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Richard John Neuhaus (May 14, 1936 – January 8, 2009) was a prominent American clergyman (first a Lutheran pastor and then a Roman Catholic priest) and writer. Born in Canada, he moved to the United States, where he had become a naturalized United States citizen. He was the founder and editor of the monthly journal First Things and the author of several books, including The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America (1984), The Catholic Moment: The Paradox of the Church in the Postmodern World (1987), and Catholic Matters: Confusion, Controversy, and the Splendor of Truth (2006). He was a staunch defender of Church teaching on abortion and other life issues and an unofficial advisor of President George W. Bush on bioethical issues.[1]



Born in Pembroke, Ontario, Neuhaus was one of eight children of a Lutheran minister. Although he had dropped out of high school at 16 to operate a gas station in Texas,[2] he graduated from Concordia Theological Seminary, then in St. Louis, Missouri in 1960[3] he was ordained a Lutheran minister, later serving as pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church, a poor predominantly black and Hispanic congregation in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.[4] From the pulpit he addressed civil rights and social justice concerns and spoke against the Vietnam War. In the late 1960s he gained national prominence when together with the Jesuit priest Daniel Berrigan and the Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel he founded Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam.[5] He was active in the Lutheran "Evangelical Catholic" movement and spent time at Saint Augustine's House, the Benedictine-Lutheran Monastery, in Oxford, Michigan. He was active in liberal politics until Roe v. Wade was handed down in 1973 which changed his perspective. He became a member of the growing neoconservative movement and an outspoken advocate of "democratic capitalism". He also avocated faith-based policy initiatives based upon Judeo-Christian values by the federal government.[6] He is the originator of "Neuhaus's Law",[7] which states that "Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed".

Neuhaus helped to found the Institute on Religion and Democracy in 1981 and remained on its board until his death. He wrote its founding document, "Christianity and Democracy."

In 1984, Neuhaus established the Center for Religion and Society as part of the Rockford Institute, which also publishes Chronicles. He and the center were "forcibly evicted" from the Institute in 1989 under disputed circumstances.

In 1990, Neuhaus founded the Institute on Religion and Public Life, and its journal First Things, an ecumenical journal "whose purpose is to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society."[8]

In the same year he converted and was received into the Roman Catholic Church on September 8, 1990.[9] Neuhaus had belonged to and was ordained in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod,[10] the conservative wing of American Lutheranism. He subsequently had joined the American Lutheran Church, a predecessor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. A year after his conversion, he was ordained by John Cardinal O'Connor as a priest of the Archdiocese of New York. He was a commentator for the Catholic television network EWTN during the funeral of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI.

In recent years he compared the pro-life struggle to the civil rights movement of the Sixties. During the 2004 Presidential campaign he was a leading advocate for denying Communion to Catholic politicians who supported abortion and voted against Church teaching on life issues. It was a mistake, he declared, to isolate abortion "from other issues of the sacredness of life"[11]

He promoted ecumenical dialogue and social conservatism. Along with Charles Colson, he edited Evangelicals and Catholics Together: Toward a Common Mission.[12] This ecumenical manifesto sparked much debate; some Catholics and Evangelicals claimed that Neuhaus and Colson had compromised major doctrines to promote a neoconservative agenda and had unfairly demanded that both branches of Christianity stop trying to convert the other's members.

Neuhaus expressed a strong hope in universal salvation, but stopped short of teaching it as a doctrine, emphasizing it as a hope, not a belief. "In sum: we do not know; only God knows; but we may hope." He wrote:

that absolutely no one is beyond the reach of God’s love in Christ. All are found, and therefore are not lost. That some may choose not to accept the gift of being found is quite another matter. We pray and hope that all will accept the gift of salvation that is most surely available to all. At least for Catholics, the teaching is definitive: God denies no one the grace necessary for salvation.[13]

Similar to Cormac Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor Neuhaus said that it cannot be known if hell is populated by anyone.[13]

A close, yet unofficial, advisor of President George W. Bush, Neuhaus advised Bush, who called him "Father Richard", on a range of religious and ethical matters, including abortion, stem-cell research, cloning, and the defense of marriage amendment.[14] In 2005, under the heading of "Bushism Made Catholic" Neuhaus was named one of the "25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America" by Time Magazine:[14]

Bushism Made Catholic: When Bush met with journalists from religious publications last year, the living authority he cited most often was not a fellow Evangelical but a man he calls Father Richard, who, he explained, "helps me articulate these [religious] things." A senior Administration official confirms that Neuhaus "does have a fair amount of under-the-radar influence" on such policies as abortion, stem-cell research, cloning and the defense-of-marriage amendment. Time Magazine, Feb. 5, 2005[14]

Neuhaus died from complications of cancer in New York,[15] on January 8, 2009, aged 72.[16][17]




  • Movement and Revolution (co-authored with Peter Berger, 1970)
  • In Defense of People: Ecology and the Seduction of Radicalism (1971)
  • Time Toward Home: The American Experiment as Revelation (1975)
  • Against the World for the World: The Hartford Appeal and the Future of American Religion (co-authored with Peter Berger, 1976)
  • Unsecular America (1986)
  • The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America (1986; ISBN 0802835880)
  • Confession, Conflict, and Community (co-edited with Peter Berger, 1986)
  • Dispensations: The Future of South Africa As South Africans See It (1986)
  • Piety and Politics: Evangelicals and Fundamentalists Confront the World (co-editor with Michael Cromartie, 1987)
  • Democracy and the Renewal of Public Education (editor with author Richard Baer, 1987)
  • Jews in Unsecular America (1987)
  • The Catholic Moment: The Paradox of the Church in the Postmodern World (1987; ISBN 0060660961)
  • Believing Today: Jew and Christian in Conversation (co-authored with Leon Klinicki, 1989)
  • Reinhold Niebuhr Today (1989)
  • Guaranteeing the Good Life: Medicine and the Return of Eugenics (editor, 1990)
  • Doing Well & Doing Good: The Challenge to the Christian Capitalist (1992)
  • America Against Itself: Moral Vision and the Public Order (1992; ISBN 0268006334)
  • Freedom for Ministry: A Guide for the Perplexed Who are Called to Serve (1992; ISBN 0060660953)
  • To Empower People: From State to Civil Society (co-authored with Peter Berger, 1996)
  • The End of Democracy?: The Celebrated First Things Debate, With Arguments Pro and Con and "the Anatomy of a Controversy" (co-edited with Mitchell Muncy, 1997)
  • The Best of the Public Square (1997)
  • Appointment In Rome: The Church in America Awakening (1999)
  • The Eternal Pity: Reflections on Dying (editor, 2000; ISBN 0268027579)
  • There We Stood, Here We Stand: Eleven Lutherans Rediscover Their Catholic Roots (co-authored with Timothy Drake, 2001)
  • The Second One Thousand Years: Ten People Who Defined a Millennium (editor, 2001)
  • The Best of the Public Square: Book 2 (2001)
  • Death on a Friday Afternoon: Meditations on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross (2001; ISBN 0465049338)
  • As I Lay Dying: Meditations Upon Returning (2002; ISBN 0465049303)
  • The Chosen People in an Almost Chosen Nation: Jews and Judaism in America (editor, 2002)
  • Your Word Is Truth: A Project of Evangelicals and Catholics Together (co-edited with Charles Colson; 2002; ISBN 0802805086)
  • As I Lay Dying: Meditations Upon Returning (2003)
  • The Best of the Public Square: Book 3 (2007)
  • Catholic Matters: Confusion, Controversy, and the Splendor of Truth (2007; ISBN 0465049354)
  • American Babylon: Notes of a Christian Exile (2009)



  1. ^ Dennis Sadowski, Fr. Neuhaus, adviser to George Bush, dies aged 72. In : The Catholic Herald , London, Jan. 16, 2009, p. 6
  2. ^ George Weigel: An Honorable Christian Soldier In: Newsweek Jan. 19, 2009
  3. ^ Sadowski, Fr. Neuhaus ...dies. In: The Catholic Herald 1-16-09, p. 6.
  4. ^ "Rev. R. J. Neuhaus, Political Theologian, Dies at 72", New York Times, Jan. 8, 2009.
  5. ^ Sadowski,Fr. Neuhaus ...dies, The Catholic Herald 1-16-09
  6. ^ Ibd.
  7. ^ First Things. The Unhappy Fate of Optional Orthodoxy, January 1997.
  8. ^ First Things. Mission Statement.
  9. ^ First Things. How I Became the Catholic I Was April 2002
  10. ^ Neuhaus, Richard John. The Best of the Public Square: Book 3. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2007. ISBN 0802827209
  11. ^ Sadowski,Fr. Neuhaus ...dies,In: The Catholic Herald of 1-16-09
  12. ^ 1995 ISBN 0-8499-3860-0.
  13. ^ a b Richard John Neuhaus. Will All Be Saved?" First Things (August/September 2001).
  14. ^ a b c Time Magazine. The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America - Richard John Neuhaus 2005
  15. ^ Richard John Neuhaus, 1936–2009.
  16. ^ News of Fr. Neuhaus' death.
  17. ^ Rachel Zoll (2009-01-09). "Neuhaus, influential Catholic conservative, dies". AP.  

Further reading

George, Robert P. (20 March 2009). "He Threw It All Away". First Things. Retrieved 20 July 2009.  

External links


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