January 08, 2009

Richard John Neuhaus (1936-2009)

Father Richard John Neuhaus, social commentator and editor of the journal First Things, has died of complications due to cancer. He was 72.

Neuhaus, I learned, was actually born just up the road in Pembroke, Ontario. He became a Lutheran pastor, albeit a liberal one, but "converted" to social conservatism thanks to Roe v. Wade in 1973. Subsequently he converted to Roman Catholicism and was ordained a priest. Neuhaus founded First Things about 1990 to advocate for religion playing a more prominent role in the public square. I have read First Things semi-regularly for years and almost always found its articles insightful.

On the other hand, First Things was also the original vehicle for the publication of Evangelicals and Catholics Together, which Neuhaus spearheaded along with Charles Colson. This document was intended to highlight areas of agreement and disagreement between evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics, in light of growing cooperation between them in issues such as the pro-life cause. It has become widely seen as an expression of squishy ecumenicalism - a perception hardly diminished by the number of clarifying statements its Protestant signatories subsequently found necessary to release.

Nonetheless. differences with Fr. Neuhaus' theology aside, his contribution to public life has been notable and valuable, and his presence will be missed.

[H/T: First Things and Between Two Worlds.]