As America’s foremost bugbear of neoconservatives, it is difficult to understand why Chronicles assigned William F. Buckley’s religious autobiography to Chilton Williamson, Jr. (“E’en Though It Be a Cross,” January), a longtime associate of Buckley during his employment at National Review. The pretensions of Buckley’s book, Nearer, My God, require the critical observation of someone like Joe Sobran, who has an intimate knowledge of the darker side of Buckley’s character.
He might have wondered, inter alia, how a man who “is unable to convey a sense of his own personal struggle with Catholic Christianity” could convene a forum of converts in order to consider controversial moral teachings of his Church and then exclude abortion from the agenda as a doctrine about which no one is in dissent, despite the fact that he and Ernest van den Haag, a member of the forum, are public advocates of abortion. In an article boldly entitled “Temporizing on Abortion” (National Review, August 29, 1994), reflecting our lack of consensus and “acknowledging the hard realities of democratic politics,” Buckley offers America a GOP platform on abortion. Under a Buckley regime, abortion would be universally available except for sex selection, population control, girls under 16, and the third trimester—but even then it would be available for the health (not life) of the mother (Nearer, My GOP?).
Buckley’s Church defines this “abominable crime” as the direct killing of an unborn human being. Any Catholic procuring or formally cooperating in this unqualified evil commits mortal sin and excommunicates himself from the sacraments (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 2270-75).
Even if Buckley’s restrictions were significant and enforceable, which experts on the abortion industry deny, there would still be at least a million pre-born humans consigned to their deaths each year. How a Catholic can reconcile this horror with the teachings of his Church and draw nearer to God as a result, I think we’re entitled to know.
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