Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus at National Catholic Prayer Breakfast

WASHINGTON, April 23, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) – “Remember this,” Richard John Neuhaus told a ballroom full of Catholic luminaries, “The greatest, moral, political, cultural contest of our time is…the contest between the culture of Life and the culture of Death.”

Richard John Neuhaus, a former Lutheran pastor born in Pembroke Ontario, is now a Catholic convert and priest and edits the leading American intellectual Catholic journal First Things. He addressed attendees at the 4th annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC earlier this month. In the formal traditional American oratorical style, he encouraged those who had been involved in the pro-life movement not to lose confidence, even in the face of apparent set-backs.

Neuhaus’ identification of the core of the Culture Wars as the life issues, abortion, embryonic experimentation and euthanasia, came in the context of the question of the place in US political and cultural life of Catholics. Neuhaus told those present that the contribution of Catholic thought to the “American experiment” in popular democracy was to present the moral questions on the nature of human dignity and human rights.

“We say to our fellow citizens, ‘Come, let us reason. Come let us carefully think about what it means for the very notion of the dignity of the human person. What…does it mean when you say that some human beings, because of their size or because of their dependency, or because of their location, or because of their unwantedness – are, in fact, not part of the community for which we accept common responsibility’.”

Neuhaus decried the notion that American Catholics should blend and assimilate and become invisible as Catholics in their country’s political life.

“God has put us here in America,” he said, “and He has put us here not to be like everybody else. He has put us here not to be American Catholics but Catholic Americans and in this moment of history – to exemplify that most boldly, courageously, persuasively, persistently, in contending for the culture of life.”

Neuhaus praised the Catholic contribution to that contest saying that at the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973, nearly every other American cultural institution, the medical, legal, media and even religious establishments, were in support of the Supreme Court’s abortion decision, Roe v. Wade, except the Catholic Church.

In time, Neuhaus said, the position of Catholics became the pro-life position and the reasoned arguments drew in support from other groups such as the Evangelicals. But he said, “The Catholic Church is the vanguard of the culture of Life.”

The essence of the Catholic message for public life, he said, is “an understanding of what we call Natural Law, Natural Reason, of a gift of God, of a sanctuary of conscience in which we recognize that we are hard-wired for truth – including moral truth.”

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