Mater si, magistra no is a phrase meaning that Catholics need not follow the teachings of the Church on social policy; its literal meaning is "Mother yes, teacher no". It was coined in 1961, in direct response to the papal encyclical Mater et Magistra, as a reference to the then-current anti-Castro slogan, "Cuba si, Castro no."[1]

The New Oxford Review has described the principle of "mater si, magistra no" as "'pick-and-choose Catholicism".[2]


The phrase is often attributed to William F. Buckley, Jr; however, although it was first published in Buckley's National Review,[3] the phrase was actually coined by Garry Wills during a telephone conversation with Buckley.[1]

National Review editor Priscilla Buckley subsequently regretted having published the phrase, stating in 2005 that it had "got (National Review) into lots and lots of trouble ... over lots and lots of years".[4]

Cultural references

When Commonweal published Eamon Duffy's negative review of Wills's 2000 book Papal Sin, the caption on the front cover read "Mater Si, Wills No".[5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Garry Wills (2003). Why I Am a Catholic. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 48. ISBN 0618380485. 
  2. Another Outbreak of Mater, Si; Magistra, No
  3. National Review (12 August 1961), page 77. "Going the rounds in conservative circles: 'Mater si, Magistra no.'"
  4. Living It Up In Important Ways, interview at National Review
  5. The Catholic Labor Network, July 31 2000 (retrieved October 27 2009)

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