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Karl Keating on the Decline of the National Review and Other Matters
Karl Keating's E-Letter via e-mail ^ | July 5, 2005 | Karl Keating

Posted on 07/06/2005 10:01:01 PM PDT by annalex


I think I was in college when I first subscribed to "National Review" magazine. I kept renewing faithfully for more than three decades. Some years ago a youngish editor was brought in, and after a while I no longer saw any of the familiar names.

Of course, some long-time writers had moved into a well-deserved retirement, and some had died. It was natural for the roster to change, but other things also changed, including the magazine's intellectual level and commitment to principle.

This year I ignored the pleas to renew and let my subscription lapse. Occasionally I visit the magazine's web site, National Review Online, but the same new writers are there, producing much juvenilia and showing themselves to be more loyal to a political party than to traditional ideas.

Let me give one example. John Derbyshire, a transplanted Englishman, wrote this at the web site:

"At the Atlanta bash last month, an audience member asked the panel whether the [Terri] Schiavo case had caused us to change our minds about the underlying issues. I piped up and said, yes, the case had changed my mind in one respect. It had made me realise--a thing I never realised before--that I do favor euthanasia.

"Ramesh [Ponnuru, another writer for "National Review"] asked me at some point why, if I were willing to see Mrs. Schiavo have her feeding withdrawn so that she dehydrated to death over several days, I wasn't willing to just have her [be] given a lethal injection. I couldn't think of any satisfactory answer to this, and haven't been able to since; so in all honesty, I am bound to say I favor the lethal injection, in at least some cases.

"Since I have never had a strict anti-abortion position, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to find that I don't have a strict anti-euthanasia position, either. I just hadn't thought it through before."

Apparently not.


Sandra Day O'Connor has tendered her resignation, and President Bush is making preparations to nominate a replacement. We will know soon enough who that will be.

Liberals on the Senate judiciary committee are making the usual demands for a "centrist" nominee, which is to say someone who passes the pro-abortion litmus test. Unlike many others, I have no problems with litmus tests. I think the President should use one in making his choice.

The one he should use was given in our "Voter's Guide for Serious Catholics." The nominee should be someone who conforms to Catholic teaching on all five non-negotiables, even if the nominee is not a Catholic. Other considerations should be secondary: male vs. female, this ethnic group or that, long-time confidant of the President or not.

Just as a litmus test should be used in selecting a new member of the Supreme Court, so one should be used in selecting writers for a magazine that claims to articulate the conservative political position. While I hope that the President will have the courage to impose a litmus test (I have my doubts, but we shall see), I have no real hope that "National Review" will undertake an internal reform. I think the magazine is too far gone.

"National Review" has been reliably, if not ideally, pro-life, but why is a man such as John Derbyshire still associated with it?

I had not been aware that he "never had a strict anti-abortion position"--I do not recall his having written about abortion--but now he has admitted it, and he has gone further than most of the people who sided with Terri Schiavo's husband. Derbyshire says it would have been fine if she had been put to death the way inmates on death row are put to death (and the way pets are "put to sleep"), with an injection.

No matter what his skills as a writer--and he has produced nicely crafted columns--Derbyshire has shown himself to be a bad thinker. He may be expert at mathematics (I have enjoyed his frequent mathematical interludes), but he is hopeless at morals. That he remains at the magazine tells us much about its editors and their principles.

There was a time when "National Review" really did "stand athwart History, yelling 'Stop!'" (a line from its first issue). But that was a long time ago. Accommodation with the secular mind-set started several decades back, but with the almost complete changeover in staff the accommodation accelerated, and the result is a party magazine that increasingly follows the "big tent" strategy.

This is not a strategy based on firm principle but on the exigencies of political maneuvering. If today the magazine has no qualms running articles by someone who favors euthanasia, is there any certainty that in a few years it won't favor euthanasia as an editorial policy?


Yes, this is a look at another anti-pope. I ask you to read these few paragraphs because there will be a follow-up in next week's E-Letter. The follow-up will not be about the man who styles himself "Pope Peter II" but about a prominent American apologist who, it seems, has a connection with this anti-pope.

For now let me tell you about Maurice Archieri. He says he became the real pope in 1995 through the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Archieri was then 70, so he would be 80 now. Prior to his retirement he worked as an automotive mechanic. I have been unable to find at his site anything to suggest any sort of theological training. What I did find was a touching video. You can find it and his position papers at

The video shows the 2002 episcopal ordination of Jean-Marie Archieri. The ordinand seems to be nearly as old as "Pope Peter II," so perhaps he is his brother. Be that as it may, the video shows a ceremony that takes place in a tiny chapel, cluttered the way most "independent Traditionalist" chapels are cluttered. The room may have been used previously as a bedroom. It is that small.

The two Archieris are assisted by a much younger man, dressed in a surplice. He looks a bit bored. He frequently turns his head to look around the room, and at one point he rubs his finger in his ear. I wonder what he really thought about these two elderly men playing bishop.

"Pope Peter II" heads a group called Catholici Semper Idem (Catholics Always the Same). Its web site is in French with an execrable translation into English. The translation apparently was generated automatically by a computer program--in this case a program that needs a more skilled programmer.

Despite the mock-English, you can make out well enough the group's arguments, the chief one being that John Paul II was not a real pope. In the mind of "Peter II," the late pontiff actually was a "prophet of the Antichrist" who merely dressed up as pope. This is ironic, coming from a man who dresses up as pope.

There are many anti-popes in today's world, perhaps more than at any time in history. In some cases--and perhaps this is one--it is hard not to feel empathy for the pretender because the man does not realize that he is pretending. For whatever reason, he really thinks that he is the head of the Church.

It is hard to be angry with someone whose actions may be the result of mental imbalance, senility, or grossly misguided idealism. (Some anti-popes are quite clearly con men, but most appear to be convinced of the authenticity of their papal status.)

As I said, these paragraphs about yet another anti-pope have a connection with something that will appear in next week's E-Letter. Stay tuned.

Until next time,


TOPICS: Current Events; General Discusssion; Moral Issues; Religion & Culture; Religion & Politics
KEYWORDS: abortion; derbyshire; keating; nationalreview
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To: GipperGal

In regard to Derbyshire, you forgot to mention, condescending.

81 posted on 07/07/2005 1:26:28 PM PDT by Eva
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To: annalex
but the deathist views of Ponnuru and Derbyshire are news to me

Is Ponnuru compromised as well? I haven't noticed, and Keating doesn't mention his views.

I subscribed to NR for a year or two in college in the late '90s, I believe after reading Buckley's first book God and Man at Yale.

Aside from an occasional piece by somebody like Robert P. George, they have no more Russell Kirks or von Kuehnelt-Leddihns. Thinkers of their caliber have been pushed into more academic journals, like those published by ISI.

82 posted on 07/07/2005 1:49:32 PM PDT by Dumb_Ox (Be not Afraid. "Perfect love drives out fear.")
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To: Eva
In regard to Derbyshire, you forgot to mention, condescending.

I also forgot to mention his subtle (and at times not so subtle) dislike of Catholics. He also loathes the Irish. I suppose that's to be expected of a Englishman no matter how far removed he is from the island of his birth. I was recently reminded of these old ingrained British suspicions when that UK Tabloid reported Benedict XVI's election with the headline "From Hitler Youth to Papa Ratzi". As one objective Englishman noted in a subsequent edition of The Times, the new Pope embodies two groups that the British have historically found abhorrent -- he's Catholic and he's German.

83 posted on 07/07/2005 1:50:24 PM PDT by GipperGal
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To: GipperGal

I confess that the only posts on NR that I read about the Pope, were those by KC Lopez. I just skip over anything by Derbyshire. Actually, I rarely go to the site anymore.

84 posted on 07/07/2005 1:57:42 PM PDT by Eva
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To: Dumb_Ox
Is Ponnuru compromised as well?

No, it was my mistake. I am sorry.

85 posted on 07/07/2005 2:00:14 PM PDT by annalex
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To: GipperGal

The problem with a lot of media, including conservative media, is they get the desire to be invited to those stupid parties hosted by other, virtually all liberal, media members. Essentially, they want to be liked rather than to be right, and if they have to take a position to do that, some are all too willing.

David Brock is an example of a VERY extreme case of this.

86 posted on 07/07/2005 2:02:31 PM PDT by 1L
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To: Bellarmine
There are several references to "PETER II Bishop Maurice ARCHIERI" at, mentioned in the article. For example,

SUCCESSION OF PETER II. The Apostolic Succession of Peter II is the lineage of Holy Peter Apostole by the Seat of the Church of Antioquia.

87 posted on 07/07/2005 2:09:06 PM PDT by annalex
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To: annalex

That's not the CSI website. This is:

I couldn't find any mention of "Peter II" here. Let me know if you do.

88 posted on 07/07/2005 2:15:03 PM PDT by Bellarmine
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To: annalex

...I'm an avid reader of National Review, have renewed my subscription until 2007 and will continue to keep renewing. There is something for everyone in this magazine and unlike Time, Newsweek or the other rags, NR does not deliberately try to slant one's point of view. You can always write them a note and tell them how much you agree or disagree. I wonder if Karl feels the same about Fox News?

89 posted on 07/07/2005 2:18:34 PM PDT by smiley
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To: smiley
You can always write them a note and tell them how much you agree or disagree.

Have you noticed how National Review On-line lacks a letters to the editor section? The American Spectator site has that much, at least. A critic's only hope is to catch the eye of one of the writers in The Corner.

90 posted on 07/07/2005 2:27:56 PM PDT by Dumb_Ox (Be not Afraid. "Perfect love drives out fear.")
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To: Dumb_Ox
A critic's only hope is to catch the eye of one of the writers in The Corner.

Fat chance. The only criticism they post in the Corner is the sort of laughable DU blather sent to them by moronic lefties. It provides comic relief but offers no opportunity for real introspection.

91 posted on 07/07/2005 2:40:44 PM PDT by GipperGal
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To: Bellarmine
Hm. The CSI website does not mention either Peter II or Archieri as far as I can tell. But Mr. Archieri's "Custodi Club" does mention CSI. This is curious: if you only look to the English version of the Custodi website (the default purple-background page; the site is constructed so poorly that it is hard to give URL references inside the site), you find links to CSI only; but if you look at the French version, you find:

(Il est entendu que CSI Diffusion de M. L.H REMY, ne reconnaît pas "Pierre II" et n'a aucun lien direct avec ce qui est écrit sur la page Internet des "Catholiques romains de la sainte Tradition apostolique", en dehors de leurs publications);

Malgré cela, nous approuvons ce qu'il dénonce et que nous dénonçons depuis des années et recommandons vivement l'étude des excellents dossiers diffusés par le CSI. ( Note de custodi))

If my long-forgotten French still serves, it has something to do with the fact that SCI does not recognize Peter II.

Looks like Keating is wrong on the CSI leadership score.

Allez-vous figurez, as they say in French.

92 posted on 07/07/2005 2:55:25 PM PDT by annalex
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To: annalex

Thomas Fleming was and is the managing editor.
They have a wide variety of writers - Pat Buchanan, Srdja Trifkovic, Chilton Williamson, Paul Craig Roberts and others. Check the website for regular updates.
I like Latin Mass too of course :) Good stuff in there, more concerned with the happenings in the Church, theology and history than secular politics tho.
New Oxford Review tends to deal more with secular political issues from a Catholic perspective

93 posted on 07/07/2005 2:55:32 PM PDT by kjvail (Judica me Deus, et discerne causam meam de gente non sancta)
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To: Gerard.P

"He's probably going to go after Gerry Matatics."

I think you are probably right. If not him then perhaps Bob Sungenis or Chris Ferrara?

94 posted on 07/07/2005 3:24:17 PM PDT by Tantumergo
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To: Eva

To be fair, Derb never said anything negative about the Pope. The anti-Catholic tendency to which I am referring came to the fore during the brouhaha over Mel Gibson's The Passion. He dismissed the film's realistic portrayal of Jesus' suffering as being too bloody and chalked this morbidity up to a uniquely Catholic preoccupation with gruesomeness of Jesus' suffering -- an obsession which he finds unwholesome and crude (and primitive? and ant-intellectual?).

95 posted on 07/07/2005 3:43:54 PM PDT by GipperGal
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To: dsc
government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed?

It should be understood that the government receives its powers immediately from God, even if it is chosen by the people. This is Catholic teaching according to Pope Leo XIII:

But it is of interest to note at this point that those who are to be in charge of the state can in certain cases be elected by the will and judgment of the multitude, and Catholic doctrine makes no opposition nor resistance. By this election by which the prince is designated, the rights of principality are not conferred, nor is the power committed, but it is determined by whom it is to be carried on. There is no question here of the kinds of states; for there is no reason why the principality of one person or of several should not be approved by the Church, provided it be just and intent upon the common good. . . . But the Church teaches that what pertains to political power comes from God. . . . It is a great error not to see what is manifest, that, although men are not solitaries, it is not by congenital free will that they are impelled to a natural community life; and moreover the pact which they proclaim is patently feigned and fictitious, and cannot bestow as much force, dignity, and strength to the political power as the protection of the state and the common welfare of the citizens require. But the principality is to possess these universal glories and aids, only if it is understood that they come from God . . . (Encyclical Letter Diuturnum Illud, June 29, 1881)

This seems somewhat hard to reconcile with the Declaration.

96 posted on 07/07/2005 4:19:49 PM PDT by gbcdoj (Without His assisting grace, the law is “the letter which killeth;” - Augustine.)
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To: annalex

Good job of finding the French note on CSI. Someone needs to inform Mr. Keating of this before he sticks his foot in his mouth.

97 posted on 07/07/2005 4:22:22 PM PDT by Bellarmine
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To: Tantumergo

He's going after Gerry.

98 posted on 07/07/2005 4:41:58 PM PDT by Canticle_of_Deborah
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To: GipperGal
A proper understanding of society, the one held for the majority of Western history as a matter of fact, was to understand society as a family.

Let me ask you, if we exist in a "social contract" when did you sign this contract? Or agree to it in any way? Were we not born into this society as one is born into a family?

This made more sense to people I suppose when family meant something, in the old countries of Europe where one's family roots could go back centuries and those things mattered to people.

Here in our modern, rootless nation an atomized concept that the individual makes a contract with society seems natural, in fact so natural most people cannot concieve of any other model.

Robert Filmer in Patriarcha (1680) wrote:

10. In all kingdoms or commonwealths in the world, whether the prince be the supreme father of the people or but the true heir of such a father, or whether he come to the crown by usurpation, or by election of the nobles or of the people, or by any other way whatsoever, or whether some few or a multitude govern the commonwealth, yet still the authority that is in any one, or in many, or in all these, is the only right and natural authority of a supreme father. There is and always shall be continued to the end of the world a natural right of a supreme father over every multitude, although, by the secret will of God, many at first do most unjustly obtain the exercise of it.

To confirm this natural right of regal power, we find in the Decalogue that the law which enjoins obedience to kings is delivered in the terms of "Honour thy father," as if all power were originally in the father. If obedience to parents be immediately due by a natural law, and subjection to princes but by the mediation of a human ordinance, what reason is there that the laws of nature should give place to the laws of men, as we see the power of the father over his child gives place and is subordinate to the power of the magistrate? If we compare the natural rights of a father with those of a king, we find them all one, without any difference at all but only in the latitude or extent of them: as the father over one family, so the king, as father over many families, extends his care to preserve, feed, clothe, instruct, and defend the whole commonwealth. His war, his peace, his courts of justice, and all his acts of sovereignty, tend only to preserve and distribute to every subordinate and inferior father, and to their children, their rights and privileges, so that all the duties of a king are summed up in an universal fatherly care of his people.

BTW it was in response to this work that Locke penned his Two Treatise on Government in 1690.

Locke's work ressurected the democratist idealogy that had been successfully buried for centuries by the West's 2 chief experiences with democratic governance - the execution of Socrates and the Cruxification of Jesus Christ. Of course Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau are the most signficant influences on the thought of the men that wrote the US Constitution. No wonder we are so screwed up.

Aristotle agrees with this model of the society as a family in Politics, Book 1 when he analyzes it as one. Of course Aristotle did err when he stated the state was prior to the family, while his reasoning is sound, divine revelation teaches otherwise. The family is prior to the state since the family is the basic organization of man.

99 posted on 07/07/2005 7:13:44 PM PDT by kjvail (Judica me Deus, et discerne causam meam de gente non sancta)
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To: dsc
"It's nice, but it's not Scripture."

Neither is the Constitution. What's your point?

You seemed to equate the Constitution with Revelation. Perhaps I read your post wrong:

One human right God gives us, per the Declaration of Independence, is the right to establish government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to us shall seem most likely to effect our Safety and Happiness.

100 posted on 07/07/2005 8:07:53 PM PDT by TradicalRC (In vino veritas.)
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