Father Richard John Neuhaus
c/o First Things
Journal of Religion and Public Life
Dear Father Neuhaus:
Noticing that I live in a world of moral opportunism, I've recently taken a new interest in the Catholic Church. Dismissing, as I do, your pedophiles as anomalies, I am newly impressed by the courage and decency of John Paul II, the Council of Catholic Bishops and certain priests and nuns of my acquaintance in standing up for peace and fairness and mercy in an increasingly nasty world. I've chosen to stand with these people as dark clouds of dementia seem to engulf our society.
Before today I have never heard of you. I caught your NPR interview on my way home from work. Hearing your calm, reasonable voice describing the criteria for a "just war", playing easily with words and concepts to make the template fit the present circumstance vis a vis Iraq, sitting there in your clerical collar and telling us all that yes, it is now our duty to charge into Bagdad like a pack of bloody butchers and "defend" ourselves against those countless thousands of teenaged conscripts. Such a short interview. Such civil questions. Such effortless, informed, dignified answers. A just war, without provocation or anything approaching military parity. A unilateral act of slaughter, that will remove forever any moral mandate my poor country might yet possess. Your respectable presence slithered out of my radio, leaving me feeling that a huge evil had visited briefly, leaving a slight stench in the air. It reminded me that Lucifer was once an angel, and that the diabolic "accuser" does not always lurk in subway bathrooms, but sometimes wears a frock and pretends to be a priest. What I heard was a virtual devil willing to invoke the authority of the Church to exhort us all to a needless, bogus war using a one-size-fits-all argument that could be used to justify aggression against any country or people on the face of this earth any time we might suspect a secret, hostile intention. Or any time our ethically challenged leaders might covet somebody's oil reserves. Given your scholarly manner, you have got a very impactful dog and pony show, sir.
When I got home I googled up the First Things web site, and sure enough, found the Islamophobic rat I suspected was hiding behind the interview. (I printed out your articles, the reading of which has been consistent with my first, rash impression. I have also read Mein Kampf, Civilization and its Discontents, and a bit of Ludwig Feuerbach.) You don't care for Muslim culture, and you think that unleashing the unspeakable horror of the American military arsenal to blow them all to pieces is a dandy idea. What a guy.
I hope it makes you uneasy that the wheat is beginning to separate from the chaff these days. Being an uneducated layman, I think I'll try to distance myself from those Texas business people and their apologists and drift along with Jimmy Carter and Pope John Paul and Mohandas Gandhi and the reported directives of the Second Person of the Divine Trinity. See you around.