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Catholics vs. Libertarians in the 1960s

In the February 22, 1966, edition of National Review, William F. Buckley Jr. decried a widespread political confusion among American Catholics that had led to the public ascendance of such bumbling radicals as the Jesuit Daniel Berrigan. His column, which bore the troubling title “Catholic Chaos,” still ended on a note of hope: “The whole thing certainly underlines the desirability of an American journal of conservative Catholic opinion, which Mr. Brent Bozell, formerly an Editor of National Review, is attempting to launch.”

This journal — which eventually adopted the tragically ironic title Triumph — is almost entirely forgotten today. Even its founder, once a superstar of the burgeoning conservative movement, is mostly remembered (if at all) as Buckley’s brother-in-law and sometime collaborator. By the time it shut down in 1976, Triumph had lost many of its original supporters and gained very few new ones. Even the glowing support that Triumph had received from Buckley and National Review quickly turned to bitter, public opposition. The self-inflicted causes of this rapid decline might offer some valuable insights into radicalism — especially the kind common among right-wing Catholics in America — and, importantly, into its limits.

At Yale, Brent Bozell was president of the prestigious Yale Political Union and a force to be reckoned with in debate, alongside his partner, Buckley. In 1954, soon after graduating, the two co-authored a book, McCarthy and His Enemies, that led directly to Bozell’s employment as a speechwriter and close adviser to the controversial senator. From there, he was hired by Barry Goldwater, for whom he ghost-wrote the monumental Conscience of a Conservative (1960). (It is, of course, rarely noted today that Bozell wrote one of the landmark texts of modern American conservatism — a thoroughly libertarian text, too.)

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