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Bishop Barron: Church should engage culture with more ‘energy, panache, and confidence’

October 26, 2023 Catholic News Agency 5
Bishop Robert Barron speaks to EWTN’s Colm Flynn about evangelizing the culture today. October 2023. / Credit: Word on Fire

Vatican City, Oct 26, 2023 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

Bishop Robert Barron said he regrets the Catholic Church’s “hand-wringing” in recent decades over how to share the Christian message with a secular culture. 

In an exclusive interview with EWTN News this week, the 63-year-old bishop of Winona-Rochester said he wants to see the Church today embrace sharing the Gospel with the same gusto and confidence as when Sts. Peter and Paul evangelized Rome.

“Much of my adult life — and I say this with regret — the Church has been in a kind of hand-wringing mode of, ‘Well, what do we know, and who are we to tell you? And we’re here, really, to learn more from you.’ Come on!” Barron said during an interview at the North American College in Rome.

“Peter and Paul came to this town a long time ago and they weren’t here just to listen to Roman culture,” the bishop continued. “They were here with a message: ‘euangelion,’ there’s good news, and it’s good news that will change the world. And in fact it worked.”

“The fact that over there [St. Peter’s Basilica], Peter lies buried to this day, but dominating this once imperial capital is the cross of Jesus. That didn’t come welling up from Roman culture. That came from a message that these [apostles] brought. We should do our work with the same energy and the same panache and the same confidence,” Barron encouraged.

Bishop Robert Barron speaks to EWTN's Colm Flynn in Rome, October 2023. Credit: Word on Fire
Bishop Robert Barron speaks to EWTN’s Colm Flynn in Rome, October 2023. Credit: Word on Fire

Barron, founder of the Word on Fire media apostolate, is in Rome to participate in the Oct. 4–29 session of the Synod on Synodality.

He said despite the apparent decline in faith and rise in what have been described as spiritual “nones” — people with no belief whatsoever — he still has hope in Christ and in the message of the Catholic Church.

“Being here in Rome with the synod, every day, people from all corners of the world — well, that means there’s something in Catholicism that is still very compelling to people, and that when it’s laid out in a way that’s intellectually satisfying and aesthetically pleasing and morally compelling, they respond to it,” he argued.

The bishop said he does not believe the “new atheist nonsense” will hold people’s hearts and minds in the long run.

“And the Church?” Barron added. “I look out at the city of Rome here: [The Church has] been around for a long time and we’ve been through a lot worse than we’re going through right now. So we will endure.”

“So Christ gives me hope and the Holy Spirit gives me hope,” he said. “We’ve been through a lot worse and there’s still nothing better on the table. There’s no fresher fish on the market than Christianity. It’s still the most beautiful, compelling message that we’ve got.”

The popular speaker and writer also said he does not think disagreements in the Church are worse than they were in the ’60s, ’70s, or ’80s.

People are not only critical of Pope Francis, he said, noting that Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI were also attacked during their papacies, though without social media so it may not have been as much on people’s radars.

Barron also attended the Synod of Bishops on young people in October 2018.

Practically speaking, he said, the synodal assembly this month is more comfortable than the youth synod. 

Prior synods were held in the Vatican’s New Synod Hall, which has theater-like seating. Barron described it as “a somewhat claustrophobic room” and like sitting in “the middle seat on an airplane.”

He added that the larger space of the Paul VI Hall, with tables and chairs, as well as wearing suits instead of cassocks every day, is also “more comfortable, more humane … easier to get through.”

“The best part of [the Synod on Synodality]” is being with Catholics from all over the world, he said.

He recalled the “cacophonous sound” of hundreds of people speaking in different languages at the three-day retreat held ahead of the synodal assembly in a town outside Rome.

“It was the universality of the Church in all of us,” he said, “a kind of cacophonous wonder. There’s no other group or society in the world, I don’t think, that could muster that kind of international universality, and that is an extraordinary thing.”

Watch EWTN’s full interview with Bishop Barron below.


The Dispatch

Bishop Barron says Minnesota’s new abortion law is ‘the worst kind of barbarism’

February 2, 2023 Catholic News Agency 13
Bishop Robert Barron spoke out against Minnesota’s new abortion law after it passed Jan. 31, 2023. / Credit: Bishop Robert Barron/YouTube

Boston, Mass., Feb 2, 2023 / 12:45 pm (CNA).

Winona-Rochester Bishop Robert Barron called a newly passed Minnesota abortion bill that enshrines abortion rights into law “the worst kind of barbarism.”

“I want to share with you my anger, my frustration over this terrible law that was just signed by the governor in Minnesota — the most really extreme abortion law that’s on the books in the wake of the Roe v. Wade reversal,” Barron said in a Jan. 31 video on social media following Democratic Gov. Tim Walz’s signing of the bill on Tuesday.

The bill, titled the Protect Reproductive Options (PRO) Act, enshrines a constitutional right to “reproductive freedom,” ensuring the right to abortion in Minnesota up to birth for any reason, as well as the right to contraception and sterilization.

“Basically, it eliminates any kind of parental notifications so a 12-year-old child can get an abortion without even telling her parents about it,” Barron said. 

“But the worst thing,” he added, “is it basically permits abortion all the way through pregnancy up to the very end. And indeed, indeed if a child somehow survives a botched abortion, the law now prohibits an attempt to save that child’s life.”

Protection for abortion in the state had preexisted the new law because the state’s Supreme Court ruled in the 1995 decision Doe v. Gomez that a woman had a constitutional right to abortion. Several restrictions to abortion in the state have also been ruled unconstitutional in the courts in prior years, the AP reported. Sponsors of the bill supported it because they wanted abortion protections in law, despite the political leaning of future appointed justices, the AP reported.

Pro-life advocates fiercely opposed the bill, as it gained national attention and underwent several hours of debate in the state Senate. The pro-life advocacy organization Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America called the legislation “the most extreme bill in the country.” 

Barron said that “I don’t know why this is really debated anymore in our country, but this strikes me as just the worst kind of barbarism. And in the name of, I don’t know, subjectivity, and freedom, and choice and all this, we’re accepting this kind of brutality.”

Barron’s condemnation of the law echoes that of the Minnesota bishops who raised their voices against it before its passage. 

The states’ bishops wrote in a Jan. 26 statement: “To assert such unlimited autonomy is to usurp a prerogative that belongs to God alone. Authorizing a general license to make and take life at our whim will unleash a host of social and spiritual consequences with which we as a community will have to reckon.”

In his video, Barron added: “What strikes me is this: If a child is born and now a day old, or two days old and resting peacefully in his bassinet and someone broke into the house and with a knife killed the child and dismembered him, well, the whole country would rise up in righteous indignation.”

“But yet, that same thing can happen with complete impunity as the child is in his mother’s womb about to be born. Again, I just think this is so beyond the pale and that we’ve so lost our way on this issue,” he said.

He acknowledged that there was no possibility of blocking the now-enacted legislation, but said that “we can certainly keep raising our voices in protest.”

“We can keep praying for an end to this barbaric regime in our country,” he said.