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Los Angeles auxiliary bishop Robert Barron continues to advance a type of Catholicism that undermines the glories of the teachings while at the same time promoting a "half-gospel." He is, in fact, the poster-child cleric for this watered-down, self-serving gospel-lite.
His adoring fans are all too willing to overlook his repeated careless and confused preaching that leave such doubt in people's minds as to what he is saying that a stream of "clarifications" almost always follows whenever he approaches "hot-button issues" — those which the Church refers to as essential teachings and the gospel calls "hard sayings."
These hard sayings are, in fact, where the rubber of Catholic theology hits the road of the world. Get these wrong, and nothing else matters — including a fawning DVD series expounding the beauty of Catholic architecture throughout the world.
The danger of Bp. Barron's words lies directly in his dressing up of watered-down catechesis in flowery words and psuedo-intellectual phrases and passing references to some saint or Doctor of the Church as support for his weak or ill-informed catechesis. To the poorly catechized Catholic (which is the overwhelming majority of Catholics today) his gentle prattling coupled with his collar — and now bishop's chain — lend an air of authority to what he says. This is spiritual abuse.
A stellar example is his false claim that "we have a reasonable hope that all men are saved," a notion he repeats from a Swiss theologian, Hans Urs von Balthasar of the 20th century. Von Balthasar had been ordained a Jesuit, but later left the order after beginning work with a Protestant woman claiming to be a mystic. So convoluted is his thought on this that well-known Dr. Ralph Martin, who teaches at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan, had to write an entire book dismantling von Balthasar's spurious opinions.
Moving to the latest example, Bp. Barron recently gave a television interview to David Rubin of the Rubin Report. In that interview, he once again pursued the strategy of "offend no one" — unless you count Catholic sensibilities, which always run the risk of being offended when Bp. Barron is smugly pontificating.
A line of discussion arose regarding the Church's teaching on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. It was here that Barron demonstrated his true colors of always ducking his responsibility to defend and promote Catholic truth in favor of pretending to remain above the fray in a condescending, half-baked, intellectual approach.
When asked about "marriage" between members of the same sex, he gave a tidy answer, saying it wasn't the way things should be, and not the way God intended human relationships to be arranged and so forth. Never once did he even begin to broach the evil of the situation.
And then — shockingly even for Bp. Barron — he admitted that he wouldn't oppose gay marriage right now through legislation, but thought it best to oppose through personal witness and education. Of course, he never really gave any details as to what "personal witness" means, nor how he would "educate" those who needed educating.
He said his approach was somewhat grounded in a principle of St. Thomas Aquinas whereby we must tolerate some evils if opposing them would bring about even worse evils. That's all well and good, but one asks the question: What evils would be brought about worse than a nation warmly embracing sodomy and raising it to the level of civil marriage?
If a person drew an analogy between the current same-sex marriage climate and slavery, for example, would Bp. Barron say the same thing? Would he have said of the institutionalized evil of slavery enshrined in law that he would not oppose it through legislation because it would bring about worse evils? After all, the nation was torn apart and hundreds of thousands of Americans died in a bloody civil war. Does Bp. Barron think it would have been better to have simply allowed slavery to continue through the law than to go through all that suffering?
Not only that, the bishop's sentiments directly contradict the directives of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which declared in 2003, "In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty." This refers specifically to the legal and political sphere.
Bishop Barron lives in a theological cocoon where he doesn't seem to have any idea how his theo-ramblings have real-world impact. He is lifted high above practically every other prelate in the United States as the model of evangelization, yet, there sat in front of him a self-admitted "out and proud" gay married man, who after speaking with Barron for 30 minutes was completely unmoved by Barron's thoughts.
In fact, at one point, Rubin even seemed a little confused by the bishop's point — as was the audience, which is to say, evangelization should be clear. It should not be the source of confusion, as it demonstrably was in this case. It was so confusing and invited so much backlash that Bp. Barron had to offer almost immediately a Facebook clarification, and then write an additional article to muddy the waters even further and make his point even more obscure.
Despite the current climate in the Church of wanting to accommodate everything (except orthodoxy, apparently), catechesis and evangelization have one goal each: the salvation of souls. So too does ecumenism and every other action of the Church and Her ministers.
Salvation is not complicated. Listeners should be very clear on what the Church teaches and respond whichever way they will — accept and repent, or reject and be damned. But they should not be unmoved when the Gospel is presented to them. A reaction of indifference means the evangelizer completely failed.
And even worse, when people walk away not convicted with the truth because it was deliberately presented in such a way as to achieve a non-spiritual end (like being friendly and inoffensive), then that "evangelization" is poison.
Bishop Barron needs to consider the great harm he is doing with his "I'm educated and sophisticated" approach to the world. It is poisoning people's minds and souls by depriving them of the full glory of the Church. One day, he will be called to give an account as a successor of the Apostles for those he has deprived of the complete truth.
At that point, he'd better pray earnestly that his "we have a reasonable hope that all men are saved" theology is actually true. Judging by the words of fellow bishop St. John Chrysostom, it's not likely:
I do not think there are many among bishops that will be saved, but many more that perish ... . The loss of one soul carries with it a penalty which no language can represent. For if the salvation of that soul was of such value that the Son of God became Man and suffered so much, think how sore a punishment must its loss it bring! And if in this present life he who is cause of another's destruction is worthy of death, how much more in the next world! Do not tell me that the priest is at fault, or the deacon. The guilt of all these comes perforce upon the head of those who ordained them.