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  • The Catholic Legacy of William E. Miller — For His Family and For Ours

    by Austin Ruse

    Miller & Goldwater

    The Gregorian Institute of Benedictine College has been polling Catholics to get nominations for the greatest Catholic bishops, greatest Catholic intellectuals, greatest Catholic third-basemen and so on.

    Actually they did not do third-basemen. They did greatest Catholic athletes though. Did you know Babe Ruth was a Catholic? Did you know his name is carved into the wall of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception?

    The great St. Louis Cardinal Stan Musial made that list. Father George Rutler was once cajoled into attending a dinner honoring Stan Musial whom Rutler had proudly never heard of. At the dinner a man rushed up to shake Rutler’s hand and said, “Father, I watch you every week on EWTN.” Rutler’s host said, “Father, meet Stan Musial.”

    The newest list from the Gregorian Institute is greatest Catholic politicians. These days a list for great Catholic politicians is fraught with difficulty. The Commonweal crowd would have a distinctly different list than what the Gregorian Institute came up with. It used to be that Catholic politicians may have been inveterate sinners but still did not challenge the teachings of the Church. You could imagine them confessing their sins. But how does one confess dissent?

    So, there’s no Ted Kennedy on this list, or Nancy Pelosi or Joe Biden or John Kerry. Some Democrats are on the list including Sargent Shriver and Bob Casey. Some on the list are well know: Henry Hyde, Clare Booth Luce, and Al Smith. But there is one man on the list that I suspect most people have totally forgotten though he is of the modern era. And who ever thought he was a Catholic? Only political junkies will remember William E. Miller.

     Toward the end of his life Miller was best known for starring in one of those American Express “do you know me” ads. But, he was the first Catholic on a GOP national ticket when he ran with Barry Goldwater in the disastrous campaign that elected Lyndon Johnson but ended up launching the modern conservative ascendancy. The Gregorian, the Institute’s publication, points out that Miller was “one of the best political minds and most effective orators of his day.” He was also a World War II hero now buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

    What is deservedly less known about Miller is that he has a famous daughter. Stephanie Miller was a stand-up comedian of marginal success who now hosts a nationally syndicated radio program. She is a hard-core leftist who has come out of the closet as a lesbian. Her show is funny and mean and smutty. I know; I listen to it. She is, however, very respectful toward her father. She obviously would not agree with his politics, though she is one of those who claim that Goldwater and her father would have rejected today’s conservatism.

    When the Gregorian list came out, I went to her show’s website and sent it to her. I thought it would be a nice gesture and that she might mention it on her show. A few weeks later I received the most remarkable email.

    Stephanie’s older brother William Jr. wrote to tell me that Stephanie had sent it to him and to their still living mother and how profoundly moved they were that William Sr. had been so honored. Thus began a very interesting exchange of emails.

    He wrote to me, “My Mother, who is alive and well at 89-years-old under my primary care here in Charlotte, NC, was especially touched by your gesture. It brought back to her some fond memories, and put a lump of pride in her throat. We could not be more proud of this fine distinction that Benedictine has bestowed in my father’s memory.”

    Miller wrote this to Tom Hoopes, the editor of The Gregorian:

    My mom and I loved Dad more than words can ever convey, as did our whole family, and it touched our hearts very deeply to know that people still, this many years later, remember the kind of man he was. As his son, I have had no greater influence on my life. Growing up, I thought ‘all dad’s must be like my Dad.’ As I have grown, I know now that he was a special rare human being who powerfully and personally affected many lives…

    Dad’s Catholic faith was a powerful force in his life until the end and, a son could not have asked for a better example of ‘humanity’ to follow, and my Mother could never have had a better, more loving, ‘help-mate’ throughout life…

    These beautiful lines are moving. They show the love of son for father and wife for husband. They demonstrate a man’s honorable and faithful life can reverberate down through the years. What is remarkable, though, is what Stephanie Miller did. She actually sent this to her family whose relationship with her is strained, at least religiously and politically, perhaps in every way. She recognized this would be important to them. Perhaps it was important to her.

    I cannot reveal Miller’s comments about his sister except there is pain there. Still, all along the way you can see the Holy Spirit’s guiding hand. Most of all you can see Him guiding Stephanie. No matter how at odds she may be with her family, she did this profoundly kind thing for them.

    Do I believe the Holy Spirit will guide Stephanie to renounce lesbianism and leftism and become a faithful Catholic? I suspect He is trying. Every time we cooperate with the Holy Spirit, as she did, even without knowing it, we are strengthened and fortified and prepared for what He may ask us to do next. Who knows where Stephanie Miller is headed. But stranger more miniscule instances have utterly changed lives. In the meantime, her brother and her mother are comforted and some of us know that William E. Miller was a great Catholic. To say the least, the General Judgment will be a giddy time.

    The views expressed by the authors and editorial staff are not necessarily the views of
    Sophia Institute, Holy Spirit College, or the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts.

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    • Alejo

      I went to the website and they don’t have President Kennedy on the list! Is this only a “Catholic politicians conservatives like” contest or something?

      • Augustus

        If you had read the article by Mr. Ruse, you would have noticed that there were at least two Catholic Democrats honored: Sargent Shriver and Bob Casey. The criteria was a “Good Catholic,” not “Catholic in name only.” There is now a mountain of evidence on Kennedy that confirms that he was not particularly Catholic. If you had been paying attention all these years, you would know what the survey participants already know.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tony-Esolen/1184164082 Tony Esolen

      John F. Kennedy, alas, was a moral monster.
      There are a whole lot of great Catholic baseball players: Stan Musial, Honus Wagner, Charlie Gehringer, Al Simmons, Red Schoendienst, Yogi and all the Italians, most of the Latins … Some, like Musial and Gehringer, were quite devout. If you made an all-star team with only devout Christians, and another team of people who’d never darken a church door, the churchgoers would clean their clocks.

      • John200

        Sorry, I think I flagged you as inappropriate. Didn’t mean it, it was a slip of the finger. Your comment is on target.

    • MJ Anderson

      I love bits of history like this, Austin. Nicely done, with a tenderness toward the family.

    • http://twitter.com/maryannkreitzer mary ann kreitzer

      I was drawn to this article by accident, confusing William Miller with the author Walter Miller who wrote Canticle for Leibowitz. I’m glad for the error because I’m one of those who never heard of William Miller and I’m glad to have my ignorance corrected. Thanks for the lovely story. I’m adding Stephanie to my rosary journal. With a dad like that praying for her, she is in the fishnet waiting to be pulled in.

    • lee mckenna

      I remember Mr. Miller. We were living in Buffalo at the time and he was (at that time, I believe) from that area. My husband and I were impressed with the choice of Sen. Goldwater and we became even stronger partisans with his choosing of Mr. Miller. I always wondered what happened to him after the election and where he went to. Could you do a follow up on him?
      Glad to see someone else happens to like a Canticle for Leibowitz…one of my most favorite SF books.

    • Wilson

      When someone asks me, occasionally, if I am a “Democrat” or a “Republican”, I answer that neither, that I once voted for Republicans in a national election and never for Democrats. I tell them that my first vote, at Nashville in 1964, was for the Republican VICE Presidential candidate — Rep. William E. Miller, from New York State, not primarily forSen. Goldwater. Rep.Miller was a distinguished public man and a real Catholic, in both categories the opposite of the sham “Catholic” and rake who contaminated the White House from 1961 to 1963. I was proud of that vote then; I am proud of it today.