A Princely Salary

January 2006

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus took exception to our September 2005 editorial where we said: "We were amused when the Editor-in-Chief of First Things, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, said he gets a 'princely salary' (First Things, Dec. 1998, p. 80). Well, when you're on the neocon dole, you do get a princely salary."

Fr. Neuhaus went back to that December 1998 First Things. He says in the November 2005 First Things (p. 75): "There I was discussing our policy in accepting or rejecting advertisements and wrote this: 'We cannot and would not require that advertisers agree with all our judgments. We can and will make judgments about what is mean-spirited, malicious, in violation of good taste, or seriously false. Yes, making such judgments is difficult, but that's why editors are paid such princely salaries. With the cooperation of our advertisers, we hope the necessity for such judgments will be few and far between.' Apparently the writer of the [NOR] editorial is unfamiliar with irony."

Actually, we are familiar with irony, but Fr. Neuhaus's "princely salary" phrase cannot be considered ironic. The American Heritage Dictionary (Fourth Edition), at "ironic," gives a phrase that expresses irony: "madness, an ironic fate for such a clear thinker." Or one could say: "madness, such a fate for such a clear thinker." That's irony. Irony refers to deliberate contrasts, opposites, and incongruity. When Neuhaus says, "Yes, making such judgments is difficult, but that's why editors are paid such princely salaries," there is no deliberate contrast, no opposite, no incongruity. Fr. Neuhaus's sentence is not irony.

Golly, doesn't he know he's only digging himself in deeper?

DOSSIER: Fr. Richard John Neuhaus



New Oxford Notes: January 2006

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