The official Jesuit magazine in the United States, "America," has sometimes been referred to as "Америка" for its left-wing articles from the mid-20th century onward. Its infamous editor-in-chief, Father Thomas Reese, S.J., was forced out after the election of Pope Benedict XVI, according to the USCCB's Catholic News Service, "after repeated complaints from then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who objected to the magazine's treatment of sensitive church issues." Fr. Reese showed Benedict XVI was right by becoming a "senior analyst" of post-Christian periodical NCReporter.
The current editor-in-chief, Father Matt Malone, S.J., is considered a moderate (relatively speaking), although most of the other old-guard editors are known to be stuck in the 1960s and 70s. Traditional viewpoints still appear to have virtually no place in the magazine, even though the periodical has published numerous opinions in the past that were contrary to Catholic teaching in the name of tolerance.
It is, therefore, notable that the magazine's website published an interview today by a Jesuit scholastic of Mr. Patrick Buchanan, an American journalist who attends the traditional Latin Mass each Sunday. Buchanan, who ran for president and delivered the famous "culture wars" speech at the Republican convention in 1992, has recently released a new book on President Richard Nixon using numerous notes and memos from when he served in the Nixon Administration.
Here are a few excerpts:
Along with then-Father John McLaughlin, S.J., [later laicized and a well-known American journalist] you were one of a few Catholics who worked in the Nixon White House. Did President Nixon, a Quaker, ever ask your advice on Catholic issues?
Well, I volunteered it to him, as I say in my book. I told him in one memo that all of his emphasis on the Jewish vote and African-American vote wasn’t going anywhere because they were solidly in the Democratic bloc. They’re enormously loyal to the Democratic Party. Secondly, Catholics outnumber the Jewish vote seven to one, and they outnumber the African-American vote two to one. They’re far larger and more numerous and they’re in the process of moving away from the Democratic Party. Nixon often would talk about how the Italian-American vote was beginning to move. We had wanted to appoint an Italian-American and a southerner to the U.S. Supreme Court, partly with the idea of recognizing these folks and saying “you’re not outside the country club of America as far as we’re concerned.” So Nixon recognized this opportunity and I was pushing it even before he got into the White House. In one of my memos, I pointed out that the northern Catholics and the southern Protestants were our new majority that would help us realize victory.
Your book does include a lot of personal anecdotes about your relationship with the president. Did your Catholic faith have any other influence on your work for President Nixon?
I think the Catholic faith is consistent with the kind of conservatism I believe in. You know, I’m a traditionalist, I’m a Latin mass Catholic and I hold to traditional views of responsibility. I’m not a libertarian in the sense that I think all these social programs should be abolished in any sense. I’m familiar with Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno and all of those things that influenced me in Catholic school. I went through the nuns and the Jesuits. I mean, I had eight years of nuns and never had any other sort of teacher in my grammar school, and eight years of Jesuits in high school and college. These were pre-Vatican II orders and you could not escape that influence. It’s a part of who you are.
From a Catholic perspective, which of President Nixon’s policies do you believe was most significant?
It wouldn’t be so much his programs as the fact that I think Nixon genuinely believed he could bring peace for a generation. I think he had a utopian sense there, somewhat like Woodrow Wilson whom he admired. I think he wanted to end the war with honor, to get the Americans out of Vietnam. He wanted to preserve the freedom of South Vietnam. Initially he did. In 1973, all of the American troops and POWs were home, and the war seemed to be winding down and peace was at hand. It wasn’t until two years later, after Nixon was gone, that the North Vietnamese mounted their attack that overran Saigon. I think the whole idea of peace, of an end to the Vietnam War and of trying to ameliorate the Cold War with the Soviet Union were very large issues that were as important as any particular program that gave tax credits for parochial school kids—which I advocated for a long time and which we never seemed to be able to push through.
The entire interview, as published online, may be read here.