Richard John Neuhaus
May 14, 1936–January 8, 2009
I am deeply touched by the death of the Reverend Father Richard John Neuhaus. I have known him for more than ten years and learned to admire him for his zeal for the Catholic faith, his intellectual robustness, his courage, and his love of the Church.
Please accept my heartfelt condolences on his death, together with my promise of a continued remembrance of him at Holy Mass so that he will have eternal rest.
Francis Cardinal Arinze
Congregation for Divine Worship
and the Discipline of the Sacraments
As a reader of Fr. Neuhaus' prose, I can honestly say that his facility with the language, his phenomenal sense of humor, and the depth of his insight will be missed in this nutty world where he made, and will continue to make, a difference. He loved so much, and one of his great loves was Cardinal Newman. Now both he and the cardinal will celebrate their life of love in the arms of their only true love, Jesus the Christ, our Lord. I share your grief, but also rejoice in their triumph.
Fr. Richard John Neuhaus was my parish priest at Immaculate Conception Church in New York. We met every weekday morning at 7:45 to start the day with the Holy Sacrifice of Christ. His last (as it turned out to be) 7:45 Mass was not notable for any visible impediments. But when I engaged him afterward, instead of standing in front of me, flashing that famous smile and looking directly into my eyes, he was withdrawn and preoccupied. When asked what we could do to stop the impending abortion aggrandizement, he just shook his head and said, “Pray.”
New York, New York
Fr. Richard John Neuhaus will long be remembered as an outstanding figure in the intellectual and religious life of our country. For years he has been a guiding light—perhaps the guiding light—in presenting a coherent defense of Catholic principles and applying those principles to issues of public import. I will always remember him as a gracious man, whose warmth and humanity won the affection of countless individuals, Catholics and non-Catholics alike. But most important, he was also a man of faith, a person whose relationship with God shaped his life and death. May Fr. Neuhaus rest in a well-deserved peace.
Mgsr. Thomas G. Bohlin
United States Vicar of Opus Dei
New York, New York
Having heard of the seriousness of Fr. Richard's hospitalization only two days earlier, I was preparing to catch a train to visit Sloan-Kettering to pray with him, when the call came that he had died. In the weeks since, I have reread my personal correspondence with him, which goes back nearly thirty years.
Long before I met him, his writings in Una Sancta began to open my understanding to a much wider vision of Lutheranism than my Pennsylvania background had provided. The teachings of Arthur Carl Piepkorn became real to me through Richard and his 1960s colleagues. It expanded even more in the Lutheran Forum Letter. More than anyone else, he became my mentor, theologian, and liturgical instructor. I intentionally adopted his style of speaking and writing as my own. When he left the Lutheran for the Roman communion, he remained a fellow catholic. His friendship was faithful, his theology vibrant, his writings intoxicating.
During a particular vocationally trying time he provided me with incalculable help and friendship, and I was always graced to think of him as a friend.
As no doubt all reading this feel, he was a special grace of God, not only to me but to more people than we shall know in this world. For now we share with Joseph Bottum the loss that he described as having torn the fabric of life, but we know that the hope he held with such bold confidence will enable us to persevere in our own callings until we see him with the Risen One in that kingdom of glory which he proclaimed all his life. May Fr. Richard, with all the saints, rest in peace.
The Right Reverend Aubrey N. Bougher
Bishop of the Northeast
International Lutheran Fellowship
Rosedale, New York
His was a unique voice for the Catholic Church in the public square. I believe that the first time I met Richard John Neuhaus was at a reception at the residence of John Cardinal O'Connor, who was one of his great admirers. Fr. Neuhaus, like Avery Cardinal Dulles, had the tenacity of faith with which many converts are blessed. The depth of his knowledge and the breath of his writings equipped him as an apologist for the faith in our secular age.
While I sometimes disagreed with the topics he emphasized, the manner in which he expressed them, and the tone with which he challenged those of opposing positions, I always knew that he loved Christ and his Church. Happily, his many remarkable writings will make it possible for him to continue his dialogue on faith in the public square. Be assured that this faithful son of the Church will be in my prayers at the altar. May flights of angels lead him to his rest.
The Most Reverend Edward K. Braxton
Bishop of Belleville
Richard John—as many Lutherans around New York City loved to call him—was an extraordinary thinker. I will never forget reading in the 1970s an article in a Lutheran newspaper titled “Neuhaus Is Pro-Life.”
I was then a young pastor in West Haven, Connecticut. I became immersed in biomedical ethics, and my interests now include just-war theory and the ethical side of food policy. Without knowing it, Richard John Neuhaus had spurred on a young pastor's interest in ethics and social justice, and I still consult him often, along with First Things.
Providence, Rhode Island
Laura and I are saddened by the death of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. Fr. Neuhaus was an inspirational leader, admired theologian, and accomplished author who devoted his life to the service of the Almighty and to the betterment of our world. He was also a dear friend, and I have treasured his wise counsel and guidance. Our thoughts and prayers are with Fr. Neuhaus' family, friends, and fellow clergy during this difficult time.
George W. Bush
Richard John Neuhaus has been for me a friend or, rather, what a true friend should always be. He reminds us of what St. Thomas Aquinas says of a friendship always oriented to the ultimate good of the person, who is God himself. Please let his family know that I share with my whole heart in their grief and that his name, his teaching, and his smile will not be forgotten.
I knew Fr. Neuhaus for many years and was privileged to call him a friend. He was an extraordinary scholar, writer, editor, and speaker; but more important, what he wanted to be—and what he became through a life so fruitfully lived—was a faithful man of God and son of the Church. His passing is a huge loss, but it's a loss that will be filled by the people he inspired to the same kind of fidelity and excellence he personified.
The Most Reverend
Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Archbishop of Denver
Richard John Neuhaus was to orthodox Christians and other serious proponents of religion what William F. Buckley was to political conservatives: a lodestar of civilization, the repository of tradition, the judge, the person who selflessly defended the code of intellectual integrity. His articles were like dinner with a virtuous but amusing and well-educated friend. You learned so much. You were so inspired. You had such a good time. It is a source of grief that his work is not going to continue by his own hand.
We were deeply saddened to learn of Fr. Neuhaus' death. His reach could be felt even in this small corner of the globe. For several years Fr. Neuhaus has graciously awarded grants from the Arthur Carl Piepkorn Fund for biennial conferences on late medieval theology, cosponsored by the International Seminar on Pre-Reformation Theology at Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary and the American Cusanus Society.
We are confident that his desire to encourage scholarship in an ecumenical setting that included diverse worship opportunities, both Protestant and Catholic, found fruition in these gatherings. All who were close to him should know that we share in their grief, as we do in their hope of the resurrection to new life.
Lutheran Theological Seminary
I had never met Fr. Neuhaus but always felt, through First Things and a few personal notes from him, that I knew him well as a great teacher and someone who one could count on to write about the many problems that cause sorrow and consternation in the Church today. Fr. Neuhaus and I were in our respective seminaries at the same time; he for the Lutheran Church and I for the Diocese of Pembroke.
His father was an outstanding Lutheran pastor at St. John's Lutheran Church in Pembroke, and, as Fr. Neuhaus once reminded me, it was his father and the then bishop of Pembroke, W.J. Smith, who got into a fight over papal powers. As a seminarian of Bishop Smith's at the time, I read his tract “The Bishop Replies,” which was almost required reading for the diocese.
I was suprised to learn that Fr. Neuhaus had crossed the Tiber from such a strong Lutheran background. Faith, God's gift to the willing, is like that. Fr. Neuhaus has left a strong magazine and strong editorship that will ensure its continuation.
May I add a heartfelt word about the loss of an old friend and frequent theological and political adversary, Richard John Neuhaus? I first met him when we both fought the good fight against the Vietnam War. We shared a tiny room in a non-chic hotel for a few days in Paris in October 1968, when we paid a pastoral call on American deserters. Later, his Naked Public Square and my Religion in the Secular City appeared at the same time. I reviewed The Naked Public Square in the New York Times, favorably. But since the religiously informed politics I wanted to see in the public square varied markedly from his, the two of us appeared a few times in a debate format, including one memorable encounter at Union Seminary. He called our duo “the Dick and Harvey Show.”
When Richard John Neuhaus organized the Hartford Appeal, I helped forge the Boston Affirmations, which (I thought) carried the debate forward. I am not sure he agreed that it did.
When Richard John Neuhaus entered the Catholic priesthood, I sent him a congratulatory letter. I had also become a bit more pro-Roman, but again our theological–political flavors differed. He leaned toward Ratzinger, I toward Gutérriez.
I always thumb through First Things and invariably find an article or two that I read, learn from, and usually disagree with—though not always. In any case I never missed perusing Richard John Neuhaus' pointed and amazingly well-informed ponderings in the back of the journal. Most recently he has provoked me into plunging back into Chesterton.
As an editor and public intellectual, when did he get the chance to do all that reading?
I had not seen him for a couple of years, and I was saddened when I read of his death. As an unapologetic Christian liberal, I know my kind requires just the genre of intellectually high-grade criticism he has sent our way for years. We are all poorer without him.
I still remember his look of disbelief when I told him that the legendary historian of American Catholicism, Msgr. John Tracy Ellis, ranked Richard's entrance into the Catholic Church alongside that of Elizabeth Bayley Seton, Orestes Brownson, and Avery Dulles. Disbelief at first; satisfaction a little later when he whispered through the cigar smoke, “Did Ellis really say that?”
In my years as rector of the North American College in Rome, Richard was one of the more welcome visitors. He enjoyed staying at the college, he confided in me, because we had “real American ice machines.”
Our late nights of camaraderie were unfailingly enlightening and enjoyable, and as late as they may have gone, he was always there for 6:30 morning prayer and Mass.
The men relished his company. One of them remarked to me that he was the personification of the fides et ratio extolled by John Paul the Great. No one seemed more aware of the warts on the Mystical Body of Christ than Richard John Neuhaus. Yet no one loved the Spouse of Christ more passionately than he did.
The Most Reverend Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of New York
New York, New York
I met Richard John Neuhaus only twice, but he was a mentor nonetheless. My family migrated through Christianity when I was young: I was baptized Episcopalian, attended Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, and became a Catholic, with the rest of my family, when I was seventeen. I read the usual authors along the way—G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, and so forth. And I read Fr. Neuhaus.
Every young writer, I imagine, has his first intellectual magazine, whose essays and articles are devoured all the more greedily for being slightly over his head. Mine was First Things.
And long before I could quite figure out exactly what, say, René Girard meant when he talked about mimesis and the crucifixion, I was reading Fr. Neuhaus' sprawling “Public Square” column every month and marveling at his mix of range and rigor and the ease with which he moved between esoteric theological disputes and the latest culture-war fracas.
Richard Dawkins likes to say that Charles Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. Month after month, issue after issue, Richard John Neuhaus—through his writing, and also through the writers he cultivated—demonstrated to my adolescent and early-twenties self that it was possible to be an intellectually fulfilled Christian.
As with the best writers and thinkers, you didn't always have to agree with him to appreciate the things that he did right: the depth and skill in argument, the breadth of subjects covered, and the verve with which he wrote. And above all, the spirit of urgency that permeated his work—the sense that the controversies with which he concerned himself really mattered, in an everyday sense but in a cosmic one as well. At their best, his essays and arguments achieved a grace to which all religious authors should aspire: They conveyed not only the truth that Richard John Neuhaus, priest and author, cared about the issues of the age, but that God himself cared about them as well.
Richard John Neuhaus will be remembered for the many stories he told, lived, and inspired. Davida Goldman, his assistant for over two decades who answered phone calls and triaged all the mail and messages that poured into the office, confessed that behind the scenes she was compiling a book titled He Said What! which could be the sequel to He Did What!
She will tell you of the time he pulled the emergency cord on Amtrak because he realized he was on the wrong train and needed to transfer. Russell Hittinger recounts with delight how after a long dinner in New Orleans, they scaled a cemetery wall and fumbled through the graveyard, just to do it. Fr. Maciej Zieba chokes up when he tells of a meeting between Fr. Neuhaus and John Paul II at Castel Gandolfo, an hour-long conversation of questions and answers that left them all stunned.
Monica Weigel recalls “Uncle Richard” demonstrating to the Weigel children “parachute jumps”—his euphemism for cannonballs—into the lake at the cottage in Pembroke, Canada, and how he pinned them with a set of Canadian air-force wings after they succeeded. Fr. Neuhaus himself told us how, at a hotel in Tulsa in the middle of the night, he once mistook the hallway door for the bathroom door and ended up on an unforgettable adventure.
But did you also know how he could move to tears the young people he had gathered around a table on a Saturday night, not with a joke, but with a story of the glory of the high adventure of Christian orthodoxy, of the deep desire in the human heart to do something great for Our Lord, to throw away our lives for Jesus Christ?
His first love was preaching, and he did not waste an opportunity to raise our hearts and minds to those heavenly realities, as we sat around a meal with friends. For that, many of us who are pursuing lives in the footsteps of the Master he showed us are grateful. We love you, Father. Pray for us.
St. Joseph's Seminary
Yonkers, New York
With a deep sense of compassion I have received the information of the death of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, a brilliant theologian and faithful disciple of Christ. The loss of Fr. Neuhaus will be felt keenly throughout the United States and beyond. To all who mourn him in the hope of the Resurrection, I would like to express my compassion and to assure them of my prayers.
Stanisaw Cardinal Dziwisz
Archbishop of Krakow
With the death of Richard John Neuhaus, editor of First Things, arguably one of the most authoritative and influential journals of religion and public life in the world today, the pro-life community and the literary world has lost a great brother, a colossus, and a rare gem who tirelessly dedicated almost the whole of his prime to the task of educating and enlightening many through First Things.
He reminds us of G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, and John Cardinal Newman. I first met Fr. Neuhaus in September 2008. He asked about Nigeria and its people, and he donated a free subscription of First Things to me. A few weeks ago I telephoned, and then his low voice came: “Please pray for me. I am really very sick.” “I will pray for you, Father,” I responded. Little did I know I was speaking with him for the last time. I must tell you that I am really pained by the loss of this great, towering figure. But God knows why he called Fr. Neuhaus at this time.
I've been subscribing to First Things for three years, as well as purchasing an annual subscription for a close friend. I can only imagine the void that exists in your building with Fr. Neuhaus' absence, and, while I'm sure he is free of pain and is rejoicing in the light of his Savior, those who remain bound on the earthly plane will grieve his passing for the time to come.
Around 1999 or so, I began a “dark night of the soul” journey and continue to this day on that sojourn. I happened across a copy of First Things, and I devoured the magazine, finding a bit of light on that day. As time passed I realized the help I received from reading First Things as I discovered authors who voiced the ideas that circled in my head. First Things was the drink of water that helped me sense God again.
I began sharing my copies with a close friend—and, having lost copies of First Things by loaning them to him, I decided to purchase a subscription for him as a Christmas gift. We have spent many hours discussing articles and thoughts as we read them each month. I find that when I pick up the magazine I embark on a journey of ideas and musings and continue to grow spiritually and intellectually as a result. Until First Things, I thought I'd never find similar sojourners and had almost resigned myself to a life of intellectual stagnation.
Kansas City, Kansas
I wish to extend my sympathy to you as you grieve the death of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, and I want you to know of my prayers and thoughts at this time. I will remember him at Mass as an exemplary priest and a personal friend.
Many are grateful for the service that Fr. Neuhaus offered to the entire Church, especially through his work at the Institute on Religion and Public Life. Thank you for assisting him in his work. May the Lord quickly grant Fr. Neuhaus the joy of seeing him face to face. As I remember you also in my prayers, I ask you to pray for me and to join me in praying for priests and for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. May God bless the staff at First Things with hope and peace.
Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Chicago
My most heartfelt condolences on the death of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. May the love of God and his promise of eternal life comfort you in this loss. And I pray that God will reward his years of faithful service and dedication to the Church. May Jesus, through the intercession of Mary, grant you peace and joy.
The Most Reverend José H. Gomez
Archbishop of San Antonio
San Antonio, Texas
On behalf of the Ukrainian Catholic University community, I would like to extend our heartfelt expression of sympathy and assurance of moral solidarity to Fr. Richard John Neuhaus' family and friends. I fondly remember Fr. Richard's visit in July 2002. Fr. Richard has for years been on the honorary board of advisors of the Ukrainian Catholic Education Foundation. Our community is most grateful for his endorsement and solidarity. I have been a reader of his work for more than twenty years. Today I ask the Lord for his eternal rest.
The Reverend Borys Gudziak
Ukrainian Catholic University
Richard John Neuhaus was installed as pastor of St. John the Evangelist in Brooklyn on the second Sunday of Easter in 1961. I sang in a choir of preseminarians for that event and returned most weekends through 1962. From him I caught “The Vision of St. John's”—the fundamentals of an inner-city ministry: great liturgy, property maintenance, door-to-door calling to gather parishioners, and late nights spent talking of the Kingdom and Jesus.
A list of all who lived and worked around Pastor Richard would be a long and colorful one. In those days there was only one place to be in Holy Week—St. John's: the two-hour Easter Vigil, Richard's long sermons at each day's service, glorious singing (to Richard's revised hymn texts and liturgical texts), and the hospitality of the gracious people of St. John's.
I remember the Holy Week during which the church van died. I told Richard that, if he bought the parts, I would rebuild the engine. I think it was Mrs. Wolfhart Pannenberg who handed me wrenches as I lay under the van, replacing pistons and talking about why we all loved to be at St. John's.
For a year, a chapter of the Bible concluded each day's evening meal. The day began with lauds and closed with compline. Pastor Neuhaus taught me to pray and imparted a vision of life I would otherwise not hold dear. St. John's was my real seminary.
By the liturgy of St. John's I measured my worship classes back at school. I measured my homiletics classes against his sermons. I measured my systematic classes by what I leaned in late-night discussions. It would be my most formative year.
I came to his office to say thanks and goodbye. I invited his constructive criticism. His genius for analysis and criticism meant that I drove back to Baltimore devoid of self-esteem. But I recovered and, from 1974 to 1977 I, too, was pastor of St. John's. Richard taught me to speak and to think like a priest of our Lord's Church. What good qualities I have as a pastor I credit to him. He had agreed to preach at the fortieth anniversary of my ordination this June, but now, sadly, he will not. Rest eternal grant him, O Lord.
The Reverend Harvey W. von Harten III
St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Brooklyn, New York
I was taken aback recently when I received word of Fr. Neuhaus' illness and realized that I had not met him in person or even corresponded with him. I thought to myself, Are you sure you haven't? I have published a few letters to the editor in First Things, but that's it. As a longtime subscriber and careful reader, however, I felt as if I had known him. I must speak for thousands in saying that. So this news is a blow to those of us who did not even know him personally—and yet surely felt that we did. I'm very sorry at his death and grateful for his life and witness. I wish all of you well at First Things. You have my deepest sympathy.
I have just learned with great sadness of the untimely death of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. I wished to communicate to his many colleagues at First Things my sincere sympathies. I share a sense of loss at Fr. Neuhaus' death, having read with great profit and pleasure, admiration, and illumination so much of his writing. He was a treasure within the English-speaking Catholic world, and beyond it.
The Catholic priesthood has lost, from its earthly ranks, an exceptional member, whose stimulating and enlightening presence I shall certainly miss. I have offered Holy Mass for the repose of his soul and for the consolation of those who mourn him.
Msgr. Séamus Horgan
I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, a great intellectual and leader of the neoconservative movement in the United States of America. He was one of the most important Catholics in public life and a tireless servant of ecumenism. The storehouse of writings produced by Fr. Neuhaus will continue to be a source of lively and creative inspiration for people of faith for many years to come.
Fr. Neuhaus was also a friend of Poland and the Polish people, supporting democratic change in our country. His passing is a great loss for all of us.
President of Poland
In the backwoods of rural Montana, the word came to us. Fr. Okorn, who is eighty-eight years old and failing with Parkinson's disease, rallied to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for this reverend prophet of God, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. We share your loss and will keep you all in prayer.
The Sycamore Tree Prayer Center
Swan Lake, Montana
It was with great emotion that we received the news that the beloved founder of your magazine, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, was called from this world.
When we started our project three years ago—a Catholic magazine with news and high-quality articles on matters of Church and faith—we had good help from some other sources. Among those was First Things, with its tasteful and never-boring choice of subjects and texts. We have had some translated, with your permission, and we are extremely grateful for that, as are our readers. The remarkably sharp and witty comments from Fr. Neuhaus are something one never forgets.
Though I never met him, I admired him greatly. I cannot shake the sense of sadness at his loss. It seems a light has gone out, but, of course, it hasn't. His wit and wisdom remain. I'm certain he now embraces the eternal first things.
Human Life of Washington
It is a profoundly sad day for the world because it lost one of its best. I began reading Fr. Neuhaus back before he started First Things. In fact, I think I still have many of the old newsletters he produced. He came to my town of Tallahassee more than twenty years ago for a religion-and-society seminar hosted by Florida State University. Over the years, I wrote to him a couple of times, and he always found time to send me a personal reply. When he converted to Catholicism I wrote to congratulate him on catching up with me. He was one of several profoundly spiritual people who helped me return to God, and I thank God that Fr. Neuhaus was there to help me on my journey.
I've been a subscriber to First Things from the beginning, and I feel confident that Fr. Neuhaus has built a strong structure that can survive and thrive even after his passing. My deepest sympathy to all of you who knew him much better than I. It goes without saying that he will be sorely missed.
Spencer R. Lepley
Fr. Richard John Neuhaus was one of those rare personalities who touched our lives from afar. I have always enjoyed reading Fr. Neuhaus' “Public Square,” as it bore the fruits of a great mind which in turn helped enlighten ours. May I express my deepest sympathy to you, his friends, at First Things. May Jesus reward him now in Paradise for being a good and faithful servant.
Johannesburg, South Africa
Although many years have gone by since we last met, I have never forgotten his brilliance and my gratitude to him. In the 1970s, Richard John Neuhaus, Peter Berger, and Jim Finn invited my husband, Ivan London, and me to write a series of articles on Maoist China for the journal Worldview, which they were editing.
They did so knowing that our research findings directly contradicted those of the sinological experts then dominating academe, the government, and the major media. Richard dismissed the Mao-deluded scholars who wrote to him attempting to discredit us and suppress further publication of our articles. He never wavered.
The years have not diminished my glow of appreciation. It hurts that he is no longer here.
Brooklyn, New York
My family had been subscribing for a long time but recently had run out of money for such things, even if they were first. Ironically, our last issue was just before Fr. Neuhaus died. We were parishioners in Brooklyn, where he started out on his journey to the Catholic Church. And so we pay homage to the grace he possessed and the voice he pronounced by doing the little we can—getting another subscription to First Things. His voice, and others like his, have kept us in the Catholic boat, no matter how tempestuous the sea of our society and our Church. Our lives are diminished by his exit, but, we pray, enriched by his intercession from a place we do not know, but aspire to.
George Thomas McLaughlin
Providence, Rhode Island
As an organization that is devoted to sharing the gospel of life with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we at the National Pro-Life Religious Council wanted to share our deepest condolences and express what an inspiration Fr. Neuhaus was to all of us on this vital issue.
Dennis Di Mauro
National Pro-Life Religious Council
Staten Island, New York
I was lucky enough to have once met Richard John Neuhaus. This was at the neoconservative Second Thoughts Conference held in Washington, D.C., in 1987. Neuhaus was in his collar and, though I was familiar with his writing, I had not known he was a clergyman.
He was still a Protestant clergyman a few years later when he wrote an excellent critique called The Catholic Moment. Some years later, I heard him identified on PBS as a Catholic priest—which I protested by letter and phone, only to be corrected that he had indeed been admitted into the Catholic faith as well as the Catholic priesthood. Richard John Neuhaus was able to bridge seemingly irreconcilable traditions. His passing is a loss to the fertile-minded, but his contribution is immortal.
Allen Park, Michigan
Please accept my sympathy on the passing of my dear friend Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, a great priest, a distinguished leader of the Church militant, and a wise and fearless cultural and religious warrior.
We thank God for his contribution on many fronts. He played a crucial role in forging the new alliance of Bible Christians in the different Catholic and Reformed traditions. It is difficult to overestimate the long-term importance of this partnership.
By definition, “Catholic moments” do not last for decades, but Richard provided ideas, information, and encouragement far beyond the borders of the United States of America. It was my privilege to inform John Paul II of Richard's reception into the Catholic Church, when I was at lunch with the Holy Father. The pope was delighted by the news and so were many others, not least myself. We lament his passing, confident that First Things will continue from strength to strength, a wonderful memorial to him.
George Cardinal Pell
Archbishop of Sydney
The brothers of the Polish Province of the Order of Preachers were so sorry to hear of the passing of our faithful friend and brother priest Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. In our communities in Poland and abroad, the brothers are accompanying Fr. Richard in prayer. We have been deeply touched by his death and will preserve his memory always. Fr. Richard gave so generously of his many talents. He was a great gift to our province. We trust that the Good Shepherd will acknowledge him as one of his sheep.
We mourn Fr. Richard by recalling his work over so many years as a teacher and mentor to our brothers. He was a trusted advisor and beloved father to many of us. For comfort, we remember the treasures he left us in the form of wise books and brilliant commentary. We look at our community in Manhattan, which he helped bring into being. We think also of the strong web of friendship Fr. Richard created though his work with the Tertio Millennio Institute. His is a legacy of love and solidarity that will endure for years to come.
The Reverend Krzysztof Poplawski, O.P.
Polish Province of the Order of Preachers
I don't know just how to explain what Richard John Neuhaus taught me. I remember one Saturday afternoon when I was fifteen years old, riding home from the barber shop with my father. To his dismay (we are a Catholic family), I was mouthing several arguments in favor of euthanasia, arguments that I could not remember ever learning. They were sort of just coming out. My dad didn't know what to say. And I couldn't imagine thinking in a different way. What I was saying seemed like common sense.
Then my dad turned me onto Fr. Neuhaus' writings, and I remember the first time I saw a rerun of his famous interview with Brian Lamb on Booknotes. Even though my own contributions to the pages of First Things have been small, I am grateful for having had the chance to make them while Fr. Neuhaus was still alive. I hoped I would one day have the chance to speak with him at length. (This might seem silly, but I always wanted to ask him about a story he alluded to once in the back pages of First Things, about a time when he had to take care of a drunk Norman Mailer in Chicago in 1972.) In any case, at least now he can hear my prayers.
Kansas City, Kansas
I am a longtime subscriber to First Things. Even though I have never met or corresponded with Fr. Neuhaus, I consider him a friend who has had an extraordinary influence on my thinking and faith. I am very grateful for the impact his life and work have had on me.
I'm a Spanish fan of First Things and especially of “The Public Square.” I don't know the appropriate English words, but let me use the Latin ones: Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei.
University of La Coruña
La Coruña, Spain
Even though I never knew him personally, I became acquainted with his work as editor in chief of First Things, a magazine I got to know by accident when wandering on the Internet. I recently subscribed to the magazine for two years in a row, because I appreciate the way the magazine is handled.
Despite his distance from my Costa Rica, I learned to care about Fr. Neuhaus' work. His conversion, his defense of the Catholic faith, his bravery in presenting to everybody who would care to listen made him very dear to me. The greatest tribute those at the magazine could give him is to follow in his footsteps.
Jorge Arturo Romero-Chacón
University of Costa Rica
San Pedro, Costa Rica
With deepest sadness I have received the news of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus' departure. I simply cannot yet grasp it. Of course, in faith we know that he has now achieved his pilgrimage on earth and has arrived where we all hope o go. But humanly speaking it is a moment of deep, deep grief. He had surrendered his great intelligence, his enormous gifts, entirely to Christ, and this has made his activities so beautifully fruitful. We will terribly miss his discernment, his brilliant defense of faith, his humor, and his humanity. I pray for him and for the whole team at First Things.
Christoph Cardinal Schönborn
Archbishop of Vienna
Eons ago, I tagged along to have dinner with Richard John Neuhaus in New York after a WWWC board meeting. Neuhaus' death is a profound blow to our culture. His voice was uniquely confident, luminous, totally engaged in body and spirit, learned (almost to a level of improbability), passionate, lucid, and blessed with a distinctive ability to grasp and illuminate first things.
If a dozen such men existed in each of the subdivisions of our world—politics, religion, society, culture, science, philosophy, the arts, and so on—we could sleep more profoundly and awaken each morning with a renewed sense of humanity's prospects.
To my mind, he passed one of the ultimate tests of the true teacher since, even in disagreement, one came away having profited deeply by a maieutic encounter. There's no doubt that the world is poorer because of his absence. But who can doubt that it was deeply enriched by his presence in ways that will reverberate over many lifetimes?
I stand in awe and gratitude at the designs of providence that gave Fr. Neuhaus to me to as a friend and father. It seems right that in his last hours Fr. Neuhaus was surrounded by the prayers of the Sisters of Life. We are the daughters of his spiritual father, John Cardinal O'Connor, and our order was founded by the cardinal the same year that he received Fr. Neuhaus into the Catholic Church.
I came to New York almost ten years ago and moved into Fr. Neuhaus' little community on East Nineteenth Street. I was one of many young people who grew up in his apartment filled with daily prayer, regular conversation, laughter, good food and drink, and the challenges of any group of Christian disciples.
His dinner table became the center of my world. There I met so many who encouraged me in my spiritual journey and became cherished brothers and sisters in Christ. After attending his annual seminar in Poland and the priestly ordination of my brother, to whom Fr. Neuhaus was also a spiritual father, I sensed a call to religious life, and to the Sisters of Life in particular.
When I told him I was entering the convent, he confessed that, while he constantly encouraged vocations, he was always amazed to see people actually accepting the invitation. “It is a step so audacious as to be unthinkable,” he said, “if you did not have the promise that God gives what he commands.”
Adamant that I properly understand the reality and beauty of religious life, he searched for the breviary containing the office of St. Benedict. He read and reread to me the marvelous words: “Wishing to please God alone . . . he withdrew from the world of men, knowingly unacquainted with its ways and wisely unlearned in its wisdom.” This would be the difficult work of my formation—to withdraw from the world in order to redeem it, to leave the public square for the convent, where life is marked not by the world of work but by the work of prayer.
When I explained that my name was partly in gratitude for his spiritual fatherhood, he was deeply moved and then promptly asked why I hadn't chosen Sister Richard John of Religion and Public Life. He wrote to me during my formation, prayed regularly for our community, and was a generous financial supporter of our work. Before my profession of vows last summer, I returned to thank him and ask for his blessing.
On December 15, I returned for the last time. It was the anniversary of Cardinal O'Connor's priestly ordination, and Father celebrated Mass in his memory. Too weak to go to the parish, his dinner table, which had been the center of my world, now became the center of the world—the axis mundi where Christ became present. It was one of the last Masses he celebrated.
Sr. John Mary de Souza
Sisters of Life
Yonkers, New York
Richard John Neuhaus' life was so rich in accomplishments that the many obituaries and appreciations understandably skipped lightly over the part of his career that most stands out to his fellow scribes: the prodigious journalistic feat that was his monthly “Public Square” compendium. It bears remembering what a high order of achievement that column was. Ten (or was it twenty?) thousand words a month, issue after issue, year after year, entertaining but never superficial, learned but never ponderous. “The Public Square” was a standing rebuke to the less productive, which is to say pretty much all of us who agonize over the keyboard and stare at the blank screen for a living.
A.J. Liebling once described his own journalistic niche: “I can write better than anybody who's faster, and faster than anybody who's better.” Richard John Neuhaus pulled off the trick of writing both better and faster than his peers.
The Weekly Standard
Richard John Neuhaus first introduced himself through the written word. In his In Defense of People (1972), Against the World, for the World (1976), and articles in Worldview presented me with an uncommon difference. Here was a New York intellectual who staked his life and work on the Church's faith and its public implications. In the summer of 1979, Richard taught a course at Princeton Theological Seminary. While taking the class, my call to ordained ministry was confirmed and a continuing correspondence with Richard was initiated. At Richard's invitation and with my bishop's permission, I—a wandering Methodist—helped Richard start the Center on Religion and Society in 1984 and then the Institute on Religion and Public Life in 1989. In June of 1990, the month I returned to parish ministry, Richard announced his intention to become a Roman Catholic priest.
Richard John Neuhaus' theology was unashamedly eschatological. That is, his life was lived, and his ministry was offered, in the hope of the coming of the Kingdom of God in fullness. That hope gave him confidence during the mundane times, and during the crises, of life and ministry. His confidence might have appeared to some as self-confidence or even arrogance, but he was unqualifiedly confident in the hope with which he had been gifted.
In January 1985, our young daughter Paige was found to have a deadly childhood cancer. As Paige was provided with the treatments and care she required, Richard was always most encouraging to Marsha and me and as generous with parental sick-leave as needed. At her death in 2004, his confident faith in God and God's promises helped us endure the sting of death and face the present with courage and the future with hope.
Convening conferences and consultations, which involved many of the best and the brightest, Richard confidently and humorously introduced himself as a moderator whose “style could be located somewhere between Carl Rogers and Attila the Hun.”
Early in 2008, after reading one of his essays on Christianity without culture, I impulsively called Richard and suggested that he compose yet another of his ringing declarations, this one on the American religion. He seemed to like the idea, but the manifesto was never written. Even so, many of his last essays repeatedly returned to the persistent problem of gnosticism in American religion.
Richard John Neuhaus maintained hope. His hope was confidently embodied in his life and ministry and expressed in his preaching, speaking, and writing. Because of Richard Neuhaus, many of us learned to be more confident in the Truth named Jesus Christ, in Word and Sacrament, in biblical and traditional truth, in moral truth, and in reason. These days in Church and society, a little hope and a little confidence, like Richard's, can take us a long way.
The Reverend Paul T. Stallsworth
St. Peter's United Methodist Church
Morehead City, North Carolina
I am one of the thousands whose life has been blessed by the writing and the person of Fr. Richard. I was a charter subscriber to First Things, and no other periodical has influenced my thinking more in the past twenty years. As an evangelical Protestant minister, I have thanked God for his work in Evangelical–Catholic and Christian–Jewish relations. The news of his passing was a great sadness; I feel as though I have lost a friend. May all of you at First Things know that we are holding you up in prayer at a time of the deepest loss. Jody Bottum's comments on the “tearing of the fabric of life” and the sorrow that will not heal until the Day of the Lord are ones I share. May the gracious Lord who has welcomed Richard into the fullness of his presence also grant you his peace.
The Reverend Peter Vibert
Wading River Congregational Church
Wading River, New York
For those who knew Richard John Neuhaus well and loved him deeply, it's not at all surprising that his loss would have a shattering effect on them. But even for those of us who knew him a little but read him a lot, his loss is enormous. He was, for many of us, not only an influential figure but a kind of reference point, a person to whom we looked in order to learn and to grow.
For those of us who care about ideas in politics, Fr. Neuhaus was a model public intellectual. His writings were sophisticated and accessible, urbane and engaging, literate and lively. Whether reading his books or his speeches, his essays or his monthly column “The Public Square,” there was always something to glean, an insight you hadn't thought of, or a clever phrase you wish you had.
There was also Fr. Neuhaus' tone: morally serious and winsome, at times pointed but never personal, sometimes passionate but never angry. The animating spirit for him seemed to be grace rather than resentment. It was clear he was a large-spirited man.
But above all, Neuhaus seemed to understand, far better than most of us, that he was citizen of two cities—and that he loved and longed for one more than the other. In the marvelous way we sometimes find in people, his attachment to the heavenly city made him even more committed to the earthly one, at least in the ways that matter most.
Among the last words of John Bunyan's Pilgrim are that “the thoughts of what I am going to, and of the conduct that waits for me on the other side, doth lie as a glowing coal at my heart.” Richard John Neuhaus, God's faithful servant, is now on the other side. One journey has ended; a far more glorious one has begun. But we miss him still.
Ethics and Public Policy Center
Please accept my deepest sympathies on the passing of Fr. Neuhaus. First Things has been a part of my intellectual life for many years now. I recall going through my own cancer treatment, sitting in a doctor's office hooked up to a chemotherapy drip, and reading the democracy and Giving Tree symposia (January 1995). First Things was my frequent companion during that time—not really for any comfort it provided, but because it kept my mind so active and alive to the great questions of life under the aspect of the divine.
I realize I had come to take it for granted that I would always be able to bask in Fr. Neuhaus' wonderful dissections of the follies of our world, no less than his warm good humor and his deep spiritual consciousness—which seemed more openly evident in these latter years. I would run into him once in a while in New York (although it's been years since our last encounter), and the qualities of character I had observed in his writing seemed to ring true in his personality. I will greatly miss those encounters, whether in person or through his writing. Life for me will be impoverished in an important way from now on.
Maplewood, New Jersey
My entire life has been intermingled with a number of Richard's relatives, because I was born and raised in Cisco, Texas. His uncle by marriage, Pastor Edward Steyer, baptized me and was my teacher from first to sixth grade in a one-room Lutheran parochial school. His aunt, Dorothy Prange, was my teacher in the seventh grade. When I boarded the 4 a.m. train for my first trip to prep school, my travel companion was his cousin, Norma Jean Prange. For my first trip to seminary I rode with his cousin, Mel Witt.
When Richard came to Cisco he lived with his Aunt Dorothy. He soon made himself well known in the church and community. Last week when I told my eighty-four-year-old brother in Cisco that Richard had died, he immediately recalled a number of pleasant memories of Richard's years there. Such recollections are indicative of the common touch that Richard had with people of all kinds.
With the Cisco connection, we had a cordial relationship that lasted through the years. Occasionally we corresponded, and his return letter almost always included a cheerful reference to Cisco. We never knew each other closely, but I was fascinated enough with his contributions to follow him through the editorship of the Lutheran Forum Letter, a number of other publications and books, and for the past nineteen years with First Things.
It has been a fulfilling relationship, and he did the filling with his writing. He was a man who could not be ignored; even if you disagreed with him, you still found him interesting. We will all miss him.
The Reverend Richard O. Ziehr