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Saturday, April 14, 2012

More on Neuhaus

I knew that my blog post on Richard Neuhaus and the bishops’ statement would receive criticism, and I also knew that it was, in the nature of a blog, not particularly clear or systematic. I wanted to engage in the discussion that the bishops have furthered with their statement and see what others thought. A reader commented with this:

No doubt, Richard John Neuhaus would agree that no State or Government should engage in the promotion of promiscuity and thus the sexual objectification of the human person by mandating that every Insurance Company must provide free contraception for all.

I recognize that in my post I was not particularly clear about what I meant by Neuhaus' presence in the bishops' document, but having said that I don't think this person's comment indicates a clear reading of what the bishops have said. This comment makes it sound like the bishops are presenting this as being about contraceptives. They are explicitly saying that it is about religious freedom NOT contraceptives, and that the HHS policy is just one manifestation of a much larger problem. In defining that problem they use Neuhausian frameworks like "naked public square", "civil public square" and "sacred public square" and they quote from a recent statement by the group that Neuhaus helped to found, Evangelicals and Catholics Together. I also specifically mentioned Neuhaus' "End of Democracy?" statement and the controversy that it elicited due to its intemperate and unclear calls for aggressively challenging the judicial branch/political culture. I fear that the bishops’ statement reflects that kind of bellicose approach. If the bishops merely wanted to protest what you have described, then Neuhaus would hardly be alone in agreeing with them, and it would hardly be something worthy of the scale of response that they are undertaking to lead. They have quite clearly done more than that. In so doing they have reflected a good deal of Neuhaus' wisdom, but some of his weakness as well, IMHO.

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