Thursday, January 08, 2009

Richard John Neuhaus

This morning, January 8, 2009, about the time I was pulling onto the Interstate in Maryland to start the journey back to the lake in the midwest that this blog is purported to originate from, one of the most interesting members of my generation died in New York. Rev. Richard John Neuhaus was just two years my senior and his career was far different than my own his activities often cought my attention.

He was born in Canada, the son of a Lutheran Pastor, he became a Lutheran Minister hinself. He immigrated to the US and was the Pastor of an African American parish in Brooklyn, NY in the 1960s. At the time I was completing my studies in Philosophy. My academic research and my Christian faith made it clear that two civil issues of the day, racism and the war in Viet Nam, were immoral and should be opposed.

While my civil rights activism was relativily local , Pastor Neuhaus could be found marching with Dr King. In 1967 I was comvinced that politics might be the route to stopping the immoral war. I was a McCarthy delegate to County, District and state conventions in 1968. I came within a few votes of going to the Chicago convention loosing to a Humphryite. Neuhaus in the same time frame along with Fr Dan Berrigan and Rabbi Abraham Herschel founded "Clergy Concerned with Viet Nam." He did go to Chicago as a delegate for McCarthy that year.

Over the next two decades his intelectual drive caused him to emerge as one of the most visable Lutheran Theologians of the day. I remember trying to digest his The Catholic Moment in the late 80s. About that time I began studies in preperation for ordination as a Catholic Deacon. He became a Catholic himself in 1990 and was ordained a Catholic Priest in 1991. I was ordained in 1992.

He was always excellent at Ecumenical interaction notably with Rabbi Herschel and Charles Colson. I remember shortly after his Catholic Ordination going to hear him speak about his book mention above at St Mary's Abby in New Jersey. In the Lobby I ran into a Lutheran friend who had come to hear the talk. I expressed surprise that she would come to hear a former Lutheran Theologian. She explained that many Lutherans still admired him and his thinking on the importance of reform.

Like Fr. Neuhaus I have alway been prolife. Prolife means insisting upon the dignity of racial minorities, recognition of the violations of human dignity inherant in war as well as the dignity of human life in the womb, in the nursing home or refugee camp.

I am sure the guests at the wedding feast of the lamb will find him as interesting as he was here among us. May his journey to the throne be swift

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