Passing of Richard John Neuhaus
Former conservative Lutheran minister turned conservative Catholic priest, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, has died. Neuhaus’ book, The Naked Public Square, was the major ammunition of the Religious Right’s claim that church-state separation amounts to the marginalization (or even “persecution”) of Christians. Not surprisingly, Bruce Prescott, champion of religious liberty and church-state separation, has a different reaction to this news than the conservative Catholic journal First Things.
I am somewhere in the middle. While I share Bruce’s opinions about both the Theocons (theocratic conservatives) and Christian Nationalists (Neuhaus was more in this group) and the way they used Neuhaus’ book to claim that all attempts to defend religious pluralism and to prevent creeping religious establishmentarianism (de jure or de facto) were, instead, attempts to silence religious voices in public affairs, I did appreciate the tone and nuance of Neuhaus. You could debate him and dialogue with him. He was of a different character than the shrill voices of intolerance who used his book to advance their extremism–and he actually became more reasonable after his conversion to Catholicism. Nonetheless, I hope that Fr. Neuhaus’ passing is also the passing of an era–and one I won’t miss.
I hope that even in U.S. Catholicism we see a return to defense of religious liberty for all and church-state separation–Catholic voices like that of the late Fr. John Courtney Murray, S.J.
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