Fr. Richard Neuhaus of First Things has died.
Links you might be interested in are First Things announcement, Ross Douthat, Alan Jacobs, Damon Linker, National Review, Peter Wehner, Commentary, Russell Fox, Rod Dreher, Hugo Schwyzer, and Ramesh Ponnuru. Add other links of interest in the comments.
I read The Naked Public Square in law school. The idea of the book was much more impressive than the book itself. I’ve read other things by Neuhaus and I read his monthly First Things column and my opinion of his writing didn’t change. Sometimes quite good, sometimes brilliantly controversial, usually worth reading, but usually falling short of being impressive. I might make an exception for the fascinating End of Democracy symposiums, in which he shone (I’ve linked to the bulk of it, but the complete discussion can be purchased here.)
His attacks on Mormonism are well known (see here, here, here). They were too ignorant to unsettle anyone or do us any real damage (possible exceptions here and here). On the other hand, his magazine recently published an illuminating debate on whether Mormons were Christians and has usually been friendly to Mormon contributors and participation. That’s the Neuhaus legacy in shorthand. His accomplishment was First Things, not his own writings. That’s accomplishment enough for any man.
Nothing he said about Mormons will have any real effect on us, but First Things might. It provides and has provided an alternative way for young Mormon intellectuals to acculturate. If strands of Mormonism are more interested in the Christian tradition and natural law than it used to be, more comfortable with Catholicism, less convinced that the medieval was mindless–blame Neuhaus. As a friend quipped, impressive new online Mormon webjournal Square Two could really be called Second Things.
Richard Neuhaus, God rest him.
Comment warning. De mortuus nil nisi bonum is a principle that has a lot of give in it, but your comments should be respectful.