Apr 04 2009

The courage of Richard John Neuhaus

Category: abortion,left,religionharmonicminer @ 9:35 am

Robert P. George describes the commitment of one time “liberal” Richard John Nuehaus to the unborn, and what that stance cost him in the eyes of the world, in an article well worth reading in its entirety. Concluding paragraphs:

He Threw It All Away

For Neuhaus, the liberal movement had gone wrong not only on the sanctity of human life, but on the range of issues on which it had succumbed to the ideology of the post-1960s cultural left. While celebrating “personal liberation,” “diverse lifestyles,” “self-expression,” and “if it feels good, do it,” all in the name of respecting “the individual,” liberalism had gone hook, line, and sinker for a set of doctrines and social policies that would only increase the size and enhance the control of the state—mainly by enervating the only institutions available to provide counterweights to state power.

The post-1960s liberal establishment—from the New York Times to NBC, from Harvard to Stanford, from the American Bar Association to Americans for Democratic Action—having embraced the combination of statism and lifestyle individualism that defines what it means to be a “liberal” (or “progressive”) today, could not understand Richard Neuhaus or, in truth, abide him. Far from being lionized, he was loathed by them, albeit with a grudging respect for the intellectual gifts they once hoped he would place in the service of liberal causes. Those gifts were deployed relentlessly—and to powerful effect—against them and all their works and ways.

And so Fr. Richard John Neuhaus did not go through life, as it once seemed he would, collecting honorary degrees from the most prestigious universities, giving warmly received speeches before major professional associations and at international congresses of the great and the good, being a celebrated guest at social and political gatherings on the Upper West Side, or appearing on the Sunday network news shows as spiritual guarantor of the moral validity of liberalism’s favored policies and practices.

His profound commitment to the sanctity of human life in all stages and conditions placed him on a different path, one that led him out of the liberal fold and into intense opposition. As a kind of artifact of his youth, he remained to the end a registered member of the Democratic Party. But he stood defiantly against many of the doctrines and policies that came to define that Party in his lifetime. He was, in fact, their most forceful and effective critic—the scourge of the post-1960s liberals. He was not, as things turned out, their Niebuhr, but their nemesis.

May more of us have the same kind of courage, to take risks, to put our convictions ahead of our careers and public approval.

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