Richard John Neuhaus: 1936-2009

Word has come, via First Things, that Father Richard John Neuhaus has died. I learned of his serious illness last night and since then have felt like a cat who falls and doesn’t land on all fours, disoriented, and very sad.


I remember the first time Father Neuhaus attacked me in print: I felt on top of the world. For a left-of-center person like me, being attacked by Father Neuhaus was a badge of honor. To gain the notice of someone with whom you disagree is much more flattering than to gain the praise of a mentor or an acolyte.

Neuhaus’s career, beginning as a leftie Lutheran and ending as a conservative Catholic (he passed Gary Wills going in the opposite direction some time in the early 1970s), made him a hero among his newly found ideological soulmates on the right: We Catholics love a convert. But, even those of us who stayed on the left developed an admiration for Neuhaus’s facility with the language, the self-evident sincerity of his convictions, and the sheer prolificness of his pen. He seemed to be always writing and whether you agreed with him or not, his writings were always worth the read, always provocative and always written with flair.

I never made Father Neuhaus’s acquaintance personally but a mutual friend once told me that if we were to break bread together we would soon be downing scotch and laughing with greater intensity than we had ever argued. I suspect that is right and look forward to a tumbler of single malt with him in the hereafter. In the meantime, and I am sure that for his closest friends and associates this is a very mean time, let us all say a prayer for Father Neuhaus’s friends and family and for those who cared for him in his final hours and for the repose of his soul. May perpetual light shine upon him.

Michael Sean Winters

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9 years 1 month ago
I'd like to think that Tim Russert needed him in Heaven for a panel discussion on Obama. May he rest in peace.
9 years 1 month ago
Even those of us who didn't agree with his approach to Catholicism can appreciate his (albeit pre-"poping" move) wisdom in this respect: The problem of clericalism is composed of several problems. It is the problem of a caste that arrogates to itself undue authority, that makes unwarranted claims to wisdom, even to having a monopoly on understanding the mind of God. The consequence is the great weakening of the Church by denigrating or excluding the many gifts of the Spirit present in the people who are the Church. The problem of clericalism arises when "the church" acts in indifference, or even contempt, toward the people who are the Church. Richard J. Neuhaus, June 1989.
9 years 1 month ago
Fr. Neuhaus was instrumental in bringing me back to the Church and to the pro-life movement. His intellect was truly impressive, and it was a blessing to have it at the service of the Church. He also was a true pro-life hero. I don't believe Fr. Neuhaus changed all that much between the time of the civil rights movement and his conversion to Catholicism. What changed was the political scene around him. His profound spiritual and pro-life convictions would not bend to the change that resulted from the seizure of power within the Democratic party by feminists and those who adhere to feminist ideology (which is at root atheistic).
9 years 1 month ago
That was a very kind blog piece by Michael Sean Winters on R J Neuhaus. Like previous commentator Nancy Danielson, I would question winters on where he stands as a "Left of centre" person. The fact that George W Bush called Neuhaus his favourite Catholic theologian tells you a lot about him. Neuhaus and most of the neocon Catholics wee enablers of wealth and power.That fact that Neuhaus was a smart man and a good writer pales in comparison to his sycophancy and his tug of the forelock to power. Many remember that Novak, Weigel and Neuhaus tried to convince JP ll of the morality of the Iraq catastrophe. Kindness is very important Michael Sean but the truth of Neuhaus's reactionary stands would have been appreciated.
9 years 1 month ago
With all due respect, Michael, regarding defining yourself as a, "left of center person", what exactly is your reference point?
9 years 1 month ago
May Father Neuhaus, Rest in Peace. Amen
9 years 1 month ago
Michael, Thank you for your kind rememberance of Fr. Neuhaus. As a ''Generation X'' Catholic...I have grown up reading both America and First Things and it is so wonderful to be able to get different perspectives from very different angles. You are right about Fr. Neuhaus...I think he has a drink waiting for you in the hereafter. He was a good man and a great priest. May he rest in peace.
9 years 1 month ago
''I remember the first time Father Neuhaus attacked me in print.'' One couldn't help but notice that for Fr. Neuhaus there were Jesuits and there were ''Jesuits.'' Avery Dulles certainly epitomized the first group. Supply your own names for the second group, but feel free to cast a wide loop here. ''He seemed to be always writing and whether you agreed with him or not, his writings were always worth the read, always provocative and always written with flair.'' And, I might add, with civility. I thought he would have made a good Jesuit.
9 years 1 month ago
'Nil de mortuis nisi bonum,' Dean Acheson is famously supposed to have said at Joseph McCarthy's death. I have no doubt that Neuhaus did real and much good but he also spearheaded the Institute on Religion and Democracy which did serious harm (and engaged in near slander) to the National Council of Churches and the Methodist church. Neuhaus attacked me many times (after I once reviewed one of his books with less than enthusiasm). I hope and pray God's judgment of Neuhaus is kinder and merciful than Neuhaus often was to his 'adversaries.' God have mercy and forgive him whatsoever roads he may have wandered, as the Irish say.
9 years 1 month ago
I hope and pray that God's judgement is kinder and more merciful than mine is of my adversaries. May God grant him eternal rest with the saints in the kingdom of the just.


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