Monday, January 12, 2009

The Square Falls Silent II

For more on the passing of Father Richard John Neuhaus, I suggest reading pieces by Ross Douthat at his Atlantic blog and Raymond Arroyo in last Friday's WSJ:

As was his wont, Father Neuhaus was capable of delivering impromptu corrections with an eloquence and precision that would elude the best of us. When I learned of his passing yesterday at the age of 72, his words echoed in my memory. He was not only a great intellectual and an exemplary man of letters but, as his remark to me illustrates, he was a man who put his mind and his literary skill at the service of his church and the truths it protected. He was first and last a man animated by his faith.

They do a wonderful job capturing the spirit of Neuhaus and the impact he had through his work in reviving the intellectual activism of the Catholic Church in America. What always impressed me about him was his unflagging and unflinching defense of the truth, whether it was popular or accepted at the time or not. He also did much to help us understand what it means (and what it doesn't) to be Catholic in America. I hope that he was able to complete enough of the book on that subject ("American Babylon") that he was working on to have it published posthumously.

While I never had the pleasure of meeting Father Neuhaus in person, I did have the opportunity to interview him on the radio a few years ago on his book "Catholic Matters." Not surprisingly, he was erudite, thoughtful, and insightful in his observations on the church in America, its place in the public square, and the recent rise of "aggressive atheism." In fact, his calmly delivered comment on "how astonishingly juvenile and ignorant all three of these people are" (in reference to Dennett, Dawkins, and Harris not the hosts) is still heard in the opener to the NARN First Team show. The interview definitely was one of the highlights of my stint in amateur talk radio and I am thankful that I had the opportunity to converse with a man of Neuhaus' stature. Again, he will be greatly missed.

UPDATE: More from Anthony Sacramone.

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