If you were inclined to identify uniquely Canadian contributors to Catholic thought in our time you might name Bernard Lonergan, Charles Taylor, Marshall McLuhan and David Stanley. You would certainly name Gregory Baum. But Richard John Neuhaus would be another matter. A genuinely Catholic matter, so it seems.

On CBC Radio One's Sunday Edition (March 4) anchor/host Michael Enright--a renegade Catholic of delicious irreverence--queried Father Neuhuas about his new book, Catholic Matters, his longstanding commitment to the "right ordering of public life," and his abhorrence of that crusading determination and zeal that undermines the "bond of civility." The editor of First Things--a journal that certainly eschews all forms of crusading determination and zeal--was coridal to a fault. A Canadian fault.

The seductive logic of the master Schoolman worked its charm--with an occasional dollop of casuistry to help--but there was littled disclosure when it came to fathoming the mystery behind the conversion. When did the Lutheran child of a family of eight in the Ottawa Valley--Pembroke, to be precise--convert from being a Canadian to an American in sensibility, ideology and citizenship? I understand his opting for Rome over Wittenburg, but Washington over Ottawa? Matter, no doubt, for a later interview.

Michael W. Higgins is the Basilian Distinguished Fellow in Contemporary Catholic Thought, University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto, and Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, Conn. He is currently writing a book on Pope Francis for House of Anansi Press.

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