I’ve been remiss in not mentioning the passing of Rev. Richard John Neuhaus yesterday, January 8, 2009, from cancer at the age of 72. Though probably not a well-known name publically, Neuhaus was one of the more important conservative and Catholic intellectuals of the past 30 years. His musings on the “naked public square” argued for the inclusion of religious voices in public debates on their own terms. His journal First Things was founded along those lines–“to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society”–and brings an ecumenical, conservative Christian voice to bear on issues of the day. He was instrumental in recent attempts to bring evangelicals and Catholics together (another book title of his) on common causes in the political arena. He was also a strong defender of Catholic orthodoxy, saying, “Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.”
But Neuhaus wasn’t always a Catholic or even a conservative. He started his career as a liberal Lutheran minister marching along with the civil rights struggles in the 1960s. He converted to Catholicism in 1990, and gave the pro-life cause the same devotion he gave to African American civil rights.
First Things has posted an essay on death by Neuhaus from 2000.