domingo, 11 de enero de 2009

Rev. Richard John Neuhaus

Este blog está hoy de luto y de enhorabuena: de luto porque acabo de enterarme de que el jueves pasado (8 de enero) falleció Richard John Neuhaus, uno de los grandes del pensamiento y la divulgación del cristianismo en nuestros días, Editor de la revista First Things; pero, sobre todo, animador inigualable del diálogo argumentado de la fe con su tiempo.

Hoy, The Wall Street Journal dice de él:
Father Neuhaus, who died Thursday at age 72 como was a crusader for everything from school vouchers to limiting judicial activism. The Public Square, his monthly column in First Things, was laced with sarcasm, idealism and the sheer joy of intellectual engagement, and he helped pioneer the religious right through a distinctly Catholic strain of neoconservatism.
De enhorabuena porque tenemos todo su trabajo como punto desde el que continuar y, sobre todo, porque Neuhaus ha descubierto al fin por completo esa Verdad por la que tanto ha luchado y vivido todos estos años.

Aunque es en inglés, recomiendo leer el artículo de STEPHEN MILLER de hoy en WSJ

The Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, a Catholic priest, author and editor of the journal First Things, experienced at least three conversions in his life -- from Canadian to U.S. citizen, from Lutheran to Catholic and from liberal to conservative -- as if he were simply too intellectually questing to stay still.

Father Neuhaus, who died Thursday at age 72, was a crusader for everything from school vouchers to limiting judicial activism. The Public Square, his monthly column in First Things, was laced with sarcasm, idealism and the sheer joy of intellectual engagement, and he helped pioneer the religious right through a distinctly Catholic strain of neoconservatism.

Most salient was his 1984 book "The Naked Public Square," in which he argued that religious values have a crucial place in American politics. Although critical of the Moral Majority and other conservative Christian groups, the book also welcomed them to the national dialogue and became a touchstone among conservative intellectuals. Columnist George Will blurbed it at the time, "The book from which further debate about church-state relations should begin."

In Father Neuhaus's writings, the free market was wed to Christian values, and the Catholic broke bread with the evangelical Protestant. Each association represented an amelioration of historic tensions. His 1994 book "Evangelicals and Catholics Together," co-authored with born-again former Watergate figure Charles Colson, has been credited with helping to forge an ecumenical alliance that translated into votes for Republicans.

"What Richard John Neuhaus helped a lot of us understand is that whatever differences Catholics and evangelicals had, they paled into insignificance compared to the pervasive darkness that was enveloping the broader culture," said Ralph Reed, former director of the Christian Coalition.

"This infrastructure of ecumenical conversation he helped create will last," said Deal Hudson, director of, formerly Crisis magazine. He added, "His legacy will equal or surpass any bishop of the late 20th century."

Father Neuhaus wrote just a month after the September 2001 terrorist attacks that the West "is now being compelled to recognize itself more clearly for what most Muslims perceive it to be -- the Christian West, or Christendom." He was a close if informal adviser to President George W. Bush, who referred to him, as did many, simply as Father Richard.

Even though he was not himself evangelical, Time magazine named Father Neuhaus one of America's most influential evangelicals in 2005 and noted that the president cited him more than any other living authority when interviewed by religious publications. A senior administration official told Time that Father Neuhaus's views had been influential on abortion, stem-cell research, cloning and the defense-of-marriage amendment.

By the turn of the millennium, Father Neuhaus had traveled a long distance from the gritty young ghetto priest who made headlines in the 1960s, leading demonstrations against the Vietnam War and getting arrested as a McCarthy delegate at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago.

"Friends teased him that Martin Luther nailed a mere 95 theses in one manifesto on a church door in Wittenburg, whereas Father Richard seemed to draft whole manifestos every three or four years," said Michael Novak, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, in a remembrance published Friday in the National Catholic Reporter.

The sixth son of a strict Canadian Lutheran preacher who visited parishioners on horseback and bicycle, Father Neuhaus grew up in rural Pembroke, Ontario. Ordained a Lutheran pastor himself in 1960, he volunteered to take over a dwindling parish in Brooklyn, N.Y.'s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. "We sometimes called the parish St. John the Mundane in order to distinguish it from St. John the Divine, the Episcopal cathedral up on Morningside Heights," he wrote in 2000.

He revitalized the parish and turned to the pressing issues of the day, including civil rights and war. Along with activists Father Daniel Berrigan and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, he co-founded Clergy Concerned about Vietnam. In an early book he co-wrote in 1970 with sociologist Peter Berger, "Movement and Revolution," he proclaimed that "I affirm the right to armed revolution." A steady stream of provocative tomes followed, more than a score in all.

Yet there were things about the young reverend that didn't sit well with his allies on the left. He insisted that his draft-card-burning parishioners sing "America the Beautiful" during a 1967 protest, displayed the flag prominently and was vocal in condemning abortion. Although he supported presidential candidate George McGovern (and the evangelical Jimmy Carter), he began turning away from the left. In 1971, he published "In Defense of People: Ecology and the Seduction of Radicalism," which argued that environmental activists had put nature before humanity. He was particularly appalled by the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade that extended the right to abortion.

By 1980, Father Neuhaus had switched parties and backed Ronald Reagan for president. If the term political liberal was no longer a comfortable fit, he told Crisis magazine in 1988, "that's the culture, not me."

"For Barry Goldwater, small government is the individual versus the government," says Robert P. George, a Princeton professor of politics and council member of Father Neuhaus's Institute on Religion and Public Life. "For Neuhaus it's a different story. Small government is to protect the church and the family. His fear of big government is that it will violate the autonomy of institutions of civil society."

Father Neuhaus's conversion to Catholicism was perhaps prefigured by his publication of "The Catholic Moment" in 1987. Lutheranism, he had contended since his seminary days, had historically been a reform movement of Catholicism, and he was simply rejoining the mother ship.

He was an ardent supporter of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI and a subtle critic of the Second Vatican Council, which he contended had been "gravely distorted" so that "much of what is called Roman Catholic Christianity is in fact apostate." He formulated Neuhaus's Law: "Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed."

Yet such proclamations belied the ecumenical quality of the intellectuals he gathered, both in print at First Things and in person at monthly colloquies he sponsored at New York's Union League Club. "He believed everybody's voice should be heard in politics. He was probably the greatest humanist of our age," said Mr. George.

Mr. Novak has written that Father Neuhaus "bore with grace the charge of having become 'neo-conservative,' when the term was intended as an insult, and even turned that charge into a positive advantage, carving out a new blend of Christian orthodoxy and political realism."

Mr. Reed recalls attending multiple meetings in the mid-1990s at the Union League Club, where Catholics and evangelicals met under Father Neuhaus's aegis.

"That was an epochal moment in the history of protestant and Catholic relations," said Mr. Reed. "He had the ideas and the thinking, but he didn't have the troops. And those of us in the grassroots organizations did. So it was a very happy marriage to a sublime intellect. I loved the guy."
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