Richard John Neuhaus RIP
On January 8th last Fr Neuhaus, Editor-in-chief of First Things, passed away from side effects of the cancer he had been suffering from. For a decade we have been very honoured to carry a syndicated column by him, "Notes from Across the Atlantic". This issue carries his recent words reflecting upon his possibly imminent death.
His prolific writing, manifestly based upon prolific reading, elucidated issues of faith and modern culture, especially in the many areas where the latter has been undermining the former. He was labelled 'right wing' and 'reactionary' by the bien pensant. Yet his expressed beliefs, as well as the fascinating story of his life, belied such tags. A more likely cause of such descriptions was his invariably profound and influential support of integral Catholicism.
He brought out anew the truth of tradition and also "the undoubted achievements of modernity", in order to serve a modernity at risk of becoming relativistic. His hard-hitting and humorous criticism of those who fostered such a post-modern culture was proportioned to that occasioned by the actual meaning of their quoted words. Whilst exposing the abuse of legitimate power he remained within the bounds of due respect. His influence upon the American ecclesial and political scene, not least through his work with Evangelicals, is widely acknowledged.
Fr Neuhaus has given us probably the most powerful contemporary proof that the pen is mightier than the sword. This will be sorely missed. But we would also be confident that, by the mercy of God, his pen was just a "slight intimation", to borrow from his words of parting later in this issue, of a work for our world which has only just begun.
May he rest in peace
In April 2007 Fr Neuhaus wrote:
"The bulk of the Regensburg address was directed to Christian intellectuals who, in the name of 'de-Hellenizing' Christianity, pit biblical faith against the great synthesis of faith and reason achieved over the centuries of the Christian intellectual tradition. At Regensburg and elsewhere, Benedict has challenged also non-Christian intellectuals to free themselves from the truncated and stifling definition of rationality imposed by the Enlightenment. It is not reasonable, he argues with great intellectual sophistication, to hold that atheism or agnosticism is the default position of rationality. Nor, he insists, can the undoubted achievements of modernity be sustained without reference to transcendent truth."