Robert Barron | – Evangelization and Guilt by Association

There seems to be a growing sentiment, both within the Church and the wider culture, that if you share a public conversation with someone, or say something nice about one particular aspect of their work, you’re necessarily endorsing everything they’ve ever said or done and can therefore be easily dismissed, a fallacy known as “guilt by association.”

Bishop Barron discusses this problem, how it undermines evangelization, and why he chooses to engage people from across the religious and cultural spectrum.

A listener asks, how do you respond to people who discredit Catholicism based on the sex abuse scandals?

(Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International [No edits made] – Andrey Mironov,  “Christ and the sinner,” 2011. – License held by Andrey Mironov.)


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About The Author

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 (48)

  1. Thank you Jesus and Mary and thank you Bishop Barron for that talk. I think I'll be remembering it for a long time because it made me think of,
    "We're not in heaven yet that's why we have hellbound and Heaven bound ideas in us."

  2. Also St. Paul at the Areopagus. They were worshipping graven images, but St. Paul commended them on being religious and then used their practices an an instrument to lead them to the Gospel. He started with what they had in common and lead to Jesus (Acts 17:16-34).

  3. I just got to learn about how important technology is to medicine. I believe it's important in all aspects of the humanities for critical thinking, as long as it doesn't affect us Eucharistically, in our families, and relationally. When you can't shake hands or even wave to say hi for the sign of peace any more, there's something seriously wrong. The Church, even when you travel, is the family that you choose.

  4. WOW! Thanks Bishop Barron, as always. If I might get into an argument, I would check my weaknesses that could weaken my bearing. And, while I may expect language that could shut my heart, mind, and soul, I might become mentally alert with an emotional intelligence to calm my opponent . And maybe I would find the good in his argument, and present that until he becomes attentive to what I can say. Whatever good, my opponent found, I offer it to God in Jesus; whatever spill of weakness I committed, then I would perhaps admit to God such weakness, and accept His judgment in that measure. And I hope that my humility will my Lord grace me back His redemption.
    I do enjoy Mr. B. Vogt. I love his eloquence so matching to Bishop's countenance. God bless.

  5. bishop barron, you should do a video on the meaning of "son of man" in reference to jesus. is there some messianic connotation, as has been argued about the hebrew ben adam? or is it just a mundane pronoun as in the aramaic bar nasha? is this meant to remind the reader that god made himself human? but if that's the case, why is it so frequently used as what appears to be a unique title? if every man is a son of man, and the authors were indeed calling him "son of man" to indicate that he is as human as the rest of us, then why the use of the definite article? maybe this is just a quirk of koine greek or something, and i have no way of knowing how they might have rendered it in aramaic or hebrew. but apparently expert translators through the years think this was the intended meaning, since they constantly translate it as "THE son of man."

    and the way the gospels seem to proclaim jesus as THE son of man implies that they're not referring to the paradoxically human aspect of god, but instead referring to a unique (perhaps messianic) attribute of this human called jesus. like they seem to use it in the same context in which they might call jesus THE messiah. the tonality also indicates a bit of assertiveness, as one might expect when hearing someone make a statement they expect to be controversial or even challenged. calling him the son of man seems like it was supposed to be a powerful and even subversive statement, yet its projected meaning in aramaic doesn't give any indication as to why it would be so, since it's an ordinary pronoun used for male humans in general. it's also curious that paul never uses the term, and as far as i can tell, there aren't any canonical texts that have jesus using the term either. i read somewhere that jesus did not speak hebrew and would therefore not be aware of the connotations of the hebrew ben adam, but i think that's a little silly.

    i mean, if we're reading it as a purely historical anthology then that's a plausible argument, but we're clearly supposed to interpret jesus as the son of god and an aspect of the trinity, not restricted by mere linguistic boundaries. it seems like the gospels call out to the reader to at least suspend disbelief and go into it with an open mind. one could argue that the gospels never specifically attribute omniscience to jesus. i think that's kind of splitting hairs, but i'd also offer the description of the pentecost as a counterargument. if jesus can endow the apostles with the 'gift of tongues,' then it stands to reason that he possesses arbitrary command of language. if he can make his followers fluent in any language on a whim, then it seems like his own philological comprehension must be infinite. but it's not important, because even reading the gospels without assuming any supernatural powers other than the ones explicitly described in detail in the gospels, e.g. healing the sick and duplicating food, i think anyone in jesus' position should understand the connotations of ben adam by virtue of the aramaic translation of the bible.

    he clearly read aramaic translations of the hebrew bible, since multiple parables have him reciting passages of the old testament. he may not have been familiar with the phrase ben adam, but he would have been familiar with its translation, bar nasha, and he would have understood its ancient meanings within the context of the bible as well as any other aramaic-speaking rabbis of the time. the thing is, i'm not sure there's any biblical use of the term that suggests a messianic connotation? from what i can remember, the only point at which the meaning of the term deviates from its mundane role as a pronoun is in reference to ezekiel, where at most—and this is really reading a lot into it and expecting figurative use of language, but after reading robert alter's translation i'm convinced this is the way the original hebrew WAS meant to be read—it seems to emphasize ezekiel's humility and his commitment not to elevate himself above the role that god has dictated for him.

    so this is really such a mystery for me. all indications in the old testament point to this being a mundane pronoun or at best an epithet of humility. yet somehow it is apparently elevated to a term of cosmological significance in the new testament. somewhere between the old testament and the new testament it seems to have gained a new meaning. so where i'd naturally want to look is in the talmud. but as far as i know there is no contemporaneous rabbinical literature evincing the same kind of usage. so it doesn't seem like this new connotation emerged in pharisaic discourse prior to the time of christ. but i'm not aware of any sign of transitional uses of the term among the early church fathers either. sounds like a good subject for a video, right?

  6. I appreciate you going into this space. The current cultural discussions are ones I have been grappling with and have found the Church to be fairly silent on at the moment. The so called IDW type circles which include Rubin and Lindsey are also one of the few spaces I find any ability to discourse in good faith about the current culture and where there is some level of respect for Catholicism and not automatic dismissal.

  7. Grace and peace from the Lord Jesus Christ and from God our Father. My testimony: I believe in Jesus Christ. The reason I believe in Jesus is because I heard God's message about Him, preached from an authorized King James Version (KJV) book of His Word and His words. After hearing the message, I believed it. God has faith His blood is propitiation for my lifetime of sin, and I too believe His shed blood pays for my sins and the sins of the world. After believing, I turned back to God. That's what it means to repent. And after turning back to God, I put my full trust and faith in the shed blood of Jesus and in what He did at the cross. I am fully persuaded, just like Abraham, that God, who cannot lie, will do everything just as He has promised. I declared and do declare His righteousness, and He imputed it on me, a believer in Jesus!

    My understanding of my justification matches scripture.

    Romans 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

    This is what everyone must HEAR from God's Word.

    2 Corinthians 11:3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

    Romans 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

    Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

    Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    1 Corinthians 15:21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

    Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

    Ephesians 1:7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

    Colossians 2:12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

    1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

    1 Timothy 3: And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

    And finally you MUST hear Romans 1:18-3:20. After you do, you have heard everything God says you must hear, before you could hope to turn back to Him.

    For those who have ears to hear, let them hear.

  8. Dear Bishop Barron. I would just like to thank you for the work of evangelization you've done and is doing. You have helped me to embrace my faith in the Catholic Church and my faith in God even more. I pray for you everyday. May our Father God shower you with more Graces that you need as you evangelize the Gospel. You truly are a salt of the earth and light of the world. Thank you and God bless you Bishop Barron. – Tes from the Philippines

  9. Loved your talk. Jesus came to "comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable." The Gospel is the "Good News." I think that most people who reject Christianity do not see the Gospel as "Good News" for them, and no one is looking for more bad news. Yet, most people today suffer from being consumed by anxiety, fear, shame, guilt, and a lack of true peace and joy. They are looking for interior peace, happiness, well-being, hope, faith in something greater than themselves, and love. Evangelism is proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel to those who are seeking Good News–those in need of something; those who recognize that something is missing in their lives. Evangelism is convincing people that the Gospel offers them just what they need and are seeking. When they discover it, they experience true joy and peace.

  10. There's several Auxiliary Bishopric people, such as Father Joe Walsh — one of Bishop Barron's students of the Diocese of Lincoln NE, who will go to a variety of Educational facilities, and stick his neck out, as long as it's appropriate. He is legitimate scholar of sociology and psychology. I consider it an honor to have learned from him at one time in my life, too.

  11. I'm excited about the interview with James Lindsay. I've read his co-authored book – it's nice to understand a little more about what's going on with Critical Theory in our culture. Could you ask him how to be charitable to those who are sympathetic to Critical Theory while revealing what seems to me like its naked grab for power?

  12. Dear bishop Barron,

    In Dutch, there is a saying: Hoge bomen vangen veel wind , the english equivalent being High winds blow on high hills . It isn't that surprising that people put you under a magnifying glass. What it probably makes it difficult for you, is that you take a middle position (and you make no secret of it). This middle position allows you to show the beauty of the Catholic belief(s) and the Catholic Church, and to focus on what is or should be really central. Not only I, but also many others value your contributions, even though we might disagree on certain things.
    There is something to add, though. You are a very visible person; the fact that you are the first Catholic bishop I heard (virtually on YouTube) miles and miles away in the Netherlands, is a proof of this. Being so visible probably makes you a kind of leader figure for many people; meaning, they look at you for guidance – maybe for more guidance than you are able or willing to provide. As an example, I could mention same-sex relations. As far as I can see (I admit I never did any in-depth search for this) you avoided getting involved too much in this 'hot' topic. I definitely imagine reasons why you would do so. But realize that there will be people anxiously waiting for guidance on this topic from you, and interpreting some things you write or say in that light, even if you never intended those writings or statements that way. Given this, your endorsement of James Martin's book might have caused concerns by people who see you (and follow you) as an example of the Catholic church.

    Personally, I found the Theology of the Body of John Paul II quite helpful. It has something of that 'middle ground', carefully, carefully listening to the Scriptures. It doesn't immediately condemn same-sex attractions, but it starts from the other end of things: What does it mean to be man and woman, husband and wife? But you most likely know the book better than I do, so I don't have to summarize it 🙂 My point is: if ever you are pressed to make a statement on this topic of same-sex attraction and want to keep the middle ground position, I think the Theology of the Body would be an excellent choice.

    Others have said it already here, and I remember hearing Father John Hardon saying it from time to time: Pray for your bishops. This video tells why, because you get a lot to deal with and you are still a human being like all of us, with strengths, graces, and weaknesses. And people will see a lot of weaknesses, more than there actually are .

    I thank you for the many insights you have provided, for instance I remember the review on the movie Silence, but there are many others. You pointed me to Flannery O'Connor. Let me close with words from John Paul II: don't be afraid. Don't be afraid to say the things you believe are true, regardless of what people make of it. But also don't be afraid to sometimes decide not to say things.

    By the way, I am not a member of the Roman Catholic Church, but a (conservative) calvinist.

    God bless you.

  13. When Bishop Barron talked about Avicenna and Averroe and pagan philosophers that St. Thomas Aquinas considered with great respect and honor, that reminded me of Inferno’s Canto IV, a “hidden gem” of deep catholicism, exactly in the sense of “universal”. Dante didn’t need someone to be catholic in order to love and admire them.

  14. Sadly the spirit of lawlessness and deceit has become so deeply ingrained in our current culture, that anyone who doesn't give in to the modal frame of that spirit, or just frame if you like is instantly excluded from any semblance of the flow of rational communication and is forced to respond to personal attacks both verbal and forceful. It is the devils way of putting blinders on people who are deceived.

  15. Jesus is The Second Person of The Blessed Trinity. He has to associate with everyone, even demons in hell. Jesus says "Love your neighbor." Jesus suffered, died, and rose for that neighbor. Jesus didn't say "Trust and believe your neighbor." Jesus says "Beware of false prophets" etc. Mt 7 (The whole chapter). IOW, "Use your head. God gave you a brain. Don't just stand there with nothing to say. Make judgments as to the validity of what your 'neighbor' is trying to sell/make you fall for." There are people with whom I do not want my children to associate.

  16. "Traumatic disagreement" expressed in WORDS might be acceptable, but if those disagreements lead to horrendous ACTIONS, e.g. the consequences of "The ends justify the means," contrary to the dictates of the Ten Commandments, IMO, the offenders of those Ten Commandments have to be neutralized.

  17. You need to publically apologize for endorsing James Martin… that my friend is your biggest mistake… you need to withdraw your support… or have a hard time paying for your new headquarters… quite presumptuous given a number of clear errors in 2020….

  18. I listen to People who criticise Bishop Barron based on his perceived liberal ideas. But a generous heart is what the Church needs which is what Bishop Baron has. I am into the Catholic Charismatic Renewal which to some Catholics seems very Protestant and very un Catholic. I.believe Pope Pious in the 1800's kicked off Renewal Movement in our Church. I know the Catholic Church is and should be a broad Church of traditional and Progressive Christianity. Of course the Catholic Church remains one due to our Sureaty of our faith for 2000 years and will not fragment like the reformed Church

  19. Bishop, will you ever make a video on the best way to approach protestants with Catholicism? Me and my best friend who is a protestant want to discuss beliefs one day when we can safely meet in person again. I think the most important thing that I got out of the video was that we have to step into the shoes of the other person and present our side from there.

  20. Re that Shapiro moment.. I believe Ben finalized his question with something like 'Am I in trouble here?' That personalized it, and my only disappointment was that the Bishop chose to respond in an academic, abstract way. For me, a much better response might have been something as simple as "That depends on what you consider to be trouble, friend." Jesus style, put the ball in their court and get them thinking! What is it that they want, or think they want, from eternity?

    That being said, maybe the Bishop's response was indeed exactly what this questioner needed to hear and exactly what God willed to be said. It wouldn't have had wings for me though, when I was in such a mode of seeking. My mind was longing to have doubt cast aside and be assured of what would align it with my heart, that Jesus (and His Apostolic Church) is the only viable option for me.

  21. God sheds His Grace on all, and all goodness derives from God. True or false?
    If true, there are some who don't recognize the moments of grace, some who do (at one point or another), and some who receive them and then outright scorn the Giver. If 'pagan' scholars and philosophers are getting something right and putting it forward, then they are recipients of God's Grace, whether they are able to acknowledge it or not. If not, consider them unwitting tools of God and please call them as such. God most certainly has the ability to utilize whatever, whoever, and whenever He chooses to spread His truths.

  22. Tribalism? Well, perhaps one could start by avoiding "Catholic" when dealing with those things to which ALL (or most) Christians subscribe; use "Christian" wherever possible. Reserve denominational specificity for specific issues. God bless