Neuhaus, Richard John 1936–
Neuhaus, Richard John 1936–
(Richard Neuhaus, Richard J. Neuhaus)
Born May 14, 1936, in Pembroke, Ontario, Canada; son of Clemens H. (a clergyman) and Ella Neuhaus. Education: Lutheran Concordia College (now Concordia Lutheran College), B.A., 1957, M.Div., 1960; graduate study at Concordia Seminary, Wayne State University, and Washington University.
Office—Institute on Religion in Public Life, 156 5th Ave., Ste. 400, New York, NY 10010-7002.
Catholic priest and writer. Ordained Lutheran pastor, 1960; ordained Roman Catholic priest, 1991. Church of St. John the Evangelist, Brooklyn, NY, pastor, 1961-78; Rockford Institute Center on Religion and Society, New York, NY, director, 1984-89; Institute on Religion and Public Life, New York, NY, director, 1989—. Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam, founder, 1966, affiliate, 1966-75.
Catholic Press Association Award, 1968; honorary degrees from Benedictine College, 1985, Gonzaga University, 1985, Valparaiso University, 1986, Nichols College, 1986, and Boston University, 1988.
(With Peter L. Berger) Movement and Revolution, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1970.
In Defense of People: Ecology and the Seduction of Radicalism, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1971.
Time toward Home: The American Experiment as Revelation, Seabury (New York, NY), 1975.
(With Peter L. Berger) Against the World for the World: The Hartford Appeal and the Future of American Religion, Seabury (New York, NY), 1976.
Christian Faith and Public Policy: Thinking and Acting in the Courage of Uncertainty, Augsburg (Minneapolis, MN), 1977.
(With Peter L. Berger) To Empower People: The Role of Mediating Structures in Public Policy, American Enterprise Institute (Washington, DC), 1977.
(With others) Christianity and Politics: Catholic and Protestant Perspectives, Ethics and Public Policy Center (Washington, DC), 1981.
The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1984.
Pluralism and Paralysis in American Society, National Conference of Christians and Jews (New York, NY), 1984.
Dispensations: The Future of South Africa as South Africans See It, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1986.
The Catholic Moment: The Paradox of the Church in the Postmodern World, Harper (San Francisco, CA), 1987.
(With Leon Klenicki) Believing Today: Jew and Christian in Conversation, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1989.
(With George Weigel) Being Christian Today: An American Conversation, Ethics and Public Policy Center (Washington, DC), 1992.
Doing Well and Doing Good: The Challenge to the Christian Capitalist, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1992.
America against Itself: Moral Vision and the Public Order, University of Notre Dame Press (Notre Dame, IN), 1992.
(With others) Welfare Reformed: A Compassionate Approach, P&R Publishers (Phillipsburg, NJ), 1994.
(With Peter L. Berger) To Empower People: From State to Civil Society, American Enterprise Institute (Washington, DC), 1996.
The End of Democracy? The Celebrated First Things Debate, with Arguments Pro and Con; and, The Anatomy of a Controversy, Spence Publishing (Dallas, TX), 1997.
The Best of "The Public Square": Selections from Richard John Neuhaus's Celebrated Column in "First Things," Institute on Religion and Public Life (New York, NY), 1997.
Appointment in Rome: The Church in America Awakening, Crossroad (New York, NY), 1999.
Death on a Friday Afternoon: Meditations on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross, Basic Books (New York, NY), 2000.
The Best of "The Public Square," Book Two, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 2001.
As I Lay Dying: Meditations upon Returning, Basic Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Catholic Matters: Confusion, Controversy, and the Splendor of Truth, Basic Books (New York, NY), 2006.
The Best of "The Public Square," Book Three, introduction by Joseph Bottum, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 2007.
Theology and the Kingdom of God, Westminster (Philadelphia, PA), 1969.
(And author of introduction) Confession, Conflict, and Community, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1986.
(And author of introduction) Virtue, Public and Private, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1986.
(And author of introduction) Unsecular America, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1986.
(And author of introduction) Democracy and the Renewal of Public Education: Essays, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1987.
(And author of introduction) The Bible, Politics, and Democracy: Essays, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1987.
(And coauthor of introduction) Jews in Unsecular America: Essays, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1987.
(With Richard Cromartie) Piety and Politics: Evangelicals and Fundamentalists Confront the World, Ethics and Public Policy Center (Washington, DC), 1987.
(And author of introduction) The Believable Futures of American Protestantism, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1988.
(And author of introduction) The Preferential Option for the Poor: Essays, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1988.
(And author of introduction) American Apostasy: The Triumph of the "Other" Gospels, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1989.
(And author of introduction) Reinhold Niebuhr Today: Essays, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1989.
(And author of introduction) Law and the Ordering of Our Life Together: Essays, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1989.
(And author of introduction) Biblical Interpretation in Crisis: The Ratzinger Conference on Bible and Church, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1989.
(And author of introduction) Guaranteeing the Good Life: Medicine and the Return of Eugenics, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1990.
(And author of introduction) The Structure of Freedom: Correlations, Causes, and Cautions, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1991.
(And author of introduction) Theological Education and Moral Formation, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1992.
(And author of introduction) Augustine Today, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1993.
(With Charles Colson) Evangelicals and Catholics Together: Toward a Common Mission, Word Publishing (Dallas, TX), 1995.
The Eternal Pity: Reflections on Dying, University of Notre Dame Press (Notre Dame, IN), 2000.
The Second 1,000 Years: Ten People Who Defined a Millennium, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 2001.
The Chosen People in an Almost Chosen Land: Jews and Judaism in America, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 2002.
(With Charles Colson) Your Word Is Truth: A Project of Evangelicals and Catholics Together, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 2002.
Editor, Una Sancta, 1963-68; senior editor, Worldview, 1972-82; editor-in-chief, First Things, 1989—; religion editor, National Review. Regular contributor to Commonweal, National Catholic Reporter, Harper's, New York Review of Books, and Christian Century.
Richard John Neuhaus became a public figure in the 1960s when, as a Lutheran pastor of an inner-city church, he spoke out for civil rights and against the Vietnam War. His subsequent spiritual journey has included ordination as a Catholic priest and the authorship and editorship of numerous books on the role of Christianity in public life. As the director of the Manhattan-based Institute on Religion and Public Life, he has served as an advisor to presidents from Jimmy Carter to George Bush, Sr., and he is a respected voice in the conservative Christian movement, where he has sought to bridge gaps between Roman Catholics and fundamentalist Protestants. "Pastor Richard John Neuhaus is a very cool cat," observed William F. Buckley, Jr., in the National Review. "He is a brilliant and learned writer and theologian, but he isn't going to let those awful weights keep him out of the public discussion." Christian Century correspondent Dennis P. McCann called Neuhaus "a significant voice among Christians engaged in public-policy debate."
The son of a Lutheran pastor, Neuhaus was born and raised in Ontario, Canada. He moved south to the United States when he was fourteen and eventually obtained ownership of a gas station and a grocery store in Cisco, Texas. He felt called to the ministry, however, and worked his way through high school and a Lutheran seminary in Austin, Texas. He also did graduate work at Concordia Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. Although of a scholarly bent, he served an internship at an urban church in Chicago, and this ignited his desire to serve the poor. In 1961 he became pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York. There his congregation of African-American and Puerto Rican parishioners welcomed his involvement not only in their spiritual growth but also in their political empowerment.
Neuhaus was prominent among the activist clerics who demonstrated for civil rights. He became associated with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., not only on civil rights issues but also on the cessation of the Vietnam War. By the time he was arrested for protesting at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, he was already well known as an author and orator on theology and public ethics. His early books, such as Theology and the Kingdom of God and Movement and Revolution, the latter of which he coauthored with Peter L. Berger, address the issues of racism and international affairs, taking strong exception to then-prevailing social trends.
The early 1970s brought a transformation in Neuhaus's mission. He began to question the amount of attention clergymen were paying to social issues as opposed to spiritual ones. Once perceived as a committed leftist, Neuhaus moved into a new phase of his career, a phase that would link him with the conservative Christian right and lead him to become one of the earliest advocates of faith-based charities. His writings of this period reflect a movement away from addressing trendy issues and more toward a fundamental understanding of the individual's relationship with God—a relationship that inevitably includes the desire to help the poor. In books such as Christian Faith and Public Policy: Thinking and Acting in the Courage of Uncertainty and To Empower People, he argues for a reduction in the government's formation of social policy in favor of grassroots Christian involvement in the amelioration of social ills.
In 1984 Neuhaus published one of his most influential books, The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America. This work offers a reasoned explanation of the aims of Christian conservatives such as the Moral Majority and calls for a dialogue between right-wing Christians and more mainstream Christian believers. It also illustrates the fact that religion continues to inform politics and makes plain the fact that debate on moral, social, and religious issues must continue in a productive fashion—in the so-called "public square" of the title. Buckley noted that The Naked Public Square "has had a considerable impact." To quote Harvey Cox in the New York Times Book Review, "The urgency of this book's message is that it underlines the fragility of the democratic experiment in this country and the awful threat posed by the ruthless banning from the public square of the very moral language most of its citizens need to make real political choices." National Review correspondent Joseph Sobran concluded: "The Naked Public Square is a model of taking-everything-into-account.… [Neuhaus] is fair to everyone even as he is decisive. And his decisions are, as far as I can see, right. If this book is read as widely as it deserves to be, secular humanists (or whatever they're calling themselves these days) will henceforth have a hard time imposing their values while pretending they're morally neutral."
Neuhaus had long considered Lutheranism not a denomination in its own right but rather a circle of believers advocating reform within the Roman Catholic Church. In 1991 he became an ordained Roman Catholic priest while continuing his tenure at the Institute on Religion and Public Life, and in 2000 he was ordained a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of New York. In an interview posted on the AD2000 Web site, Neuhaus noted that "Cardinal Newman wrote that when he was received into the Catholic Church it was like coming into safe harbour after years on the stormy sea. My experience is the opposite. I was in safe harbour in the Lutheran Church and, in entering the Catholic Church, have embarked on a very stormy sea."
Neuhaus's writings through the 1990s reflect his many concerns as a theologian. Throughout the period he sought to kindle understanding and dialogue between the Catholic Church and Protestant denominations and continues to maintain that capitalism within a Christian framework is the best economic plan in terms of provision for the poor. Doing Well and Doing Good: The Challenge to the Christian Capitalist sets out Neuhaus's views on Centesimus Annus, a papal encyclical on economic development and a market economy. To quote Dennis McCann, "The ultimate burden of Doing Well and Doing Good, however, does not lie at the level of public debate over economic policy. One is tempted to summarize: ‘It's the ecclesiology, stupid!’ The book is a lucid and impressive argument not just on behalf of Catholic social teaching, but also in support of the relevance of religious faith generally to questions of political economy." McCann concluded that Doing Well and Doing Good "is to be welcomed, especially for continuing a theological conversation about the premises for social activism within the framework of Christian tradition." In his National Review piece on Doing Well and Doing Good, William E. Simon stated: "Many will disagree with the moral and economic teachings of Centesimus Annus. Those who still cling to outworn ideas of socialism and collectivism will object to the idea that, as Neuhaus puts it, ‘the answer to abuses of the free market is not always to be found in the economic system … but is finally moral and spiritual.’ The great contribution of John Paul's historic encyclical, and of Father Neuhaus's compelling interpretation, is in the understanding that the moral guidance of the kind provided by Centesimus Annus will always be needed and will never be made obsolete by secular reforms."
In the wake of life-threatening health problems encountered during the late 1990s, Neuhaus has published several works of meditation on suffering and death. Death on a Friday Afternoon: Meditations on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross examines the "seven last words" Christ uttered on the cross, a longtime subject of reflection in Catholic theology. In his National Review essay on the book, Michael Potemra wrote: "Very few religious works succeed in appealing across interconfessional boundaries without sacrificing a great deal in terms of both literary quality and intellectual heft. This book is a rare exception to the rule. It's well written and intellectually challenging for all readers, not just those who profess Neuhaus's faith, or indeed any faith at all. To understand this book, all a reader needs is an interest in the basics of the human condition." As I Lay Dying: Meditations upon Returning examines Neuhaus's own brush with death for insight into death and dying. A Publishers Weekly reviewer maintained that those readers interested in "pondering the complexities of mortality and the Christian promise of eternal life will emerge all the richer from his sojourn into mystery."
In Neuhaus' next work, 2006's Catholic Matters: Confusion, Controversy, and the Splendor of Truth, he discusses how he feels about changes that took place in the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), and the value of embracing many of the ancient customs that have vanished from practice since then. He argues that "American Catholic liberals and radicals have undermined the great tradition. They captured American seminaries, university theology departments and several archdiocesan chanceries, then challenged ancient customs in the name of the ‘spirit of the council,’" as New York Times Book Review critic Patrick Allitt put it. Some of these changes that Neuhaus challenges in his book include modern church music, the language of the Mass being switched to English vernacular, the neglect of the Sacrament of Confession, the matter of everyone at Mass receiving the Holy Communion, the fact that many contemporary sermons avoid dealing with basic moral truths, and the widespread disregard of church law on fasting and abstinence. Of Catholic Matters Allitt remarked, "Neuhaus defends his vision of Christianity with wit and sure-handed confidence. I doubt whether many Catholics of the type he criticizes will be convinced, but he makes an erudite case for the old teachings, while humanizing them in the context of his own biography." "Neuhaus devotees and others interested in the issues he raises will find here a thoughtful exposition of Catholicism's present moment," observed a Publishers Weekly contributor. Catholic Insight critic Ian Hunter also praised the book: "Neuhaus has placed the Catholic Church's true story within the world's true story in a way that left this reader deeply satisfied."
In addition to writing and editing numerous volumes, Neuhaus has served as editor of the monthly journal First Things, for which he writes a column titled "The Public Square." He is also religion editor for the National Review. Considering the author's body of work, McCann commented: "If Neuhaus challenges liberals to become just as alert and articulate about their differences with neoconservatives as they tend to be with the prophets of countercultural radicalism, he will have helped all Christian activists acquire a more insightful understanding of their responsibilities in public life."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Finn, James, Protest, Politics and Pacifism, Random House (New York, NY), 1968.
Gray, Francine, Divine Disobedience, Christian Classics (Westminster, MD), 1970.
America, April 3, 1993, James B. Nickloff, review of America against Itself: Moral Vision and the Public Order, p. 21.
Booklist, February 15, 2006, Ray Olson, review of Catholic Matters: Confusion, Controversy, and the Splendor of Truth, p. 22.
Catholic Insight, April, 2000, Leonard Kennedy, review of Appointment in Rome: The Church in America Awakening, p. 36; February, 2007, Leonard Kennedy, review of Catholic Matters, p. 44; February, 2007, Ian Hunter, review of Catholic Matters, p. 12.
Christian Century, October 6, 1993, Dennis P. McCann, review of Doing Well and Doing Good: The Challenge to the Christian Capitalist, p. 941; November 7, 2001, David A. Hoekema, review of The Second 1,000 Years: Ten People Who Defined a Millennium, p. 31.
Christianity Today, March 8, 1993, Doug Bandow, review of Doing Well and Doing Good, p. 43.
First Things, May, 2001, Alan Jacobs, review of The Eternal Pity: Reflections on Dying, p. 37.
Library Journal, March 1, 2002, Mary Prokop, review of As I Lay Dying: Meditations upon Returning, p. 107.
National Review, Joseph Sobran, review of The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America, p. 42; July 12, 1985, William F. Buckley, Jr., "On Fearing the Religious Right," p. 62; October 19, 1992, William E. Simon, review of Doing Well and Doing Good, p. 56; December 25, 1995, Janet Marsden, review of Evangelicals and Catholics Together: Toward a Common Mission, p. 58; March 20, 2000, Michael Potemra, "A World Renewed," p. 52.
New York Times Book Review, August 26, 1984, Harvey Cox, review of The Naked Public Square; April 16, 2006, Patrick Allitt, review of Catholic Matters.
Publishers Weekly, January 14, 2002, review of As I Lay Dying, p. 55; January 30, 2006, review of Catholic Matters, p. 66.
AD2000,http://www.ad2000.com.au/ (February 12, 2008), Mary Arnold, interview with Richard John Neuhaus.
Plough,http://www.plough.com/ (April 2, 2002), review of Death on a Friday Afternoon: Meditations on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross.