Richard John Neuhaus

Published January 15, 2009


For almost half a century, the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, who died on Jan. 8 at age 72, stood against the conventional view that religion has no place in public life. The son of a Lutheran pastor (as he too was for many years), he became an antiwar and civil rights activist in the '60s and a leading religious conservative in the '70s, jolted into that role by the troubling moral implications he found in Roe v. Wade. In 1990 he converted to Roman Catholicism, though he thought he was beyond easy categorization, describing himself as “religiously orthodox, culturally conservative, politically liberal and economically pragmatic.”

And while he was a classic example of the public intellectual who wrote deeply and widely, the Richard Neuhaus I knew was also much more. He was first and foremost a wise and kind man, whose social and political activism was not a “substitute for religion.” On the contrary, he always insisted that the true meaning of politics could not be grasped apart from the understanding that there are more important things . That is how he was able to be such a happy warrior, and a generous and loving one at that.

Cromartie is vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington.

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