A giant of our Faith has passed:
The cause was complications from colon cancer, said his daughter Jana Novak.
Mr. Novak, who spent his formative years in the seminary, was widely recognized as one of the most influential Catholic theologians of his generation. He was the 1994 recipient of the Templeton Prize, which honors makers of an “exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension” and is accompanied by a monetary award exceeding that of the Nobel Prize.
In a measure of Mr. Novak’s influence within the Catholic Church, he was received and consulted by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. He was at times a professor, a columnist, chief U.S. delegate to the U.N. Human Rights Commission and, for several decades, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, the conservative think tank in Washington.
Mr. Novak was among several scholars who “brought serious religious thought to Washington in a way that it had not been present before,” George Weigel, a distinguished senior fellow at the Washington-based Ethics and Public Policy Center, said in an interview.
He credited Mr. Novak with demonstrating to an “audience of insiders” a “way of thinking that was not merely statistical or ideological but was perhaps more deeply reflective of enduring human questions and problems.”
Mr. Novak wrote a shelf full of books on topics ranging from nuclear weapons to atheism to social justice to sports. But he was best known for his economic writings, particularly the book “The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism” (1982).
“Democratic capitalism,” he wrote, is “neither the Kingdom of God nor without sin. Yet all other known systems of political economy are worse. Such hope as we have for alleviating poverty and for removing oppressive tyranny — perhaps our last, best hope — lies in this much despised system.”