A young Catholic friend (the product of Franciscan University of Steubenville) recently called my attention to a column that he found interesting by Fr. Robert Barron at Real Clear Religion entitled, “No good without God.”
Fr. Barron began by stating his intentions:
What I would like to do is lay out, in very brief compass, the Catholic understanding of the relationship between morality and the existence of God and to show, thereby, why it is indispensably important for a society that wishes to maintain its moral integrity to maintain, at the same time, a vibrant belief in God.
After building his case through a series of anecdotes, rhetorical questions and precisely zero references to Jesus Christ and the necessity of His Mystical Body, the Church, Fr. Barron concludes:
Removing God is tantamount to removing the ground for the basic goods, and once the basic goods have been eliminated, all that is left is the self-legislating and self-creating will. Thus, we should be wary indeed when atheists and agnostics blithely suggest that morality can endure apart from God. Much truer is Dostoyevsky’s observation that once God is removed, anything is permissible.
Most Catholics of a conservative bent would undoubtedly consider Fr. Barron’s reflection an unimpeachable representation of sound Catholic thought, just as my friend did.
In truth, however, it’s really just more of the same quasi-nondenominational religious speak that has come to define the “New Evangelization” as our churchmen, from your local deacon all the way up to the highest offices in Rome, tiptoe around the objective truth that the Holy Catholic religion stands above any other, and that Christ the King, her Divine Founder, is the one true God who reigns above the many false gods of the world.
Where does this aversion to actual evangelization (i.e., evangelization as the Apostles would recognize it) come from?
In large measure, it is the result of the so-called “American contribution” to the Second Vatican Council!
Now don’t get me wrong; this is nothing altogether new.
Catholic men of weak constitution, including churchmen, have for many centuries succumbed to the temptation to court worldly popularity by placing our Holy Catholic religion, in some manner or form, on an equal plane with the many false religions, but the teaching Church, under the guidance of faithful popes, has ever sought to correct such dangerous errors.
For instance, Pope Leo XIII wrote in 1885:
The Church, indeed, deems it unlawful to place the various forms of divine worship on the same footing as the true religion. (cf Immortale Dei 36)
Likewise, more than two decades earlier, Pope Pius IX wrote in the Encyclical, Quanto Conficiamur:
It is again necessary to censure a very grave error that is unfortunately entrapping some Catholics who profess that it is possible for men to arrive at eternal salvation, although they live in error, and are alienated from the true Faith and Catholic unity. Such opinion is absolutely opposed to Catholic teaching.
One notes that even as Blessed Pius IX wrote in 1863, it was “again necessary” to correct this problem; i.e., it was obviously a persistent one.
So, when one encounters a Catholic cleric, like Fr. Barron, publicly suggesting that a belief in God is the key to establishing a moral society (one that is presumably pleasing to God), while failing to identify who God is in the light of Catholic doctrine, said teaching is but a half-truth and therefore no truth at all; it is, in fact, simply a nuanced version of the same grave error of old.
What is unique to this post-conciliar age, however, is that there will be no condemnation from Rome thanks in part to the influence of such conciliar texts as the Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, and the Declaration on Religious Freedom, Dignitatis Humanae, which placed the Council’s seal upon the “Great American Experiment” wherein religious pluralism is held sacrosanct.
The impact of these documents on the Church’s “evangelical tone” has been evident for nearly five decades, particularly so during the present pontificate. Consider, for example, Pope Francis publicly discouraging any perceived “need to convince the other to become Catholic,” and likewise his reference to religious diversity as a “gift,” propositions that would have invited the swift condemnation of his pre-conciliar predecessors.
Here in the United States, one is often reminded of the aforementioned American contribution to this dreadful situation, as our bishops, especially in the face of the Obama Administration’s HHS mandate, have repeatedly made use of a quote from “Founding Father” John Adams who said:
Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
Upon examination, one cannot but conclude that the substance of both Fr. Barron’s and John Adams’ reflections are quite similar in that they share a common flaw; neither one acknowledges the fact that a generic brand of religiosity based upon a personalized belief in whatever one happens to call “god” is of precious little use in weaving the moral fabric of a given society.
Consider, for example, the moral outrages that have been committed over many centuries by Mohammedans in the name of the false god of the Qur’an. Or, if you prefer something a bit closer to home, think of the deleterious effects on society at the hands of “believers” whose particular version of “god” just so happens to embrace homosexuality, contraception and abortion.
The point is rather obvious:
It’s not enough to simply tout religion and a “vibrant belief in God” as necessary building blocks for “moral integrity,” as if such can actually exist apart from the truth that comes to us from God through His Holy Catholic Church.
In the case of John Adams, this glaring oversight is to be expected given his condition; the man was a heretic, but what shall we say of Fr. Barron’s failure to give any mention to the indispensable role of the Catholic Church in coming to know, to love and to serve the Lord our God in truth?
In sum, Fr. Barron’s essay is a veritable case study in the ways of the “New Evangelization,” a defining characteristic of which is the conspicuous absence of any clear call to conversion to the one true Faith; the same that is inherent to the Church’s mission as evidenced in the evangelical activity of the Saints, Martyrs, and Roman Pontiffs who lived in the nineteen centuries leading up to Vatican Council II.
By means of his Real Clear Religion column, Fr. Barron, one of the “New Evangelization’s” most brightly shining stars, has inadvertently provided an excellent example of its utter ineffectiveness.
Think about it: By attempting to herald the necessity of “belief” without reference to the unique role of the Catholic Church in communicating religious truth, and “God” without mention of Christ Jesus who is the fullness of Divine Revelation, what did Fr. Barron actually accomplish?
Apart from getting an “Amen” from the poorly-formed choir, he ultimately lent credibility to the various erroneous beliefs and false gods that are fashioned by the same “self-legislating and self-creating will” he had intended to condemn.
As my young friend would have it, Fr. Barron was simply “meeting the people of the world where they are; preparing the ground for the fullness of the Gospel.”
A more attentive observer of the post-conciliar hierarchy’s modus operandi will notice, however, that the “new evangelists” are ever mired in “preparation mode;” i.e., they never quite manage to get around to proclaiming the Gospel in its fullness, which leads one to wonder why it has never occurred to them that the very reason the world appears so unprepared to receive the full measure of life-giving truth entrusted to the Holy Catholic Church alone is their very own failure to proclaim it.
Mr. V., I think it is too much flattery so say that they are in “preparation mode.” But that’s me.
We have children to raise in the Catholic Faith. We have grandchildren to teach. These precious youth must be protected from such as Fr. Barron and as you suggest, myriad others. Thank you for writing this.
Archbishop Lefebvre, pray for us.
This year we’ll be inundated with VII ecumenism at a fever pitch. Boston Globe featured Cardinal O’Malley( from the gang of eight fame) at an ecumenical worship service in Subury Ma , where he asked the Rev Anne Robertson of Plymouth to administer a baptism reaffirmation ritual to him. The Globe reported how you couldn’t tell the Catholics From the Protestants……I doubt anyone would be shocked with that statement, since we’ve had a good fifty years of practice and we know the best ( worst) is yet to come.
I am usually with you Louie, but I think you may be reading a bit too much into it in this case.
To be fair to Fr. Barron, and I haven’t read his whole column, the limited point he was likely making is that morality has no basis without God. Even Aquinas’s five ways were not meant as a proof that Catholicism is the true religion. They are only the first step on the road to that truth – i.e., that God exists. Perhaps Fr. Barron was only making that limited point to people who don’t even believe that first step by showing atheists that their so-called morality cannot exist without God. The other steps to the fullness of truth in the Catholic Church he may eventually cover elsewhere. If you are going to criticize Fr. Barron for making a claim for the existence of only a generic God based upon the existence of morality, then St. Thomas Aquinas is subject to the same criticism.
Right on brother – “We are compelled in virtue of our faith to believe and maintain that there is only one holy Catholic Church, and that one is apostolic. This we firmly believe and profess without qualification. Outside this Church there is no salvation and no remission of sins, the Spouse in the Canticle proclaiming: ‘One is my dove, my perfect one. One is she of her mother, the chosen of her that bore her’ (Canticle of Canticles 6:8); which represents the one mystical body whose head is Christ, of Christ indeed, as God. And in this, ‘one Lord, one faith, one baptism’ (Ephesians 4:5). Certainly Noah had one ark at the time of the flood, prefiguring one Church which perfect to one cubit having one ruler and guide, namely Noah, outside of which we read all living things were destroyed… We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” Pope Boniface VIII, Bull Unam sanctam
BTW – great article – wish it had been written by a bishop – but he would need to possess a Man Card eh?
Father Barron is a member of THE CHURCH OF NICE as Michael Voris calls it–the church that wants to offend no one and offers salvation for ALL. I never read nor watch his watered down musings.
C matt, if Fr. Barron ordinarily wrote with the same precision and faithfulness as Aquinas, then I could agree with you. But he has previously made his writings suspect, particularly regarding the (probable) total vacancy of hell. So now I will be reading anything by him with suspicion (or more likely, not reading him at all).
Mr Barron sends chills down my spine. Not because of his proposterous belief that “we have reasonable hope that there are no souls in hell” baloney but above all because of the many, many souls that are following him in his wicked deception. One only need look at the vast number of twitter followers this impious apostate enjoys: close to 41,000. Not everyone can manage to get that many followers believe me. Even rorate caeli only enjoys a mere 4,000 followers in comparison. I guess the fact that they will show this apostate’s catholicism series in PBS should tell you everything. Would PBS show anything, from say, even Arch. Fulton Sheen? Forget it!
By the way, lately I have been doing a bit of digging into Francis’ heresies and other outrageous statements and I have found some VERY juicy quotes. Here I will provide just two as examples, countless others exist of course. Not “juicy” because I am glad in any way they have been made but because they show crystal clear how far this apostate has defected from the Holy Catholic and Apostolic faith.
“I often say that the only glory we have, as StPaul says, is that of being sinners…” p 120
“…That’s why for me, sin is NOT a stain I need to clean.”
No comments are needed for the above quotes.
Fr. Barron is very highly regarded by most bishops and priests. The fact that he doubts folks go to hell or even champions some dubious names in his Catholicism series notwithstanding.
So “faith alone” will do it now? Is “God” the same as “Allah”? Didn’t Jesus say something about the only way to the Father was through Him and if you love Him, you will keep His commands? Those things seem to get lost in the PC church.
And the faithful, even those who know the faith are confused. They know they must follow the Pope and Pope is confusing; little is clear. He is name calling almost daily with some vitriol against many faithful Catholics. He even calls priests names such as “little monsters” or “swarmy”. No Pope has ever done such a crude thing.
My initial introduction to Father Barron was by watching some of his PBS “Catholicism” shows. There was big time money that production. Somewhat familiar with the way films are financed and distributed I can assure you that with the millions (yes, millions) of corporate dollars that went into the making of that show we would be given an unchallenging, vague and only superficially historical view of Catholicism. Put simply, had it even resembled some of the TV sermons of the late Fulton Sheen it would not have seen the light of day in today’s media climate.
Subsequent events have solidified my view of Father Barron’s outlook as have some of his thoughts and writings. He will only go so far before backing down so as not to “offend”. It’s a pity, but there it is.
I’m with C Matt above. I think one can discuss God in the abstract as an important principle without which morality and sanity would cease. Natural reason according to the Angelic Doctor allows man without the benefit of Revelation to know many truths. Revelation goes further and teaches us of the wonders of the Triune God who was born of a Virgin and suffered an ignominious death to work the salvation of the world. In the end, of course, all theology is but as straw to the reality of God.
Father Barron also admits he is not sure of the existence of Hell.
Like Padre Pio says” “YOU’LL BELIEVE IT WHEN YOU GET THERE!!”
After Mass one day Padre Pio whispered a great line to a lady from “the church of nice” who was celebrating her birthday that very day. He said “the end is near.” I love that one!
I am uneasy about this blog entry, Louie.
I don’t like it when “one side” takes swipes at the “other side”, in order to make a point.
Loaded phrases such as “utter ineffectiveness” used to describe Fr.Barron’s views reminds me of the attitude of the Older Brother in the Prodigal Son parable.
Catholics fighting among ourselves is only helping Lucifer to do his work.
If error is communicated, we owe it to provide correction through fraternal guidance with patience.
I agree with Louie. This is a kind of Deism. It’s not bad really, and better than atheism and secularism, but it is a far, far cry from a courageous proclamation that we find God in the Catholic Church. We find Christ in the Church. We are all ordinarily saved through Christ working through his Church in the sacraments.
To just vaguely talk about “belief in God” almost makes me feel like we’re back to pre-Christian times. The Mayans believed in God. The Romans believed in Zeus.
……….If error is communicated, we owe it to provide correction through fraternal guidance with patience……..This ‘fraternal’ or ‘nice’ advice would suffice in normal circumstances, such as at times when the Church Authority had ‘sound’ and ‘true’ Authority, when in blessed times not long ago, our Popes spoke ‘like Christ’ in ‘TRUTH’, but acted like a ‘LION’ in defense of ‘truth’, when the shepherds (bishops and priests) fed their sheep in true faith, in fearless faith.
The effects, the bitter fruits of Vatican II, resulting ‘auto-demolition of the Church’, ‘the diabolical disorientation’……. does not come from us lay Catholics bickering at one another (as some insist blindly), or from the persecution of the Church from outside enemies, but is FROM SIN IN THE CHURCH!…….FROM THE TOP-DOWN!………including Fr. Barron……to save souls is NOT their mission……..Universal Salvation is what they are promoting……..Blind Catholics just cannot read them, between the lines…….nice and good feelings are guiding their understanding of ‘error’, not love of ‘truth’!
‘THE SMOKE OF SATAN HAS ENTERED INTO THE TEMPLE OF GOD!……..from the disobedience of the last eight Popes (Pius XI…….to Francis)……….to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary!. …..To disobey the Mother of God, is to disobey GOD!…….GOD WILL NOT BE MOCKED!
These Modernists (God Knows them by name), have done ‘everything HUMANELY possible’ to devastate the Church, while denying everything divinely mandated. They convinced themselves ( then the blind, the ignorant) that they had a better method than God for curing the Church’s, and the world’s ills.
All Catholics should read “The Consecration of Russia” by John Salza and Robert Sungenis……….
May God Have Mercy on us!
For your viewing pleasure:
Feast of the Epiphany 2014.
Completely agree. It’s nothing more than watered down truth to make it palatable to the world.
Mary K – if this were a criticism of Fr. Barron’s complete opus, then I would likely agree with you. I have seen his Catholicism series, and yes, on the whole it fails to really get to the point of convincing people that they need to covnert to the one true Church. It does a superficial job of presenting the Church as really not a bad thing at best. A much better series is EPIC, by a guy from Minnesota or thereabouts with a polish name that escapes me right now. His statements on the emptiness or non-existence of hell are also suspect.
But, to criticize this particular piece seems off-target because the piece was not intended as an exposition on why you should be Catholic. Rather, it was about why morality makes no sense without God (an absolute being). It would precisely be like taking an excerpt of Aquinas five ways and making the same criticism because he did not reproduce the entire Summa when he wants to make a limited point. You can’t expect a writer to reproduce his entire opus every time he writes a two page biweekly column. If you want to criticise his opus, criticize his opus – there is plenty of material there for that.
Yes, it is watered down. But I am beginning to wonder – given the current state of our culture, can it handle the full meat of the Truth at this point, or do we need to go back to milk? Provided that meat is eventually served, I am not so sure a little milk for now is a completely bad idea – as long as it is not “spoiled” milk (i.e., not outright incorrect such as the non-existence/emptiness of hell).
It BLOWS my mind how someone could possibly give the weak and soft label of “suspect” to someone who denies the existence of hell or at best gives the hogwash of “we have a reasonable hope that there are no souls in hell” baloney. Saying these things does not merely make you “suspect” but it CLEARLY cuts you off the Mystical Body of Christ. Even protestants who believe in hell and follow the natural law are enormously closer to Catholicism than these apostates.
Is Mr Barron SERIOUSLY expecting to meet up with Luther, Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung, Pol-Pot, Calígula, Nero, Judas Iscariot and countless other demonic figures that have existed throughout history in Paradise enjoying the beatific vision for all eternity??? If Mr Barron REALLY believes that, he will no doubt find himself WITH these figures not in paradise but in a sea of flames, just as Our Lady showed the three shepherd children at Fatima. Hold on – but modernists don’t REALLY believe in Fatima right – ’cause it’s just a pious fairy tale, or the pious imaginings of three naive children?
Fr. Barron speaking with the abortion supporters at the LA religious Ed Conference.
C-Matt: I get your idea here but when…when…when…do ANY of the Church of Man/Nice apologia get around to proclaiming the truth about the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church? The “milk” you refer to (St. Paul referenced that to the Corinthians I believe) was the more emo “do this, don’t do this and Jesus loves you” stuff…but it was delivered AFTER the initial evangelization of “this is the ONLY way to heaven i.e. the Catholic Church”. The true evangelization needed is the one the apostles, martyrs and saints used…the call to repentance, the truth about Jesus Christ and His Church, and the invitation to come back home. When do the Fr. Barron’s of the world ever say that? God bless~
oh boy, this column seems so narrow. it almost seems as though you so way don’t get it. (in my opinion, of course)
Perhaps you would be open to arrange a discussion directly with Father Barron?
I know i’m not the only one who would be so very interested to hear it.
I agree with ‘anonymous’ that a meeting between Fr. Barron and you would be interesting. It is my belief that your critique of Fr. Barron’s “quasi-nondenominational religious speak” would not standup to a true debate with him. Your comments are a bridge too far.
Hmmm…so you want to have a duke out between Louie (the one with the cahoonas) and Fr. Barron? My money is on the Italian Stallion:+) God bless~
Edu quoted the ‘conversations’ book. The full quote goes: ‘
‘That’s why, for me, sin is not a stain I need to clean. What I must do is ask for forgiveness and reconcile myself to it, not go to the dry cleaner around the corner. I need to go and find Jesus , who gave His life for me. This is an idea that is quite different from sin…sin properly assumed is the privileged place of personally finding Jesus Christ our Savior, of rediscovering the deep meaning that He has for me. In short, it is the possibility to live the wonder of having been saved.’
All though I agree, that someone in such an important position, should HAVE to guard his words, all his public words, which these were.
Well, what God do you think Fr. Barron was speaking of?
There are lots and lots of “gods” out there Cuff…Allah, Brahmin, Yahweh without Jesus Christ, the “Create A Jesus” of the Protestants and of course the Universal Spirit of the New (really Old actually) Agers. So it’s imperative that we call God as He truly is…as He has revealed Himself to be…and that is Catholic. God bless~
Seems that Fr. Baron makes this fundamental error: that of failing to distinguish between faith and philosophical convictions.
God is not an object of faith or of belief, until He reveals Himself. Then man has the obligation to accept God’s own testimony about Himself and about His creation and His Will, or be damned….
Fr. Baron confuses a philosophical apologetic with evangelization, but then again, maybe he never intended the latter….
It is good to be able to work well with others, especially when those “others” are brothers and sisters in Christ who, if they have never been Catholic, don’t even fit neatly into the category of pertinacia that is reserved for heretics. Additionally, it is healthy to occasionally step back from overzealous idealism and try to be a bit more pragmatic. This sort of mindset need not necessarily be opposed to Catholicism or to the path that the pope wishes to lead you down, and it’s quite possible that it can be more befitting of your Catholic identity. After all, what is the purpose of calling yourself Catholic if there is nothing about you that is universal?
To say that there is no good without God is true or false, depending on what it is understood to mean.