Bishop Barron on “Judging”

I just finished reading “Seeds of the Word” by Bishop Robert Barron. It’s a 275 page book that contains 84 chapters. Well, they’re not really chapters; they’re more like a soup of essays; somewhat like reading 84 blog posts broken into 4 parts, all about finding God in the secular world around us: (1) God in film, (2) God in Books, (3) God in politics and (4) God in the culture.

You might think that God can no longer be found in our secularized society, but Bishop Barron proves otherwise, and it stands to reason. If all humans are made in the image and likeness of God and have a created and immortal soul, then it seems plausible that we all have a natural yearning for the Creator, even if only subconsciously. And if Truth tends to find its way to the surface, we can find God in unlikely places if we know where and how to look.

There are potentially many juicy tidbits to share from the aforementioned book, but one that capture my attention in particular had to do with “judging”. Perhaps we are too often reminded of Matthew 7:1 which says “Stop judging, that you may not be judged”. This can give the impression that we are not to judge anything about a person…ever. But this is not a prohibition against recognizing sin, but against condemning others in a spirit of arrogance, forgetful of our own faults.

Bishop Barron reminds us that we are a society obsessed with tolerance, acceptance, non-judgmentalism and inclusion, and at the same time we are obsessed with judging others.1. We love to judge and it shows in our culture. How so? Think of shows like The Voice, Judge Judy, Survivor, Dancing with the Stars, America’s Got Talent and a cluster of cooking shows that are all about “judging”, and judging rather harshly at times. In addition, the most severe judges seem to be the most popular. Think of Howard Stern, Gordon Ramsay, Judge Judy and Simon Cowell. Reality TV sometimes really does show us reality!

When someone sings bad, or cooks bad, or whatever, we want them told in no uncertain terms. When someone does well, we want them praised and applauded. We seem to have a natural hunger for truth and justice. Deep down we know that judgment in terms of discerning “Truth” is indispensable to a happy life and a healthy society. As mentioned above, Truth tends to find its way to the surface, even if not in the most idyllic way. As we suppress our need to judge things properly, we should expect that “judging” will continue to pop-up in the culture, but in disguise.

Knowing the truth from a lie and living a healthy and happy life involves authentic judgment. Bishop Barron offered an analogy to explain further.2 Consider any living thing. A living organism will take in what is good (like food) and avoid what is bad (like predation) and must have some way to judge between the two. If a living thing beings to lose its judicious ability, it will begin to pass-up what is good and permit what is bad. As a result, it will get sick and eventually die or be killed. Once dead it will be absorbed into its surrounding environment and thus indistinguishable from it.

Bishop Barron goes on to explain that the rise of the “nones” (those with no religious preface) in the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey stem disproportionately from liberalized mainstream Protestant churches. Churches with squishy and lazy doctrine are fertile ground in which to grow “nones”. A church that can no longer take in what is good and avoid what is bad becomes like a sick organism that ultimately dies, decays and gets absorbed by its surrounding environment. The end result is that their theology becomes basically indistinguishable from the core logic and values of the surrounding culture. If this is the case, then what’s the point of identifying yourself as a member of any such church in the first place?

May God save us all from non-judgmentalism, lest mankind must answer “no” to a question that Jesus asked long ago, “…when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8).

“How easy it is to judge rightly after one sees what evil comes from judging wrongly!”

Elizabeth Gaskell


  1. Robert Barron, Seeds of the Word (Des Plaines, IL: Word on Fire, 2017) pp. 196-198.
  2. Barron, Seeds of the Word, p. 186.

Jordan Peterson, Bishop Barron and Mark Shea

In the video below Jordan Peterson speaks on the threat to free speech in Canada.  The constant attempts by Red Fascists to interrupt his speech of course underlined what he was saying.



Dave Griffey at Daffey Thoughts notes the quandary for Mark Shea that Jordan Peterson presents.  Being a Leftist now Shea realizes he should hate Peterson.  However Bishop Barron poses a problem for Mark:


Mark Shea ponders Jordan Peterson


Hilarity ensues.  Mark’s hatred of everything to the right of center, mixed with his slavish devotion to almost every narrative and doctrine of the political Left, should have put Peterson in the cross hairs months ago. With the exception of “gay marriage”, which Mark barely mentions anymore, and abortion, which he blames almost exclusively on capitalism and sexist men, there are few significant differences between Mark and Daily Kos, or MSNBS, or Vox, or any other radical secular Left wing rag.

The problem?  Bishop Robert Barron has spoken and written somewhat extensively on the positive contributions that Peterson brings to the modern table. Of course Bishop Barron points out that Peterson is not a priest expounding the complete Gospel message.  And he, like most I know who value Peterson, can tell where Peterson is in line with the Christian tradition and where he isn’t.

Nonetheless, Bishop Barron, who has not bowed before the Leftist juggernaut, obviously sees much value in Peterson and in the timing of Peterson’s ascension.  This makes it tough for Mark.  Mark has long praised Bishop Barron as a shining light in modern Catholicism.  And rightly so.  Bishop Barron brings much to the modern debate.  And what’s more, he says the same thing about Peterson that most Christians I know say about Peterson. So Mark does what he can. I was going to write a lengthy piece unpacking Mark’s humorous attempts to twist and turn and desperately avoid the obvious points Bishop Barron makes, but I figured I’d do what he did to Barron’s review of Peterson – post a link. Read away.  Especially read the comments, since they help explain why so many see value in Peterson, given the appeal to arrogance behind many of his critics.  Not just arrogance aimed at Peterson but, as usual, aimed at any who don’t fall in line behind the Left (which one reader seems to think doesn’t really exist).  There are exceptions of course. (NOTE: as of now, the comment explaining identity politics/Marxist influences has been removed, though it could be a glitch since there is no note saying it was removed – having been on Patheos, I know it’s a different animal to actually erase a comment than merely deleting one..  Perhaps check back later) 

Go here to read the rest.  The Left of course, at least in its contemporary incarnation, with a few honorable exceptions, simply does not believe in freedom of speech.  When speech is free, and ideas are argued rationally, the Left tends not to do too well.  Thus free speech is condemned as racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. to shut up anyone who stands against the Left, or, for that matter, to silence dissenters on the Left. This stance is nothing new.  The ideological forebears of the current Leftist would be censors, have always hated freedom of speech, and freedom in general.  Time for all friends of freedom to stand up, and stand together.
SAY not the struggle naught availeth,
The labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth,
And as things have been they remain.

If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;
It may be, in yon smoke conceal’d,
Your comrades chase e’en now the fliers,
And, but for you, possess the field.

For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main.

And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light;
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly!
But westward, look, the land is bright!

Arthur Hugh Clough

Model Catholic


Strong, strong content warning for the above video.  Remember when Bishop Barron and Mark Shea were celebrating how Catholic left wing comic Stephen Colbert was?  Go here to read about it.  Well model Catholic Colbert delivered an unfunny and obscene rant against Trump this week that stands out among the hate filled screeds that have dominated left wing commentary since the election of Trump.  Humor is hard, hate is easy.


Silence, Faith and Courage

“Like my Master, I shall die upon the cross. Like him, a lance will pierce my heart so that my blood and my love can flow out upon the land and sanctify it to his name.”

Saint Paul Miki, statement before his martyrdom in 1597 in Japan


Bishop Barron has a good hard look at  Martin Scorsese’s movie Silence, based on the 1966 novel of the same name by Shūsaku Endo about two Jesuit missionaries who apostatized in Seventeenth century Japan:

The next day, in the presence of Christians being horrifically tortured, hung upside down inside a pit filled with excrement, he is given the opportunity, once more, to step on a depiction of the face of Christ. At the height of his anguish, resisting from the depth of his heart, Rodrigues hears what he takes to be the voice of Jesus himself, finally breaking the divine silence, telling him to trample on the image. When he does so, a cock crows in the distance. In the wake of his apostasy, he follows in the footsteps of Ferreira, becoming a ward of the state, a well-fed, well-provided for philosopher, regularly called upon to step on a Christian image and formally renounce his Christian faith. He takes a Japanese name and a Japanese wife and lives out many long years in Japan before his death at the age of 64 and his burial in a Buddhist ceremony.

What in the world do we make of this strange and disturbing story? Like any great film or novel, Silence obviously resists a univocal or one-sided interpretation. In fact, almost all of the commentaries that I have read, especially from religious people, emphasize how Silence beautifully brings forward the complex, layered, ambiguous nature of faith. Fully acknowledging the profound psychological and spiritual truth of that claim, I wonder whether I might add a somewhat dissenting voice to the conversation? I would like to propose a comparison, altogether warranted by the instincts of a one-time soldier named Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Jesuit order to which all the Silence missionaries belonged. Suppose a small team of highly-trained American special ops was smuggled behind enemy lines for a dangerous mission. Suppose furthermore that they were aided by loyal civilians on the ground, who were eventually captured and proved willing to die rather than betray the mission. Suppose finally that the troops themselves were eventually detained and, under torture, renounced their loyalty to the United States, joined their opponents and lived comfortable lives under the aegis of their former enemies. Would anyone be eager to celebrate the layered complexity and rich ambiguity of their patriotism? Wouldn’t we see them rather straightforwardly as cowards and traitors? 

My worry is that all of the stress on complexity and multivalence and ambiguity is in service of the cultural elite today, which is not that different from the Japanese cultural elite depicted in the film. What I mean is that the secular establishment always prefers Christians who are vacillating, unsure, divided, and altogether eager to privatize their religion. And it is all too willing to dismiss passionately religious people as dangerous, violent, and let’s face it, not that bright. Revisit Ferreira’s speech to Rodrigues about the supposedly simplistic Christianity of the Japanese laity if you doubt me on this score. I wonder whether Shusaku Endo (and perhaps Scorsese) was actually inviting us to look away from the priests and toward that wonderful group of courageous, pious, dedicated, long-suffering lay people who kept the Christian faith alive under the most inhospitable conditions imaginable and who, at the decisive moment, witnessed to Christ with their lives. Whereas the specially trained Ferreira and Rodrigues became paid lackeys of a tyrannical government, those simple folk remained a thorn in the side of the tyranny. 

I know, I know, Scorsese shows the corpse of Rodrigues inside his coffin clutching a small crucifix, which proves, I suppose, that the priest remained in some sense Christian. But again, that’s just the kind of Christianity the regnant culture likes: utterly privatized, hidden away, harmless.  So okay, perhaps a half-cheer for Rodrigues, but a full-throated three cheers for the martyrs, crucified by the seaside.

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