It is hard to imagine a world without Father Richard John Neuhaus– his dazzling intellect; the wide-ranging "The Public Square" columns he wrote each month in First Things; his love of ideas and of his Creator. But with his passing away this morning, we now must.
I only saw him once. Almost exactly a year ago, he came to the annual Christian law professors’ conference to participate in a debate with Bill on the legacy of the religious right. I was well aware that his bold defense of Christian participation in the public square in the 1980s was an important part of the inspiration that eventually led to gatherings and groups like ours. But I also had the impression that he did not always suffer fools gladly. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
I needn’t have wondered. The "debate" with Bill turned out to be a brilliant conversation about some of the positive and negative legacies of the religious right. He was unfailingly gracious, and the panel was the highlight of a remarkable conference.
I’m grateful to have seen him in action. He was one of a kind.