Monday, February 11, 2008

Amusement in providence

Malcolm Muggeridge: There was an incident which, trivial in itself, played quite a part in my decision not to become a Catholic. . . . It was when I was rector at Edinburgh University, and I ran into a row there which you might have heard of when I was asked, as rector, by the students --

William F. Buckley, Jr.: To supply contraceptives.

MM: That's right -- to recommend that the students should be given, unquestioningly, free supplies of contraceptives by the university medical unit. I refused to do this and there was a hullabaloo. And I thought to myself, "Well, there are a thousand Catholics in the university, and they'll be on my side anyway. I've got a thousand men on my side." What happened was that the first big blast against me was a letter in The Scotsman by the Roman Catholic chaplain at the university, saying what a monstrous thing this was that I had done.

WFB: Excuse me, but why was it monstrous?

MM: It was monstrous, according to him, because it accused the students of wanting to be promiscuous. But in a letter I wrote in answer to it, I said I wondered what the Reverend Father thought they wanted the contraceptives for. Was it to save up for their wedding day? He offered no answer to that. But then I thought that somebody would give him a very big reprimand. No such thing happened. Then I thought he'd almost certainly become a bishop. But that didn't happen either. What has happened is the perfect payoff of the whole episode: He's now rector of Edinburgh University.

William F. Buckley, Jr., On The Firing Line, pages 458-460.