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January 8, 2009

Father Richard John Neuhaus died recently at the age of 72. It would be hard to overestimate the influence of this godly man and gifted academic.

Fr. Neuhaus, a Lutheran pastor for 30 years, converted to Roman Catholicism in 1990, and was ordained a Catholic priest one year later by New York Cardinal John O’Connor. As a social conservative, he helped to shape the dialogue of the religious right in its opposition to abortion and to the devaluation of human life. In the 1990s, he worked closely with Chuck Colson to start the movement called “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” that formed the basis for common cause on pro-life advocacy and theological engagement between Catholics and Protestants.

Fr. Neuhaus wrote several books, including his best-known work: The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America. He also was the founding editor of the journal First Things, the only magazine I read cover-to-cover each month (I highly recommend it: go to www.firstthings.com).

Fr. Neuhaus was a powerful and clear writer, after whom I have often wished to pattern my own efforts. He somehow managed to be both passionate and eloquent at the same time, and had a razor-sharp wit. Some of his comments, though subtle, could make me laugh out loud. Always gracious, his irony and sarcasm never drifted into ad hominem attacks. Most of all, there was a spiritual ebullience that directed his readers toward the Savior. His deep faith lifted his prose to musicality.

Though I have never personally met Father Richard John Neuhaus, I will deeply miss him.

Associated Press

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