(Hitchcock continued)nrate that he was not a very seriousnCathoHc.” If anything, his electionndelayed the Catholic moment by angeneration, and possibly forestalled itnpermanently.nNeuhaus goes on to say that hendisagrees with those who say that thenCatholic Church began to unravel atnthe moment its spiritual son was electednto the nation’s highest office. Catholicism’sn”silly season” is now behindnit, Neuhaus insists. But that is anmisapprehension. There is perhapsnless overt “silliness” now than therenwas 10 years ago (e.g., not as much isnheard about Mass being celebratednamidst balloons and dancing girls,nwith pizza and Coke for the eucharisticnelements). However, that is becausenin so many ways the trendiestnnotions of the counterculture and thenNew Left are now simply taken forngranted, even if in somewhat less flamboyantnform.nThe working philosophy of the mostnarticulate and influential nuns, fornexample, is simply the most extremenkind of feminism. If particular religiousnorders, male and female, can bensaid to have an official creed, its tenetsnwould have to include unblinking supportnfor every self-proclaimed revolutionarynmovement in the “third world”nand the working assumption that capitalismnand the United States are thensource of most of the evil in the world.nMainstream Catholic theology to anlarge extent defines itself by what itnrejects in the Catholic tradition. In thenmidst of all this the majority of thenAmerican bishops concede to the radicalsnas much as they possibly cannwithout formally transgressing officialndoctrine.nAlthough Neuhaus is aware of theninternal problems of the variousnchurches, more attention might havenbeen given to the way in which thensquare has been denuded in large partnbecause those who traditionally kept itnfull, especially the churches, acquiescednas its furniture was carted awaynas debris. Or, correlatively, thosenwhose traditional task was to keep thensquare filled simply lost their sense ofnauthority. American Catholicism arrivednat this point later than did thenmainstream Protestants, but its malaisenis probably almost as deep, relievednonly by a strong pope who doesnhave the power, ultimately, to effect antransformation in the leadership ofnthat church.nIf the square is empty in part becausenAmericans do not know what tonfill it with, it is also true that an emptynsquare tends to suck the contentsnout of the communities, includingnchurches, which border it. Mainstreamnreligious leaders now keepnglancing nervously into the square tonjudge what is or is not appropriate fornthem to do or say. The naked squarenfunctions as a religious Cresham’snLaw, the ultimate in spiritual lowestncommon denominators.nAlthough the book will probably bendenounced by some liberals as aimingnto violate strict separation of churchnand state, it is in fact a work of whatncan be called “the extreme middle.”nNeuhaus moderately and intelligentlynraises the necessary, if neglected, questionsnabout the relation of belief andnthe public order and calmly reveals thensophistries and unexamined assumptionsnby which a dogmatic secularismnhas often been imposed. At the samentime, he is clearly uneasy with then”religious new right”—the Moral Majority,netc.—whom he credits withnhaving legitimate concerns but whosendogmatism and lack of sophisticadonnhe regards as dangerous to the publicnorder.nThe problem, as Neuhaus recognizesnelsewhere in the book, is that genuinenreligion is by nature a volatilensubstance, not easily captured in thencategories of “civility” and compromise.nAs both religious and secularnhistory have shown abundantly, moralnrevivals, whether overfly religious ornchiefly secular in character, quicklynmanifest themselves in “extreme”nforms.nNo great moral change in Americannlife has occurred through reasonedndiscourse and careful and responsiblennegohation of competing claims.nEvery such event has involved bruisingnconflict and intense polarization. Nowherenis this better illustrated than innthe successful secular movements ofnthe past quarter century—civil rights,nthe antiwar movement, feminism,nenvironmentalism, etc.nPastor Neuhaus has presented ancarefully thought-out analysis withnwhich no fair-minded person couldnseriously quarrel. It seems unlikely,nnnhowever, that he has provided thenprescription by which the problem willnfinally be resolved. ccn(Marsden continued)nwhich makes his highly stimulatingnbook also important. Some sort ofnmoral consensus seems essential fornthe health and survival of a free society.nAt present it is difficult to see whatnholds together such a consensus innAmerica. Popular American beliefsnseem too relativistic and individualisticnto sustain a substantial consensus indefinitely.nNeuhaus is thus soundingnan important call by urging us tonattend to the moral dimensions ofnpublic philosophy.nOn the surface, Neuhaus’s proposalnlooks like a plea simply to have morenreligious input in public life. His problem:nreligion and religiously based moralitynhave been too much excludednfrom the public square. His apparentnsolution: put more religion andnreligious-moral discourse into publicnlife. Nonetheless, Neuhaus’s book isndense, both in the sense of beingntightly packed with stimulating remarksnand in the sense of it beingndifficult to unravel from these thenexact line of argument.nIf one does look closely, one findsnthat Neuhaus is not advocating infusingnpublic discourse either with morenreligion in a general sense or with thenJudeo-Christian tradition in a generalnsense. Rather, he seems interested inngetting only a certain sort of Judeo-nChristian tradition into the public discoursenabout morality. This becomesnclear when we look at his treatment ofnthe two major recent contenders fornreligious influence in American publicnlife. The most recent, the Moral Majority,nhe credits several times withnhaving touched a tripwire that has setnofi^ needed public discussion of certainnmoral-religious issues. He also emphasizesnthat he does not approve of thensorf of religious discourse the MoralnMajority has entered into the publicndebate. Truly public religion, he arguesncogently, cannot be based onnappeal to private authority. Public discoursenmust be based on argumentsnaccessible to the public. Fundamentalists,nhe says, fail on this score. Presumably,nthey disqualify themselves fromnpublic discourse not simply becausenMARCH 1985/7n