A Leading Voice for Christian Intellectual Life and Ecumenism Dies

By Kathryn Hickok, Portland

Richard John Neuhaus, admired for decades as one of the leading Christian intellectuals in the U.S., died January 8 at the age of 72. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated for him in New York City on Tuesday.

Father Neuhaus spent over thirty years as a Lutheran pastor before becoming a Roman Catholic. Esteemed as a leader among mainline Christians, Evangelicals, and Catholics, Father Neuhaus marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. and collaborated with Charles Colson. He was a formidable voice for Christian unity, a defender of human dignity, and an advocate for the place of the Judeo-Christian voice in the public square.

He was the founder of the Institute on Religion and Public Life and the founding editor of the influential ecumenical journal First Things: The Journal of Religion, Culture, and Public Life.

In his Wall Street Journal eulogy of Fr. Neuhaus, EWTNews director Raymond Arroyo wrote:

“In 1984, Pastor Neuhaus (then still a Lutheran) penned his landmark work, ‘The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America.’ It was an intellectual challenge to the trend of eradicating religious symbols and thought from America’s civil life. He warned of a state that ‘drives out prophetic religion and establishes a monopoly on public space and public meanings. That is the circumstance referred to as the “naked public square.” Which, as we must never tire of recalling, does not remain naked but is taken over by the pseudo-religion established by state power.’ His searing prose and well-reasoned arguments, infused with their own prophetic power, would attract legions of admirers in the media and government and among religious leaders of various denominations.”

Fr. Neuhaus left a permanent mark on American Christianity and the ecumenical movement in the U.S. His presence will be dearly missed. May he rest in peace.

(Kathryn Hickok is Publications Director, Development Coordinator, and Director of the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland at Cascade Policy Institute.)

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