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Bishop Barron’s Hope for Church Renewal

In this clip from a special “on location” edition of the Busted Halo Show at the Los Angeles Religious Education Conference, Father Dave hosts Bishop Robert Barron.

Bishop Barron is well-known for his excellent PBS “Catholicism” documentaries, his popular online evangelization effort “Word on Fire,” his acclaimed books and articles on theology, and for his work as a religion correspondent for NBC news. He is currently working on a project exploring “Pivotal Players” of the Catholic faith like Augustine, Ignatius of Loyola, Fulton Sheen, and Flannery O’Connor.

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In his keynote speech for the annual LA RECongress, Bishop Barron addressed the growing number of “nones” or the unaffiliated people, especially the young, who don’t identify with any particular religion.

“I think any Catholic has got to be animated about this,” the bishop says. “The stats are depressing, and there’s no way around that. … For every one person joining our church today, 6.3 are leaving! … We have to be awake to that situation, we can’t just put our heads in the sand.”

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Father Dave notes that one of the big takeaways from Bishop Barron’s talk was “Let’s stop watering down the faith.”

A huge part of religious decline, according to Bishop Barron, is poor catechesis and the “dumbing down” of theology and philosophy. “Why aren’t we giving instruction at very high levels? … Every single day on my website, I deal with the disciples of the New Atheists, young people that were argued into atheism. Well, we’ve gotta argue them back.” Young people are looking for answers, he says, and they should be able to understand the faith. “Are we equipping our kids to deal with these questions?” he asks. In order to combat movement away from the Church, we have to go back to the complicated truth instead of trying to make the faith seem simplistic.“We were talking about the number two issue, now let’s be somewhat transparent and talk about the number one issue,” Father Dave says. Angered by the recent resurfacing of the sexual abuse crisis, the faithful are demanding accountability from bishops.

“Have we responded in very good ways? The answer is yes,” Bishop Barron says. The Dallas Charter, a 2002 American document of reform, has largely led to a huge drop off in incidents. However, the bishop agrees, “The new dimension of it is the bishops.” Although much still needs to be addressed, bishops in conjunction with the Vatican are meeting in the United States and throughout the world to enforce more transparency and accountability in the Church hierarchy. Bishop Barron expresses genuine hope for the future of the Church for both religious education of the young and lasting change in response to sexual abuse.


Photo credit: Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron addresses the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. (CNS photo/Jeffrey Bruno)