Archive for the 'Fr. Richard John Neuhaus' Category

Chuck Colson Remembers Father Neuhaus

In the latest issue of the National Catholic Register, Chuck Colson writes a tribute to his late friend and colleague, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. It is generally well known that Colson and Neuhaus co-founded Evangelicals and Catholic Together (ECT), an organization committed to an ecumenism that acknowledges the differences in our creeds while ever looking for new ways to express the unity we do share. In the article, Colson talks about how ECT came about and the opposition he initially faced from his fellow evangelicals. And, of course, he speaks fondly of the friendship that he shared with Fr. Neuhaus, along with what he believes will be Fr. Neuhaus’ legacy. You can read the article at the NCR website:

UPDATE: It looks like the Register has this article restricted to subscribers now. So if you want to read the article in its entirety, all you need to do is sign up for a subscription. Go ahead, you know you want to….


Parting Words from Fr Neuhaus

I did not know this, but it seems toward the end of his life Fr. Neuhaus and his close friends knew the end could be near. As Joseph Bottom said in the EWTN interview they had hoped for more time, but it was not to be.

Many of you First Things subscribers may have already read this, but I finally worked my way through Fr. Neuhaus’ “While We’re At It” section of the latest issue of FT (Feb 2009). The very last blurb is the following from Fr. Neuhaus asking for our prayers. I am sure he would still welcome those prayers, albeit in a different context.

As of this writing, I am contending with a cancer, presently of unknown origin. I am, I am given to believe, under the expert medical care of the Sloan-Kettering clinic here in New York. I am grateful beyond measure for your prayers storming the gates of heaven. Be assured that I neither fear to die nor refuse to live. If it is to die, all that has been is but a slight intimation of what is to be. If it is to live, there is much that I hope to do in the interim. After the last round with cancer fifteen years ago, I wrote a little book, As I Lay Dying (titled after William Faulkner and John Donner), in which I said much of what I had to say about the package deal that is mortality. I did not know that I had so much more to learn. And yes, the question has occured to me that, if I have but a little time to live, should I be spending it writing this column. I have heard it attributed to figures as various as Brother Lawrence and Martin Luther – when asked what they would do if they knew they were going to die tomorrow, they answered that they would plant a tree and say their prayers. (Luther is supposed to have added that he would quaff his favored beer.) Maybe I have, at leat metaphorically, planted few trees, and certainly I am saying my prayers. Who knew that at this point in life I would be understanding, as if for the first time, the words of Paul. “When I am weak, then I am strong”? This is not farewell. Please God, we will be pondering together the follies and splendors of the Church and the world for years to come. But maybe not. In any event, when there is an unidentified agent in your body aggressively attacking the good things your body is intended to do, it does concentrete the mind. The entirety of our prayer is “Your will be done” – not as a note of resignation but of desire beyond expression. To that end, I commend myself to your intercession, and that of all the saints and angels who accompany us each step through time toward home.

Europe’s Odd Secularism

The fondly remembered Fr. Richard John Neuhaus writing in the February 2009 issue of First Things:

If sociology was always a soft discipline compared to the hard sciences that it sought to emulate, the softest of the soft was the sociology of religion. There was a strong tendency to view religion as something vestigial, prescientific, and therefore pre-modern. Enter the well-known “secularization theory” that reigned almost unchallenged until the 1970s. In perhaps its most influential form, it was propounded by Max Weber (1864-1920) and, to put it too simply, claimed that there is a necessary connection between modernity and religion: As modernity advances, religion retreats. This near-inexorable process is called secularization.

As frequently discussed in these pages, secularization theory is now challenged on many fronts, and not least of all by Peter Berger, once one of its most influential proponents. The advocates of secularization theory had over many decades referred to “American exceptionalism.” This reflected the awareness that, if modernity necessarily entails secularization, it is something of a puzzle as to why the most modern of societies is also so vibrantly religious. Hundreds of books have been written in an attempt to explain American exceptionalism. In recent years, however, the table has been turned, and the question of increasingly intense interest is “European exceptionalism,” meaning especially western and northern European secularity. Viewed in global terms, the American mix of modernity and religion seems to be the normal pattern. The interesting question is not why America is so religious but why Europe is so secular.

Remembering Father Neuhaus

Raymond Arroyo, George Weigel, Michael Novak, and Joseph Bottom remember Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. Very Good.

A very grateful hat tip to Craig Burrell for the link. I had missed the original airing of The World Over and was hoping some kind soul would post it online.

Fr. Neuhaus, 1936-2009

Unless, you’ve stayed away from blogs (and the religious news outlets) today you already know that Fr. Richard John Neuhaus has died at the age of 72. As an avid reader of First Things, I can’t even put into words how much he has meant to me in developing an intellectual understanding of my faith. He was also one of my absolute favorite writers. His wit and cunning with a pen was rarely matched. Lucky for us, his legacy will live on in the pages of FT, as many of his writings are still available online. Do yourself a favor.

Editor of FT, Joseph Bottum has some very moving words noting the passing of Fr. Neuhaus, you can find here. Fr. Neuhaus is truly irreplaceable.

I also note that his passing comes on the heals of his dear friend, Avery Cardinal Dulles. What glorious reunion is being had between those two great friends and churchmen. Now that is a happy thought.

Resquiat in pace Father Richard John Neuhaus.

The Catholic Conscience

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus always has some interesting things to say in his “While We’re At It” section of First Things. The tidbit below is regarding the role the conscience plays in the Catholic mind, and comes with a book recommendation. These words are forever timely as there is perhaps no other word in the English language that is more misunderstood than the word “conscience”.

Fr. Neuhaus from the January 2009 issue of FT:

You may have run into the claim that the Catholic teaching on conscience is is really quite circular: You must act according to conscience; your conscience must be rightly formed in accord with truth; the Church teaches the truth. Thus the upshot is, critics say, you must do what the Church tells you to do, and so much for all the fine talk about conscience. There is indeed much confusion about conscience. Some think of conscience as a little built-in moral regulator that scolds you when you do wrong and commends you when you do right. Much like the cute cartoons in which a little angel is seated on one shoulder and a little devil on the other. Others confuse conscience with sincerity. To act in conscience is to determine your deepest feelings on a matter and to act accordingly. Rather, conscience is a God-given capacity and desire to seek the truth and, working together with the gifts of reason and will, to act on the truth. What then is the role of the Church’s teaching? The answer has to do not so much with conscience as with faith. If one believes that, as Jesus promised, the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit in her teaching, the Church is an indispensable source of truth, including moral truth. If one does not believe that, one is, to that extent, not a Catholic Christian. Conscience does not establish truth—whether by automatic moral monitor or by sincerity of feelings—but enables us to discern and respond to truth. It is not simply a matter of doing what the Church tells you to do. It is a matter of acting in conscience, in the hope that one’s conscience is formed by truth. These are among the questions very deftly and persuasively treated by Fr. Thomas Williams in his new book, Knowing Right from Wrong: A Christian Guide to Conscience. Reading it is time spent in good conscience

FIRST THINGS Moments of 2008

Moving on from the previous post into the current Year of Our Lord, 2008, here are few of the moments that stood out to me from the pages of FIRST THINGS this past year. Feel free to add any of your own fond memories.

Regarding FT in 2008, there are three things that stand out to me – Joseph Pearce, N. T. Wright, and the death of the Oldline Mainline Protestants here in America.

ft_2008-08First, my dear Joseph Pearce. Back in July I did a post on the shellacking Joseph Pearce took in the pages of the August/September issue of FT. What made this so surprising is FT is a journal that would otherwise be friendly to someone like Pearce. So what did Pearce do to get such sour treatment from a friendly source? It has to do with that all too entangled question of Shakespeare’s religion. I personally don’t think Shakespeare’s religion matters, but there are many (apparently) who do.

In his much publicized book, The Quest for Shakespeare, Pearce clearly wanting to discredit himself right from the start, begins by touting his “Bellocian bellicosity” and distancing himself from the “asses of academe.” Translation: Pearce thinks all those scholars in their ivory towers are arrogant nitwits. Unlike himself, of course.

Robert Miola, professor of English at Loyola College (Maryland), is the culprit behind the aforementioned shellacking. Actually, a careful reading of Miola’s writings in FT regarding the issue of Shakespeare’s religion (see the May 2008 issue of FT) shows that he is somewhat sympathetic to the view that the great Bard of Avon may have been a Catholic (Pearce’s thesis). But if there is one thing Miola can’t stand, it’s arrogant grandstanding by an unproven scholar, such as Pearce, who clearly has no idea what he is talking about. And the way I word it is much nicer than the way Miola does. No kidding. The book review by Miola is really quite stunning – I had my mouth open almost the entire time I was reading it. If you have not read the review, do yourself a favor and read it: Thy Canonized Bones.

And as is the way with peer review journals, Pearce was given the opportunity to defend himself, which he did on the FT blog, On The Square. The rebuttal by Pearce with a response by Miola was included in the latest issue of FT (December 2008). Unfortunately, I can’t link to it since it hasn’t been made public online. However, you can still read Pearce’s rebuttal here.

Second is the “out of nowhere” N. T. Wright / Fr. Neuhaus skirmish that began in April. From what I understand Fr. Neuhaus and N. T. Wright are fairly acquainted with each other and even consider the other to be a friend. So when Neuhaus took to taking cheap shots at Wright in his featured Public Square essay of April 2008, I was taken aback. Now, I say cheap shots, but I am quite sure Fr. Neuhaus doesn’t see it that way. However that may be, I thought the attacks were unfair and so did Wright, understandably.

I call this a skirmish because it didn’t last but for a single follow up exchange in subsequent issue of FT. Thankfully, the whole nasty – and very odd – exchange was quickly dropped, and I can only assume/hope Neuhaus and Wright have since made nice and will continue their good work for the Church, each in their own way.

You can read the original essay by Fr. Neuhaus here: The Possibilities and Perils in Being a Really Smart Bishop. As much as I say Fr. Neuhuas’ attacks were unfair, he does, not surprisingly, make some good points; but the whole seems to be tainted by the way in which he treats Wright. Wright’s rebuttal and Neuhaus’ response can be found in the June/July 2008 Correspondence section.

And last, but not least, is Joseph Bottum’s lengthy essay entitled The Death of Protestant America: A Political Theory of the Protestant Mainline – also from the August/September issue of FT. The article generated much discussion with the great majority of the correspondence agreeing with general outline Bottum presents of the death of the Mainline Protestant Churches in America.

You can read this interesting essay by Bottum, here: The Death of Protestant America: A Political Theory of the Protestant Mainline. The follow up correspondence letters are in the December 2008 issue of FT. As I noted earlier, this issue is not publically available online yet. Give it a couple of months.

So that does it for FT in 2008. I eagerly await the memorable moments that are sure to be in store for 2009.

In the meantime, have a happy Advent!

Gloria in excelsis Deo!

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