In memoriam Richard John Neuhaus

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Pr. Richard John Neuhaus

La 8 ianuarie 2009 a trecut la cele veşnice, la vârsta de 72 de ani, Pr. Richard John Neuhaus, preot catolic, activist politic şi fondator al cunoscutei şi influentei reviste First Things. Funeraliile vor avea loc marţi, 13 ianuarie 2009, orele 2pm, la Church of the Immaculate Conception, 414 E, 14th Street, New York City.

Neuhaus s-a născut în 14 mai 1936, la Pembroke, Ontario, în Canada, ca unul dintre cei opt copii ai unui pastor luteran. Prin 1960 a fost ordinat el însuşi ca pastor luteran, slujind într-o biserică din Brookline, NY, şi a fost implicat, în acea perioadă în acţiuni sociale şi politice ale stângii americane. În 1973, ca urmare a deciziei în procesul Roe vs. Wade, care a dus la liberalizarea avorturilor, Neuhaus a părăsit convingerile sale liberale (în sensul american, de stânga, al acestui cuvânt) şi a migrat politic spre dreapta.

În 1990 s-a convertit la catolicism (găsiţi AICI scrisoarea lui Neuhaus în care explică luteranilor aderarea sa la catolicism) şi un an mai târziu a fost ordinat ca preot de Cardinalul John O’Connor.

În 1990, Neuhaus a fondat revista First Things publicată de The Institute on Religion and Public Life, ca un jurnal ecumenic „al cărui scop este de a promova o filosofie publică informată religios în ceea ce priveşte ordinea socială”.

AICI găsiţi o schiţă cronologică a vieţii lui Neuhaus.

Neuhaus a fost implicat în două dialoguri de mare importanţă în spaţiul religios american. Primul a fost cel dintre conservatorii catolici şi protestanţii evanghelici, denumit generic Evangelicals and Catholics Together, despre care am mai discutat aici. În timp, toate documentele legate de acest dialog vor apărea pe acest site în traducerea lor românească. (Câteva dintre ele pot fi găsite cu un simplu search pe acest blog.)

Al doilea dialog, chiar mai puţin cunoscut la noi, a fost acela între adepţii neoconservatori ai pieţei libere şi conservatorii sociali centraţi pe „credinţă şi valori”.

În 2005, Time Magazine l-a numit pe Neuhaus dintre dei „25 cei mai influenţi evanghelici din America”.

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Pentru a nu cădea în eulogie ieftină, trebuie să spunem, de asemenea, că Pr. Neuhaus n-a fost străin de controverse, unele dintre ele extrem de acute, mai ales cu cei care, considera el, erau prea critici, în mod justificat sau nu, faţă de Biserica Romano-Catolică. Rod Dreher, un catolic trecut la ortodoxie şi unul dintre cei cu care a polemizat Neuhaus, prezintă AICI câteva detalii cu privire la această dispută. Un alt exemplu în acest sens este cel al lui Damon Linker, care a lucrat timp de trei ani şi jumătate împreună cu Neuhaus la First Things. Pe blogul revistei The New Republic puteţi găsi mai multe texte despre relaţia lui ambivalentă cu Neuhaus.

Redau aici, în traducere românească, ceea ce a scris despre el cunoscutul lider evanghelic Chuck Colson, care a iniţiat, alături de Neuhaus, dialogul catolic-evanghelic:

Richard Neuhaus este una dintre cele mai remarcabile fiinţe umane pe care le-am cunoscut vreodată, un om cu un intelect extraordinar, şi. De asemenea, un pare comunicator şi teolog. Lucrările lui vor fi moştenirea pe care el ne-a lăsat-o, aşa cum a fost şi cu lucrările lui C. S. Lewis. El mi-a devenit un prieten foarte drag şi îmi va lipsi foarte mult. El a fost una dintre figurile monumentale ale vremii noastre.

Din lipsă de timp, şi pentru că am promis să folosesc tot mai mult alte limbi de circulaţie pe acest blog, voi reda mai jos câteva dintre lucrurile semnificative publicate zilele acestea pe site-un revistei Christianity Today, cu ocazia morţii lui Neuhaus.

John Allen, in National Catholic Reporter‘s obituary:

From the early 1970s forward, Neuhaus was a key architect of two alliances with profound consequences for American politics, both of which overcame histories of mutual antagonism: one between conservative Catholics and Protestant Evangelicals, and the other between free market neo-conservatives and “faith and values” social conservatives. …

To Catholic insiders, however, it was Neuhaus’ writing rather than his political activism that made him a celebrity. From the pages of First Things, the unapologetically high-brow journal he founded in 1990, Neuhaus kept up a steady stream of commentary on matters both sacred and secular. … Over the years, even people who disagreed with Neuhaus’ politics or theology would devour his monthly essay in First Things, titled “The Public Square,” for sheer literary pleasure. His combination of epigrammatic formulae and occasionally biting satire often reminded fans of English-language Catholic luminaries of earlier eras, such as G.K. Chesterton or Cardinal John Henry Newman.

Peter Wehner, former deputy assistant President Bush and director of the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives, offered this note at National Review’s blog The Corner:

It was Father Neuhaus, along with his dear, long-time friend George Weigel and just a handful of others like Michael Novak, who not only championed the pro-life cause for so many years, but who gave the rest of us both the grounding and the vocabulary to speak on this issue.

They made the pro-life cause the cause of those seeking justice and protection for the weakest and most vulnerable members of the human community… Father Neuhaus’s influence was quiet, profound, and virtually without boundaries. A former, very influential member of Congress wrote me just yesterday, saying, “When I first ran for Congress I read everything I could from him to formulate my thinking on social policy.”

Ross Douthat in The Atlantic:

At their best, his essays and arguments achieved a grace to which that all religious authors should aspire: They not only conveyed the sense that Richard John Neuhaus, priest and author, cared about the issues of the age, but that God Himself cared about them as well.

Alan Jacobs in The American Scene

So when I think of Father Neuhaus I think primarily of two things. First, I think of his personal encouragement and support of me when I was a young and unknown writer. And second, I think of the major role he played in creating a new space for serious and thoughtful reflection on the place of religion in the public square; for informed and critical cultural commentary; for appreciation of the role of art in shaping and interpreting religious faith and practice.

Journalist Gary Stern of The Journal News:

Let’s be honest: Most people never heard of Neuhaus. He wasn’t really a public figure, in the modern celebrity sense. But among those who care about Catholic thought, the larger realm of Christian thought, the political school of thinking that’s become known as neo-conservativism, and the role of religion in the public square, he was really an intellectual giant.

Journalist Cathy Lynn Grossman of USA Today:

As I began learning this beat (a never ending process) a decade ago, Neuhaus early and quickly became a key source: accessible, clear, and forceful. I remain grateful to have been able to call on him.”

George Weigel, in a press release from Americans United for Life:

Father Richard Neuhaus consistently worked to encourage religious leaders to understand the centrality of the sanctity of human life as an issue of civil rights, and to put aside denominational differences and work together for the common good of protecting the unborn. He never wavered on the centrality of the life issue as a matter of human rights and social justice.

Raymond J. de Souza, in the National Catholic Register:

The Catholic Church lost one of its greatest public intellectuals, a theologian who brought the light of the Gospel to the world of public life. More than that, though, Father Neuhaus made possible a new world of intellectual engagement with the culture.

Robert Sirico, founder of the Acton Institute:

The loss of Neuhaus to the effort for an honest ecumenism, a robust and stylish debate over matters liturgical, cultural, political and literary in his death is monumental. Who will replace him? Indeed, I can almost hear Richard’s deep, sonorous voice countering me, ‘Robert….we are each unrepeatable, irreplaceable.’ Still, in the death of Richard John Neuhaus, America has lost one of its most capable and finest interpreters and the Church has lost (or better, gained for ever) one of her most loyal sons.

President George W. Bush:

Laura and I are saddened by the death of Father Richard John Neuhaus. Father Neuhaus was an inspirational leader, admired theologian, and accomplished author who devoted his life to the service of the Almighty and to the betterment of our world. He was also a dear friend, and I have treasured his wise counsel and guidance. Our thoughts and prayers are with Father Neuhaus’ family, friends, and fellow clergy during this difficult time.

Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family Action:

Richard Neuhaus was to moral principle what William Buckley was to conservative politics: a leader who brought intellectual heft, urbane wit and a gentle spirit to the great debates about truth. While we differed with Rev. Neuhaus on some aspects of his theology, we appreciate his tremendous contributions.

National Review, in an editorial:

Neuhaus began his adult life as a Canadian, a left-winger, and a Lutheran. … He became nonetheless an American, a conservative, and a Catholic. And from these three conversions he forged for himself a distinctive religious identity that was conservative and generous, traditional and open, charitable and – yes – combative. … But fighting and controversy, though necessary to the propagation of religious truth in our age, were secondary themes in Neuhaus’s life. His achievements were essentially creative.

Richard Mouw:

Richard Neuhaus has been a significant influence in my own life, beginning in the early 1970s when he headed up the Council on Religion and International Affairs, and edited its magazine, Worldview. He reached out to me in the very early days of my academic career, inviting me to consultations, publishing essays that I had written, and-most significantly-giving me an important role in “the Hartford Appeal” group, a project that produced a much-discussed document calling the churches, Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox, back to a mission in the world that was guided, not by fashionable trends, but by the marching orders that come to us by way of divine revelation.

I experienced Richard’s “convening power” in a marvelous way; it was through his leadership that I got to spend time with, and work on common projects with, Avery Dulles, George Lindbeck, Alexander Schmemann, and others. To be sure, Richard never simply chaired or edited: he was a person of strongly expressed opinions about many things. Sometimes I disagreed with those opinions, but I always learned from him. I will never forget Richard pointing out that according to the ancient church’s prayer for the dead, it is not St. Peter, but Lazarus the beggar who greets the departed at the pearly gates. I have no doubt that Lazarus and the angels are now celebrating his arrival!

Închei cu un superb fragment dintr-un text al lui Neuhaus care anticipează evenimentul despre care am vorbit aici:

When I come before the judgment throne, I will plead the promise of God in the shed blood of Jesus Christ. I will not plead any work that I have done, although I will thank God that he has enabled me to do some good. I will plead no merits other than the merits of Christ, knowing that the merits of Mary and the saints are all from him; and for their company, their example, and their prayers throughout my earthly life I will give everlasting thanks. I will not plead that I had faith, for sometimes I was unsure of my faith, and in any event that would be to turn faith into a meritorious work of my won. I will not plead that I held the correct understanding of “justification by faith alone,” although I will thank God that he led me to know ever more fully the great truth that much misunderstood formulation was intended to protect. Whatever little growth in holiness I have experienced, whatever strength I have received from the company of the saints, whatever understanding I have attained of God and his ways – these and all other gifts received I will bring gratefully to the throne. But in seeking entry to that heavenly kingdom, I will…look to Christ and Christ alone.

(Richard John Neuhaus, Death on a Friday Afternoon)

Pe site-ul Catholica găsiţi un scurt comentariu al Cardinalului Francis George din Chicago cu privire la ecumenismul practicat de Neuhaus.

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Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

5 thoughts on “In memoriam Richard John Neuhaus”

  1. Thank you for posting links to so many remembrances and eulogies of Father Neuhaus. Through the “miracle” of Google translation, I was able to read the Romanian parts.

    Mulţumesc!

    Like

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