A Man Who Told The Truth

If you pay any attention to "Pass the Biscuits" over there on the right, where I link to items of interest I don't have time to write about (which, under the new regime, is just about everything), a goodly portion of the links since last Thursday have had to do with Fr. Neuhaus.

It can hardly be overstated what a blow his loss is to just about any worthy cause in this country, but something interesting is common to almost all the items in memoria. Take this very nice column from David Brooks, who opens by recalling having asked Fr. Neuhaus to pen some words of comfort to an admirer who happened to be an Episcopal priest.
I was shocked when I read it a few weeks later. As I recall, Neuhaus’s message was this: There are comforting things you and I have learned to say in circumstances such as these, but we don’t need those things between ourselves. Neuhaus then went on to talk frankly and extensively about death.
Brooks reflects on how Neuhaus' understanding of death affected his life's work, and it's worth reading, but what struck me --again-- was Neuhaus' willingness to speak the truth, even if it caused him to disagree with a friend. Writing in the WSJ, Raymond Arroyo relates being corrected by Fr. Neuhaus --not in the insufferable style of the pedant, but in the manner of one for whom truth matters. Tom Hoopes of the National Catholic Register recalls being happily corrected by Fr. Neuhaus during a recent meeting, and collects other people's remembrances along the same lines.

The idea of "speaking truth to power" has become so degraded for us that in most instances it only means being coarse and loud at public occasions. Neuhaus was different, as Michael Gerson points out, citing George Weigel. Neuhaus' pro-life work began when the term "quality of life" came into vogue:
"...people were starting to talk about the 'quality of life' with high-sounding purpose. Richard looked out on his parish and not a single one had 'quality of life' by this definition. So what to do? Should they be ignored? Eliminated?" Neuhaus decided to care for human lives without exception -- leading him to eventually oppose what he called the "unlimited abortion license."
And he never ceased to ask the embarrassing question: How is it that contemporary American liberalism became indifferent to the weakest members of the human community?
With him, it seems, there was no going along to get along: only a continual search for the truth of things. How interesting that so many people have fond memories of their disputes with Fr. Neuhaus.