Father Richard John Neuhaus, editor in chief of First Things, is currently undergoing treatment for cancer in a New York hospital.

Father Neuhaus disclosed his cancer at the end of this post on the First Things website in early December.

The Daily Blog spoke today with pro-life advocate Chris Slattery, who visited Father Neuhaus yesterday afternoon at the hospital.

“I got a call yesterday morning from his office, saying that he was put in on the weekend and please go visit him,” said Slattery, who is founder and president of Expectant Mother Care.

Said Slattery, “He’s clearly had a serious recurrence of a new cancer.  It’s going to require some immediate chemotherapy. He was in a lot of pain.”

Slattery said that Father Neuhaus could speak only a few words during their visit because he was heavily sedated in order to help him regain strength prior to undergoing chemotherapy. 

“And for a man of that intellect, it’s just torture for him to be unable to really communicate,” said Slattery, who noted that Father Neuhaus was hospitalized several years earlier for the successful treatment of another cancer.

“I think what he’s got is a non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma which is completely unrelated to the previous cancer he had some ten years ago, which was a colon cancer,” Slattery said. “He wrote a book about his experiences — I visited him in the hospital then too — he was near death with that cancer. He wrote a book called, ‘As I Lay Dying,’ which describes his mental state as he was going through that treatment. It’s a very edifying book. It’s a good time for people to check back on that book.”

Staff from First Things as well as his sister from Valparaiso, Indiana, are visiting with Father Neuhaus while he’s in hospital, said Slattery.

Slattery is optimistic about Father Neuhaus’s prognosis.

“My mother, my father and I have all been treated for cancer in that same hospital,” he said. “He’s got top care there. They’re going to give him the best treatment he can get in the world there.”

Added Slattery, “I just don’t think it’s his time, the Church really needs him. He’s one of the most brilliant churchmen we have. He’s been named one of the 100 most influential Americans by U.S. News & World Report, and in my book he’s one of the top two or three priests in the country in his understanding of the Church and the faith, intellectually and theologically.”

Said Slattery, “So we have to pray for him.”

— Tom McFeely