In a small, private ceremony in New York last month, prominent Lutheran theologian Richard John Neuhaus was formally received into the Roman Catholic Church by John Cardinal O’Connor. Widely known for his conservative social commentary and as the author of The Naked Public Square, Neuhaus has long been critical of liberalism within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), in which he was ordained and pastored for nearly three decades. In a prepared statement, Neuhaus said his decision was the result of “years of prayer, reflection, study, conversation, and, I firmly believe, the leading of the Holy Spirit.”

In joining the Catholic church, Neuhaus was sponsored by Presbyterian-turned-Catholic-theologian Avery Dulles, and George Weigel, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C.

Neuhaus’s departure from the ELCA had been rumored for some time. He has often urged that the separation of Lutheranism from Roman Catholicism was no longer necessary nor justified. In an interview with CHRISTIANITY TODAY, he described his action as “a logical next step in terms of fulfilling my understanding of what the Lutheran Reformation was supposed to be about: a movement of evangelical, gospel reform within the Roman Catholic Church.” He continued, “It seems to me that the Lutheran church has abandoned that original intention of the Reformation and has settled in to being a separate Protestant denomination.

“In my 30 years as a Lutheran pastor, I’ve worked together with thousands of others to try to recall Lutheranism, and particularly the ELCA, to the original purpose of the Reformation. In my judgment, that effort has failed, and therefore as an evangelical catholic Christian, the ...

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