ANAHEIM (ChurchMilitant.com) - Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, took the main stage Friday afternoon in the main arena conference of the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress (LA REC) and, after praising the Congress — known for various speakers who publicly dissent from the Faith — spoke of Catholic philosophy in combatting atheist viewpoints about religion.
After reeling off statistics about the bleak future of the Church based on numbers showing half of young Catholics (aged 15–30) deserting the Faith, he then spoke of various surveys identifying the main reason young people reject the Faith: They just don't believe the teachings anymore.
Barron outlined the three major reasons surveys note for lack of belief: (1) Science debunks religion; (2) religion is just wishful thinking (pie in the sky); and (3) religion and violence. He then went on to give his reflections on what and how to address these individual issues.
But nowhere in his talk did he suggest why the fact of young people leaving the Faith is a problem. While he did offer a good presentation in answering these issues, mostly by repeating teachings and writings of Fathers, Doctors and saints, he never touched on the importance of why the questions of younger people need answering.
Barron is perhaps most controversially known for strongly suggesting that no one is damned and everyone is saved, relying on the writings of Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, who resurrected the fourth-century heresy of Origen, but repackaged it in a way more palatable for the faithful. Barron has publicly stated that Ss. Augustine and Aquinas are too severe in their teaching that most of humanity is damned, and has added that he believes von Balthasar "has it right" and that we have a "reasonable hope that all men are saved."
At the beginning of his presentation, Barron threw out the stat that 20 percent of Americans now identify themselves as "nones" — those who claim to have no religious belief.
In a private dinner conversation about three years ago, Barron responded in answer to his host's question of how many people he believed were saved: 98 percent.
Aside from the fact that allowing that 2 percent of humanity is damned completely contradicts his public statement that there is "a reasonable hope that all men area saved," another curious contradiction emerges between his support of von Balthasar and his speech at the Religious Education Congress.
If 20 percent of Americans now consider themselves as having no religious affiliation and instead embracing atheism — at least in principle — and yet, according to Barron privately, only 2 percent of humankind are damned, then that would mathematically mean that almost all atheists are saved.
That raises another curious issue, namely, what did the 2 percent of atheists do to merit eternal damnation that the remaining 18 percent of atheists did not do?
There is a persistent lingering contradiction in every talk, homily or conference Bp. Barron presents, and it is this: If almost (or all) people are saved, what is the point of fretting over the fact of people abandoning the Faith and accepting atheistic principles?
At the end of the day, the bishop's talk, however skillfully and factually it was presented, amounts to little more than a talk oriented to the sociological and not the theological.