Rest in Peace Richard John Neuhaus (1936-2009)

It is with great sadness, but with thanks for the gracious love of our Almighty God, that we learn of the death of our beloved father in the faith, Richard John Neuhaus.

First Things Editor John Bottum writes:

Our great, good friend is gone.

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus slipped away today, January 8, shortly before 10 o’clock, at the age of seventy-two. He never recovered from the weakness that sent him to the hospital the day after Christmas, caused by a series of side effects from the cancer he was suffering. He lost consciousness Tuesday evening after a collapse in his heart rate, and soon after, in the company of friends, he died.

My tears are not for him—for he knew, all his life, that his Redeemer lives, and he has now been gathered by the Lord in whom he trusted.

I weep, rather for all the rest of us. As a priest, as a writer, as a public leader in so many struggles, and as a friend, no one can take his place. The fabric of life has been torn by his death, and it will not be repaired, for those of us who knew him, until that time when everything is mended and all our tears are wiped away.
Please accept our thanks for all your prayers and good wishes.

In Deepest Sorrow,

Joseph Bottum
First Things

I will always regard the 24 hours he spent with us here in Melbourne at the invitation of the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission in 2003 as a great privilege and honour. I remember two things with a bit of a chuckle. The first is that when he opened his suitcase, it had two things in it: a change of underclothes and a cigar (he had only flown down from Sydney for the night). The other was his disappointment that he could not smoke his cigar inside the Cathedral Presbytery.

May he rest from his labours. Surely his deeds will follow him.

For tributes, see:

John Allen
Michael Novak
Damon Linker (past editor of First Things)
Anthony Sacramone (past editor of First Things)
Ross Douthat in the Atlantic
National Review Online
New York Times / Herald Tribune Obituary
Pastor Paul McCain at Cyberbrethren

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0 Responses to Rest in Peace Richard John Neuhaus (1936-2009)

  1. Past Elder says:

    Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei.

    Even I — who thought little of his conversion and thinks even less of that to which he converted — would not begrudge him this ancient prayer of the church, expressing for those who have gone on the hope we all share, a light in which, among other things and to paraphrase Melanchthon slightly, we’ll wonder what all our fussing was about while we were here.

    (Reposted here from my comment on PW’s blog.)

  2. Anonymous says:

    Despite his unfortunate tendency to make the Church the right wing of the US Republican Party at prayer, I have nonetheless always had the greatest respect for his thought and witness. He was so good that he transcended a partisan agenda. Requiescat in pace.

  3. Joshua says:

    David, I too am privileged to recall that pleasant evening address he gave in Melbourne back in 2003, and with all do wish to pray for him Eternal Memory and Eternal Rest.

  4. Christine says:

    I really appreciate these comments from Pastor McCain about Father Neuhaus:

    I always enjoyed my back-and-forths with Father Neuhaus. He opened several doors for me while I served The LCMS President, making it possible for LCMS leadership to make direct contact with the Vatican, when ELCA leaders were intent on cutting us out of formal conversation with Rome. Father Neuhaus was able to make direct personal appeal to Pope John Paul which led to direct contacts with Cardinal Ratzinger, with the result that the The LCMS was again given a place at the table of discussion and dialog with Rome, and most importantly, a point sadly lost on some, the chance in this formal context to make the good confession of faith. I learned from Father Neuhaus how the highest levels of the Vatican looked with considerable appreciation on the bold confession The Missouri Synod made at the time of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, and it was from Father Neuhaus that I learned that Cardinal Ratzinger had made the point, “If the Lutherans do not take their Confessions seriously, why should we?” But then he would always say, “But there is the Missouri Synod!”

    My respect for the LCMS grows even more along with my dismay for the ELCA which I left.

    The Church militant has gained another friend in the Church triumphant. Rest in peace from your labors, our brother in Christ.

  5. Past Elder says:

    I appreciated Pastor’s comments too — especially since we (Missouri) are a little overstocked with those who would turn us into E?CA/St Louis branch.

  6. Joshua says:


    Being very ignorant, I don’t quite understand the LCMS / ELCA / Wisconsin Synod thing – could you explain something of their differences to Antipodean and non-Lutheran readers?

  7. Past Elder says:

    The only thing I’ll say at any length here — this being a “Catholic” blog, after all — is that the ELCA is a fairly new body. It was formed in 1988 from three synods that were themselves the result of mergers of earlier synods. It has taken a number of liberal stands with which neither the LCMS nor WELS agree.

    LCMS and WELS go back to German emigration to the US in the 1800s. Originally, WELS was much more Pietistic than LCMS, and from different German groups. WELS began in 1850 in Milwaukee, LCMS began in 1847 in Chicago (yeah, I know, that’s not in Missouri!). The two were in fellowship from 1871 until 1961.

    The Wiki articles on either synod are pretty good, including material on the specific differences, both between each other and commonly with the ELCA, or as some of us like to put it, the E?CA. Also, you can check out the FAQ sections at and

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