We're going to be seeing lots and lots of commentary about the death of Father Richard John Neuhaus and the end of an era, especially if you combine his passing with that of another important Catholic activist on the right, Deacon Paul Weyrich. Over at the God & Country blog at U.S. News & World Report, Dan Gilgoff has some rather blunt things to say about the role that Neuhaus and other traditional Catholics played in the politics of the past decade or two.
I think what he says is pretty accurate. But, here again, we have a strong statement of opinion that could have been the basis of a very strong, very important piece of news writing. Thus, I am posting this as another example of the "Got news?" syndrome that your GetReligionistas are starting to spotlight.
The headline: "Richard Neuhaus's Death and the Catholic-Evangelical Tension in Politics." And here is the crucial passage in this mini-essay:
... Neuhaus's death ... reminds us that Catholics remain the brains of a conservative movement built on evangelical brawn. This played out during the Bush years in Supreme Court nominations. John Roberts, Bush's first Supreme Court appointment, was embraced by conservative evangelicals, largely because his Catholicism assured them that he was a pro-lifer at heart, despite his thin judicial record.
Bush's second nomination, Harriet Miers, was initially backed by evangelicals because of her evangelical Christian faith, but nearly every other constituency on the right, including many conservative Catholics, rejected her as an intellectual lightweight. Many conservative Catholics were appalled at the way conservative evangelical leaders like Focus on the Family's James Dobson appeared to rely on her faith background as the sole basis for their support. The moment threw a light on the split between the social conservative movement's Catholic head and evangelical heart.
So, basically, Catholics are smart and evangelicals are, well, not as smart. Is that the point?
I think it is possible to say that Catholic intellectuals have played a major role in the era. That's obvious. But there has been another trend, which is linked to Reformed Protestants playing a larger role and many evangelicals -- whatever that word means -- spending more time learning about their ancient roots in natural theology and, well, Catholic thought.
You would be amazed how many conservative Protestants know quite a bit about the life and works of John Paul II and Benedict SVI. So I think Gilgoff has HALF of an important equation. But, most of all, I would love to see his magazine report this story, rather than just proclaim it.
Got news? Yes, there is news here. Hard news.
Photo: Bronze bust of Pope John Paul II.