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Richard John Neuhaus (May 21, 1936 – January 8, 2009) was a prominent Catholic priest and writer born in Canada, naturalized American. Close, though unofficial, a collaborator of President George W. Bush, whom he advised on a number of ethical and religious issues, including abortion, stem cell research and cloning. as one of the “25 Most Influential Evangelicals in the United States” by Time magazine.
He was born in Pembroke, Ontario, as one of eight children of a Lutheran minister. He was ordained as a minister around 1960, serving as a pastor in a low income congregation in Brooklyn, New York, and was in favor of liberal policies up to the Roe v. Wade case. Neuhaus originated the so-called “Neuhaus Law”, which states that “Where orthodoxy is optional, sooner or later it will be proscribed.”
In 1990 he founded the newspaper First Things, published by the Institute on Religion and Public Life and became a Catholic on September 8 of the same year, and a year later, he was ordained a priest by Cardinal John Joseph O’Connor.
In a letter to his friends and colleagues he explained the reasons that led him to convert to Catholicism. He was convinced that “the ecclesial existence separated from Lutheranism was no longer necessary, if ever it was”. For this reason, he set out to “seek ecclesial reconciliation and restore full communion with the Bishop of Rome and the Churches in communion with him.”
From that moment, ecumenism became one of his main endeavors. In 1994 she promoted, together with Charles Colson, the declaration “Evangelicals and Catholics Together.” She was joined by prominent personalities such as Mary Ann Glendon or the Rev. Pat Robertson. He also founded the Institute Center on Religion and Society of New York, a forum of encounter between Protestant and Catholic theologians.
Another fundamental concern of Neuhaus was the role of religion in public life. He addressed this issue for the first time in his book The Naked Public Square, published in 1984. This work nourished with suggestive ideas the conviction that religion should not be confined to private life.
Three years later, he again addressed the issue in The Catholic Moment. His main thesis is that the Protestant Churches, under the guidance of the “theologians of secularization,” are in the process of decomposition and without resources to spiritually regenerate American society. In this situation, says Neuhaus, only a valid proposal can come from Catholicism.
Why precisely of the Catholic Church? “Because the other Christian communities,” Neuhaus said in an interview, “have not lived up to the circumstances: either they have uncritically adapted the Christian faith to the dominant cultural parameters, losing their Christian peculiarity; or they have moved away from the contemporary world, taking refuge in a ghetto of fideism. “
This has created a vacuum of values in public life. Neuhaus detects in the United States “a deep hunger for public religious testimony that can raise the moral level of our society.” Catholicism would be the most consistent religious force to undertake this task, since its doctrine leads it not to renounce a moral judgment on public life, without resorting to theocratic solutions at the same time.
Neuhaus is considered, along with George Weigel and Michael Novak, one of the most iconic Catholic intellectuals in the United States. He advised President George W. Bush on controversial issues such as abortion, stem cell research or cloning. In 2005 Time magazine included him – despite his Catholic affiliation – on the list of the 25 most influential evangelicals in the United States.
In an article published by National Catholic Reporter (8-01-2009), journalist John L. Allen describes Neuhaus as the architect of two alliances with important repercussions on US politics: one between Orthodox and evangelical Catholics; the other, between the defenders of the market economy and the voters who attribute particular attention to issues of values.
In the same vein, Ross Douthat highlights in The Atlantic (8-01-2009) the capacity of Neuhaus – the fruit of his interest in the human – to “build bridges between Jews and Christians, Protestants and Catholics, faith and the market economy and, above all, between Christianity and liberalism “.
Interestingly, he was a commentator for the EWTN television network during the funeral of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI.
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