Robert Barron | – Bishop Barron on St. John Henry Newman: Beyond the Left and the Right

As I read the myriad commentaries on St. John Henry Newman before his canonization, I’m particularly struck by how often he is co-opted by the various political parties active in the Church today—and how this co-opting both distorts Newman and actually makes him less interesting and relevant for our time. I should like to show this by drawing attention to two major themes in Newman’s writing—namely, the development of doctrine and the primacy of conscience.

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Bishop Robert Barron These are brief and insightful commentaries on faith and culture by Catholic theologian and author Bishop Robert Barron. The videos complement his weekly sermons posted and podcasted at

Comment (41)

  1. Bishop Barron, if you haven't visited the Norbertines in Orange County at St. Michael's Abbey, I think you should! I believe they provide a living example of "beyond left and right" in the post-conciliar world. They offer mass in the Ordinary Form so reverently and beautifully that I believe even the most committed EF-attending "trads" would acknowledge its beauty.

    It's a beautiful community that is a living image of what the post-conciliar Church COULD look like.

  2. Until when will this unfolding /development of doctrine continue? Til the end of time? Does it follow that one shouldn't be so sure and content of his beliefs as there will always be changes. That's a dicey business. Tell me I'm wrong. Why don't we give this "tree of constant change" a chance to rest and let the fruit pickers enjoy what it has to offer? I won't be surprised if we start picking different fruits from the same tree of constant change and not get confused. Hoping that the magisterium, the teaching body will do well so as not to sow confusion. Holy Spirit, please guide your Church.

  3. I’m reposting a comment of mine from a couple videos ago. I believe it’s relevant:

    As far as I can see, the polarization of ultra liberals and ultra conservatives in this country and worldwide is similar to what is happening in the church. Jordan Peterson goes into this in great detail. When things go too far in one direction, the other side starts wanting to take things to the extremes. Things went really far left there for awhile in both the church and society, and in many ways continue to do so. What we are seeing with many radical traditionalists is, however, their foaming at the mouth to take things very far to the right. I very much prefer the path Bishop Barron is talking about. If you haven't listened to Jordan Peterson talk about the left and right extremes, please take the time to do so. I believe his work could actually help with our issues in the Church, to the extent that we could take a step back from the chaos and examine what happens when things are polarized too far in a direction, as well as if things really need to be corrected so far in the opposite direction. Obviously, there is more that needs to be understood and argued (rationally). The fact of the matter is, people are very vulnerable to manipulation and making rash decisions, and going too far in either a left or right direction seems to be a really bad idea politically and spiritually. I understand this post is a high-level view of these ideas and does not discuss the details. My point here is to remain at a high level and allow people to dig into details themselves. Check out Jordan Peterson's videos on extreme leftism and ultra conservatism, it's a missing piece to the puzzle for us as Catholics. God Bless you Bishop Barron. And may God bless the rest of you reading this.

  4. Many are voicing in an echo chamber rather than getting facts from the sources, these days. Things basically break down to rumors and everyone firing according to their own agenda. I love the Internet, but it plays a big part in creating this effect as people stay to their own cliques and caricatureing those they percieve to oppose them. It is alot of low-level tribal thinking and when we ought to be using our individual talents and interests as a united front to reintroduce the world to it's Lord and Savior, it is dangerous. By tribal thinking I don't mean primeval human civilization worldview, I mean simplistic 'us good, them different so them bad' kind of thoughtless oppositionalism. That is really hurting us and wasting our time drawing up battle lines over preference and calling it principal.

    In this climate, taking a side ensures that one will be drawn into one current or another and that both parties grow towards greater and greater extremes. That is a schism factory, or even worse, it keeps us deadlocked and damages our unity as the Mystical Body of Christ and sows discord among His people. It ought be needless to say that God can not possibly appreciate that. Not when we can do so much better.

    What can we do then in these times? As in the world, search for the seeds of the Spirit and follow the Lord. Embrace what you can first out of principal, then out of charity for your brother or sister in Christ ignoring divisional lines within the Church at least. Above all, study the Scriptures, the Saints and Church Fathers and the Teachings of the Church, those things that are firm and pray on matters you must discern.

    If you can not handle the factionalism, then simply avoid it and follow the Lord. Ultimately all of this is to get us back there and if any of it does not serve this end, discard it.

    I hope this helps some people, note that this is all my personal observations and opinion. Lit by the wisdom of many others, but ultimately, I have no authority or special charism for this. So take it for what it is, my humble opinion.

    God bless you who read this.

  5. In light of the fact that a large majority of reported Catholics don't believe in the real presence is it reasonable to suspect some of the developments of Vatican II are as the Bishop described, "a cancerous outcropping that can be something that betrays the essence or the very nature of the doctrine"

  6. Regarding the Development of Doctrine, could we draw an analogy from Luke 2:52 (…"And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and grace with God and men"…) where we compare Jesus with the Church? This seems abundantly reasonable to me. For, it seems that "Sola Scriptura" leads to more of a separation from the world than an engagement with it, along with some lolzy bits like Creation Museums…

  7. It's unfortunate that you feel it necessary to criticize 'conservative' catholics in your talk on St. Newman. Your characterizations of catholic conservatives as either "extreme" or "sensible" (those who agree with your progressive views). And yet you do not characterize the Left who have left the Church in confusion and in an ever downward spiral especially under Pope Francis. It's heartbreaking to see what has happened to the Church before Vatican II and what followed from it. I remember and hold dearly the Church of my youth. On the positive side, it was refreshing to hear what you really think.

  8. Fidelity to consciousness leads me to conclude that number 301 of Amoris Laetitia is completely wrong, against the teaching of the Scriptures and all the preceding popes. You, Bishop Barron, should say something about this scandal, it is your responsibility before God, who will judge you.

  9. The irony of Blessed John Henry's famous quip on conscience and the Pope is that it only exists in the printed editions of the Letter to the Duke of Norfolk.

    It does not appear in the manuscript… The Blessed Cardinal probably included it only as an afterthought, during the editorial process.

  10. The way that I always thought of Doctrine was not to say <<it is static under a glass dome.>> I always thought of Doctrine as <<explored.>> The Doctrine we have embodied in Tradition is explored through how it encounters and responds to the present world. As Tradition/ Doctrine is explored we find new facets or aspects which give insight to what went before.

  11. Thank you Bishop Barron. I’m happy you get to go for St. John Henry Newman’s canonization. Pray for us back here in the states. St. John Newman intercede for us and for my granddaughters. One will be 1 year old on your day! Blessings forever Bishop!

  12. No cardinal, bishop, or pope of the 1800s should be canonized. Based on the Visitations of Mother during those times. When Mother appears its because the men in Her Son's Church have gone astray. i even question Thomas Moore. To be a martyr of Christ, you actually have to be a disciple of Christ. Thomas Moore was rich and a humanist, he had many false gods. He stubbornest only got him executed, not a heart in love of Christ. Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II, i question also. Those whom are saints, are sufferers in Christ. The suffering must be done in holy love, not outside performances and achievements. 1 Corinthians 13:3. Holy love is defined in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Love is deep as ocean. Love in action is compassion that drowns the heart in sorrow. The lifting of the heart is the reward of heaven, our Lord possessing you for all Eternity! The cross carried ever day gets harder to do as you get closer to your birth in to eternity, not less. You look it to. Clergy in HIS Church do NOT know what the definition of vacation because work is their only pew till death removes them from it. May want to ponder visions given separately to Saint Jacinta by Mother and read about how she died too [you will have research the latter on yourself]…

    "Priests must be pure, very pure. They should not busy themselves with anything except what concerns the Church and souls. The disobedience of priests and religious to their superiors and to the Holy Father gravely displeases Our Lord."

    "Fly from riches and luxury; love poverty and silence; have charity, even for bad people."

    "More souls go to Hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason."

  13. Since when has 'liberalism', in terms of the Catholic Church, been synonymous with the idea that there's no objective truth. Liberal Catholics, I would guess, aren't arguing that there's no objective truth, but that the objective truth is not the current teaching of the Church on certain matters.

  14. The church belongs to Christ, not the other way around. The concept that doctrine can evolve has long been held by the RCC, going back to the filioque, and has opened the doors for subversion. At this point its hard to deny that at least at the top, the church has become an arm of globalist forces, rather than a fount of Truth. Christ didn't do away with the commandments he affirmed them. Christ was revolutionary to men, but the ultimate traditionalist in that we are to turn back to God; do his will, and follow his ways.

  15. I can't figure out what people like Dr Marshall Taylor hold against you unless it's their own limited way of understanding. Anyone makes mistakes, but always on the look for them must be a sign of narrowmindedness. You finish by seeing phantomes, which exclude Newman.