The many errors of Bishop Robert Barron
December 2, 2015
Posted by Tantumblogo
Another very good post from Unam Sanctam Catholicam. I saw he was appointed an auxiliary in Los Angeles some time back and meant to do a post, but got distracted and forgot about it. My friend SB reminded me at lunch today, and mentioned Boniface’s post. Good Joseph-Brennan-Jose-Gomez-Robert-Barron-David-OConnell-Pstuff. The fundamental problem with Barron is his Baltasarian outlook, which I have long believed is far more egregious than many recognize. One is rarely a heretic – or gravely problematic – in just one area. Usually, errors in one area flow from, and into, many others, poisoning whole swaths of belief. Boniface explores von Baltasar’s highly erroneous Christology, and how Barron clearly shares it [Tantumblogo’s comments in brackets]:
There are many things Bishop Robert Barron can be criticized for. I have raised concerns before about his promotion of Hans Urs Von Balthasar’s theory that hell might be empty. But I honestly had no idea until recently what a thorough-going Balthasarian Bishop Barron actually is. He not only promotes the empty hell thesis, but has also adopted Von Balthasar’s extremely unorthodox Christology.
For years we have attempted to demonstrate that Hans Urs Von Balthasar is not an orthodox theologian, not only due to his controversial theory of a potentially empty hell, but just in terms of his basic Christology. Catholics need to understand that it is not just one theory that makes Balthasar questionable, but a whole slew of bizarre novelties. We recommend reviewing our previous articles “Balthasar’s Denial of the Beatific Vision in Christ” and “Balthasar and the ‘Faith’ of Christ” on the Unam Sanctam Catholicam website, which both deal with Balthsar’s unorthodox Christology, as well as “The Heresies of Balthasar” on this blog, which reveals Balthasar’s absurd position that sin has its own ontological reality.
One staple of Balthasarian Christology is his teaching that Christ only gradually came to understand His messianic identity, and that this did not happen by any infused knowledge by virtue of the Incarnation (Balthasar strongly rejected the idea that Christ had any knowledge given directly from God about His mission). Instead, Christ had to “learn” that He was the Messiah, basically through regular human intuition. It kind of slowly dawned on his consciousness as He grew. [So he’s a Nestorian, at least, if not an Arian. If Christ did not have infused knowledge of His mission and sharing knowledge that He was God throughout His life, then Christ could not be of the same substance with God and could not share His Will. It is impossible to share substance and will while cut off from knowledge and ability to actualize the Divine Being.]
The Catholic Tradition is that Christ had infused knowledge of His own identity and mission. The 1913 Catholic kk201509221754-630x330Encyclopedia sums up this teaching when it states that “the knowledge in Christ’s Divine nature is co-extensive with God’s Omniscience” and that “since the time of the Nestorian controversies, Catholic tradition has been practically unanimous as to the doctrine concerning the knowledge of Christ” (source) [follows an explanatory quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia I omit for brevity] …….
……This is the view of traditional Christology. But Bishop Barron chooses instead to promote the heretical novelty of Balthasar that Christ had to learn about His identity through a gradual enlightening of His consciousness. For example, in his Lenten Meditations, then-Father Barron offers this commentary on the Baptism of the Lord:
“Jesus has just been baptized. He has just learned his deepest identity and mission [sic] and now he confronts—as we all must—the great temptations. What does God want him to do? Who does God want him to be? How is he to live his life?”
Jesus has “just learned his deepest identity and mission” at His baptism, implying that He was in positive ignorance of his identity and mission before this moment? [This is very disturbing. And yet this man is so influential, and held up as a conservative paragon!]
It gets worse. If anybody doubts what a devoted Balthasarian Bishop Barron is, you really need to read his book The Priority of Christ (with an introduction by Cardinal George). You will be astounded by the outpouring of novelty and just plain weirdness that comes out of Barron. In this passage, Barron is speaking about the Blessed Virgin:
“She is this the symbolic embodiment of faithful and patient Israel, longing for deliverance. In John’s Gospel, she is, above all, mother – the physical mother of Jesus and, through him, the mother of all who would come to new life in him. As mother of the Lord, she is, once again, Israel, the entire series of events and system of ideas form which Jesus emerged and in terms of which he alone becomes intelligible. Hans Urs von Balthasar comments in the same vein that Mary effectively awakened the messianic consciousness of Jesus through her recounting of the story of Israel to her son. [sic] So in the Cana narrative, Mary will speak the pain and the hope of the chosen people, scattered and longing for union” (Robert Barrion, The Priority of Christ, p. 73).
Notice, he links up his own idea that through Mary Christ “becomes intelligible” with the Balthasarian heresy of Christ not knowing who He was until sometime later. Christ learns who He is by listening to stories about Israel! Barron does not dispute Balthasar – rather, he uses him to bolster his point. [I’ve long held von Baltasar to be problematic tending towards seriously erroneous. Now I feel little compunction identifying his beliefs as heretical.]
Here is another gem that is key to understanding Barron’s position. Barron disagrees with the likes of the modernists Kung and Schillebeeckx on many things, yet he says this:
“Like the ‘Jesus as symbol” approach, the ‘historical Jesus’ Christology is rooted in elements and intuitions of the classical tradition. Kung and Schillebeeckx are quite right in the insisting that Christianity must never devolve into a generic philosophy of life or symbolic system, that it must, on the contrary, maintain its clear and unambiguous connection to the very particular first-century Jew, Jesus of Nazareth, The Gospels, the Epistles of Paul, the first kerygmatic proclamations, the sermons of the earliest missionaries, the creeds and dogmatic statements of the patristic church all depend upon and circle around this Jesus. Therefore, in brushing away certain encrustations and obfuscations in the Christological tradition and focusing our attention on the irreplaceable character of Jesus, Kung and Schillebeeckx and their historical-critical colleagues have done the church a great service. Furthermore, in insisting that the high dogmatic claims of Christology should be consistently informed by a biblical sensibility, the historical critics have compelled Christology to abandon mere flights of speculation and to remain, thereby, truer to its proper origins and ground. The ‘Jesus of history’ can indeed function as a sort of check on unwarranted theological exploration” (p. 42).
“Kung and Schillebeeckx and their historical-critical colleagues have done the church a great service.” This phrase should send up red flags (Kung was stripped of his license to teach Catholic theology because of his heterodoxy and has also been praised by Freemasons for “lifetime service to the Craft“); also alarming is Barron’s promotion of “the ‘Jesus of history’ as a “sort of check” on certain aspects of Christology. But, what are these “encrustations and DIB_Alma&Barron_1442983433obfuscations” in the Christological tradition? Where is there a problem with “high Christological claims” today or in the 20th century? What exactly are these claims? He does not say, but if he is following the school of Balthasar, then he is probably referring to the Christological teachings of the 5th century during the Nestorian and Monophysite heresies, developments in theology which Balthasar (and by implication, Barron) implicitly reject. [And which would make both, at least, adherents to condemned heresies.]
There is a great deal more at the link, which I strongly recommend you read. This includes a discussion of Barron’s apparent acceptance of destructively heterodox historical-critical method errors.
I’m very gratified Boniface has addressed this subject, because it touches on a much broader problem. Virtually every priest formed outside the specifically traditional milieu has been exposed to dangerous modernist/progressive beliefs to one degree or another. Even those men who were conservative before seminary and did their best to adhere to the Faith as they understood it have almost invariably picked up at least some erroneous beliefs along the way. These range from out and out heresies to liturgical abuse to incorrect emphasis to simply absorbing the reigning liberal zeitgeist.
What this means is that virtually every non-traditional priest holds error to varying degree, sometimes innocently and unwittingly, oftentimes deliberately and maliciously (from the standpoint of the good of souls). If these priests, through some process, come to study the pre-conciliar Faith and especially offer the TLM regularly, they can often overcome most of these errors, especially the most pernicious ones. But we know relatively few priests are inclined to do so. And so the vast majority of priests, and thus bishops, can be expected to hold erroneous, even heretical beliefs. Such is the cataclysmic state of the seminary system today – and deliberately so.
This is not to excuse Barron his error. I know there have been attempts at intervention/correction in all manner of fora, publicly and privately. He simply isn’t interested in changing his beliefs at this point. Which is also the disposition of the vast majority of other bishops.
That’s the nub of the crisis in the Church in a nutshell. Outside priests drawn to tradition, almost all in the hierarchy have been formed to believe, and continue in that belief to this day, that Vatican II ushered in a new church radically different from the “old” one. They have no problem at all holding beliefs that are directly counter to established orthodoxy, because, it’s a “new church.” How many times have you been told by a priest “we don’t believe that anymore?” If you’re like me, much more than once. It’s one of the defining characteristics of the crisis and one that will have both the longest term consequences, and is the most difficult for lay people to overcome.