Friday, January 09, 2009

R.I.P., Richard John Neuhaus

I can hardly claim any credibility if I fail to note the death of one of the foremost, eloquent, biting, brilliant, and irritating persons to address the faith/world interface: Richard John Neuhaus. A quite decent obituary appeared in the Times here.

I have been reluctant to post the notice because of my feelings about Fr. Richard. I have followed him, read him, admired him, and torn hair out because of him for decades -- back to his days as a Lutheran and the sharp-tongued editor of the (Lutheran) Forum Newsletter (I think it was still called that in the old days). And I have been puzzled by his progression from parish pastor (well, never quite just that, I guess) to sycophant to the neo-conservative political-theological synthesis. I wish someone had ever called him publicly to account for many of his positions, but he was simply too powerful. But now it is too late, and I was enjoined by my mother decades ago from speaking ill (or even critically) of the dead.

I must give him credit as a faithful servant of God as his own lights guided him. Certainly, he was brilliant, sometimes eloquent (and usually readable), passionate, and influential -- a powerful example of simul justus et peccator. I understand he could be charming and witty: In the couple of occasions I met him, he was not so, but then the witness of others is likely more reliable in that regard. He was one of a kind, I think, and one wonders about the direction of First Things without its guiding principal.

Eternal rest, grant him, O Lord;
and let perpetual light shine upon him.

And if there be such a thing as purgatory (and I'm not sure about his position on this matter), may it work! (That's a joke for those of you who would model your wit and humor on RJN's.)

And may his memory be eternal.


-C said...

This is at least a little more appropriate than the response of someone we both know, whose only comment at this news was a sarcastic, "Boo. Hoo."

May the Lord have mercy on Fr. Richard (but perhaps even more mercy upon this sarcastic commenter).

Dwight P. said...

I'm personally a fan of sarcasm -- but it must be in its place. No one's death is a proper subject for sneering.

-C said...

No kidding.

It was the comment of one who has obviously not considered nearly well enough his own death - and that, in itself, is dangerous business.

RAR said...

Speaking of considering one's own death (a useful spiritual practice, IMHO): In the wake of his death, I discovered an interesting essay Neuhaus wrote in 2000 on the topic of death: