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Fr. Richard John Neuhaus – 1936-2009

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Noted Catholic scholar Fr. Richard John Neuhaus has died.  Perhaps best known as the founder and editor of the monthly journal of Catholic philosophy/theology/culture critique called First Things, he also made his mark with his book ‘The Naked Public Square’ (1984 but still one of the best books on the place of religion in the public square).  He was a prolific writer, a very clear mind, and with George Weigel and Michael Novak was probably the best known ‘Whig Thomist’ (who wish to synthesize the politics of modernity with Catholicism, as opposed to the ‘Communio School’ or ‘Augustinian Thomists’ like Alasdair MacInture who see the liberal tradition of rights talk as hopelessly modern and incompatible with Thomist and Catholic  views of person/community).

I am personally quite sad over it.  Neuhaus’ brilliant book ‘Death on a Friday Afternoon’ is something I read every Lent.  It is a penetrating and personal series of meditations on the last words of Christ, informed by thinkers from Augustine to Renee Girard.  I would recommend it highly to both Christians and non-Christians, anyone who wants a thoughtful reflection on why Christians think Good Friday is the center of everything.

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3 Comments

  1. […] Wehner here. Sean Curnyn here. Anthony Sacramone here. Kleiner of Philosophy@USU has a nice piece here; his brief memorial speaks of the personal importance Fr. Neuhaus’s important work Death on a […]

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  2. Mike says:

    During my last two years at the journal–the years of the Iraq war and its immediate aftermath–the second Neuhaus dominated, enthusiastically seeking to provide a theological defense of George W. Bush’s polices at home and abroad and sharply rebuking anyone who dared to dissent from those policies. If I’m not mistaken, the first, more thoughtful Neuhaus has reasserted himself in the past two years, as he worked to come to terms with the myriad failures and disappointments of the Bush administration. In these years the tone of his writing was somewhat less stridently political, more concerned with exploring the tensions between politics and theological truth than with covering them over. That his final book project was a nuanced study of St. Augustine’s political theology is perhaps a further indication that his views on the proper relation between religion and public life were undergoing a subtle revision in light of recent sobering events.

    The Two Richard John Neuhauses

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  3. Kleiner says:

    He did, like many of the Whig Thomists, get a little too neo-con for my tastes. I don’t think the misjudgments about Iraq, though, necessitate a fundamental rethinking of the place of religion in the public square.

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