REVIEWSrnE’en ThoughrnIt Be a Crossrnby Chilton Williamson, Jr.rnNearer, My God:rnAn Autobiography of Faithrnby William F. Buckley, ]r.rnNew York: Doubleday;rn313 pp., $24.95rnUnbelievers, Flannery O’Connorrnremarked, think that faith for be-rnHevers is a big electric blanket, when ofrncourse it is the Cross. William Buckley,rnregretting at the outset of his book that hernis unable to convey a sense of his ownrnpersonal struggle with Catholic Christianity,rnpleads simply that “there is no sufficientrnstory there to tell.” Originallyrncommissioned to write a book entitledrn”Why I Am Still A Catholic,” he laterrnconcluded that this would imply thatrn”to continue as a Catholic is in somernway remarkable, as in ‘Why I Am StillrnA Whig.'” Yet, though his own faithrnhas seemingly never wavered, Mr. Buckleyrnis nonetheless aware —how manyrnLIBERAL ARTSrnHELP YOURSELFrnTO MY WHIPrn”[The] combination of New Age spiritualismrnwith a longtime devotion tornsadomasochism has produced a surprisingrncollection of wisdom. . . .Thisrnbook offers enough New Age spiritualismrnand self-help measures to attractrna broad audience.”rn—from a review of Gay Body;rnA Journey Through Shadowrnto Self (Si Martin’s Press)rnin Publishers Weekly,rnSeptember 22, 1997rnCatholics are not? —that to remain arnCatholic in anno Domini 1997 is in factrnmiraculous, a tiny part of the infinitelyrngreater miracle that there remains,rnafter two millennia, a Church in whichrnCatholics can still remain. Whilernadamant in belief, Buckley is keenly sensitivernto the existence of doubts and difficultiesrnengendered by the modern secularistrnage, and also to the troublingrnhuman contiadictions inherent in an institutionrnthat is human and historical inrnnature, as well as divine. Eschewing thernrole of devil’s advocate, he adopts a tonernof humility consistent with the precept,rn”There, but for the grace of Cod, go I.” Itrnis much harder, O’Connor insisted, tornbelieve than not to believe. Her wordsrnmight serve as a gloss for this “spiritual biography,”rnwhich in due course recounts,rnand gives thanks for, an abundance ofrngraces.rnReminiscing on his childhood andrnearly maturity Buckley poignantly conveysrnthe instillation of Catholicism intornhis youthful temperament and intellect.rnIn the following chapter he contrasts hisrnformation with examples of the difficultiesrnconfronting young people today whornmight wish to learn about the ChristianrnCod. The reminder that these difficultiesrnprecede Generation X by several previousrnones offers an opening to reprisernGod and Man at Yale as a prophetic document.rn(“Christianity has been excludedrnby the very instrument—academicrnfreedom—that Protestantism had countedrnon to further its mission.”) Yet Buckley,rna graduate of the Millbrook Schoolrnin New York —a Protestant establishmentrn—needed to experience Yale to witnessrnthe degradation of Christianity in itsrnfull force. His counterpart today wouldrnhave already suffered the ordeal as a tenderrnschoolboy, Millbrook having abolishedrnregularly scheduled prayer in favorrnof “encouraging” students to engage inrnspiritual activities and observances ofrntheir choice, like Kwanzaa and the Feastrnof St. Martin Luther King, Jr. Somethingrnmore than religious eclecticism isrngoing on, Buckley observes. “It is on thernorder of a substitute for religion,” a typernof “cultural cosmopolitanism” for whichrnthe vernacular term is multiculturalism.rnThis problem of what might politelyrnbe called heterodoxy prompts Buckley tornturn next to the evolution of the Catholicrnmagisterium as expounded by Newman,rnwho argued that the question of whetherrna doctrine has been developed can onlyrnbe judged by appeal to moral authority:rn”A revelation is not given, if there be nornauthority to decide what it is that is given.”rnBy way of entry to the sempiternalrntemptation of private judgment, personalrnrevelation, and cafeteria Catholicism,rnBuckley goes on to introduce portions ofrnthe famous debate between ArnoldrnLunn and Monsignor Ronald Knox, inrnwhich the putative convert proposesrndoubts and the great apologist for thernFaith disposes of them. Clearly doubtrnfascinates Mr. Buckley, as it does —orrnshould —all Catholics, belief being thernresult—as Scott Fitzgerald said literaturernis —of the tension between opposites,rnwhile doubt is sown promiscuously likernweeds throughout the modern world.rnFor many older —and not a fewrnyounger—Catholics a significant, if unintentional,rnsower has been the SecondrnVatican Council. Candidly, thoughrnwithout the vehemence of EvelynrnWaugh denouncing what he colorfullyrndescribed as “the buggering up of thernChurch,” Buckley criticizes the NevusrnOrdo, the revised liturgy in particular.rn”Reform” seemed in so many cases unnecessaryrn{Why give up not eating meatrnon Friday?), pointless, and futile.rnIf clarity were the paramount purposernof liturgical reform—the ultimarnratio for going into English; thernwhole reason for the vernacular—rnthen the intended reform of thernliturgy has not been accomplishedrnbecause it cannot be accomplished.rnIf clarity were the desideratum,rnone would need to jettison,rnjust to begin with, much of St.rnPaul, whose epistles are in some respectsrninscrutable to some of thernpeople some of the time, in mostrnrespects to most of the people mostrnof the time. To translate themrnfrom the Latin or from the archaicrngrandeur of the Douay into John-rnJane-Gyp contemporese is quiternsimply undoable.rnRegarding participation by the faithful,rn”The rote of saying anything is the enemyrnof understanding. To reduce to unisonrnprayers whose meaning is elusive torn24/CHRONlCLESrnrnrn