A brilliant biography of one of the intellectual mavericks of 20th Century Catholicism.
Richard John Neuhaus (1936-2009) was one of the most influential figures in American public life from the Civil Rights era to the War on Terror. His writing, activism, and connections to people of power in religion, politics, and culture secured a place for himself and his ideas at the center of recent American history. William F. Buckley, Jr. and John Kenneth Galbraith are comparable -- willing controversialists and prodigious writers adept at cultivating or castigating the powerful, while advancing lively arguments for the virtues and vices of the ongoing American experiment. But unlike Buckley and Galbraith, who have always been identified with singular political positions on the right and left, respectively, Neuhaus' life and ideas placed him at the vanguard of events and debates across the political and cultural spectrum. For instance, alongside Abraham Heschel and Daniel Berrigan, Neuhaus co-founded Clergy Concerned About Vietnam, in 1965. Forty years later, Neuhaus was the subject of a New York Review of Books article by Garry Wills, which cast him as a Rasputin of the far right, exerting dangerous influence in both the Vatican and the Bush White House. This book looks to examine Neuhaus's multi-faceted life and reveal to the public what made him tick and why.
Boyagoda (Beggar's Feast), a novelist and professor of American studies at Ryerson University in Toronto, explores the fascinating life of Richard Neuhaus, a man not shy about sharing his opinions or taking controversial positions on public issues. From Neuhaus's humble childhood in Canada, through his tenure as a Lutheran pastor, to his highly public conversion to Catholicism and ordination to the priesthood, the author investigates all facets of his subject's life and the profound effect he had on people around the world. While Neuhaus could be a very polarizing figure and was referred to as the Theocon in Chief, the man encountered in these pages is also faithful, generous, and focused on doing God's work. Most fascinating is Neuhaus' transformation from civil rights activist and darling of the Christian left to spokesperson for conservative Catholicism as editor of the journal First Things; he was also consultant to presidents and popes. Anyone interested in the history of Catholicism in the 20th century will enjoy this stellar biography.