Bishop Barron – Catholic Flavor of the Month

The Catholic News Agency wrote a puff piece on Bishop Barron. CRUX published it with the headline, “Bishop Barron: Don’t water down Christianity,” and a picture of the bishop with a big, toothy smile. I hadn’t known about Bishop Barron, and was curious. He seems to be the Catholic answer to evangelicals - only a few decades late.

Given his message of “Don’t water down Christianity,” I expected to find some authentic message of Jesus. There was none. His key message:

The bold speech of the Church is that not ‘Caesar,’ or any of his colleagues or predecessors or successors, but rather Jesus is Lord, Jesus is the king. And he is also Christos, anointed…. If he is Lord, everything in your life belongs to him. Your personal life, yes. Your body, yes. Your friendships, yes. Your political life, yes. Your entertainment, yes. All of it.

Needless to say, Jesus never said anything like this. The core of his teaching was to love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Bishop Barron says nothing remotely like that. As for worshipping Jesus, Jesus himself rejected it. In fact, he reputedly said “Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man [Jesus] will be forgiven; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven” (Luke 12:10). In other word, Bishop Barron’s “undiluted” version of Christianity has essentially nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus. It is, however, the kind of drivel you hear all the time from evangelical preachers.

Bishop Barron also told the reporter from Catholic News Agency, “The Roman Empire at the time was rather liberal with regards to new religions, yet still rejected the early Christians because they identified Jesus - and not Caesar - as the only Lord.” This is wrong in a number of ways. First, the Roman Empire did not reject Christianity, though local governments sometimes persecuted it for disrespecting their patron gods or goddesses. Second, the Roman Empire revered old religions, not new ones. For example, they tolerated Judaism due to its antiquity, even though it rejected all gods other than the God of Israel. Romans rejected a number of new religions. They never insisted that Caesar – the emperor – was the only god. In fact, the reigning emperor was not considered a god. Some, like Julius Caesar, were promoted to deities after their death. Others, like Nero and Caligula, were not.

I looked Bishop Barron up in Wikipedia (here). It turns out he is a televangelist: “Barron is the first priest since Archbishop Fulton Sheen in the 1950s to have a regular national program on a commercial television network.” He has had a weekly radio show even longer, and also uses social media and the internet. Pope Francis was so impressed by this high-profile and low substance approach that he promoted Barron in 2015.

To his credit, he does not seem to have been implicated in child abuse scandals, unlike a number of Pope Francis’ selections.