Be Not Afraid

The Theocons
Secular America under Siege
Damon Linker
Doubleday, $26, 262 pp.

The Theocons, Damon Linker’s new book about his former boss, First Things editor Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, is a Catholic The Devil Wears Prada, with payback on every page. As those who have read the novel or seen the recent movie starring Meryl Streep will know, The Devil Wears Prada, written by a former assistant to Vogue editor Anna Wintour, describes a Cruella De Vil-type tyrant who forces her underlings to fetch lattes and her fur coats. Unlike novelist Lauren Weisberger, though, Linker does not get into his former mentor’s personal foibles. No, it’s weirder than that. Linker reveals—and I hope you are ready for this—that Neuhaus and his friends (most prominently Michael Novak and George Weigel) are trying to influence public policy based on their deeply held religious beliefs. Worse, they appear to be succeeding. It’s as if Wintour’s assistant at Vogue had written a scorcher blowing the lid off the fact that all those fashionistas ever do is obsess about clothes.

Linker writes at length about how Neuhaus and former Commonweal editor-at-large Michael Novak morphed from ’60s revolutionaries into right-wing puppeteers, but he is mute on the subject of his own...disillusionment? Or something worse? We never find out the details, beyond a single paragraph (the last one) in the acknowledgements section at the end of the book:


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About the Author

Melinda Henneberger, a Commonweal columnist, is the former editor-in-chief of