On January 8, 2009, Richard John Neuhaus, 72, the intellectual force behind an influential coalition between Catholics and Protestants passed away after a long battle with cancer.
A Lutheran pastor who converted to Catholicism in 1990 a priest in 1991, Neuhaus served as the president of The Institute on Religion and Public Life, the conservative think tank that publishes First Things magazine.
Neuhaus was active in liberal politics until Roe v. Wade was handed down. His view on the importance of upholding religious orthodoxy is sumarized by “Neuhaus’s Law”, which states that “Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed”. This also informed his belief that public policy needed to adhere to established moral principles.
In 1995, Neuhaus worked with Chuck Colson to publish “Catholics and Evangelicals Together: Toward a Common Mission.” This effort was criticized by both Catholics and Evangelicals who felt that the document proposed forming a powerful conservative political body at the expense of doctrine.
Neuhaus informally advised President George W. Bush, who called him “Father Richard,” on a number of issues involving religion and ethics including abortion, stem-cell research, cloning, and a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
To say that Neuhaus harbored an ambition toward instituting a theocracy in America would be a gross oversimplification and distortion. In reading his columns, it was clear that Neuhaus cared about the issues that people were facing and that Neuhaus believed that God cared too. It was not just empty talk about theological or political realities – these were issues that mattered right now.
Although one might not resonate with Neuhaus’ proposed solutions to the problems of the world, Neuhaus showed us that we should strive to be of both heavenly and earthly good.