentials as defenders of tradition, but on a strident anticommunism and an uncompromising commitment to free market economics against the legacy of New Deal liberalism. William Buckley had made a name for himself first of all by attacking liberal secularism, and his National Review provided space for traditionalists to air their particular understanding of conservatism. Whittaker Chambers, whose Witness was something like the bible of conservative anticommunism, viewed the radical libertarianism of Ayn Rand, with its reduction of social and political life to the will to power, as the moral equivalent of totalitarian communism itself. At the other end of the spectrum, Max Eastman, a Marxist-turned-strident (but secular)-anti-Communist, resigned from the editorial board of the National Review in the early 1960s because of the magazine’s openness to traditional religious perspectives. The debate between libertarians and traditionalists was constant and often bitter with each group more than willing to write the other out of the movement. In the early 1960s, Frank Meyer, a former Marxist, secular libertarian and founding board member of the National Review, devised a strategy for reconciliation he dubbed “fusionism.” Meyer maintained that freedom was the ultimate goal of politics and that the state should have no say in promoting individual virtue or any substantive values. Freedom is, in a sense, the primary virtue, and end in itself; nonetheless, it also serves as a means to achieve any other virtuous end an individual may desire. Meyer allowed that conservatives could, and perhaps should, make full use of their individual freedom to promote virtue in the private sphere, but should never seek to marshal government power to enforce particular moral values on other free individuals.

Bozell’s 1962 essay, “Freedom or Virtue?,” remains the most powerful traditionalist response to Meyer’s fusionism. In essence, the question Bozell poses in his title demands a choice not of values, but of priorities. For Meyer and his fellow libertarians, freedom comes first and our actions are “virtuous” only to the degree in which we freely choose them. Speaking for traditionalists, Bozell concedes that freedom is essential to virtue, but insists it is not the primary or ultimate value. Freedom has value or meaning only in terms of the objects or ends that it serves. No minor debating point, the question of priority has profound implications for one’s vision of a just and free society.

Bozell illustrates this philosophical distinction with the example of divorce. He posits the case of two men, one an American (Mr. X), one a Spaniard (Mr. Y), both of whom are dissatisfied with their marriages. In America, divorce laws are comparatively lenient and there are possibilities for remarriage. Mr. X moves in fairly liberal social circles and divorce would carry no stigma from his friends and business associates. Still, at the end of the day, he decides against divorce because he feels it is wrong. The case of Mr. Y, the Spaniard, is very different. Spain does not permit divorce. Mr. Y could possibly travel to France to get a divorce, yet this would be expensive. Upon returning to Spain, he would face tremendous social ostracism and have little or no chance for re-marriage. In the end, Mr. Y decides to remain married. Bozell concedes that between these two men, most of us would consider the American Mr. X more virtuous: he could have gotten a divorce but did not as a matter of personal virtue.

Bozell then he draws a disturbing inference from this judgment:

And it follows—does it not?—that if we are seriously interested in maximizing opportunities for virtue, something will have to be done about Spain. Her laws, traditions, customs interfere with freedom. They are ‘crutches’—kick them away. And in the United States, conditions are not entirely satisfactory either. We will want to make our own divorce laws even laxer. We will also want to launch a public education campaign (privately endowed of course) aimed at breaking down residual social prejudices; and perhaps, to overcome the mechanical difficulties, a special fund could be set aside for periodic newspaper notices advising dissatisfied spouses of the most convenient cut-rate agency or mail order house. We will do our best, in other words, to reduce the ‘constraints’ of ‘superior power,’ confident that if Mr. X can stick by his guns under these conditions, he will really be virtuous. It is not that we favor divorce, mind you; it is just that we want virtuous men.
What Bozell presents as satire reads today as prophecy. Those who at the time might have argued Bozell was being unfair and taking libertarian principles to an illogical extreme would live to see the divorce scenario he extrapolated from libertarian principles become the law of the land in America. History has borne out the traditionalist understanding that law is normative, not neutral; it reflects and promotes certain values against others.

Still, in defending the permanence of marriage against divorce, Bozell was no precursor to “family-values” conservatism or the Christian Right. Aside from the fact that no Christian conservative today talks seriously about outlawing divorce, Bozell’s critique goes much deeper than anything we hear from so-called cultural conservatives today. Divorce was simply one example of a broader misunderstanding of freedom as freedom from constraint. In affirming virtue, Bozell refused to reduce it to a set of moral constraints, such as the prohibitions of the Ten Commandments. He pulled no punches and concluded his essay by invoking the Christian notion that to save your life, you must first lose it. Bozell charged that the urge to freedom for its own sake is a rejection of God and nature: “true sanctity is achieved only when man loses his freedom—when he is freed of the temptation to displease God.” Stated positively and substantively, man is only free when he acts in such a way as to please God. This is positive liberty, with a Christian vengeance.

Though one could easily read Bozell’s essay as an ultimatum to libertarians, it did not succeed in breaking the back of fusionism. Practical politics and the transcendent principle of anticommunism continued to hold the fledgling conservative coalition together. Defeat notwithstanding, Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign marked a turning point in conservative political mobilization, one that would bear fruit sixteen years later with the election of Ronald Reagan. Liberal outrages against the conservative vision of America only intensified during the mid-sixties and provided at the very least the common bond of a common enemy. As the streets exploded in waves of riots, liberal judges saw fit to extend the spirit of the Civil Rights movement to criminals, granting them protections and immunities conservatives were convinced only exacerbated the lawlessness of the times. These developments helped Bozell to maintain a connection to mainstream conservatism at a safe remove from the contentious issues of fusionism. In 1966, he published The Warren Revolution, one of the most systematic and influential conservative critiques of liberal judicial activism. Bozell accused Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren of betraying the Founding Fathers and the original intent of the Constitution in order to advance a liberal social agenda (a critique that remains central to American conservatism).

Still, The Warren Revolution was in many ways Bozell’s last positive contribution to mainstream conservatism. Bozell may have been able to wax patriotic about the Founding Fathers, but he had for quite some time found America itself all but uninhabitable. Since 1961, he had been spending a good deal of time living as a kind of cultural exile with his wife and children in Spain. For Bozell, the Spain of Francisco Franco offered a rich, organic Catholic culture that embodied all the principles of the traditionalism he had argued for against Meyer and the fusionists. Such organic unity had to a large degree once characterized urban, ethnic, ghetto Catholicism in America, but the twin ruptures of suburbanization and the Second Vatican Council undermined the ability of the Church to stand as any kind of united traditionalist front in liberal America.

Bozell found himself increasingly at odds even with the self-styled conservative Catholics at the National Review. When his brother-in-law William Buckley endorsed abortion as a legitimate legal option for non-Catholics and provided a platform for Catholics to speak out in favor of contraception, Bozell and a group of like-minded Catholic traditionalists broke with the National Review to found a new journal, Triumph. Though still in dialog with American conservatism, Triumph drew its intellectual bearings from the traditionalist Catholic culture of Franco’s Spain. The relationship between the two journals was at first cordial. Explicitly Catholic, Triumph devoted a lot of space to decrying the liberalization of the Catholic Church, especially in America. Buckley welcomed Triumph as an antidote to liberal Catholic journals such as Commonweal and America; of course, since theological liberals tended to be political liberals, Triumph’s screeds had a certain political usefulness.

All this changed in the late 1960s. The Vietnam War broke the last solid link between Bozell and mainstream conservatism. Anticommunism no longer covered a multitude of sins. At its founding, Triumph was still well within the anticommunist consensus. Vietnam disabused Bozell of his illusion that the fight against communism was always and everywhere a fight for God. Though he would never endorse Ho Chi Minh or embrace communism, Bozell came to see American intervention in Vietnam as an unjust war. Perhaps even more provocatively, the man who in 1966 attacked the Warren Court for coddling criminals had by the end of the decade come to defend black riots in American cities as a protest against capitalism and materialism.

Still, no issue set Bozell against America more than abortion. If Bozell’s views on war and capitalism seemed to place him at the left end of the political spectrum of the time, his opposition to abortion left no doubt that he had moved well beyond the conventional spectrum of American politics. For Bozell, the growing acceptance of abortion in the late 1960s convinced him that America lack the moral, religious and cultural resources to save itself. In two 1968 Triumph essays, “The Death of the Constitution” and “The Autumn of Our Country,” he renounced his earlier argument that the disarray in contemporary America stemmed from a betrayal of the principles of the Founders. Extending his earlier critique of libertarianism to the whole American political tradition, Bozell argued that the American Constitutional system had not only failed, but that it had to fail. Rejecting the distinction between liberal and conservative, Bozell insisted that America had been liberal right from the start. The American Creed—that is, any philosophy one could derive from the Constitution—had been from the start a revolt against God, an affirmation of the human power to shape the world apart from divine guidance. What was implicit in “Freedom or Virtue?” became explicit in these later articles: without belief in God (more specifically, Jesus Christ) it makes no sense to talk about values or the “permanent things” or any of the other warm fuzzy words traditionalist conservatives threw around in ecumenical settings. Americans had always placed freedom first, and that demonic impulse was now bearing its bitterest fruit in the affirmation of the freedom to destroy human life in the womb.

At the peak of his alienation from America, Bozell remained enough of a “movement” conservative to believe that this problem could be addressed through some form of political action. In 1970, Bozell and a group of anti-abortion activists who dubbed themselves the “Sons of Thunder” staged an event they called “Action for Life,” a protest outside an abortion clinic at the George Washington University hospital. The National Review was appalled. Its editorial assessing the event is revealing:

Viewed politically, it was probably worse than useless. Spanish Carlism, whatever its virtues in its local habitat, is surely exotic in the District of Columbia and the Sons of Thunder can have moved precious few of the unconvinced over to their side.
There are several issues here. First, Buckley and his editorial board had long been skittish on the issue of abortion; then as now, it is an issue mainstream conservatives would rather avoid. Second, the tactics the Sons of Thunder employed smacked of the black power and anti-war protests conservatives had railed against for years. Finally, and perhaps most interestingly, the National Review objected to the introduction of foreign symbols and slogans into American politics—Bozell and his fellow protestors wore red Carlist berets and shouted Spanish Catholic slogans such as “Viva Christo Rey!”

This last criticism, seemingly the most petty, actually speaks most directly to the vision of cultural politics emerging in Bozell’s struggle with America. The editors at the National Review were in effect accusing the anti-abortion protesters of being un-American. Bozell himself was beginning to see that the conservative tendency to make some notion of America as the ultimate arbiter of all moral and political issues was part of the problem. Anticipating some of John Paul II’s thinking, Bozell realized that positive, meaningful change on the abortion issue would not come simply by changing abortion laws. Unlike the contemporary Christian Right, Bozell rejected the idea of advancing legislation to restore a Christian America. Instead, he proposed a politics that would work toward building up communities that made it possible to be Christian in America. Bozell called this the politics of “the Confessional Tribe.” His own tribe was Catholicism, but his political vision could apply to any traditionalist community: “If Christians wished to offer a program to America, it would be spiritual lebensraum (breathing space). It would be freedom to work a soil, to breed a culture in which the Christian seed could grow. It would be the opportunity to build a city hospitable to Christian living.” This city, or really tribe, would have the Church as its foundational institution, followed by the family and then the school. The tribe would be a community of persons first and laws second. It would be based on affinity rather than coercion; exclusive, it would nonetheless be open to new members. It would, moreover, be a movement in, but not of, America: “Its purpose is not to reform the American system. It is not to destroy the American system. The movement’s purpose is to be the Christian system.”

Bozell’s tribalism proved too extreme even for the cadre of traditionalist Catholics that remained affiliated with Triumph into the mid-1970s. His mental health difficulties (bi-polar disorder) impaired his editorial abilities, and the audience for his unique blend of anti-communist, anti-capitalist conservatism continued to dwindle; Triumph folded in 1975. During intermittent periods of lucidity, Bozell continued to write perceptive essays on America politics and culture. Anticommunism remained his last link to mainstream conservatism, yet here again his writing reflected the old divisions between libertarians and traditionalists. Bozell observed the collapse of Soviet communism with delight, yet understood it as the triumph of virtue rather than freedom. The virtue he saw rising from the ashes of the Soviet Union was, moreover, the distinctly Catholic virtue of solidarity as articulated in the writings of Father Jozef Tischner, the philosopher of Poland’s Solidarity Movement. As a philosophy, solidarity proceeded from the assumptions that “every man is expected to help carry the burdens of the other man” and the only meaningful social action comes through sacrificial self-denial. The vision of true freedom Bozell invoked as far back as 1962 was a dream no more, but found real-world expression in Poland’s struggle against communism.

Such a reading of the greatest triumph of the conservative movement suggests little common ground between Bozell’s traditionalism and libertarianism. For the last thirty years or so, the conservative movement has achieved political success without having to find any common ground. Republicans have successfully moved mainstream politics to the right in terms of conservative ideals of free market capitalism and foreign policy militarism, yet on the cultural front, lip service to traditionalism has left abortion on demand the law of the land and offered no serious resistance to the advance of gay marriage. For intellectual conservatives who seek a traditionalism more robust than “family values,” Bozell’s vision remains an inspiration.
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MRyan

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Re: “Freedom or Virtue?” Revisited

Post  George Brenner on Thu Sep 20, 2012 8:55 pm

Mike,

Great article about L. Brent Bozell. There is much to be learned from and admired in this man. His life certainly had many twists and turns and ups and downs both spiritually and physically. I particularly found great comfort in this portion of your post:


Still, in defending the permanence of marriage against divorce, Bozell was no precursor to “family-values” conservatism or the Christian Right. Aside from the fact that no Christian conservative today talks seriously about outlawing divorce, Bozell’s critique goes much deeper than anything we hear from so-called cultural conservatives today. Divorce was simply one example of a broader misunderstanding of freedom as freedom from constraint. In affirming virtue, Bozell refused to reduce it to a set of moral constraints, such as the prohibitions of the Ten Commandments. He pulled no punches and concluded his essay by invoking the Christian notion that to save your life, you must first lose it. Bozell charged that the urge to freedom for its own sake is a rejection of God and nature: “true sanctity is achieved only when man loses his freedom—when he is freed of the temptation to displease God.” Stated positively and substantively, man is only free when he acts in such a way as to please God. This is positive liberty, with a Christian vengeance.


Mike, I also liked this link:



In Memoriam: L. Brent Bozell
by Warren H. Carroll
Founding President, Christendom College, Front Royal, Virginia
L. Brent Bozell, founder and director of the magazine Triumph and the
Society of the Christian Commonwealth which published it, who died in May,
was a unique figure in American Catholic intellectual history. Catholics in
America, mostly descendants of immigrants whose church for long seemed
particularly alien to the country's earlier settlers, have generally striven to
make their church seem more American. L. Brent Bozell strove to make it
less American and more Catholic.
In this consistent and persistent endeavor, carried on throughout the ten
years of Triumph's publication from 1966 to 1976, he startled and often
shocked conservatives and scandalized super-patriots—a type more common
in those years than since. Often he did so deliberately, to shake them free
from deeply ingrained prejudices so as better to face the real issues of our age
of apostasy. Sometimes he did so too stridently. More often he did so with a
trenchant logic and a passionate commitment to the person and love of Jesus
Christ which cut through the convenient pretenses and evasions of his readers
with a fiery sword. He could well have said, with William Lloyd Garrison
when he launched his campaign for the abolition of slavery: "I am in earnest;
I will not equivocate; I will not retreat a single inch; and I WILL BE
HEARD!"
Despite his brilliance and his passion, not as many heard L. Brent Bozell as
heard William Lloyd Garrison, and not many remember him today. In his last
years, when—out of public life—he climbed a Calvary of mental and physical
agony such as few men have ever had to endure, his memory faded in the
minds of his contemporaries, so that his son and namesake, an active media
critic, is now often confused with him. But for those privileged to have
known Brent well, among whom I am so fortunate as to count myself, his
memory is emblazoned upon our minds, refulgent, ineffaceable, like the cross
on the banner of Emperor Constantine: "In this sign, you conquer!"
For three of Triumph's ten years I was director of the Christian
Commonwealth Institute, the educational program of Brent's Society of the
Christian Commonwealth. We conducted classes, lectures and seminars during
weekend meetings. The centerpiece of our program was our annual summer
program at El Escorial in Spain, literally across the street from the great basilica, monastery and palace built by King Philip II of Spain, the champion of the Catholic Reformation (the only real reformation), the only sovereign in
Christendom during that terrible age who remained unswervingly faithful to
Carroll 323 the Pope through all the years of his life, forty-one of them as king. We went
to Spain to show Americans how the Catholic Faith made Christendom, how it
embraced all of life and formed its own culture and could never belong in the
convenient Sunday morning pigeonhole where Americans—even good
Catholics—tended to put it. The experience left a permanent mark on most of
us who participated. The enthusiasm was like nothing I have ever seen anywhere else.
Christendom College was gestated in the womb of Triumph magazine and
the Society for the Christian Commonwealth, Brent Bozell's creations. All of
our original five faculty were long-time subscribers to Triumph and three had
attended the program in Spain. Our current president and his wife and our
executive vice-president had attended the program in Spain. Two of the three
original major donors who enabled our College project to be launched financially had attended the program in Spain, and the third had seen his son attend
it. Many of the original members of our Board of Directors were Triumph
readers. In a very fundamental sense Christendom College was a Triumph
enterprise, and always will be. As long as any of this present generation of
College leaders and supporters shall live, I am confident they will always
acknowledge our debt to Brent Bozell.
Brent was a prophet; when he founded Triumph in 1966 he had already foreseen that the West was headed into a black cavern of apostasy which would
spawn the culture of death which our present Pope has so eloquently and
repeatedly condemned. Brent Bozell did not have to wait for Roe v. Wade to
tell us where we were going. His was the only Catholic publication in the
United States to welcome (rather than condemning or weakly apologizing for)served and enhanced the Catholic rejection of artificial contraception and
warned with perfect accuracy of the consequences of its general acceptance.
"Great day in the morning!" Triumph cried upon the issuance of Humanae
Vitae, which hurled itself against a tide of history and proved once again, in
the unforgettable image of G.K. Chesterton in The Everlasting Man, that only
live things swim upstream.
In 1970, when abortion was still illegal in most of the United States, Brent
Bozell led the first "operation rescue" mission to try by direct action to stop it
at a hospital in Washington, D.C. where it was permitted. So when Roe v.
Wade came down from the U.S. Supreme Court on that black Monday,
January 22, 1973, Brent Bozell was not surprised. While others expressed
shock and anger then, he had already done so; beyond that, he wanted us to
see the illimitable tragedy. The cover of Triumph that month was solid black,
the color of mourning, except for a small logo at the top and in the lower
right-hand corner, a cross in white and the words "for the children."
Brent Bozell loved life, and all souls—and especially children—as he loved
the Author of Life. His religious devotion was deep and intense. He had a
special devotion to Christ's poor, and a fundamental aversion to that element
in American conservatism which glorifies wealth and economic success with-
324 Catholic Social Science Review out counting the human cost. He never ceased to remember how often Christ
had blessed the poor, to cry out for "the politics of mercy," by which the poor
would be cared for and helped without enslaving them to any political and
economic system. I, who came into the Church in the year of Humanae Vitae and had been an economic libertarian, was guided by Brent into a transformation of my thinking about rich and poor.
Brent Bozell himself was a convert, in his adolescent years. He had to the
highest degree the convert's special awareness of how truly different it is to be
a Catholic. It was an important part of the reason why he laid so much stress
on the necessity of Catholicizing America rather than Americanizing
Catholicism. While the true Church does and should bring out the best in the
character of a nation as in that of an individual, this can only be accomplished
fully in a nation when the true Church is publicly recognized and Christ is
proclaimed its heart and its king.
Brent Bozell believed in, and advocated, the confessional state—a nation
publicly committed to the Catholic Faith—at a time when it was disappearing
from the earth. No such state remains, with the partial exception (fascinatingly) of the Philippines. But if the confessional state remains a Catholic goal
where it is possible, Brent Bozell and his close associate, Dr. Frederick
Wilhelmsen (recently deceased also) will deserve some of the credit for it.
Brent Bozell loved the Pope, and never ceased defending, upholding, and
glorifying him and looking for more and better ways to do that. During
Triumph's years of publication the Pope was Paul VI, whom many good
Catholics (forgetting or not understanding the mega-historic significance of
Humanae Vitae) found less than inspirational. Brent always found him inspirational, and understood him, I believe, better than any other American
Catholic commentator. He did not agree with all of his decisions, particularly
on the liturgy. But he knew that Christ has only one Vicar at a time, whom He
requires us to obey on all matters connected with the Church.
As a leader, Brent was inspirational even in his profound pessimism about
the future of Western civilization. Because he was ever conscious of Christ s
presence and the strength of the Church even (or especially) under the worst
conditions, for him pessimism could never be despair; the Church, if defeated
on one battlefield, could always rise up with its Founder and win on another.
He saw great promise in the conversion of so many African blacks at the very
moment when so many in the West were leaving the Church explicitly or
implicitly. He knew that apostasy could never triumph everywhere, that theChurch which is the Mystical Body of its Resurrected Lord can never be
destroyed.
When Brent launched Triumph, he gladly gave up a promising career as a
conservative writer and spokesman, who had ghost-written extensively for
Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona and earlier for Senator Joseph McCarthy
of Wisconsin, and had written under his own name an excellent and highly
regarded book on the Supreme Court of the 1950s and early 1960s, The
Warren Revolution. His new undertaking was never easy, and very far from
Carroll 325 secure. Triumph trembled on the brink of financial disaster almost from the
day it was launched. At one point the decision had already been made to
cease publication, when Brent's beloved wife, Patricia ("Trish") Buckley
Bozell, unexpectedly revived it by slapping the face, in a Catholic University
auditorium, of a woman named Ti-Grace Atkinson when she applied an
obscene word to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The favorable response to Irish's
action from Catholic readers saved Triumph.
I will never forget Brent outside that auditorium when he heard what his wife
had done, rising to his full height—he was very tall, with very red hair and a
craggy face—with a re-echoing bellow of: "To Hell with Catholic University!" That institution is much improved today, and I doubt Brent could say that now,
especially after its removal of Charles Curran. But it was merited then.
Incidentally, Ti-Grace Atkinson never gave another public speech.
Triumph's last years were darkened by the shadow of the immense cross
God called its founder to carry. He developed manic-depressive psychosis,
now called by the gentler name of bipolar disorder. The name may be gentler
but the thing can never be. It is one of the most cruel illnesses to which mind
and flesh are heir. It can be controlled, but not cured by drugs, and the drugs
take away a significant part of what the victim is. Because of this, for years
Brent would not take them regularly, and he and his family and friends were
ravaged by the consequences. Through it all, his faith never wavered.
Eventually he took the medicine, and returned to rationality; but afterwards
he—one of the finest speakers and writers of his generation—could no longer
speak for more than a few minutes, and could write only with the extensive
assistance of an editor. Physical agony was added to mental deprivation; at
times the pains in his back were so bad that he could hardly walk. The last
time I saw him alive, he could barely climb the stairs at Christendom
College's Regina Coeli Hall, doubled over so that his left hand almost
touched each step. Never in my 65 years have I known a man who suffered
so much. He never complained; he offered it all to Christ. His son, speaking
at his funeral, could not hold back his tears when he reviewed Brent's afflictions; and neither can I writing of them. Brent Bozell walked the Via
Dolorosa, if ever a Christian did, and surely Christ will reward—has rewarded—him richly for it.
God rest his great soul, and let us thank God for giving such a man to us.
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George Brenner

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Re: “Freedom or Virtue?” Revisited

Post  columba on Thu Sep 20, 2012 9:00 pm

Senator Joseph McCarthy. McCarthy made headlines by making unsubstantiated accusations of domestic subversion by Soviet communist agents at every level of American government and society. In 1954, he finally fell from political grace after accusing the U.S. Army of harboring communists

I wonder was McCarthy that far out. If there wasn't a commy under every table I bet there was a Zionist Jew.
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columba

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Re: “Freedom or Virtue?” Revisited

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