Losing Haight and Neuhaus

Catholic America lost two important intellectual voices in the first fortnight of January 2009. The influential neo-conservative intellectual, Father John … Continued

Catholic America lost two important intellectual voices in the first fortnight of January 2009. The influential neo-conservative intellectual, Father John Neuhaus went to his eternal reward while the Jesuit theologian, Father Roger Haight was barred from any teaching or writing by Vatican decree. No matter the content of their writings, both priests were integral to the freedom of thought and the scope of Catholic theology. Pairing them in comment on their contributions serves the reality of Catholic America better than claiming one is right and the other wrong.

I cannot cover my comments with the fig leaf of impartiality. I know Roger Haight as a neighbor and theological colleague: I personally met Father Neuhaus but once. Yet, as public figures it is not hard to draw stark comparisons between the two.

Father Neuhaus was a convert from Lutheranism and liberalism. His writings secured Catholic participation in the conservative agenda of the past quarter-century in both Church and State. Within ecclesiastical circles, he was an outspoken and articulate supporter of Pope John Paul II’s statements and policies. In U.S. party politics, he was a column of strength for Neo-conservative Republicanism. Rather than face the rigors of academia, he chose to be a public intellectual in the mode of a think-tank expert and on-line blogger known for skewering liberals in politics and theology.

With his passing, Father Neuhaus’ allies in these movements have eulogized his contributions to Catholicism and politics are comparable to those of John Courtney Murray, SJ in the past generation. Death allows for certain exaggeration about the deceased, but the comparison to Fr. Murray doesn’t work for me. The Jesuit had Murray’s 1950s writings on Catholic cooperation with U.S. democracy censured before they were lifted up as charter for the II Vatican Council’s documents in the 1960s. In contrast, Father Neuhaus never wrote anything that would have damaged his standing with the establishment, be it the Republican Party or the Vatican. Dressed with elite hauteur – French cuffs and starched clerical collar – Neuhaus was enamored of the pithy put-down, and his repeated dismissals of Latino Catholicism with its popular devotion and lively music as “multi-cultural exhibitionism” reek of snobbery.

Of course, one need not be a saint to be a Catholic. Whatever his faults, exaggerations or misstatements, Father Neuhaus injected a needed Catholic voice into contemporary society in a cogent and effective manner. You could disagree with Father Neuhaus’ conclusions but still admire his erudition. Ironically, his passing coincided with the vindication of his theology (Josef Ratzinger is Pope Benedict XVI) on the one hand but also with the implosion of the Neo-Con agenda along with the collapse of Catholic support for Republicans in the 2008 election.

In contrast to Father Neuhaus’ political adventurism, theologian Roger Haight, SJ, has explored the meaning of dogma about Christ and the Church strictly as an academic. Respecting his scholarly achievements and his presidency over the most prestigious of Catholic theological organizations, I think Father Haight’s wastebasket contains more profound theology than any of Father Neuhaus’ published works. Yet, the same conservative climate in which Father Neuhaus gloried produced castigation for Father Haight. I have written before about the content of Haight’s theology and the Vatican response, and I wish here only to emphasize that despite their different directions and positions, both fulfill what it means to be completely Catholic. They believe(-d) in the same faith, receive(-d) the same communion and serve(-d) as intellectuals to the U.S. Catholic Church.

Pendulum shifts in history are frequent in Catholicism. It is possible that 100 years from now, Father Haight will be considered the leading light in updating theological thinking and whose only fault was getting too far ahead of ordinary Catholic thinking and the Vatican’s watchdogs. Despite his undeniable influence within the establishment of his times, history may look back on Father Neuhaus as a low-watt politics-cum-theology commentator who was little more than a clever apologist for an irretrievable past. But whatever the future holds, both men speak for the breadth of thought in today’s Catholic America and we are poorer for the loss of their voices.

  • Robert_B1

    Last week, I was shocked and saddened to hear of Fr. Neuhaus’s death. I’ve been a subscriber to *First Things* for a few years now and though it is touted (and sometimes reviled) as a conservative journal, there is much in it for a moderate liberal like me to read, enjoy, and ponder. Some of the best work in the journal was written by Fr. Neuhaus in “The Public Square”. I did not always agree with his point-of-view, but I always admired his erudition and his ability to write.May he rest in peace…

  • ATLMichael

    Once again, Mr. Stevens-Arroyo proves himself to be a closet Protestant. The “ordinary Catholic thinking” to which Mr. Stevens-Arroyo refers came from none other than Pope Benedict XVI himself when he served as the Vatican Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.I certainly respect the right of Protestant scholars and theologians to express their views, even though I may not agree with them. But what truly saddens me is Mr. Stevens-Arroyo’s pernicious insistence on espousing Protestant dogma through an organization that he blatantly misrepresents as being “Catholic America.”In the real Catholic America, we believe the Christian theology as taught by the Magisterium.

  • kcar1

    ATLMichael, your rigid understanding of what constitutes magisterial teaching and possibility of raising questions, let alone dissent, would have Catholics still espousing a belief that the planet Earth is flat. We are blessed to have a vibrant theological community, within which there is much debate, as “-ology” means the study of… If we understood it all, we wouldn’t need to study God and we wouldn’t be very faithful (faith requires mystery/unknown). History is littered with people who were excommunicated and then (posthumously) declared in good standing as the CHURCH came around, not the individual (see above).

  • ravitchn

    Neuhas was a rightwing a….hole. Haight I don’t know but Jesuits are good at justifying anything. At least Neuhaus was honest in defending the indefensible church of Rome. The Jesuit in playing games with it was less honest I suspect.

  • monette1

    Wait till Roger Haight dies before eulogizing him ! And since Father Nauhaus has just died, you should certainly show more christian charity on his part.I don’t think Neuhaus was a specialist in Haight’s work. It doesn’t matter anyways and otherwise seems irrelevant to the topic of his own theological writings.Arroyo, do you believe in the divinity of Jesus-Christ, per the Nicene Creed ? Roger Haight taught that Jesus was merely a ”prophet” and ”savior figure”, much like what is said about Muhammad in islam. This is most definitely a heresy, a damnable one at that, which is often called ”Arianism”, ”Gnosticism” and ”Nominalism”. To the extent that both Latino and European churches believe in the divinity of Jesus-Christ, per the creed, your comment about ”cultural catholicism” is also somewhat impertinent and smacks cultural relativism.

  • CCNL

    For a peer review of Father Haight’s thinking, see Father Haight would be a great addition to the On Faith panel. He is another theologian who has after careful reading and thinking concluded that Jesus was simply a human preacher man raised to deity status by P, M, M, L, and J.

  • Mary_Cunningham

    Re: adding Haight to No FaithWhy add another Episcopalian atheist? Aren’t there already enough? Spong, Thisthewaithe &tc. with Jon Meacham as choirmaster up in the lofts and CCNL etc. in the pews so-to-speak?

  • Mary_Cunningham

    PS Did Haight really write “Jesus–Symbol of ___Cod__”?(Say it’s not a typo)

  • rickyDN

    In it’s commentary on the censure of Haight, the Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA) pointed out the danger of stifling non-mainstream view points, specifically pointing out that there is a difference between theology and catechism.KOAR1’s comment seems right on the mark.I don’t know much about the people who comprise the CTSA: their credentials, their positions on other issues, their theological diversisty of viewpoints (or lack thereof), but it seems they would be in a position to comment.If this discussion gets anywhere near as interesting as the last one concerning Haight, I am in for another less-than-fully-productive day in the office!

  • MikeL4

    Stephens-Arroyo is such a waste of time. He misleads Catholics from the teachings of the Church and substitutes for them his political leanings. He so badly wants Haigt to be correct, but Fr. Neuhaus danced circles around the false theology of Haight and Stephens-Arroyo, which was actually pretty easy to do, since it was based on solid Biblical and magesterical teaching.

  • ThomasBaum

    ATLMichael : You wrote, “The “ordinary Catholic thinking” to which Mr. Stevens-Arroyo refers came from none other than Pope Benedict XVI himself when he served as the Vatican Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.”I believe it was also when Pope Benedict XVI was serving as the Vatican Prefect when he said a Catholic should “follow his/her conscience”.You also wrote, “In the real Catholic America, we believe the Christian theology as taught by the Magisterium.”God has never chose anyone to speak for another human being so the “we” in the above sentence should be “I”.What is more important “theology” or God?Jesus said that He would send the Holy Spirit to guide us, He did not say that He would send the Magisterium to guide us.There are many things that can be a help but ultimately we are asked to “Follow Jesus” “Guided by the Holy Spirit”.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • ThomasBaum

    KCARLYou wrote, ” If we understood it all, we wouldn’t need to study God and we wouldn’t be very faithful (faith requires mystery/unknown).”When God chooses someone to speak for God that person knows some but it doesn’t mean that that person knows it all, so it can be a combination of knowing some and believing some.You also wrote, “History is littered with people who were excommunicated and then (posthumously) declared in good standing as the CHURCH came around, not the individual”, I think that it is good and healthy when the Church can admit that it is not perfect.If people noticed, Pope John Paul II went around the whole world making public penances for the sins of the Catholic Church, not of individual members but of the Church.Jesus did not say that the Church would be perfect but that the mission of the Church would be acccomplished. Jesus also said, “I Am the Vine, you are the branches”, He did NOT say I Am the Vine and you are the branch.I think you pointed out some good things in your post and I think that one of the things that Jesus tried to get across to us is “to think” and that is to think with both our mind and our heart.If one is going to be Catholic, then you should also be catholic.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • ThomasBaum

    RAVITCHNYou wrote, ” At least Neuhaus was honest in defending the indefensible church of Rome.”.If one is looking for imperfection, one need not look at the “indefensible church of Rome”, one does not need to look beyond oneself.You also wrote, ” The Jesuit in playing games with it was less honest I suspect.”The “Jesuit” would have been “less than honest” if he didn’t write what he believed and felt himself led to write.I am not really familiar with either one of them, I have my own “job” to do which really isn’t my “job” but Our job meaning God and mine’s.I am thankful that God’s Plan is for ALL OF HUMANITY to be with Him in His Kingdom.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • youngcath

    Taking advantage of the death of a great ecumenist, social commentator, and preacher like Richard John Neuhaus, who has credibility on all sides, to call attention to an historically obscure theologian is tacky in the extreme. I am not a neo-con, but I know Fr. Neuhaus was faithful to the tradition and pastorally sensitive. Haight is obscure, barely known outside the ivory tower crowd, and fell to the temptation of engaging in controversy to catch some limelight. The Church, like a good Mother disciplines her children in love. God Bless Neuhaus and Haight, but the staff of your newspaper should be more appropriate than to take advantage of a death in the Catholic family because there seems to be a catchy article opportunity afoot.

  • ThomasBaum

    MONETTE1You wrote, “Roger Haight taught that Jesus was merely a ”prophet” and ”savior figure”, much like what is said about Muhammad in islam.”Actually, in islam, Jesus is spoken of as merely a prophet, not that He is God-Incarnate.I am not familiar with what Roger Haight writes and teaches but I have said many times, that I do not hold it against Muhammad that he was deceived.Jesus is God-Incarnate and God is a Trinity and God is a BEING OF PURE LOVE.I have also said many times that: God is a searcher of hearts and minds, not of religious affiliations or lack thereof and also that it is important what one does and why one does it and what one knows.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • CCNL

    And Thomas “The Hallucinator” Baum continues to hallucinate about god!!!

  • ThomasBaum

    CCNLYou wrote, “And Thomas “The Hallucinator” Baum continues to hallucinate about god!!!”Actually, I am speaking about God.I read the http thing that you put up. One of the things that they spoke of but not in detail was Christocentric and Theocentric considering that Christo must refer to Jesus, Who is God-Incarnate and Theo refers to God, they should be one and the same.What do you think?By the way, I am not a theologian, I am just a messenger.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • paulc2

    CCNL:

  • Mary_Cunningham

    CCNL,You must stop being a propagandist and start being a person. Long lists of Crossan books prove only that, well, he wrote a lot of books. (So did Spong). They say nothing about their quality. Luther wrote a lot of books, so did Freud and the Freudians. I’m not going to start on about Luther, but Freud was certainly wrong. Anyway, B16 in his Regensburg speech stated that Christianity was the combination of fulfilled Judaism with Greek philosophy. IMHO it was always an unstable amalgam and the tensions found in the writings of the ancients are evident to this day.Fr Haight writes of Jesus as an IDEA, a SYMBOL. This POV is derived from the metaphysics of the ancient Greeks and, I guess, is most notable in John. Ranged against this was the experience and entire tradition of the ancient Jews and their concept of God as a PERSON. Christian mystics down through the ages–and IMHO Thomas Baum is one–have always experienced God as a PERSON. Really READ Thomas’s writing, take off your blinkers–you seem really brainwashed here– he asserts consistently that the Godhead is a PERSON.I hesitate in recommending a single book to you but you might try reading some Henri Bergson. I like “Origins of Morality and Religion”. Or, failing that, try Kolakowski’s brief essay on the gist of his ideas.Best,

  • Farnaz2

    MaryCunningham writes:”Ranged against this was the experience and entire tradition of the ancient Jews and their concept of God as a PERSON”Interesting since in a previous post, you protested passionately that you had never made such a claim. Judaism in the century of Jesus (assuming he existed) was the century of Akiva, et al (see Wikipedia). These men inherited an ancient tradition that saw Hashem (name), as categorically not human. Because the deity is singular, it could not be named. To name is to conceptualize, hence, “Hashem.”Judaism had always been radically monotheistic. The notion of a man-god, human incarnation is alien to it. It has been suggested by the Catholic theologian Rosemary Ruether and others that Catholicism harked back to incipient Judaism, dispensed with many centuries earlier, but that has yet to be verified.

  • Mary_Cunningham

    Farnaz2,You must be thinking of someone else. In the little I have written I have generally referenced the tension in ancient Christianity about the precise nature of the Godhead–the difference between the Greek Platonic philosophical notion of the Good and the Judaic concept of God as a person. As the new faith spread outwards from diaspora Jews to the gentiles, Greek notions of philosophy began to be combined with Judaic monotheism in the same faith. This was pretty much completed by AD100, you can see it in the gospel of John. Of all the Christian faiths it is Catholicism that most replicates this early Christianity, for better or worse. You can see it today in the conflict between Benedict (then Josef Ratzinger) and Fr Haight.

  • Mary_Cunningham

    And before we go any further, Farnaz2, I have absolutely no desire to communicate with someone whose alterego is Observer12. Who under that name has posted here successive waves vicious anti-Catholicism, who called me a C__t (rhymes with runt) not once but several times on separate occasions when I protested, I could go on, but why?Anyway, I shouldn’t be posting here at all.

  • Farnaz2

    MaryCunningham aka Speed123 aka thehereandnow aka peer review, et al.Slander away….It’s what you’re good at under your whatever guise you post. I’ve no desire to “chat” with you, but will not let stand your appallingly ignorant, not to say bigoted, comments on Judaism and Jews.Au revoir. Safe trip.

  • Farnaz2

    On Mary Cunningham’s ludicrous assertion:”Judaic concept of God as a person”See my earlier post. There is no “Judaic concept of God as a person,” except (now and before though subsequently denied) in MC’s demented supersessionist imaginings. The Tannaim, Akiva, et al, of the first century (whose existence, unlike that of JC, is certain) inherited a centuries old tradition of a singular God, nonanthropomorphic, so abstract as to be called Hashem (name). That is, the deity could not be named by humans since to name is to conceptualize.Some Catholic theologians, Reuther among them, have asserted that JC was a throwback to an anthropomorphic deity discarded centuries earlier by Judaism, a claim for which no evidence has, as yet, been adduced. More evidence attaches to the JC construct and Tammuz.

  • ThomasBaum

    FARNAZ2You wrote, “There is no “Judaic concept of God as a person,”. Do not confuse person and human. Didn’t the Old Testament Moses speak with God and God with Moses?There are quite a few other places in the Old Testament where people have had “personable”, so to speak, encounters with God.When I speak about when I met God the Father, even tho He did not say a word, I could say that He was, to say the least, personable but that is not even close to saying that He is human.Actually God is a BEING OF PURE LOVE and we are made in His Image and if Love shines thru us then His Image is shining thru us.Language to me is to communicate and since I am human, I have to use human language.When I met God the Holy Spirit, He did not say a word to me either but He did communicate to me that the Catholic Eucharist is Jesus.There is the whole Trinity, it is immaterial whether anyone believes me or not, God revealed Himself to me and God is a Trinity.Jesus, God-Incarnate, became One of us when Mary said YES and that is when He became the Son of God and the Son of Man until then He was God.I have met the Trinity and I know that God is a Trinity but I can’t explain it and I don’t have to, I could give an analogy but that is all that it would be, an analogy.God is spoken of quite often in a Personable Way in the Old Testament but as God not human.Semantics, language, can be a very useful tool in trying to communicate and it can be used as a bridge from one to another or as an impenetrable fortress built around someone.God became One of us, how more personable could God be?Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • CCNL

    Mary C,To determine the quality of books, one must read said books. After reading some of Crossan books and those written by Spong, you will conclude that the scholarship of Professor Crossan far exceeds that of Bishop Spong. We await your critical reviews.

  • ThomasBaum

    CCNLYou wrote, “Lüdemann (Jesus, 280f) finds the genealogies in both Matthew and Luke to be theological creations with no historical basis. In similar vein he finds no historical value in the dispute over the davidic lineage of the Messiah (Mark 12:35-37 and parallels), finding it instead to be the product of “a learned scribal” effort to demonstrate that Jesus is “more than son of David, namely son of God.””You mean to tell me that they went thru all of that and didn’t even notice that the genealogies as presented weren’t even of Jesus.Jesus said a few things about the “learned” of His day.God is a lot “nicer” to put it mildly than quite a few think and sadly to say than quite a few want Him to be.See you and the rest of humanity in the Kingdom on the seventh day in the new heavens and the new earth.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • ThomasBaum

    CCNLI guess that it is beyond the complexities of the “learned” to comprehend when it says, “The mysteries of the Kingdom has been given unto the simple” or words to that effect.I believe that you have mentioned that if something isn’t repeated enough in the bible then some of the “learned” throw it away.Yet, if it is not mentioned at all, the “learned” come up with all kinds of scenarios of their own, as if to say, this is what they changed so here we are to set you straight.I don’t know how well you might know some of these people but how do they come up with a concensus, do they use a coin toss?God did not make it complicated, as a matter of fact it is very simple and understandable, I guess that is why some find it so hard to believe.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Farnaz2

    Mary_Cunningham Author Profile Page:And before we go any further, Farnaz2, I have absolutely no desire to communicate with someone whose alterego is Observer12. Who under that name has posted here successive waves vicious anti-Catholicism, who called me a C__t (rhymes with runt) not once but several times on separate occasions when I protested, I could go on, but why?Anyway, I shouldn’t be posting here at all.January 14, 2009 7:07 AM |

  • Farnaz2

    Farnaz2 Author Profile Page:MaryCunningham aka Speed123 aka thehereandnow aka peer review, et al.Slander away….It’s what you’re good at under your whatever guise you post. I’ve no desire to “chat” with you, but will not let stand your appallingly ignorant, not to say bigoted, comments on Judaism and Jews.Au revoir. Safe trip.January 14, 2009 7:20 AM |

  • Farnaz2

    Selected pastes from this thread on the correspondence between the demented racist MC and your truly. For more, scroll down. Unlike said lunatic MC, I haven’t the time to go combing through the archives sifting through hundreds of posts, to select from among her various always racist identities the most ignorant and repugnant comments. On Mary Cunningham’s ludicrous assertion:”Judaic concept of God as a person”See my earlier post. There is no “Judaic concept of God as a person,” except (now and before though subsequently denied) in MC’s demented supersessionist imaginings. The Tannaim, Akiva, et al, of the first century (whose existence, unlike that of JC, is certain) inherited a centuries old tradition of a singular God, nonanthropomorphic, so abstract as to be called Hashem (name). That is, the deity could not be named by humans since to name is to conceptualize.Some Catholic theologians, Reuther among them, have asserted that JC was a throwback to an anthropomorphic deity discarded centuries earlier by Judaism, a claim for which no evidence has, as yet, been adduced. More evidence attaches to the JC construct and Tammuz.January 14, 2009 7:28 AM |

  • CCNL

    And Thomas “The Hallucinator” Baum somehow has knowledge of the unknowable god!!! Hmmmm??? To say the least Thomas suffers from a severe case of “Pauletalasizing”.

  • ThomasBaum

    CCNLYou wrote, “And Thomas “The Hallucinator” Baum somehow has knowledge of the unknowable god!!! Hmmmm???”Considering that God throughout the Old Testament was revealing different things to different people, how can you say He is “unknowable”?Considering that God became One of us in the Incarnation, how can you say that God is “unknowable”?Considering that Jesus said that He would send the Holy Spirit to guide us, how can you say that God is “unknowable”?You also wrote, “To say the least Thomas suffers from a severe case of “Pauletalasizing”.”Mighty fancy word there, would you like to explain it?Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • ThomasBaum

    MARY_CUNNINGHAM Thank you for your, “Here is the link to the Vatican’s reasoning on Fr Haight.”Did you notice this in that link it says, “The Author’s position is in reality contrary to the doctrine of the Church, which has always held that Jesus intended his death to be for the sake of universal redemption.”Also from that link, “The Author insists on the necessity of moving beyond christocentrism to theocentrism, which “cuts the necessity of binding God’s salvation to Jesus of Nazareth alone”As far as I am concerned, the way that I look at it but most likely not the way Fr Haight looks at it, christocentrism and theocentrism is one and the same since Jesus is God-Incarnate, not some symbol, and God’s has had His Plan since before creation and God’s Plan will come to Fruition.The link states that Fr Haight wrote, “God acts in the lives of human beings in a plurality of ways outside of Jesus and the Christian sphere”God has His Plan which includes but is not limited to: The Jews being the Chosen People, God-Incarnate being a Jew, Jesus, God-Incarnate, founding a Church with many branches with the mission of “the gates of the netherworld not prevailing against it”, how else God is working in this world is God’s decision not mine or any other human or human institution to say.These are some of my thoughts on the link that you provided, thanks again.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • s_j_thaikattil

    Hi Mary (Cunningham of London)!Thanks for your post addressed to me on the blog of Dr Timothy Shriver. Since the blog does not accept any more comments I could not post a reply. It would not be appropriate to post it here. Even though it is late in the year, a Happy New Year 2009 to you and all your loved ones!Best wishes

  • josfnet

    I appreciate A. Steven-Arroyho’s comments on the late R.J.Neuhaus. I could not agree with him more in seeing Neuhaus as a “…low-watt politics-cum-theology commentator…” who made his mark in these recent reactionary times as an apologist for religion as devotion while ignoring the history of religion. Stevens-Arroyho’s view serves as a welcome antidote to much that has found its way into the days news. I found espcially offensive G.Weigel’s narrow and myopic encomium that appeared in Newseek. Obviously that magazine feels that his presentation is the best they can get from an inside vatican catholic. They let Weigel do the same kind of simplistic, hagiography for Karol Wojtyla when he died.

  • mbduggan

    A couple of comments on Mr. Arroyo’s remembrance of Fr. Neuhaus are in order.First of he, he did not abandon liberalism, liberalism abandoned him. Neuhaus was and always remained an advocate for civil rights and the poor, but when liberalism embraced Roe v. Wade, and made unqualified support for abortion rights a litmus test for participation in politics via the Democratic Party, Neuhaus departed, having been effectively excluded. But Neuhaus deserves to remembered not for his politics, as Mr. Arroyo belatedly acknowledges. Neuhaus’ main contribution to public discourse is the contention that a religious perspective is an appropriate and even necessary part of that discourse, regardless of political ideology or party affiliation. A religious perspective is not something to be shunted away as merely private. Hence the title of Fr. Neuhaus most famous book, “The Naked Public Square,” referring to the new (since the 1970s) prejudice against a religious perspective in public discourse.