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Why “What are the bishops doing about it?” is the wrong question

For the Vatican II fathers, the proper arena of the laity is the saeculum (the secular order), and their task is the Christification of that realm.

A vandalized statue of St. Junipero Serra in San Francisco is seen June 19, 2020. (CNS photo/David Zandman via Reuters)

Recently, the bishops of California made a statement regarding the attacks on the statues of St. Junipero Serra in San Francisco, Ventura, and Los Angeles. While acknowledging that there are legitimate concerns about racism both historical and contemporary, we insisted that the characterization of Serra as the moral equivalent of Hitler and the missions he founded as tantamount to death camps is simply unconscionable. I put a link to this statement on my own Word on Fire social media accounts and was gratified to see that many people read it and commented upon it. My purpose in this article is not to examine the specific issues surrounding Padre Serra but rather to respond to a number of remarks in the comboxes that point to what I think is a real failure to understand a key teaching of Vatican II.

Over and again, perhaps a hundred times, commentators said some version of this: “Well, bishop, making a statement is all fine and good, but what are you and the other bishops going to do about it?” Now almost none of these questioners made a concrete suggestion as to what precisely they had in mind, but I will gladly admit that there are certain practical steps that bishops can and should take in regard to such a situation. We can indeed lobby politicians, encourage legislative changes, and call community leaders together, all of which bishops have been doing. But what struck me again and again as I read these rather taunting remarks is that these folks, primarily lay men and women, are putting way too much onus on the clergy and not nearly enough on themselves.

According to the documents of Vatican II, the clergy are, by ordination, “priests, prophets, and kings.” As priests, they sanctify the people of God through the sacraments; as prophets, they speak the divine word and form the minds and hearts of their flocks; and as kings, they order the charisms of the community toward the realization of the Kingdom of God. Accordingly, the immediate area of concern for bishops and priests is the Church, that is to say, the community of the baptized. Now the laity, by virtue of their baptism, are also priests, prophets, and kings (Lumen Gentium, 31)—but their sanctifying, teaching, and governing work is directed, not so much inwardly to the Church, but outwardly to the world. For the Vatican II fathers, the proper arena of the laity is the saeculum (the secular order), and their task is the Christification of that realm. They are charged to take the teaching, direction, and sanctification that they have received from the priests and bishops and then go forth, equipped to transform the world and thereby find their own path to holiness.

It’s worth quoting Vatican II directly here, from Lumen Gentium:

What specifically characterizes the laity is their secular nature. It is true that those in holy orders can at times be engaged in secular activities, and even have a secular profession. But they are by reason of their particular vocation especially and professedly ordained to the sacred ministry. Similarly, by their state in life, religious give splendid and striking testimony that the world cannot be transformed and offered to God without the spirit of the beatitudes.

But the laity, by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God. They live in the world, that is, in each and in all of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven. They are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven.

In this way they may make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity. Therefore, since they are tightly bound up in all types of temporal affairs it is their special task to order and to throw light upon these affairs in such a way that they may come into being and then continually increase according to Christ to the praise of the Creator and the Redeemer. (Lumen Gentium, 31)

Great Catholic lawyers, great Catholic politicians, great Catholic university professors, great Catholic physicians and nurses, great Catholic investors and financiers, great Catholic law enforcement officers, great Catholic writers and critics, great Catholic entertainers, each in his or her special area of competence, is meant to bring Christ to the society and the culture. And when I say “Catholic” here, I don’t mean incidentally so or merely privately so, but rather vibrantly and publicly so. This Christification of the culture ought never, of course, to be done aggressively, for as John Paul II said, the Church never imposes but only proposes, but it is indeed to be done confidently, boldly, and through concrete action.

It would be instructive to apply these principles to the present situation in our culture. The crisis precipitated by the brutal killing of George Floyd is one that involves many dimensions of our society: law, the police, education, government, neighborhoods, families, etc. Priests and bishops, to be sure, ought to teach clearly and publicly. The declaration mentioned above and the American bishops’ pastoral statement against racism from a year ago, Open Wide Our Hearts, are good examples of this. But I would argue that the lion’s share of the work regarding this massive societal problem belongs to those whose proper arena is the society and whose expertise lies precisely in the relevant areas of concern, namely, the laity. If I may be blunt, the question ought not be, “what are the bishops doing about it?” but rather, “what can I and my Christian friends do about it?”

The last thing I would like to do is to stir up any rivalry or resentment between clergy and laity—on the contrary. Following the prompts of the Vatican II documents, I have been stressing the symbiotic relationship that ought to obtain between them. And if I might propose a concrete example of this symbiosis, I would draw your attention to the Catholic Action model that flourished in the years prior to the Council but which, sadly and surprisingly, fell into desuetude after Vatican II. In accord with the framework proposed by Cardinal Cardijn, the founder of Catholic Action, a priest would meet with a relatively small group of parishioners who shared a common interest or vocation, say, physicians, or lawyers, or financiers, or business leaders. The spiritual leader would interpret Scripture or lay out some relevant teaching of the Church and then invite his interlocutors to “see, judge, and act.” That is to say, he would encourage them to be attentive to the area of their professional interest, then to judge the situations they typically face in light of the Gospel and Church teaching, and finally to resolve to act on the basis of those judgments. When it was functioning at its best, Catholic Action involved priests and laity, each operating in their proper spheres and working together for the transformation of the world.

Not a bad approach to the cultural crisis in which we currently find ourselves.


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About Bishop Robert Barron 184 Articles
Bishop Robert Barron is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries. He is the creator of the award winning documentary series, "Catholicism" and "Catholicism:The New Evangelization." Learn more at www.WordonFire.org.

93 Comments

  1. And then here was 1) Archb. Gregory in DC effectively pushing his clergy to play politics and oppose President Trump because he prayed at a Catholic shrine, and 2) Cdl. Dolan in NY refusing to Excommunicate the most outrageously and personally heretical and publicly sinful politician in our Country. And how about the homosexual ambivalence of so many others – Cupich, etc.
    Yes, lay people should do their job and vote correctly, but Bishops should stop scandalizing them. Bishop Barron, you are a great leader, but how about pinning the tail on the right donkey !

    • This probably will not be posted. I just watched Taylor Marshall’s commentary, who I think completely demolishes your weak arguments. This is a Catholic saint whose statues are being desecrated, and the statues of our Lord and Savior are next. When it comes to preserving the icons of our Faith, is it unreasonable to expect more active leadership from our bishops?

      • Everyone keeps talking about the reason’s these rioters are doing this. They have been trained to hate and destroy. Their intent, no matter what they need to do to achieve it, is to topple society and governments so a one world Communist government can be installed. After the toppling of statues they begin to kill people. Again, this is happening all over the world. It is Satan vs God. Prepare yourself for Three Days Darkness, this is not new revelation. Padre Pio and others have received this message from Our Lord. Look it up and be prepared, Pray, Pray Pray.

    • No argument here….a better question is “what are the bishops saying about it?”…answer, mostly deafening silence.

      But, they never hold back on anything called racism, even if race had nothing to do with it, nor do they fail to issue statements on gun control, “social justice” issues, etc….

      While, name those bishops who can positively and without a doubt, lead a seeker to experience God.

      • It’s a “deafening silence” except when it comes time to forbid Catholics worship in their own churches. Then they lay down the ecclesiastical law, choose how many are allowed into the pews, whether we’re allowed to sing to our Savior, whether we are allowed to show our love and reverence on our knees with the angels, and receive His most blessed Body on our tongues. How can the Laity, whose duty it becomes to defend the faith, have the spiritual strength to do what they are expected to do by their timerou

        s prelates?

  2. As I was reading the article, I said to myself that what His Excellency was talking about sounded like the “Lay Apostolate” or Catholic Action as reformed by Pope Pius XI . . . which, as I read further, is what it turned out to be. His Excellency is also correct that Catholic Action fell by the wayside following Vatican II. This is ironic, as my understanding of the Council is that John XXIII intended it to restart Pius XI’s initiative and apply that pontiff’s completed social doctrine to counter the “new things” of socialism, modernism, and esotericism (“New Age”) condemned by Gregory XVI, reiterated by Leo XIII, and were the reason Pius IX called the First Vatican Council.

    Despite all the surreal absurdities that have been forced on Vatican II by adherents of the new things, however, there remains hope. The work of Catholic Action — the restructuring of the social order — is carried on by the interfaith Center for Economic and Social Justice (http://www.cesj.org) in Arlington, Virginia. Co-founded in 1984 by Father William J. Ferree, S.M., Ph.D, an acknowledged expert in the social doctrine of Pius XI, CESJ has received the personal encouragement of John Paul II during a private audience with His Holiness along with members of Polish Solidarity. We were later informed (but could not verify) that John Paul II recommended CESJ’s proposals on at least three occasions to diplomatic visitors at the Vatican. The proposals were later presented at a seminar at the Vatican under the auspices of His Eminence, Achille Cardinal Silvestrini to heads of religious congregations and Vatican personnel.

    CESJ’s proposals were also the subject of the Presidential Task Force on Project Economic Justice, intended to develop a plan to counter the spread of Marxism in Central America and the Caribbean Basin. The report was hand-delivered to President Ronald Reagan and later to John Paul II.

    The techniques of social justice — properly understood (described by Fr. Ferree in his 1948 pamphlet, “Introduction to Social Justice”, available as a free download, https://www.cesj.org/resources/free-ebooks/) — are based on the techniques of Catholic Action described by Msgr. Luigi Civardi in his book, “A Manual of Catholic Action” (Sheed & Ward, 1936). They offer a practical means not only of addressing the current problem, but of many of the problems that continue to beset “the City and the World” in the wake of the advent of the new things.

    A visit to the CESJ website might prove useful for those seeking practical solutions instead of expecting someone else to carry out the essential task of restructuring the social order. As Fr. Ferree pointed out, the common good is the object of each person’s particular solicitude. All we need is to understand what the Church really means by “social justice.”

    • Thank you for that Michael. I appreciate all our bishops have done, and I do hope that moving forward there will be a stronger emphasis put on authentic justice. I was shaken to my core after reading the Ven. Fulton Sheen’s “Communism and the Conscience of the West” followed by his “Freedom Under God” and learned of the corresponding encyclicals in the footnotes. I had been going about it all wrong! I don’t know why I had never heard those common sense principles (and warnings) espoused in my 16 years of Catholic education. How are we laity to know what action to take if we aren’t grounded in the correct principles to guide our action? St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.

  3. Episcopal clarification? Its been a long time since I’ve seen episcopal clarification regarding anything. Episcopal obfuscation, yes. Episcopal double talk, yes. Episcopal “footnoting,” yes.
    Perhaps they would be willing to take a stab at it in regard to the AUSCP? James Martin? Unlikely.
    The Barron bubble is tough as nails.

  4. Yea, right, your joking…………….the Bishops have refused to defend the faith and when the barbarians that they have helped create turn on the Church they say it’s the laity fault for not doing their job.

    Bishop Barron, you have appeared on the same stage thereby giving support to the mortal sin promoting Martin & Massingale then you claim the laity needs to take action. The first action I would take is to remove the homosexual promoting clergy from the Church.

    • Dear Kevin,
      Well said! The Bishops abandoned their vocation to Christ and I recommend we abandon our practice of financial support, because from all appearances that is what the majority of the episcopate worship and serve. While Gregory was the head of the Atlanta Church it became the HIV/AIDS capitol of the world and he never said a word about the sinful behaviour that caused such illnesses yet he was offended by someone praying at a Catholic shrine and said way too much. What a phony or fool!
      God bless,
      tom

    • I enjoyed reading Bishop Barron’s article. I found the distinction between the roles of the Bishop’s and the laity well stated. What perplexes me is the lack of congruency between what the role of the bishop is and the laity. If the Catholic laity leaders do not adhere to the teachings of the magisterium and are warmly embraced by the bishops and supported politically by the progressive bishops: how am I suppose to be an avenue to teach Christ to the world when what the bishops say and do are not in agreement. If I do not get support from the bishops on the teachings of the magisterium, I cannot teach it if it does not apply equally to all Catholics. Right now it appears the progressive Catholics are in charge with the support of the bishops. Those of us who are not progressive Catholics are on the outside looking in and I cannot teach what the bishops themselves do not support by their actions, because their lack of action speaks louder than any statement the bishops make.

  5. Dear Bp Barron, I have a concrete suggestion for you. Have you made a public statement of support for Fr Moloney? As you know, Fr Moloney at MIT was thoughtfully teaching the Gospel message on race, and was attacked by his own Archbishop Sean OMalley. Why would any layman stick his neck out on the race issue, (which has now been completely defined by marxists who scream racism at anyone who contradicts their beliefs) knowing that his own bishop is likely to decapitate him? Just asking. The Catholic laity need to know that they have the moral and spiritual support of their bishops on controversial issues, before they step out into the public fire fight. Why should I believe you will support me when the shooting starts, if you wont declare a public support of Moloney who is a fellow priest? There’s a great twitter feed by James Lindsay, anti-revolutionary @ConceptualJames on “Announce your Woke Breaking Point” Lindsay asks the following questions: “Whose statue has to come down? Seriously, whose is the last straw? Who has to get cancelled? Fired? Doxxed? Destroyed? Beaten up? Killed? Does it take a lynching? Does it take destroying the thing YOU love? Your family? Your kids? Your job? Your hobby? What is it? What’s too far?”

    What has to happen for you to support Fr. Moloney? Just asking. Announce your woke breaking point.

  6. Your Excellency, what many people were asking of you is how to proceed. Shepherd, what do you recommend that we do? What would be moral in the context of this situation? I don’t believe anyone is asking you to go out and protect any statues. We’ll do it at your command. We are simply making sure that the actions we take are ones that are in line with the Holy Spirit. During times like this (all throughout history), emotions are very difficult to overcome. It is easy for the laity to go too far. If you and the other Bishops could meet with leaders in the laity, pray and help them discern, the outcome would absolutely be one of symbiosis. To simply tell the laity that this is their job is not. God bless you.

  7. Bishop Barron is absolutely correct. It is always up to the laity to make their voices heard – just as we have been doing for many decades regarding abortion, with little if any help needed from the bishops.

    We, the little laity, also need no help on dissident priests, morally aberrant priests who are hidden by the hierarchy, mutable dogma and practice which confuse the “deplorables” you pat on the head and demoralizes those “rigid” Catholics who insist on adhering to the truth of Jesus Christ – but we trudge on – in spite of the low-T theology we get from our betters in the episcopacy.

    Yes, we will trudge on, Bishop Barron, with or without you. Please do not use Vatican II documents to exonerate your lack of action in this very troubled country or in the great loss of baptized Catholics that accelerates daily. Hiding behind documents and a mitre will not help you.

  8. The accusing spirit , against The Father , ever with us , from all the deep hidden guilt and bitterness in parental roles , responsibilities and relationships in own lives , of generations too , that have not been taken to where they need to be , to be washed away and healed in The Blood and Water .
    The laity often do not even have to go too far out , to do some of what we ought to as pointed out , in the comforting words of the Holy Father too –

    https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2020/06/24/why-what-are-the-bishops-doing-about-it-is-the-wrong-question/
    That scene of The Lord , ‘ Sleeping on a cushion ‘ on the boat , in the midst of the storm …and the angry accusing words of the ‘tough ‘ men , likely set off by the site of that cushion – ‘ do You not care ..’ , not aware that , He The Stone , was likely dreaming of His children finding the cushion of His Heart , to be brought back to The Father , after having had to run away like Jacob , tired and sleeping on the stone …

    Walking around ? statues , parks , carrying the St.Michael’s relic stones –

    https://atxcatholic.com/index.php/2017/09/angels-dragons-iii-st-michael-relic-stone/#.XvO0aChKiUk
    Sharing the small divine mercy images -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHqvq2mEgYo

    may the words of good Bp.Barron reach many hearts ,to inspire many a young , including the very name sake of the Bishop and family too , to help calm the storms , trusting in Him and His Way in holiness .

  9. Your Excellency, what many people were asking of you is how to proceed. Shepherd, what do you recommend that we do? What would be moral in the context of this situation? I don’t believe anyone is asking you to go out and protect any statues. We’ll do it at your command. We are simply making sure that the actions we take are ones that are in line with the Holy Spirit. During times like this (all throughout history), emotions are very difficult to overcome. It is easy for the laity to go too far. If you and the other Bishops could meet with leaders in the laity, pray and help them discern, the outcome would absolutely be one of symbiosis. To simply tell the laity that this is their job is not.

    • If he wants the statue protected, why shouldn’t be front and center of the group protecting it? Beads in hand, leading the faithful in the Rosary would be a nice touch.

      • I’m trying to moderate how much toxic news I take in in any given week, so I haven’t read up on all the details on this latest wave of lunacy, but here’s a concrete thing I thought could be done about vandalized statues on county/state/federal land: have a local church pay the government entity a nominal fee to “buy” or “rent” the fallen statue, haul it onto Church property where it can be cared for and restored, and when all this nonsense blows over after the next election, or the election 4.5 years from now, or whenever, the government can buy it back for a nominal fee plus restoration costs. If government entities can’t keep law and order and protect public property, we can be caretakers of some of the artworks for as long as needed. To show up and pray, and teach, around works of art that are still standing is a great idea to be sure, but the artworks that are already torn down should be quietly hauled away for a time, and provide work for Catholic artisans. An effort like this probably would require some leadership from a local bishop, but a lay association would do the lion’s share of the work.

        Every crisis offers some opportunity for Christians to do good. The good we do is not always an obvious, immediate solution to the acute situation; it is usually working in small, hidden ways that win hearts for God, but slowly. Praying and handing out holy cards around still-existing monuments is an opportunity for Evangelization. Quietly conserving and restoring our inheritance would be similar to monastic efforts in times past times of upheaval. Even though ultimately, the statues aren’t the main thing, I hope there’s a way to haul away toppled statues, and restore them somewhere for the future. Semper adelante…

  10. No, “What are the Bishops doing about it” is the right question. We are confronted with great moral issues, and the Bishops are our moral leaders and teachers. When various moral issues arise the Bishops frequently issue statements along the lines of “We find this very problematic.” Where is the outrage? Thomas Aquinas said, “He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral. Why? Because anger looks to the good of justice. And if you can live amid injustice without anger, you are immoral as well as unjust.”
    I might add, the USCCB has no problem issuing numerous documents on a wide variety of subjects for which they at least have no obvious qualifications.

  11. This has to be the most effeminate thing I have read. Do you even have your manhood anymore? Bishops of the past would have never shirked their responsibility like this. Unlike the the Cardinal Archbishop of New York, Card. Gibbons, who protected his cathedral. You sir are an embarrassment the vestments and ring that you wear.

    • Bulls eye.
      Is he correcting the South American Jesuit who occupies the throne of St. Peter when he is doing his meteorological routine? All this crew knows how to do is pose, give lip service and climb the ladder.

    • This comment wins the prize. Wish I could upvote it.

      Effeminacy is a cancer in our Vatican II New Church; not (typically) in the Traditional Orders.

      Yeah – we’ll do our part, and we do. Waiting for a little support and guidance from the true, constant Magisterium (not the weak soup and frequently poisonous and wrong Vatican II soup). Leadership from our Bishops would be so nice.

      • Bishops are too busy lobbying for socialized programs and supporting BLM’s and crying about racism to do anything about a few statues. I don’t think they really care. What they care about is more control and gov’t money going into their coffers. That is what they’ve been working on for years. Linda Goudsmit has a great book out called, The Book of HUmanitarian HOaxes Killing America with ‘Kindness’, and our bishops have promoted and lobbied for much of these nice sounding hoaxes. When the USCCB lobbied for socialized healtchare, right to work and right to housing..this is socialism. Every time someone gets shot, it’s not the persons fault it’s the gun…so they lobby for gun control. At this point, our bishops are a pack of devils disguised as nice sounding angels of light yet working for the demise of America.

    • Dear David,
      Cardinal Gibbons was from Baltimore, you are referring to my hero, Archbishop John Hughes, who told the Mayor of NY if one Catholic Church was set on fire by the know-nothings in NYC like what was happening in many cities along the eastern coast he would allow his people to burn the city down. Needless to say, not one church was torched in NY because the Mayor knew “the dagger,” as the Archbishop was fondly called after this event, would be true to his words and that the Irish Catholics of NY would have done anything he said because he was a true leader and shepherd who protected his flock! Bishop Strickland of Texas is one of the few remaining Bishops who act according to faith and use politics to protect the Church not destroy it.
      God bless,
      tom

  12. I agree with Bishop Barron – the bishops have no special competence to speak authoritatively on the myriad political issues, regarding which, they so incessantly and ignorantly declaim. The informed laity needs to apply its knowledge of subjects, Church teaching and common sense to form solid positions. As someone has remarked elsewhere, we can make up our own minds about immigration and climate change.

    • I agree with what most everyone on this page has said about the bishops and Bishop Barron. I have to say that I have never been so disappointed in a bishop as I am now with Robert Barron. But, Tony W., the flaw in your argument is that there is hardly such a thing anymore as “an informed laity”. The cathechism classes for children are lax in teaching (I have an ex daughter-in-law who went faithfully to those classes and has no serious knowledge of the faith at all); and for adults there is almost nothing that would allow them to continue learning about their faith (except what they privately read or watch). When religious education for the majority of Catholics stops at age 12 or thereabouts, you hardly have an informed laity.

  13. I DO ask the bishops to go out and defend statues of Our Lady and the saints, and, should it come to it, our crucifixes in churches. The lay vocation, with references to Apostolicam Actiositatem and Christifideles Laici, surely outlines marching orders for all the laity within their competency( “it is not permissible for anyone to remain idle.”). But the lay vocation does not provide a pass for bishops to avoid uncomfortable secular public encounters. One need only recall the heroic bishops who lead (or at least accompany) their people to the March for Life every January. I recall too the brave priest who rushed into Notre Dame as it burst into flames to rescue the precious relic of the Crucifixion, he didn’t wait for competent laity to arrive. Yes, certainly, it is laity who must address the underlying social issues that manifest in
    outbursts of unrest and violence. It is laity, formed by faith, who are responsible for public policy, law enforcement, mental health services and other necessary social/ cultural engagement ordered toward an equitable society. But that isn’t really The Question here. Laity aren’t asking clergy to intervene in policy debates. We aren’t asking bishops advise politicians on how to restore order, when to call in the national Guard or to counsel police departments. We do expect priests and bishops to physically defend -if need be- holy things. Not secular things. If the mob decides to raze the rectory, call the police( and pray they come!) but if the mob comes for statues and relics that are venerated, are blessed and the object of devotion by the faithful, if it is an assault on our Catholic identity and accomplishments, as Junipero Serra’s statues and missions are, then yes, the priests and the bishops are expected to act. In the 1930’s when the KKK attempted to burn our parish church ( now the cathedral) the pastor stood in front of the violent men guarding the door – he was joined by laymen, but he didn’t wait for nor abdicate the honor of defending that which is holy. Lastly, bishops are charged with evangelizing. What a riveting opportunity for the American episcopate to testify to secular society should they need to defend the holy places, statues and relics in their care. Imagine the impact.

  14. So why precisely will you not be sending your two bodybuilder aides to guard the statue? It’s not like they’re busy administering the sacraments of the Church and we all know what idle hands get up to, don’t we?

  15. Barron wants to have it both ways, but make no mistake, his feet are planted firmly in the modernist camp, because those people have the power to advance or retard his career.
    Barron is a weakling. More specifically, he’s lukewarm; not a redeeming quality.

  16. Imagine if one priest, or one monk, in ecclesiastical garments, had gone out to protect the statues with his own body,? Imagine the media optics? It wouldn’t have taken long for hundreds of people to join him. If only we, the sheep, had one bishop, just one, who actually believed that the things of God are worth fighting for, not just talking about.

  17. When I read articles like this I wonder whether the Church still has Apostolic Succession. Where are the shepherds leading the flock in the same manner that we see in the New Testament? Where is the apostolic zeal in our shepherds? Who has the laity’s back? Often faithful Catholics are treated like Uriah the Hittite. Victims of apostolic desertion.

  18. Let’s see… “US Bishops Praise DACA Decision” was a recent headline. So the bishops praised a flawed Supreme Court ruling protecting an illegally enacted program that was initiated by executive order, not by Congress, saying in effect that the current President cannot undo what the previous president illegally created. Just because the program is a pet project of the bishops. The bishops are worthless. The correct question is, “Why are the bishops so worthless?”

    • Because, despite our naive hopes that they are “men of God,” the uncomfortable truth is that they are (with some few noble exceptions) ambitious, political climbers when they’re not just CEOs, who are frequently controlled by modernist stooges and disaffected nuns. It takes a MAN to be a real Bishop and two generations (at least) of breeding out strength, courage, honor and principle from our boys must be changed. However, something wonderful is occurring within the Latin Mass people. The devout mothers home schooling and fathers who care about their kids and try to be example to their sons, are making a huge difference already. Though the current crop of clergy & bishops are uneasy it bodes well for the Church. Now she has to survive until the future grows up!

  19. When the pachamama idols were revered in St. Peter’s Basilica, did we hear from any archbishop? When liturgical abuses ran roughshod with VCII’s spirit, did we hear from many archbishops? Church statues were smashed and removed during the 1970 wreckovations, often with archbishop approval.

    Does the average contemporary Catholic expect anything from any archbishop? Accustomed we’ve become. We’re inured. It is not new to us to see the fall from our Church of one more brick of the good, the true, the holy. The hierarchy has given the church away, stone by stone, year after year, for so long now. We don’t need bishops. We don’t need Catholic Action or SJWs. We need saints, soon.

  20. Perhaps a more fruitful question might be, “Why, if all of the above holds water, did Bishop Barron find it necessary to block Taylor Marshall–an educated and worthy interlocutor–and instead take refuge on these pages where challenges are relegated to the combox alone and don’t have to be dealt with at all?”

    • You are so right in your question, Helen.

      If there are hills where bishops could hide, we’d surely find them there. They surely ought to share collegial shame. That they don’t tells me their consciences died long ago. Dante’s lowest level of hell still has room, I hear. BB’s hope doesn’t enter there.

  21. For 2000 years, bishops have always worked with government leaders for issues that impact the Catholic Church. So Bp. Barron is wrong. Protecting Catholic property and statues is the respnsibility of the bishops (Church leaders), to work with government leaders, to enforce the law. In fact, the US Bishops still work with governmental leaders on a regular basis. But they are not working with mayors and governors to protect the property and statues of the holy Catholic Church.

  22. The irony is that Bishop Barron believes secular authorities should be responsive to the voice of the laity but bishops need not even listen. I was rather taken aback when I learned he boldly blocked the deeply informed, faithful and articulate Taylor Marshall on Twitter for asking the bishops to intervene.
    Yes, blocked. Why even listen to the groundlings?
    It appears we can be annoying.

  23. The Bishops are still failing… Each bishop and the bishops as a hierarchical body should be denouncing not only the rioting, vandalism, looting and violence happening all over the country, but the post modernist, insidious, nihilistic ideology underlying it all. Jordan Peterson, warning us about this nefarious ideology over these past few years and predicting what is now happening, has been more prophetic than you Bishops. Peterson is a highly intelligent, passionate man of integrity who’s not given over to political correctness and fear of calling out the lie dominating this so called cultural revolution. As he recovers from a serious illness, his voice is silenced. So now “We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader…” (Dn 3:38). You Bishop have failed; maybe you can learn from Peterson’s courage and recover the exercise of your prophetic office, sorely needed in this leadership void.

  24. I think the laity are looking for the clergy to tell them it is OKAY to defend their religion and heritage (including statues), and even ENCOURAGE them to do so. You know, Bishop Barron, that it would be unpopular in the media to do so, and that it would probably get you “cancelled” and harm your Word On Fire empire, so you are using the documents of Vatican II as a cheap excuse to avoid actually ENCOURAGING Catholics to defend the Church and her property, because you don’t want any bad press. Instead you just hide behind documents and act like you have completely “done your part” as a bishop of the Church.

  25. Your Exellency, thank you for your article. As you have the media resources and a high profile is it not encumbent upon you to reinvigorate Catholic Action and shout from your electronic rooftop? Your leadership could re-enage the clergy and laity as you suggest. I have no prescence on the internet but will happily enagage with the clergy on these issues when given the chance. However, I am compelled to say that over recent years I never- not once- ever recieved so much as a courteous reply from any letter written to my bishop or the chancery. Are you too one only for a one way conversation, or are you really prepared to step up to the plate and instruct your priests to engage with the laity through Catholic Action or something similar? Sadly, my experience of the clergy is a defening silence unless it is on some current liberal topic.

  26. I have never, ever, heard a homily by priest, bishop, or deacon detailing the virtues of St Serra. I have heard all our children coming back from university ridicule everything about our (USA) history. I have heard my bishop angrily denounce Humana Vitae and the Theology of the Body. There’s a problem here.

  27. Bishop Barron, you call for the laity “to judge the situations they typically face in light of the Gospel and Church teaching, and finally to resolve to act on the basis of those judgments.”

    Here’s a suggestion for a topic for one of your future columns:

    How can we shine the light of the Gospel and Church teaching on the systemic network of Satanic pedophilia that was promoted by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin within the seminary system of the Archdiocese of Chicago, of which both you and Archbishop Wilton Gregory are products? And what action should be taken on the basis of those judgments?

  28. THE elephant consistently ignored by much of the clergy is that the shepherds did not feed or protect us or from the ravening wolves, in schools or in the pulpit, since Vatican II. We have no moral weapons to defend the sanctity of the home, Church or public square because we’ve never heard of them.

  29. Right now, if the bishops said and did nothing but administer the sacraments it would be a vast improvement over the status quo.

    • Bravo! One thing I’ve not seen addressed here: many bishops and clerics in general have an obsessive need to be LIKED. Were they to take any kind of stand against the zeitgeist, there would be people, especially those in the seminaries and chanceries who would NOT like him for saying what was politically incorrect. And he might have to stand alone! What could be worse for an extrovert?

  30. This article is so laughable that I am surprised to see it published. Every Catholic is only too well aware that for 50 years thronging crowds of American Catholic bishops and their USCCB bureaucracy have rushed to proclaim their views on all manner of secular domestic and international political, economic, national security, and ecological topics, invariably without even the bare modicum of professional knowledge or expertise that a layman is expected to exercise. Yet on the wanton sacrilegious desecration of religious images of Our Lord, Our Lady, and canonized Saints that has occurred nationwide they have nothing to say. And, to top it off, “Pants-On-Fire” Bishop Barren has the unmitigated gall to claim that bishops have no responsibility to speak on the subject and that “Vatican II” reposes it with laymen. Is it any wonder that the now long-gone reverence for episcopal leadership has been so completely ripped apart that it has not only disappeared but even reached the stage where a layman can count on the pronouncements of bishops like Barren to determine what is precisely the wrong answer?

  31. Our task is not the “Christification” of the secular realm. Here’s a question for our bishops : Why don’t you know the first thing about Christianity?

  32. What a great disappointment! Heretofore, I greatly admired Bishop Barron. After reading this article the scales have fallen from my eyes. What a lame excuse for a leader of the Church.
    Stop the hot air and grow a spine.

  33. Bsp. Barron, you make a fair point. The laity have their part to play mainly out in the world: “Great Catholic lawyers, great Catholic politicians, great Catholic university professors, great Catholic physicians and nurses, great Catholic investors and financiers, great Catholic law enforcement officers, great Catholic writers and critics, great Catholic entertainers, each in his or her special area of competence… meant to bring Christ to the society and the culture.”
    The bishop’s “immediate area of concern… is the Church”; to provide the sound “teaching, direction, and sanctification” that cranks out the great Catholic laity referenced above.
    How’s that been going for ya’ll lately?

  34. Bishop Barren, your excellency, “we” laity ARE fighting this battle, everyday with our fellow citizens. We are doing so, apparently, without the leadership of our shepherds. I call on you and your colleagues to take action, not just educate us with theological rationalizations. For example, go to the site of the desecration of St Junipero Serra’s statue in San Francisco with your brother bishops. Call on the laity to assemble with you in prayer. Educate the masses in the public square. Take a stand in the public square. You are a master of communication and story telling. Now is YOUR time to tell the story of Father Junipero. YOU have a huge voice, and will compel greater understanding with citizens of every stripe. Inform everyone how Father Junipero evangelized California in the mid to late 1700s. Now is the time to attract media coverage and rally your flock. Educate about the history of California, ie, Sacramento is derived from the word, “sacraments”. How the Catholic Church has been so instrumental in California’s history. Your flock. Your time. Leadership. Thank you. God bless you. Father Junipero pray for us.

  35. The new evangelization, the new evangelization….that’s all I have heard for years but the bishops are the major obstacles to accomplishing anything. Defend Catholic doctrine? Defend Catholic saints? Fight atheistic materialism? Control CAtholic universities? Enforce proper and respectful liturgies? I give the lot of them a big fat F as a grade. They act as just another progressive NGO and very politically correct.

  36. As far as the the desecration of the statute of St. Junipero Serra goes, the act was of a sacrilegious nature. The bishops could have said so clearly and unapologetically. Sure the laity can add their voices. But such an outrage calls for spiritual leadership. I would have hoped that the act would have been condemned as the sacrilege it was without hesitation or equivocation. Even better if they had publicly called out elected officials for their failures to enforce the law over the course of the past month.

  37. Let’s all make a physical presence to guard our heritage and history. Because all it takes for evil to prevail is for good people or bishops to do nothing. 🙏

  38. Bishop Barron heads an evangelical movement called “Word on Fire” of which I am one of 14,000 members. I was thinking that, with the Bishop’s role and expertise in evangelization, and all that manpower, we could work together to oppose the evil forces which seem to be taking over America using lies and slogans. With the bishop’s influence, I imagine other organizations like the Knights of Columbus would join in the effort, which could include not only prayer, but letter-writing campaigns, Internet communications, personal contacts, etc. to spread the truth, and even to support candidates who stand up for religious liberty, oppose abortion and insane ideas on sex, etc. Just some thoughts, but I’m sure there are ideas, abilities, and energy throughout the Church (and outside it) which could reverse the current tide, with leadership and coordination, under the guidance of the Holy
    Spirit.

    • This is rich. A member of the bishop’s apostolate here brainstorms, today, what to do for a situation that’s been very long in coming. The apostolate was organized what–10 years ago? What’s it done during that time and with its money? I bought the packet long ago. They weren’t cheep. Then I never heard another WORD.

  39. Well, this about sums it up:

    “Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops act like bishops, and your religious act like religious.” – Fulton J. Sheen

    If Barron really believes everyone probably goes to heaven, then why should it matter for him to condemn marxism and defend Catholic saints?

  40. I don’t think the defense of statues or even Churches can be something the laity do alone, as if they are expected to act outside the ecclesial sphere. Even if such actions are secular by nature, like defending property, Bishops and clergy must ask it of them and be expected to sanction it.

    Casey Chalk at Crisis Magazine wrote, “In 1844, Protestant nativist rioters in Philadelphia attacked Catholics and their churches. Ecclesial leadership organized fraternal Catholic organizations to defend the churches with force of arms. More than 175 years later, it seems possible that priests and bishops may soon have to call on the Knights of Columbus to do the same, in order to prevent woke mobs from vandalizing or destroying our parishes.”

    This seems the proper relationship between Church leadership and laity for the defense of the Church.

    I think Bishop Barron is making a too rigid separation between the hierarchy and the laity, ecclesial versus secular. There is a distinction but the relationship is more integral than Bishop Barron describes it.

    What irks the laity, so far as I can tell, is that the hierarchy seem absent or silent, leaving the laity leaderless. That certainly wasn’t the case in 1844 and it shouldn’t be now.

  41. What an absolutely appalling statement! (A) It presumes the laity are doing nothing, and (B) it presumes the Bishops don’t have a responsibility. Both presumptions are completely false. The laity are vocally opposing the rioters and are looking for leadership from their Bishops. Sadly this is another example of the poor leadership we have. Bishop Barron’s article is a purely “pass the buck” comment we have seen too often.

  42. Thanks to all the thoughtful fellow laity asking great questions,
    pointing out huge inconsistencies between what our faith teaches and our Magisterial leaders actually do – or much more often, fail to do – and show with clarity how our Bishops follow and fawn to the culture instead of leading the culture as they should.

    You’re a coward Bishop Barron – pure and simple. The laity IS doing things to try and fight this insanity – we don’t need you to tell us to do that. We know we should. All we’re asking is are you going to join us? Are you going to stop cowering in your offices that we paid for and come join us to protect a statue? Protect a church? Publicly denounce hateful and violent behavior IN PUBLIC and not by writing a paper, or a behind closed doors meeting?

    I think Christ is winnowing his flock to see who’s really in, who’s really about picking us his cross daily, and we’re clearly seeing that a laaaaarge portion of the Bishops of all stripes aren’t.

    I’ll pray for you Bishop even though you have lost any shred of credibility in my eyes – and I used to think so highly of you. You clearly need prayers. Hide behind V2 if you desire, it’s too bad you won’t join us. But hey, we’re happy to get it done without you – we have been for years now.

  43. Having read through many comments from my “christian” proclaimers, I could only wonder if we have forgotten about our Christian commitment to pray for those whom we find annoying for one reason or another. Our observational activities become judgmental ones (I point the finger at myself as well) and I do not recall having received a directive to be a “judge.” Please God, patience for us all!

    • You might want to have a look at Ezekiel 3:17-21. There is such a thing as prophetic responsibility. We are not to judge the person, but we can’t admonish the sinner, a spiritual work of mercy, without judging the actions of the sinner.

    • No we are not called to “JUDGE”anyone, least of all a Bishop! But we are called to DISCERN their actions (or in this case their inaction), whether they be good or not.

  44. In our current moment, might we be reminded of the Italian journalist Ariani Fallaci—an ATHEIST, but also a correspondent with both Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI?

    Of Europe’s flacid convictions, its self-hatred and sickness and “moral and intellectual cancer,” Fallaci observed, “If a Pope and an atheist say THE SAME THING, in that thing there must be something tremendously true” (The Force of Reason, 2004). If still alive, Fallaci might have something to say, too, about nihilistic infiltration and statue-toppling in front of American churches…

    Fallaci self-identified as a “Christian atheist” [!] because “Christianity TRULY is an irresistible provocation, a sensational bet that Man makes himself . . .” We have a catastrophe, she says, “because before invading our territory and destroying our culture, before canceling our identity, Islam [and today’s aligned secular elite?] aims to extinguish that irresistible provocation.”

    As a “Christian atheist . . . [she protested that] Life always resurrects, Life is eternal . . . That most seduces me. Because in it I see the rejection of Death, the refusal of Death, the apotheosis of Life which can be evil: yes. Which is also evil, which eats itself. But its alternative is NOTHINGNESS.”

    Resisting today’s iconoclasm and this “nothingness” is the calling of the whole universal Church. And of a reasoning Civilization. A calling more rooted and radical than the radicals. With Fallaci and with (some of) them, man does “make himself,” but only with GRACE first—-an incarnational detail “tremendously true.”

    Christ wept at Gethsemani.

  45. The only actions my bishop has taken recently were suppressing Holy Mass for 10 weeks (our governor did not close churches), denying laypeople the Eucharist, and stating that Catholics are against racism (I thought we already knew this). I am beginning to believe we are shepherded by cowards. The bishops are looked to for leadership but I see very little and it breaks my heart. We may be the footsoldiers but our generals appear to be in hiding. I have a very small circle of influence compared to a bishop. How disappointing this article is! I thank God the holy priests in my life and my parish but the hierarchy is making itself obsolete. How sad!

    • Kristyn, charitably said and grounded in truth.
      Would Bishops proclaim the truth about ungodly sexual behavior run rampant as loud as exhorting us on racism it would be a holy day. For years, laity have lead in promoting chastity for all and abortion never, with very little support and sometimes even opposition from clergy. If the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith why have Bishops folded on it as ESSENTIAL and blame laity who cannot even be fed because our churches are locked and bolted. The issue is not just racism and justice it is clearly a problem which cries to heaven for repentance and conversionas Jesus said. That is the responsibility of every one who is a follower of Jesus.
      Let us all commit to increased prayer for clergy and laity alike.

    • The Church hierarchy has absented itself from the public arena for the past three months making one wonder at its relevance to civil debate when the current upheaveals subside. However, with all due respect to Junipero Serra, calling the bishops to action in his defence may not be quite where involvement is most needed. Tearing down monuments bespeaks a far deeper societal problem, one which cries out for courageous leadership from every bishop. The legitimate demands of our brown and black brothers and sisters must not be obfuscated by a discussion regarding the way these demands are made. Perhaps when the underlying issue of racism is addressed in a meaningful way, energy will be redirected to building a more just society.

  46. Another disappointing response from a bishop. My question is, if the Church “leaders” do not respond now, what will they do if our churches are attacked? What will happen when Jesus and Mary and the Eucharist are attacked? I’m afraid it will be nothing unless the laity takes up arms. Is that what you want, bishop?

  47. Bishops and priests are do not have to worry about their family or their job or finances. Thus, they should be on the front lines sacrificing themselves to protect the church. Laity should also be heroically self sacrificial and virtuous, but we are in a much more difficult position with families to take care of. Viewpoint discrimination leads to many Catholics who speak the truth losing their jobs and livelihoods.

  48. To many bishops are compromised by accepting government money to do charitable work , and have become dependant on these handouts. The First mission of the church is the salvation of souls . The softness, delicacy and timidity exhibited by the Bishops to defend Christ in the public square is appalling and embarrassing. Must the women and children go out and defend sacred objects against the marauding hoards ? Is that what the Bishop is calling for?

  49. “But what struck me again and again as I read these rather taunting remarks is that these folks, primarily lay men and women, are putting way too much onus on the clergy and not nearly enough on themselves.”

    What a cop-out you are, Mr. Barron…

    Instead of reading your list of excuses why you shouldn’t feel like diligently discharging your bishopric duties and why those duties (the teaching office, for instance) for fear of offending by means of speaking the Truth, one would be better of praying that the next generation of bishops will be godly and fearless like the priest giving this homily:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aK5XaowbeHQ

  50. I am sure my beliefs will not make it through the editing process but if Bishop Barron truly believes what he just said then he has a moral obligation to speak out against the organization of BLM. Their manifesto is easily accessible online for any and all to read. Bishop Barron you have a vast audience who admire you and are waiting and hoping to hear you speak out against this organization. You have to do what is right and take a stand against their horrific beliefs of abortion, Marxism, and homosexuality among other issues. The BLM movement is not acceptable and for you not come out publicly and specifically denounce and forbid the BLM movement then you are accepting of it and allowing for it which is damnable. And when we as laity do speak out against the BLM movement you should have our backs. Please Bishop Barron do what is right and just. You have a whole production crew that could put a statement out and public to a grand audience.

    • “I am sure my beliefs will not make it through the editing process…”

      Whatever your beliefs, your comments made it through just fine.

      • Carl E Olson,…I thought I was clear in what I believe but I will rephrase it, I BELIEVE 100% that Bishop Barron as a Catholic leader must take a stand against the Black Lives Matter movement for their beliefs in abortion. Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision legalized abortion more than 15 million Black babies have been aborted in our country. I believe that if the Black Lives Matter movement does care about all Black Lives then they should not allow for the murder of their own babies. I believe, just as the Catholic Church does that ALL Black lives matter. So once again I believe that Bishop Barron has a platform which to stand and be heard and should speak out against pro-choice stance that BLM has declared. I believe that choosing to remain silent on the issue is as equal to supporting it. I also believe if you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.

  51. My response to Bishop Barron is simple: Give us laity the confidence that you’ll be behind us and we’ll happily do our share of the work. Right now, I personally don’t have that confidence. If, for example, I wanted to file a lawsuit challenging infringement of my First Amendment right to freedom of religion by tyrannical governors, I fear that my bishop would gladly testify for the government by reiterating that since my obligation to attend Mass was dispensed, I had no standing to sue. If I condemn abortionist politicians, they’ll come out with a statement that says that abortion is just one issue. The bishops just say and do (or don’t do, as the case may be) too much these days to give the impression that they aren’t in the battle alongside the laity; they sometimes seem as though they are fighting for the enemy, or at best just sitting still and expecting the laity to do all the work, if they even care that the work gets done.

    No, the bishops can’t do it alone– but even my uncle (a priest) was fond of reminding people that ordination imbues clergy with a position of leadership in the Catholic Church, and by extension, society in general. He wasn’t fond of priests and bishops who did not know how to lead, and we shouldn’t be fond of them, either.

  52. This is a very pertinent discussion, but I’m confused: How can the laity be expected to protect church property that is being vandalized or stand up against rioters who do such things and also hate Catholic Christians? Ownership belongs to the corporate sole- the bishop of the diocese. Property includes sacred statues, crucifixes, and other objects both indoors and outdoors just to name a few. Laity can protest to government officials for protection of non Church owned property (off premises) but if officials condone the vandalism or do nothing to stop it our voice settles on deaf ears. I believe that the laity is looking for leadership and shepherding by strong bishops and priests on these matters. Maybe I’m wrong, who would know?

  53. “For the Vatican II fathers, the proper arena of the laity is the saeculum (the secular order), and their task is the Christification of that realm. They are charged to take the teaching, direction, and sanctification that they have received from the priests and bishops and then go forth, equipped to transform the world and thereby find their own path to holiness.”

    I believe the crux of people’s comments and questions about the perceived lack of leadership from the Church’s bishops is precisely, by and large, there has been NO “teaching, direction, and sanctification” from the bishops about what, exactly, the laity should be doing to combat this worldly scourge of secularism and a turning away from God.

  54. While Bishop Barron has a point in that it falls to the Laity to deal with legal and cultural battles in the public square, then he needs to explain why the Bishops continue to intervene in issues such as gun control, capital punishment, illegal immigration and climate change where-
    a) there can be a diversity of opinion even among Catholics; and
    b) are outside their field of expertise?

    If the Bishops see fit to intervene on these issues then they have an even greater duty to intervene when the Barbaric Leftist Mob (BLM) comes to loot and burn our Churches and Shrines, and tear down the statues of our Saints.

  55. Bishop Barron’s response has to be among the most egregious displays of weak leadership and of thrusting his duties upon the shoulders of the laity. I find his arguments mealy mouthed and exceptionally cowardly. This begs questions as to his ministry and his writings. Were his arguments, and others who ascribe to his views, to hold any validity then St. Patrick would not have evangelized the Irish, St. Boniface would never have left Mainz, and St. Junipero Sera would have stayed home in Spain.

3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

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  3. HEADLINES – JUNE 29, 2020 | PagadianDiocese.org

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