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Damon Linker thinks there were (I almost said are) two Fr. Richard John Neuhauses. The good one and the bad one. Very generously, Linker writes that “I’m not mistaken, the first, more thoughtful Neuhaus has reasserted himself in the past two years.” What a relief that is.
But what did that other one do? What are the second Neuhaus’s crimes?
Well, he encouraged “the American bishops to deny the sacrament of Communion to pro-choice Catholic politicians” and even conjectured along the lines that the Democrats being the party of abortion, “faithful Catholics” might have “a positive duty to vote for the Republican Party.” Linker imagines that this second Neuhaus might have “come roaring back, hurling theological invective at the new president, fretting about the end of democracy in America, rallying the religious right for the next round in the culture war — the battle to wrest the White House from the clutches of the culture of death.”
But consider this:
What man who “aimed to be a ‘thorough revolutionary’ during the 1960s and who later brokered a political alliance . . . in order more effectively to wage a cultural war” in the 1960s or any time since; what man who “walked a fine line between predicting that the culture war was on the verge of erupting into violence and actively inciting such violence” at any time between then and now; what man such as this is not a common member of the great Pantheon of Liberal Heroes on any given month?
Linker faults Neuhaus for being too passionate about his arguments, and too good at causing them to win the day. In a word he faults him for his sincerity — which is of course the very currency of 1960s emotionalism.
Linker’s hostility toward Neuhaus is clearly rooted in something other entirely than Neuhaus’ arguments or public teaching.
Most likely it is rooted sheer partisan bias. Which is pathetic. The man who gave him employment at a presitigious magazine, Linker decided to treat with psychoanalytic suspicion, with a bizarre lack of charity, on the very day this man died — for offenses against political propriety far exceeded by, say, a number of major formative figures in the life of the president-elect.