Evangelization from Within Guardini’s “Threshold”

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By Larry Chapp

“There are those who experience profoundly the mystery of life at the threshold. They live decisively neither here nor there. They live in a no-man’s-land.  They experience the restlessness that passes from one side to the other. Melancholy is the restlessness of the man who perceives the closeness of the infinite – – who experiences at the same time blessing and threat.  The meaning of man consists in being a living threshold, it consists in taking on this life at the threshold, and living it to the end.  In this way he is rooted in reality; he is free from the enchantments of a false intimacy with God. The attitude that is most authentically human is the one influenced by the threshold, the only adequate to reality.”

Romano Guardini. Portrait of Melancholy

Some months ago I had a blog post dealing with Michael Voris’s attack on Bishop Robert Barron. Among other things, he attacked Barron for his comments on who can be saved in an interview Barron took part in with the popular, conservative Jew Ben Shapiro.  Shapiro asked Barron if he, a Jew, could be saved given the Church’s teaching that Christ is necessary for salvation.  Barron responded, tactfully, that the Church does indeed teach that Christ is necessary for salvation but that the grace of Christ is not limited to the visible confines of the Church and that the Church teaches that those who are sincerely following their well-formed consciences can find salvation outside of the Church.  Barron’s answer was indeed perfectly orthodox insofar as he did not in any way downplay the necessity of Christ for salvation and was merely pointing out what it is that the Church teaches on the matter.  But that was not good enough for Voris who went on his usual “Vortex” tirade, literally shouting at the camera that Barron was guilty of advocating for a dangerous religious relativism, all because he did not immediately offer Shapiro an invitation to convert to the Catholic faith for the sake of his soul, or tell the viewing audience that converting to Catholicism was the only path to salvation.

This incident has been stewing in my age-addled brain for some time now because it takes me back to my years as a professor of theology where I too was often accused by my more traditionalist students of “pandering” to the non-believers in my classes. Apparently, what they wanted me to do was to cut to the chase and start quoting the catechism in order to “preach the truth” instead of my usual path of non-confrontational give and take.  I am sure my experiences in this matter are not unique among professors of theology as we have all had to confront the “catechism thumpers” and their view that evangelization is a simple matter of stringing together a daisy-chain of quotes from magisterial documents.  They, like Voris, are the Catholic equivalent of the Evangelical Protestants who can muster scores of Scripture quotes as they shoot them with Gatling gun type efficiency at their hapless targets. The presumption seems to be that since “souls are at stake” one must jump immediately from point A to point Z, without the slightest concern over whether or not the soil has been properly prepared for their targets to “receive” point Z in the first place.

Evangelization is not a monological act wherein the initiative resides purely with the evangelizer while the other person is a merely passive recipient of little factoids of truth.  Evangelization is a relational act between persons of equal dignity who are engaged in that most human of activities: a conversation. And a conversation is not the same as an argument, or a debate, wherein the evangelizer is trying to “win” in order to then thump his chest in triumph at having scored another “victory for Christ.”  How many people actually come to the faith because they lost an argument with a Michael Voris type “evangelizer”? Contrast that with the numbers of people who come to the faith because they have established an open and honest relationship, even friendship, with a serious person of faith who was willing to engage them in the full depths of their humanity acknowledging the legitimacy of their doubts, their questions, and their reservations, even as they gently, softly-softly, share with them why it is that they believe.  This is a process that can sometimes take years – – perhaps even a lifetime – – where true conversion to the faith is the fruit of the inner action of the Spirit working in and through the friendship established, and all in God’s good time.  The initiative, in other words, is God’s, not ours, and God’s time is not our time, with the Spirit of God working not just through the words and life of the believer, but also in the mysterious depths of the non-believer’s soul. 

A true evangelist, therefore, is one who watches and waits.  Someone with the depth of humanity required in order to discern, prudentially, when to speak and when to shut the hell up.  Someone who can feel, connaturally, and with a spiritual instinct that is more art than science, when the soil is ready for planting and when it is not.  Someone who is not too quick to rush in with ready-made “answers” that are trite and filled with the anodyne bromides of a spiritual ideologue who hasn’t bothered to empathetically enter into the questions of the “other”. Indeed, the triumphalistic and bombastic forms of evangelizing often seem to be solipsistic exercises wherein the so-called believer is trying to justify his own faith to himself, shouting into an echo chamber of doubts.  This accounts for why this kind of “evangelizer” is so keen on “winning” the debate, since losing is not an option as it calls into question the very faith of the evangelizer. In such a case the faith has ceased to be an interpersonal “proposal” and has morphed instead into an ideological superstructure of doctrines pressed into service as the identity marker for a rootless, bourgeois, self in search of the kind of rationalistic certitudes that the Enlightenment tells us are the only barometer of truth.  Souls are indeed at stake.  But whose soul?

By contrast, what true evangelization requires is the meeting of thresholds.  In the quote from Guardini above he identifies the essence of what it means to be human as the willingness to live in the no-man’s-land between heaven and earth, to live at the threshold of heaven even as we continue to live in the opaqueness of this life.  The true spiritual seeker is one who can live in this tension and who feels both its joys and its melancholic sadness.  To live in that threshold is to make one’s entire life a question mark in search of answers – – answers that conceal as much as they reveal since they are grounded in the deep mystery that is the Triune God.  The faith does indeed give us answers, even ultimate ones, but never in a modality that precludes darkness – – a fact that the lives of many saints attest to.  Even Saint Paul, who witnessed the risen Christ, nevertheless spoke of how in this life we peer into heavenly things as through a darkened glass.  To live in that threshold is to share deeply in the full depths of the human condition which is at one and the same time a condition marked for eternity as well as by the limitations of our finitude and our sin. 

The implications of this for our view of what constitutes evangelization are far reaching.  For starters it means that the interpersonal act of evangelizing is first and foremost an empathetic action wherein you attempt to understand how your interlocutor experiences life in the threshold Guardini describes.  This is not an easy thing to do and not just because it is impossible to fully empathize with someone else’s subjectivity.  It is also difficult because the temptation is always in the direction of understanding someone else’s experience of the threshold through the lens of your own.  This is the trap so many “preachers” fall into as they set up caricatures of “non-believers” and create straw men to attack, all of which amounts to a monumental exercise in self-assertion and projection rather than a sincere effort at authentic communication with the world of non-believers. 

Therefore, (and here is where folks might strongly disagree with me) it is necessary for the evangelist to be so deeply immersed in his or her own faith, so deeply convicted of its truth, so deeply formed by those truths, and so deeply educated in its spiritual pedagogy, that it then becomes possible to “bracket” that faith in order to doubt it all anew, and to rethink it all again in the respristinating light of all that one has learned in life.  In so doing we can begin to see deeply into the full depth of human despair and doubt and thus are able to “stretch out” into solidarity with all doubters.  Indeed, to be able to name their doubt for them better than they can name it themselves. There is tremendous power in being able to articulate the “dark night of the soul” for those who are lost in it but who are still seeking the light.   Thus is all true evangelization the path of empathy, the path of entering into the internal logic of doubt and darkness, and to suffer it through to the end.  This is a tremendously difficult thing to do and sometimes requires a lifetime of preparation, which is why “evangelization” in the full register of a robust encounter with the “other” is so very rare.  It is precisely why the saints and their lives are the best evangelizers and also why the arrogant, “us vs them,” pile-driving pugilism of a Michael Voris is so damnably silly. 

I am most certainly no saint.  But, to toot my own horn a bit, I was a really good teacher.  I am not good at many things in life, but there is one thing I was good at and it was teaching theology.  And as I reflect back on those years in the classroom I now realize what it was that made me effective and what it was that most rankled my hyper traditionalist students.  It is a skill that is also possessed by my dear friend and former colleague, Dr. Rodney Howsare.  And that skill is this:  that when a doubting, non-believing student raises an objection in the form of a question you first begin by taking it very, very seriously.  You then proceed to reformulate the question for the student and in so doing actually make their point even sharper and more cogent.  In so doing you validate the student’s doubts and help them to own that doubt even better.  Then and only then are you ready to propose an answer, and the answer will be all the more cogent since it will be an answer that has gone through the crucible of the doubt.  But this is only possible if the teacher has also doubted and doubted deeply, to its very depth and to the ends of its inner logic, all the while maintaining the faith in a kind of bracketed suspension that is possible only if one lives in Guardini’s threshold. 

This, it seems to me, is the path followed by Bishop Robert Barron which is why his videos are so effective and why he is so hated by those on the rad trad fringes of the Church.  He seeks to preach the Gospel in a manner that truly reflects its radical spiritual and human depth – – a depth that can often be occluded by the very doctrinal apparatus of the Church which, though true in itself, has become very “in-house” in its language and which, therefore, does not speak to a modern soul formed in the witch’s brew of our technocratic, digital, secularity.  I am not here to defend Bishop Barron per se – – he is a big boy and he can defend himself – – but rather to defend a method of preaching in today’s world that follows the path of empathetic solidarity with every sincere seeker who lives in the threshold.

Finally, there is a need to ground this method theologically in order to go beyond its mere pedagogical soundness as an “effective” tool.  The method I am describing is cruciform in its inner spiritual logic insofar as the attempt to enter empathetically into the dark night of doubt is an act of sacrificial “substitution” for the sake of the “other.”  The true evangelizer must be a person of deep prayer and penance who seeks to take into his or her own soul the existential fractures of the “other” that cloud the mind and lead to doubt. The empathy I speak of then is more than a mere “feeling with” but also a true “taking on” as one adopts the doubt of the world, suffers through it, and thereby contributes to its conquest, its redemption.  Evangelization therefore is more than a pedagogical act, but is also, and most profoundly, a penitential and soteriological act. 

We are told by Saint Paul that in our sufferings we make up for what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ. (Colossians 1:24) This a deeply mysterious statement because what can possibly be lacking in the sufferings of Christ? A key can be found in Paul’s statement that his afflictions make up for what is lacking in Christ’s sufferings insofar as they are for the sake of the Church.  In other words, we need to remember that the essence of Christ’s sufferings went far beyond his physical pain and reside even more deeply in his taking on the full weight of the implications of sin.  But for the sake of our own entering into that salvation the Father also wills that we participate in its inner dynamic.  This is what Christ means when he says that we too must take up our cross.  He doesn’t just mean something trite like “you too will have bad things happen to you”.  He means something far deeper and much more challenging.  He is asking us to understand that “to whom much is given, much is expected” which means that “salvation” is not something I “possess” in an acquisitive manner, nor something I “grasp at” in order to “own”. Rather, it is a gift in the form of an offer to participate in his own redemptive act for the sake of all others.  To be a Christian, therefore, is to give a name to our threshold. And that name is “love as substitutionary sacrifice”.

We live today in a Western culture that faithless.  It is a world marked by doubt and is deeply fractured and on the brink of cultural collapse. All that remains, all that holds us together, is our wealth and our digital technocracy.  It is a challenge unique and without parallel in the history of the Church. And so we face a choice.  We can either gin-up apocalyptic tales of an emerging “soft totalitarianism” and a coming “persecution” and become modern day Essenes fleeing into our version of Qumran until the storm passes, or we can follow the path of Christ which is the path of the loving empathy that leads to the cross.  For if we truly love our neighbor and our enemies then “flight” is not an option.  It is a sin. 

Dorothy Day pray for us.


  1. There is a story about a Pope (one of the later Piuses, I think) who was walking and talking with another priest while lamenting that a group of people dear to him were outside the Catholic fold. “Invincible ignorance will protect their souls, Holy Father,” the priest said to the Pope. The Pope replied, “But what about our souls”?

    I think a lot of what you have written here is true, Dr. Chapp, but I would caution that entering into the threshold is not something to be taken lightly. I have seen priests attempt this only to be drawn astray by the Father of Lies. “God will forgive all those who know not what they do,” the thinking goes, “So if I can keep my flock in ignorance they will be saved, and my having kept them in ignorance will be justified.” It is all the more disturbing when the priest sees himself as Christ-like for taking on the burden of his flock’s sin by keeping them ignorant. I know this is not what you are advocating but it is a real danger.

    I would also counsel, for what it’s worth, that anyone who desires to seriously evangelize in this way – who is firm in the Faith, formed by prayer and fasting, steeped in the Gospel, and wishes to enter humbly into the lives of those who are not out of love for them – begin not with our modern bougie family members, friends and neighbors but instead begin with the tired, the poor, the hungry, the sick, and the repentant. Too much time and energy is wasted trying to convince modern man that the Gospel is actually (literally) Good News. The reason modern man does not see the Gospel as good news is because modern man has become very, very good at hiding from bad news. We don’t need to educate our modern family and neighbors about the bad news – the bad news is coming for them, and for each of us, whether we like it or not. In the meantime there are those on the peripheries who know and are experiencing the bad news right now. It is especially important to proclaim the Good News to these people in as plain and clear and honest terms as possible, so that those who are thirsty for it will hear it. Perhaps even using words, if necessary.

    Dorothy Day pray for us, indeed.


  2. Wow….this is incredible…maybe your best one yet!

    Hope you’ve been feeling better….looking forward to seeing you tomorrow night on the call!




  3. Dr Chapp,

    You are right on the money. I’ve often wondered just how many are converted to Christ through the antics of Voris, Marshall, and the entire Lifesite News corner of the internet.

    What is the source of their pathology? To me, they exhibit signs of Neo-pelagianism mentioned by the Pope.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. In principle, I agree with all that you’ve said here. I am a huge Bishop Barron fan. But, his desire to engage people sometimes results in his going soft at just the key moment. His answer to Shapiro, for example was way too squishy for me. It seemed to affirm that Shapiro, as a devout Jew, does not need Christ, that he need not convert. He could have said something stronger without going “full Voris.” For example, he could have said “Its possible that you could be saved without converting, but we can’t say for sure that you will be. The only sure way is the way of Jesus Christ.”

    I do not think Shapiro or his listeners would have been offended by that. I think they would expect that from a Catholic bishop. I do not know Mr. Shapiro, but I wonder if (even subconsciously) he thought “See, even this famous Catholic evangelist doesn’t think I need to become a Christian.”


    1. Once again, what you say isn’t necessarily wrong but I have no issues with what Barron told Shapiro. Nothing Barron said was contrary to Church teaching. That said… does Barron sometimes get a little “squishy”? Yes. As I said in my blog I did not write it in order to defend Barron. All I was doing was defending a certain method of evangelizing, which I think, overall, Barron does well. No method of evangelizing is without its potential traps. And the method I am suggesting does have some inherent dangers in the direction you describe.


      1. Again, I want to reiterate that I am a huge Bishop Barron / Word on Fire fan. Kudos to him for getting out “in the arena.” Its not realistic to expect someone who’s constantly publicly evangelizing like he does to get everything perfect 100% of the time. It is very disappointing that some people are ready to pounce on every perceived slip-up.


  5. Bishop Barron could have said something like this in answer to Mr. Shapiro’s question:

    “God has overlooked the times of ignorance, but now he demands that all people everywhere repent because he has established a day on which he will ‘judge the world with justice’ through a man he has appointed, and he has provided confirmation for all by raising him from the dead.”


    1. I guess he could have said this. But it would not have been a direct answer to Shapiro’s question. Shapiro wanted to know if he, a Jew, can be saved. He understands full well thjat what you write above is the Christian view. But what he wanted to know is: what will happen if I don’t convert?


      1. My point was that he could have given an answer that conveyed the message that God wants everyone to convert and that Shapiro’s decision not to leaves him in a very precarious position. I am not saying the answer Bishop Barron gave was “out of bounds” or “unorthodox,” just disappointing. And, again, the question put Bishop Barron on the spot in a live interview with a huge audience and he had to decide how to respond in a split second. But my impression, when I listened to the interview, was that the answer he gave conveyed the message “No, you do not need to convert; you are fine remaining a Jew.” Maybe its just that we have different readings of the “reformulation” of the doctrine of “no salvation outside the Church” – an expansive one vs a narrow one.


      2. My impression was not the same as yours. So we will just agree to disagree.
        As for your statement that the difference may reside in an expansive vs. a narrow view of “no salvation outside of the Church.” I would say that that is an incorrect way to phrase it. The so-called “expansive” view is actually what the Church teaches today. The “narrow view” (Feeneyism) was condemned as heretical. So the real choice is between the Church’s view (as correctly stated by Barron) and the heretical view.


  6. There is a range of positions between Feeneyism and indifferentism. Feeneyism says that formal membership in the Catholic Church is absolutely necessary for salvation. I didn’t say that. What I said was that I believe anyone who has heard the Gospel and rejected it is in a precarious position and that baptism into Christ is the only sure path. Can God save people who choose a different path? Of course. Would I presume to say that God absolutely will save such a person, and so tell someone that? I would not. The best I could say is “Its in God’s hands and anything is possible for God. That’s not Feeneyism.


    1. Fair enough. Now we are getting somehwhere near the nub of the issue. Because what does it mean for someone to “hear the Gospel”? Does it mean simply and literally that they have actually heard someone tell them the basic truths of the Gospel and that is all? Or does “hearing” the Gospel also imply something more? Namely, not just that they have literally heard it preached, but that they were also in an existential and spiritual condition open to receive it? In order to be able to “reject” the Gospel in a morally culpable way you have to have not just heard it, but also recognized it as true, and yet still reject it. The mere physical “hearing” of the Gospel is not enough. And that is the issue the blog post is addressing. Namely, that the evangelist must be adept at knowing where a person is spiritually and to ascertain whether or not they are yet ready to receive the message. If the answer is no, then you must first prepare the soil and that can take patience and time. Yes, the person who knows the Gospel to be true and still rejects it is in a precarious position. But so is the evangelist who is a bull in a china shop who is then responsible for driving someone away from the faith because they were too obtuse to see that the proper preparations had not been done.

      This is why I think most critics of Barron who hold the “narrow” view as you call it are guilty of gross oversimplifications of what constitutes preaching and hearing. They want to go immediately from point A to point Z without doing any of the hard work in between.


      1. Yes, I think we are getting to the nub of the issue.

        You say: “In order to be able to “reject” the Gospel in a morally culpable way you have to have not just heard it, but also recognized it as true, and yet still reject it.”

        I am not sure I agree with this statement. It seems to excuse everyone who hears the Gospel but simply isn’t convinced and so rejects it. There is such a thing as culpable ignorance and culpable unbelief. I also think this view is extremely hard – maybe impossible – to square with Scripture. There are many passages in the Gospels where hearers of Jesus’ Good News didn’t believe him an so rejected him. He had pretty harsh words for them. It is simply not presented as though they knew he was the Messiah but rejected him anyway. Often it is precisely their disbelief – their failure to recognize him for who he was – that condemns them.


      2. My comments do not excuse anyone. The presumtion throughout all of this is that we are talking about sincere truth seekers and not those who are culpably ignorant through negligence of their spiritual life. Yes, there are those who make themselves blind and they are culpable for it. But they are not open to being evangelized anyway and I am not talking about them. The discussion involves Shapiro, a sincere truth seeker, not some nitwit who just doesn’t give a crap. And so I will amend my comment. Those who are morally culpable are those who hear the Gospel and know it to be true on some level (and therefore, at the least, should explore it more) and still reject it, and those who have made themselves blind through indifference. Shapiro in my view is neither of those.

        And yes Christ had some harsh words for those who had hardened their hearts against him. But as long as we are cherry picking scripture quotes how about this one: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”


  7. Dr. Chapp, so far you have accused me of being a heretic (Feeneyism) and of cherry picking Scripture to support my position. I do not feel I am guilty of either. Nor have I accused Bishop Barron of being “unorthodox” or crossing any lines. My only point has been that we should not be ashamed of Christ’s claim of exclusivity. See, e.g., Jn 3:18 (“Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”).

    It is not “okay” for anyone to remain separated from Christ and his Church. Can people in such a position be saved? Of course, we say, it is possible – anything is possible with God. But can we say “Yes, you can definitely be saved through Christ but without believing in and accepting him”? I think there is a huge difference between “its possible” and “yes, definitely.” That’s basically Rahner’s “anonymous Christian” theory, which I do not believe is the Church’s teaching.


    1. Dr. Chapp – I will leave you with some thoughts of Benedict XVI, given in an interview with Fr. Jacques Servais in 2015, which point to the conundrum this question presents. I don’t believe the Church has sorted this through yet. Thank you for engaging with me on this issue. Pax.

      “If it is true that the great missionaries of the 16th century were still convinced that those who are not baptized are forever lost – and this explains their missionary commitment – in the Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council that conviction was finally abandoned. From this came a deep double crisis. On the one hand this seems to remove any motivation for a future missionary commitment. Why should one try to convince the people to accept the Christian faith when they can be saved even without it? But also for Christians an issue emerged: the obligatory nature of the faith and its way of life began to seem uncertain and problematic. If there are those who can be saved in other ways, it is not clear, in the final analysis, why the Christian himself is bound by the requirements of the Christian faith and its morals. If faith and salvation are no longer interdependent, faith itself becomes unmotivated.”


      1. Great quote. But what is the “other hand”? The quote begins by laying out the problematic caused by the new views (and they are the cause of a problematic). And Benedict begins by saying “on the one hand”…. But what is “the other hand” where Benedict offers a defense of the Vatican II position? Benedict says Vatican II abandoned the older view. I am sure he agrees with Vatican II. He simply is honest though when he notes the problematic for faith this creates. But he does go on to nuance this quote you give. Where is the rest of it?


  8. He admits we don’t have a satisfactory answer. He discusses the proposed “solutions” of Rahner (the “anonymous Christian”) and de Lubac (“pro-existence” or “being for”) and finds them inadequate, then concludes by saying “It is clear that we need to further reflect on the whole question.”

    I think the bigger issue is his acknowledgment that the “profound evolution of dogma” reflected in the teaching of Vatican II has resulted in a “deep double crisis” for the Church on two of the most paramount issues for Christians – i.e. the Church’s missionary mandate and the obedience of faith. I believe acknowledging this as Benedict XVI appears to have done may be the one key to making your blog effective with those who feel pushed into traditionalism. Pax.


    1. Thanks. Where can I find this interview? I have read other things by Ratzinger/Benedict on this same topic and I would like to compare this interview with those other readings. I certainly reject Rahner’s “anonymous Christianity” (as does Barron by the way) since it makes explicit faith in Christ utterly superfluous. But I do lean toward de Lubac’s view even though I too think it has some issues. And nothing in my various blog posts has really addressed the issue head-on. All I have done is state the most basic and the most obvious truth that the Church now teaches. Namely, that there can be salvation outside of the visible Church and this is somehow related to the role of the moral conscience. That is all I have ever claimed and that is all Barron has ever claimed. And that is the teaching of Thomas Aquinas as well.

      Your view seems very close to that of C.S. Lewis where he states, I think in Mere Christianity, that we know we can be saved through faith and inclusion in the Church. But we also know that God can save others. We just don’t know how, even though Lewis later modifies that view in The Problem of Pain where he seems to articulate a view closer to that of the conscience approach. I have no problem with such a view nor does Barron. Barron makes no grandiose claims. He just point out what it is the Church teaches. I don’t think he is ashamed at all of the exlcusivity of Christ as you imply above. In fact, I encourage you to read his scholarly book “The Priority of Christ.” He makes his views abundantly clear about the absolute centrality of Christ.

      As for the Traditionalists… I think they have far more concerns than just this issue. But you are not the first reader to point out that this is a burning topic I need to address. The problem is, if even Benedict does not know the answer to this deep question, I sure as hell don’t. Not beyond the bare bones statements I have made.


      1. What I found refreshing was Benedict’s acknowledgment (albeit only in retirement) that the teaching of the Council itself (“a profound evolution of dogma”), and not just “misinterpretations” or “misapplications” of it, has caused what he calls a “deep double crisis.” Likewise, I appreciated his acknowledgement that we do not (yet) have adequate answers / solutions to the questions presented by this crisis. The interview can be found here: https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/full-text-of-benedict-xvis-recent-rare-and-lengthy-interview-26142.


      2. Thanks. What is instructive, however, is that he does not say that he thinks the evolution of the doctrine is a mistake. That is the conclusion drawn by the traditionalists since they can’t hold the polarities in suspension for a time until the matter is dealt with theologically on a deeper level. They just conclude that since the teaching has caused a double crisis then the teaching must be wrong. Benedict does not reach that conclusion. Nor do I. I think Benedict darn well understands that we simply cannot go back to teaching that outside of water baptism there is no salvation. We cannot go back to Augustine’s massa damnata. Remember too, along those same lines that it was Benedict that finally put the final kaboom on the the tradition of limbo for unbaptized babies that die. That too was his way of saying that the old doctrine is no longer held. And he did that even though he is more Augustinian than he is Thomistic.

        The deeper question of course is whether or not this is an evolution of doctrine or a contradiction with an old doctrine. If it is a contradiction then we have other questions to ask.


      3. I guess one last point: the Catechism (846-848) addresses this as a question in two ways. First, it says those who “know” the Church to be necessary but refuse to enter or remain in it cannot be saved. Then, it speaks of the possibility of salvation for those who are “ignorant” of the Gospel “through no fault of their own” but seek God as best they can by following their conscience. I personally wouldn’t want to hang my hat on claiming invincible ignorance if I had been made aware of the Gospel but just didn’t believe / accept it.


      4. You should have stopped with what the catechism says. Your last comment is just way too simplistic. What does it mean that someone is “made aware” of the Gospel? Once again you are engaging in a very wooden approach to this. Michael Voris can “make people aware of the Gospel”. But then, after hearing, they walk away in disgust. There is such an arrogance in the view that if “I make someone aware of the Gospel” that the fault is now theirs if they do not repent. Maybe, just maybe, I stink as a presenter of the Gospel. Maybe I come across as a jerk and a know it all. Maybe I am more off-putting that enticing in my words. And there is the issue of pre evangelization and its needs. The facts are these: 1. People are genuinely invincibly ignorant of the Gospel due to issues of culture. 2. Merely “hearing” the Gospel preached is probably not going to change that fact since it has no context for them. 3. The modern Church has not exactly made itself attractive with its corruptions and scandals. The Church herself can be a big stumbling block in that regard. 4. Most so-called Catholic evangelists stink at it.

        I think your position is unnuanced and lacking in historical/psychological/sociological and theological understanding.


      5. I agree, he does not say it was a mistake. And I agree, this is where the neo-trads go wrong. But, I believe acknowledging that it is the source of a deep crisis is a big step forward, even if we also must acknowledge that we have not found a definitive solution yet.

        I would say my personal view aligns pretty closely with this 7-point summary by Tim Staples @ Catholic Answers:

        No one who knowingly and deliberately rejects the truth will be saved. It doesn’t matter how good of a Muslim, Jew, Baptist, or anything else he may be. If anyone rejects the truth of Christ and his Church—even one definitive teaching—they will be lost.
        Religions that have as tenants of their respective faiths the rejection of Jesus and his Church have no power to save anyone. It is “the truth that makes us free” (cf. John 8:32), not falsehood.
        In the case of one who is ignorant of the truth of the Catholic Faith, “through no fault of [his] own,” he can be saved, if he is truly “invincibly ignorant, [is] given the supernatural virtue of faith and [has] perfect charity in [his heart]” (cf. Instruction of Holy Office of Dec. 20, 1949).
        We must remember that we are not the judges of salvation. God is the sole and final judge. We do not know who is truly “invincibly ignorant” and who is not. Therefore, we must be careful to “evangelize all men” as the Catechism commands us and leave the judging to God.
        “Whatever good or truth is found amongst [other world religions] is considered by the Church to be ‘a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life’” (Lumen Gentium 16). And if they seek the true God, given the light they have received, they have the possibility of salvation.
        This does not mean they are not in need of the Eucharist! Without the grace that comes from the sacraments, one is at a decided disadvantage to get to heaven. And if one has rejected the truth, then there is no way he can merit heaven apart from repentance and the acceptance of the truth. The Church makes very clear: “The words bind and loose mean: whomever you exclude from your communion, will be excluded from communion with God; whomever you receive anew into your communion, God will welcome back into his. Reconciliation with the Church is inseparable from reconciliation with God” (CCC 1445).
        If anyone makes it to heaven apart from what the Church refers to as “the ordinary means of sanctification that comes through the sacraments,” or a “formal union with the Church,” they will only do so through a salvific link with the Church that comes via extraordinary means.



      6. The Tim Staples list is about half right. The other half is just a mess. And it is “tenets” not “tenants”. If that is how you think good luck in your efforts at evangelizing. So someone who rejects even one teaching of the Catholic Church will be lost? This whole approach is so conflicted. On the one hand it says “I agree with the Church’s teaching on salvation outside of the Church” but then takes it back in all of the rest – – “yeah there is salvation outside of the Church but it is very difficult and very rare”. How do you know that? The whole approach treats salvation like some kind of intellectual litmust test, a game. “Do you accept these doctrines I have presented to you?” No?” “Since you have rejected the true doctrine you are now lost.” Who thinks like that anymore? You have made salvation into some kind of parlor game.

        I am done with this conversation. I feel like I am being gaslighted. You claim to be a fan of Barron and you claim to accept the Church’s teaching, but then you clearly want to go back to a time when Catholics go to heaven and everybody else is presumed to go to Hell unless God’s mysterious will intervenes.

        If I had a group of people I wanted to evangelize and invited them to my home I would invite Bishop Barron to speak to them a hundred times more than I would ever invite someone like Tim Staples.

        I am done with this conversation.


  9. Well, I do like Bishop Barron. I listen to his homilies every week as well as his Word on Fire show. I too would invite him before I would invite Staples. No one is gaslighting. What you take as gaslighting is just my own attempt to talk / reason through a vexing problem.

    But I would agree with Staples that if someone knows an essential doctrine of the faith to be true (eg, the Incarnation or the Resurrection) yet rejects it anyway then they cannot be saved. Isn’t that what the Catechism says? I also think there is such a thing as culpable unbelief. Isn’t that also what the Catechism states?

    I’m sorry you took offense at my resort to Tim Staples’ view on this issue. I understand you have cut off the conversation at this point. But do sincerely ask – where in the teaching of the Church does it say that salvation outside of formal membership in the Church is either commonplace? I think this is a clear point of disconnect for a lot of people: possible and frequent vs possible and rate. I think a relatively narrow view on this issue has the potential to resolve the “crisis” without devolving into indifferentism / universalism or rejecting the teaching of the Council.

    I am not going to judge any individual’s culpability – that’s for God alone. But I do believe the need for conversion to Christ is critically important to the salvation of every person.


      1. I think both responses are complete non sequitors. Barron was responding in a very focused way to a simple question: can non Christians be saved? And the answer he gave is the correct one. Yes they can and then he explains how. Goring and Martin then go off on a series of tangents about how Barron is downplaying the unique salvific role of Christ. No he isn’t. He is saying that non christians can participate in that unique salvation. And once again he is right. Martin in particular is on his usual hobby horse about universalism and thereby insinuates that Barron is encouraging such universalism by not emphasizing enough this uniqueness of Christ. But that too is wrong. Barron is not a universalist nor does he say that conscience can’t be deformed, nor does he say that we do not need Revelation since conscience is enough, nor does he say that those who explicitly oppose Jesus are in no danger of Hell, nor does he say that those who are culpably ignorant are in no danger of Hell… and so on. Throughout Martin’s talk in particular there is a deeply uncharitable reading of both Barron’s homily and of his understanding of LG 16. And I don’t buy for one second his fawning statements about how much he admires Barron. It is very clear that he thinks Barron is one of those practical universalists who are a big part of the problem. So I disagree completely with you on this one. Peace!


      2. I do not have a problem with anything Bishop Barron says on the topic. It is what he does not say that disappoints me. You have brought this up, Don, but what Bishop Barron consistently does not state is that the precondition for salvation of those visibly outside the Catholic Church is invincible ignorance. As long as he omits this, he is not presenting the full view from LG and the CCC, and non-Catholics as well as Catholics can be misled.

        We cannot know if anyone is culpably ignorant or not, that is between them and God, but we do know from reason and faith that – best case scenario – invincible ignorance is still not a good place to be:

        “Second, the fact that someone is invincibly ignorant does not mean that they should not be evangelized. The farther from the center of God’s truth a person is the more spiritual jeopardy they are in. Even if they are not culpable for sins against faith, the fact they are ignorant of the true religion and do not have access to the sacraments means that they are more likely to commit mortal sin and thus more likely to be damned. Christ did not leave us the option of only evangelizing some peoples (Mark 16:15) or of only teaching them some doctrines (Matt. 28:2)”


        This is not Feeneyism. This is not a “massa damnata” view. And this is still fully compatible with “Dare We Hope.” Hopefully, everyone will become closer to each other on this topic.


      3. Who in the heck is saying that we should not evangelize the invincibly ignorant? Especially since, as you rightly note, we cannot really know who is in invincible ignorance and who isn’t. So who are your thinking of here? I don’t know a single person who would say we should not evangelize the ignorant, vincible or invincible.


      4. Hey, Dr. Chapp. ^^ I recently became aware of you via YouTube. You are an excellent guest – I think your style really lends itself to the livestream format.

        Anyway, I think you are replying to the quotation from Jimmy Akin. I didn’t mean to suggest that you or Bishop Barron have said not to evangelize the invincibly ignorant. I apologize. I should have omitted the first and last sentences from the quotation, so that it would read as follows:

        “The farther from the center of God’s truth a person is the more spiritual jeopardy they are in. Even if they are not culpable for sins against faith, the fact they are ignorant of the true religion and do not have access to the sacraments means that they are more likely to commit mortal sin and thus more likely to be damned.”


        I would also hasten to add that, although we cannot know any single person’s conscience, we can know by faith and by reason that everyone’s consciences have been compromised by original sin and by personal sin, so that the possibility for culpable ignorance just may be more common than not. In fact, the teaching of LG says it *is* more common than not:

        “But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator.(129) Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair.” (LG 16)


        I think this is the sobering component that’s missing from Bishop Barron’s presentation of this important Catholic doctrine. Now, I am in complete agreement that this may not be the best way to lead a discussion with a non-believer, but the concern many have is that if Bishop Barron is on a platform where millions of non-believers (and Catholics, for that matter) will be watching, the first duty is to present the full-throated teaching. I am also a bit concerned about Bishop Barron’s personal assent to this part of the teaching, as he has said that this view is “cruel.”


  10. I think the place where we, the Church, must be very careful is in our own culpability for my neighbors inability to believe. We are the normative channel of grace, but in our loss of integrity there is no reason why my neighbor should believe the truth of Jesus Christ based solely on my say. My Church shelters predators, what gives us the right to presume that hearing the words that sound like the Gospel is actually the same thing as hearing the Gospel. Our behavior has made it impossible for some to hear the Gospel, how is it then that their ” damnation” wont also be mine as I am the reason my neighbor cannot hear Jesus. Germany was a Christian nation, why should Shapiro believe us? Conscience matters. In the end I take comfort from the Fatima prayer, the Divine Mercy, the incarnation death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In spite of my dreadful witness He will not let even sheoll separate my neighbor from His love


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