Fr. Robert Barron
February 10, 2014
Extreme demand, extreme mercy: the Catholic approach to morality
By Father Robert Barron

The Catholic Church is often criticized as rigorist, unrealistic, and unbending, especially in regard to its teaching on sexuality.  How could anyone, we hear over and again, possibly live up to the Church’s demands concerning masturbation, artificial contraception, or sex outside of marriage, etc.?  Moreover, every poll that comes out suggests that increasing numbers of Catholics themselves don’t subscribe to these moral demands.  Few expect the Church to acquiesce to the moral...

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May 07, 2013
The adventure of classical morality
By Father Robert Barron

One of the most significant fault lines in Western culture opened up in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when what we now know as the “modern” world separated itself from the classical and medieval world. The thinking of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant, Newton, Jefferson, and many others represented a sea change in the way Western people looked at practically everything. In almost every telling of the story, this development is presented as an unmitigated good. I rather...

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April 15, 2013
'Gay marriage' and the breakdown of moral argument
By Father Robert Barron

In his classic text After Virtue, the philosopher Alisdair MacIntyre lamented, not so much the immorality that runs rampant in our contemporary society, but something more fundamental and in the long run more dangerous; namely, that we are no longer even capable of having a real argument about moral matters. The assumptions that once undergirded any coherent conversation about ethics, he said, are no longer taken for granted or universally shared. The result is that, in regard to questions...

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March 18, 2013
The new Francis
By Father Robert Barron

I had an excellent vantage point for the presentation of Pope Francis to the world, for I was doing commentary for NBC News from a perch above St. Peter’s Square.  I will confess that my initial impression was negative, not because he was a relative surprise or because he wasn't from the United States, but because, for more than a minute, he stood ramrod straight, hands at his side, and not smiling. I remember saying to his image on the TV monitor: “Do something!” 

Then — praise...

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March 13, 2013
Garry Wills agonistes
By Father Robert Barron

The hermeneutical key to Garry Wills’s preposterous book "Why Priests? A Failed Tradition" can be found in the second chapter, which is a memoir of the author’s Catholic boyhood in the 1940s and 1950s. He recalls a time when lay people were denied access to the chalice, when Catholic grade school children worried about what happened to the consecrated host once it entered their intestines, when cossetted and pampered priests wore “fiddle-back” vestments, maniples, and birettas,...

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February 19, 2013
To evangelize through beauty
By Father Robert Barron

In his masterpiece Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh implicitly lays out a program of evangelization that has particular relevance to our time.

“Brideshead” refers, of course, to a great manor house owned by a fabulously wealthy Catholic family in the England of the 1920’s. In the complex semiotic schema of Waugh’s novel, the mansion functions as a symbol of the Catholic Church, which St. Paul had referred to as the “bride of Christ.” To Brideshead comes, at the invitation of...

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January 29, 2013
Putting teeth back into Faith, Hope, and Love
By Father Robert Barron

St. Paul famously tells the Corinthians that there are “three things that last:  faith, hope, and love.”  At this Pauline prompt, the Christian tradition has identified these three as the “theological” virtues, meaning those features that come as a unique gift and (from?) God and that serve as the structuring elements of a properly spiritual life.  They are also today massively misunderstood, and this misunderstanding has, I would contend, contributed mightily to the dismissing of...

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January 17, 2013
Victor Hugo’s re-telling of the Gospel
By Father Robert Barron

Just in advance of Christmas, the film version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit appeared.  As I and many other commentators have pointed out, Tolkien’s great story, like its more substantive successor The Lord of the Rings, is replete with Catholic themes. On Christmas day itself, another film adaptation of a well-known book debuted, namely Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables.

Though Hugo had a less than perfectly benign view of the Catholic Church, his masterpiece is, from beginning to end,...

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December 03, 2012
How Many Are Saved?
By Father Robert Barron

Dr. Ralph Martin, Professor of Systematic Theology at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, has written an important book titled “Will Many Be Saved?” The text received a good deal of attention at the recent synod on the New Evangelization, and its opening pages are filled with endorsements from some of the leading figures in the Church today. Dr. Martin’s argument is straightforward enough: the attitude, much in evidence in the years following Vatican II, that virtually everyone will go...

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November 20, 2012
The greatest meeting of all time
By Father Robert Barron

Just a few weeks ago, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. Accordingly, there has been a good deal of commentary from historians, theologians and even from the handful of bishops and experts who actually participated in the Council five decades ago. I was particularly struck by an observation made by Fr. John O’Malley, the Jesuit historian who penned, some years ago, an influential book called What Happened at Vatican II? The Second Vatican...

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