STEUBENVILLE, Ohio (ChurchMilitant.com) - A trendy bishop with a dubious record of orthodoxy is delivering a commencement speech and receiving an honorary doctorate at a university once renowned for strict adherence to Catholic teaching, raising more questions about the university's faithfulness.
Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, is celebrating the Aug. 14 Baccalaureate Mass, receiving an honorary doctorate of Catechetics and Evangelization and giving a commencement speech today at Franciscan University of Steubenville (FUS).
"After choosing to host Cdl. [Blase] Cupich in 2019, it doesn't surprise me that FUS would give such an award to Bp. Barron," one FUS alumnus told Church Militant, under condition of anonymity.
Ranked the worst bishop in the United States in a 2019 poll, Cupich received comments such as "He teaches heresy, and he is not honest" and he "has no respect for the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church!" FUS refused to disinvite Cupich despite backlash.
According to the Herald-Star, FUS will award Barron with the honorary doctorate for "his global media ministry that spreads the Gospel of Jesus Christ using means both old and new."
"It's disappointing that FUS is giving Bp. Barron such a prominent role at their graduation ceremony," said another FUS alumnus, who requested anonymity. "And it's downright troubling that the university, which established itself as a Catholic stronghold under the late Scanlan, is giving Bp. Barron an honorary degree for his alleged work in evangelization when he skips so many opportunities to evangelize."
"For example," continued the FUS alumnus, "Ben Shapiro asked Bp. Barron point-blank if he, a Jewish man, would be saved. The bishop had an awesome opportunity to evangelize, but chose to humor Ben with some modernist drivel rather than speak the truth — even altering Jesus Christ's own words about Himself."
"A man who preaches a false gospel is unworthy of an award for preaching the actual gospel," concluded the alumnus.
The FUS graduate refers to a discussion between conservative commentator Ben Shapiro and Barron on the Daily Wire.
"What is the Catholic view of me? Am I basically screwed here?" asks Shapiro regarding his own salvation.
"No," answers Barron. "The Catholic view — go back to the Second Vatican Council — says it very clearly: I mean, Christ is the privileged route to salvation ... that 'God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that we might find salvation.'"
Nowhere in Church teaching is Our Lord referred to as the "privileged" way to God. The Gospel of John (14:5–6) reads: "Thomas said to Him, 'Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?' Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.'"
In the exchange with Shapiro, Barron also misquotes the Gospel of John (3:16), which reads: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."
Among the various controversies surrounding Barron, his speculation on the possible vacancy of Hell in 2019 earned him much backlash.
In a Facebook post, Barron addressed the question about who will be saved and who will be damned, saying, "The official answer of the Church is that we don't know."
"We are clearly warned about the real possibility of damnation," he continued. "We do indeed know that there are many in Heaven, for the saints are formally declared to be so. But there are no anti-saints in the Church; there is no one whom the Church has formally declared to be a denizen of hell."
Barron concluded, "Without succumbing for a moment to anything-goes presumption, we are permitted to hope that all people might be saved."
Crisis Magazine responded with an article titled "Hell Is Real — and It Isn't Empty," arguing that Scripture and Tradition render Barron's "kind of universalism" untenable. Others pointed out that Barron's speculation also contradicts ecclesiastically approved private revelation, such as Our Lady of Fatima.
In a tweet last month, Barron said, "Friends, I'm a traditionalist — I stand with Christian revelation and the entirety of the Church's teaching, from the Council of Jerusalem through Nicaea, Chalcedon and Trent."
One response to that tweet read, "Is this part of your traditionalist persona?" and included a link to an article spotlighting some of Barron's less-than-traditional words and deeds — including the prelate's failure to evangelize Dave Rubin in an interview and his participation in the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress.