Books by Richard John Neuhaus

Released: April 1, 2009

"A manifesto for Christians who share Neuhaus' theology, and for opponents with an academic bent who enjoy an intellectual dust-up."
The recently deceased neoconservative intellectual offers a philosophical blueprint for his Catholicism and his stranger-in-a-strange-land relationship with America. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1992

A Catholic priest sets out to explain that the union of a free society and a free-market economy is not a shotgun wedding but a marriage made in heaven. Neuhaus (America Against Itself, p. 595) wears not only a clerical collar but numerous hats: editor of First Things magazine, head of the Institute of Religion and Public Life, neo-conservative scholar. Here, he combines his skills, examining the relationship between ``taking care of business and taking care of each other.'' The American dream of justice for all, he says, shines brightest when lighted by religion—witness Martin Luther King. But today Protestantism is demoralized, he contends, and moral leadership thus falls to the Catholic Church and its social teaching, exemplified by Pope John II's ``remarkable'' 1991 encyclical, Centesimus Annus. Neuhaus first explains the nature of papal encyclicals as guidebooks rather than as marching orders; he then offers a thematic analysis of Centesimus. According to Neuhaus, John Paul contends—and recent events in Eastern Europe prove—that socialism is inherently totalitarian; markets must therefore be free. But freedom is of value only as a vehicle for love, and free markets must be driven by ``moral reconstruction,'' above all by a Gospel-based commitment to the poor. This will demand an inversion of American attitudes: our duty to enrich the poor isn't a burden but a gift, a chance to increase the solidarity of all humankind. All nations must affirm the spiritual ``dignity of work''; rich and poor must see that the free market is a source of wealth that can bring wealth to all. A worthy unpacking of the Pope's dense social theology, although Neuhaus admits that liberal thinkers have found in Centesimus a far more severe criticism of capitalism than he does. In any case, a moral call to arms, trumpeted with spirit. Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 1992

An even-tempered (if rather partisan) critique of the American soul as it exhibits itself on the different fronts of our ``culture war.'' Neuhaus (Unsecular America, 1986, etc.) traces the traumas of our social and political life back to their ontological roots and supplies a prognosis that will undoubtedly scandalize as many as it sways. A Catholic priest and scholar who presides over the Institute of Religion and Public Life, Neuhaus has concentrated his sociological efforts for some years now on the intersection between the political and the spiritual in American life. In doing so, he has run counter to prevailing notions of secularism—held only, he maintains, by an elite minority—that would, he says, collapse all religious impulses into an entirely private realm. Neuhaus skips over the more obvious examples of conflict—school prayer, Nativity scenes in public parks, etc.—and attempts in more theoretical terms to show that liberal democracy (in its American incarnation) requires a religious foundation if it is to succeed as a unifying social force. He draws on his experiences with the civil-rights movement to show how a religious vocabulary can be used—as it was by Martin Luther King—to bring together even the most mutually antagonistic groups. One might question Neuhaus's optimism in light of the increasing lack of cohesion in most mainline churches today, and parts of his argument display an inclination toward the sort of ``throne-and-altar'' alliance that has bedeviled European reactionaries for two hundred years—but his analysis of the seeming void around which the ``secular'' consensus is built, and the fragility of the social structures that depend upon that consensus, is challenging, prescient, and ominous. And his chapters on the abortion issue, while hardly impartial, are remarkably free of the usual cant. A trifle glib and overconfident, Neuhaus's tone can irritate. His thesis, however, is original enough to compel attention and forceful enough to provoke thought. Read full book review >