Dr. Ralph Martin’s Obsession with Bishop Robert Barron. A Response to his Latest Video

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“Begin with the beautiful, which leads you to the good, which leads you to truth.”

Bishop Robert Barron.

A friend of mine on Facebook recently tagged on my page a short YouTube clip of Dr. Ralph Martin being interviewed by Matt Fradd on his podcast “Pints with Aquinas.”  The topic was Bishop Robert Barron (again) and his alleged soft-peddling of the necessity of faith in Christ for salvation.  You can access the video clip here.  I was not going to respond to the many distortions of Barron’s views in the video since I have already previously blogged on Ralph Martin’s baseless accusations against the good Bishop, but the latest video does deserve a response and so here I am. 

The video begins with Matt Fradd making all of the usual genuflections towards the false civility that most of Barron’s critics always begin with. He graciously grants to Bishop Barron a nod of approval by noting that he (Fradd) does not think Barron is a “heretic.”  Such magnanimity should not go unmentioned.  I mean, it is comforting to know that the man who is the head of the largest Catholic evangelization effort in the United States, if not the world, is not a heretic.  I was deeply concerned that he might be, so I am relieved to learn that a major Catholic podcaster has given the Bishop his Imprimatur.  I can sleep better now.  But all sarcasm aside, Fradd’s words really are an exercise in false civility insofar as he immediately follows his podcasting CDF seal of approval with a serious accusation that makes it clear that what is to follow is not going to be in praise of Barron.  He sets the uncivil tone for what is to follow by stating that even if Barron is not a heretic he is, nevertheless, leading people astray and giving the real heretics false comfort through his (allegedly) ill-advised comments on salvation outside of the Church.  Fradd thinks Barron is just far too squishy on this issue and is not giving people the full Gospel package.  In other words, Barron is not a heretic, but he is a promoter of “Gospel lite.”

Fradd then dredges up as evidence (once again) what by now has become a permanent set piece in the traditionalist’s man cave of petty nitpickery: Bishop Barron’s interview with Ben Shapiro.  Fradd says Barron missed an opportunity to tell Shapiro that he needed to “repent” and accept the Gospel.  But that is just sniping silliness of the highest order.  Thank God Bishop Barron did not approach the interview as an opportunity to convert the poor Jew to Christ right then and there through an in-your-face provocation.  Barron knew full well that Shapiro is a highly educated and intelligent man who is aware of the Christian claims concerning Christ.  Shapiro, in other words, has heard the Gospel.  And yet he remains unconverted.  And I dare say that Bishop Barron therefore understood quite well that some kind of “altar call” moment was not in the offing. Indeed, Barron was responding to a question that Shapiro asked that shows that Shapiro does understand the claims of the Gospel.  Because he asked Barron whether or not he (Shapiro), being a Jew, is “just screwed” with regard to salvation – – a question that showed that Shapiro understands quite well the Christian claim to Christ’s exclusivity.  Fradd then shows that he has either forgotten the interview or did not ever really watch it with a sympathetic eye in the first place.  Because he says that Barron could have at least told Shapiro that Jesus represents the “fullness of Judaism.”  The problem for Fradd is that Barron says just that to Shapiro and presents Jesus as the fulfillment of Judaism.  And in my own interview with Barron at the Word on Fire Institute studio in Santa Barbera, Bishop Barron points out that he was trying to evangelize Ben Shapiro precisely through this appeal to Judaism’s fulfillment. 

Finally, Fradd’s claim that Bishop Barron should have told Shapiro to “repent” is so tone deaf from a historical perspective that one wonders if Fradd has the slightest sense of what a Jew “hears” when a Christian tells them, point blank, to repent.  The sad history of Christian anti-Semitism has created within the Jewish soul a visceral negativity toward such overtures since what a Jew “hears” when a Christian asks them to repent are the echoes of that entire history.  Therefore, Bishop Barron, far more sensitive to such subtleties than Fradd, chose the better path of a civil dialogue and conversation rather than the dead end of hortatory admonition.

So quite frankly, Fradd does not know what he is talking about. You can watch the full interview with Shapiro here. And you should view it since most of Barron’s critics never seem to bother to watch the entire interview wherein Bishop Barron clearly communicates a robust version of Catholicism to Shapiro, while at the same time respectfully acknowledging the beauty of Shapiro’s Judaism.  I really wish these uber conservative pit bull critics of Barron would just drop this Shapiro bone already.  Because I would wager good hard cash, and lots of it, that if Shapiro does convert, it will have a lot to do with Barron and nothing at all to do with the Matt Fradd’s of the world. In fact, it will be in spite of the Matt Fradd’s of the world. In fact, while I am at it, it is Matt Fradd who needs to repent of his superficial Christian triumphalism that is the biggest evangelization conversation stopper imaginable. 

Next up in the video is Fradd’s guest Dr. Ralph Martin.  Martin actually begins well and says a lot of things with which I am in deep agreement. Namely, that the post-Vatican II pastoral strategy of accommodating the Church to the currents of modernity has been a failure.  He rightly points out that the Church opened itself to the culture at exactly the same moment when that same culture was undergoing a massive revolution. I, like Martin, lived through the sixties and he is exactly right to highlight how imprudent the Church was to uncritically embrace the world at that moment in time without a hard and fast set of criteria for discerning spirits.  Martin then goes on to say that this led to the weakening of the Gospel and the full expression of the faith.  It also led to religious relativism and indifferentism that drained the Church of its vitality.  Correct again. 

But then he says that since Barron was trained in that milieu and was probably influenced by it, that Barron’s alleged softness is simply part and parcel of this same dynamic.  This is simply outrageous.  But as I have noted in previous blog posts with regard to Balthasar and von Speyr, Martin, while feigning “respect” and speaking in soft, dulcet tones, has no problem with maligning orthodox thinkers if they do not toe the line of his theological agenda of promoting a very narrow reading of extra ecclesiam nulla salus.  The fact is Barron is most certainly not a partisan of the post Vatican II silly season and has spoken often, and quite forcefully, against it.  In fact, in the broader Catholic theological landscape Barron is considered to be an arch conservative by most liberals precisely due to his constant condemnations of the silly season distortions and of liberal theology in general.  Martin shows zero evidence of having read Barron’s’ more scholarly works wherein he makes his case against the “beige Catholicism” Martin accuses Barron of promoting.  Books like “The Priority of Christ” and “Vibrant Paradoxes” stand out as deep theological critiques of the liberal Rahnerian trends in the post Vatican II Church.  Furthermore, even in his more popular videos he alludes to these critiques frequently.  One wonders therefore what Martin’s deeper agenda is since he clearly cherry picks his way through Barron’s videos in order to find the “gotcha” nuggets that he thinks show Barron’s true colors as a universalist saboteur. 

Martin goes on to lament, once again, that the post Vatican II silly season led to the Gospel not being preached.  I agree with that.  But why is he linking Barron to that??  It is bizarre in the extreme to accuse Barron of being part of the tendency to attenuate the preaching of the Gospel given Barron’s manifest success at evangelization.  But Martin seems blind to that success. He weakly acknowledges that he appreciates that Barron has indeed “helped a lot of people.”  But Martin is in a pickle here since his tired narrative is that Barron’s approach to salvation outside of the Church does not work as a motivation for evangelization.  It is simply   an evangelizing show-stopper according to Martin. His constant refrain is that unless we retrieve a more narrow reading of extra ecclesiam that we just won’t have the gumption to preach Jesus anymore.  Martin repeats over and over that because of views like Barron’s on salvation nobody really worries anymore about salvation for non-Catholics.   It is all just loosey-goosey, milquetoast Catholicism now and Barron is part of the problem since his words are “leading people astray.”  And so Martin cannot properly and fully acknowledge that Bishop Barron, and the organization he has created, is the most effective evangelizer in the contemporary Church.  He cannot state that clearly and with honesty since to do so would undercut his entire argument – – an argument he has pegged the current reinvention of his career as a slayer of the universalist dragon on.  Facts are stubborn things and the fact is Bishop Barron’s style of evangelizing has caught fire in the Church.  But hey, we need more Hell cowbell in Martin’s universe or else we will all become Rahnerians apparently. 

And speaking of Rahner … Martin rightly criticizes Rahner’s theory of anonymous Christianity. But Bishop Barron does not share Rahner’s view of anonymous Christianity since in order to do so you also have to buy into Rahner’s theology of nature and grace.  And Barron rejects that theology in favor of Balthasar’s alternative theological constructions.  But Martin dislikes Balthasar as well – – “Dare We Hope” and all that pious bilge about Balthasar being a closet universalist – – and so he just speaks of Rahner negatively in a generic way and leaves the impression that Barron is in that camp as well, without any further reference to Balthasar.  Once again, facts are stubborn things and if Martin cared about the targets of his accusations he would take the time to actually get the facts straight.  Barron is not a Rahnerian. To be fair, Martin does not explicitly call Barron a Rahnerian. But he discusses Rahner within the general conversation about Barron’s views on salvation without any qualification or nuance, leaving the impression that whatever theological distance there might be between Barron and Rahner, that it is of little importance to his broader point concerning Barron’s alleged errors. This is called “guilt by association” and it is a shoddy form of argumentation.

Martin seems of late to have taken a hard turn to the Right and therefore seems to be of the view that such distinctions as the one between a Rahnerian and a Balthasarian theology of nature and grace, are of little importance since it is just modernist turtles all the way down no matter where you turn.  He seems to just lump all post Vatican II theology together as just so much obfuscation and liberal jabberwocky.  And that is what the traditionalists do as well, although Martin is not, apparently, a radical traditionalist. But on this point he is since it matters little to Martin that Barron and Balthasar both disagree sharply with the liberal turn among Rahner’s epigones and that both emphasize the concrete and absolute uniqueness of Christ in the order of salvation.  It seems to matter little to Martin that Balthasar was excoriated for decades by the theological guild for being a reactionary romantic for holding on to the absolute uniqueness of Christ.  But none of that matters to Martin because Balthasar dared to gore his sacred cow. Namely, that most non-Catholics are probably going to Hell.

Martin bristles at that latter accusation and it comes through in the video.  He says this is a misrepresentation of his views since he is not obsessed with people being in Hell but is instead interested in how we can get people to Heaven.  But this is actually a misrepresentation of what I, and others, have said on the matter.  What I have pointed out is that if you follow the theological logic of Martin’s biblical exegesis on passages such as the Dominical statement on the “wide and narrow path,” and if you connect the dots of his exegesis of Lumen Gentium 16, and if you follow the logic of his exegesis of extra ecclesiam, that a clear picture emerges of a theologian who thinks it is very, very, very hard for a non-Catholic to avoid Hell. I am not making a claim about what causes Martin to lose sleep or what it is that interests him or motivates him to get out of bed in the morning.  I am a theologian, not Dr. Phil, and I am simply drawing some rather clear conclusions from Martin’s own publicly stated theological positions. 

If you doubt me watch the very end of the video.  Because at the end Martin drops the mask.  In the midst of making a perfectly wonderful statement about the necessity to preach the Gospel in order to help people have access to all of the means of grace with which God has gifted his Church, he ends by saying that without access to these vessels of grace it is “almost impossible” for “most ordinary people” to avoid the downward spiral into the hell of sin and separation from God. I think that is a pretty clear indication that Martin has a deeply pessimistic view of salvation for non-Catholics. And the irony here is that Martin makes a huge deal of the fact that Balthasar, at the end of Dare We Hope, quotes Edith Stein who says that it is virtually impossible for a person that has been transformed by grace to reject God in a final way.  Martin sees that as a cleverly closeted heresy.  And yet here he is flirting with the opposite heresy and saying it is “almost” impossible for a person without the Catholic sacraments to be saved. And so is Martin a closeted Feeneyite?? Probably not, just as Balthasar is not a closeted universalist.

What becomes clear in the midst of his various fulminations is that he also has a very bleak and dim view of non-Christian religions.  He chides without much nuance the modern Catholic emphasis on inter-religious dialogue.  He seems to give it little weight and goes out of his way to mention such dialogue as one of the negative aspects of modern Catholic theology.  Granted, there is a lot of abuse in the theological guild on this topic and there are many Catholic theologians who now trend toward a kind of “pluralism of religions” approach to the question of salvation.  But if that is all he is alluding to then why not say so explicitly and why not also then affirm the good that can come from such dialogue?  Once again… because it does not fit his narrative that outside of the visible Church it is pretty much just the darkness of ignorance and idolatry.  And this too is one more of the ways in which Martin is showing some affinity for the radical traditionalist movement. 

But Bishop Barron has also condemned religious relativism and indifferentism and in no uncertain terms.  Some months ago Bishop Barron gave a perfectly wonderful sermon on the oration by Saint Peter in Acts where Peter affirms that Jesus is the sole path to salvation.  You can access Barron’s sermon here.  And Bishop Barron begins by saying that his “first move” in explaining this statement from Peter to a modern, skeptical audience would be to just let it sink in and allow it to speak to us on its own terms.  He wants the “hardness” of Peter’s speech to have its full impact.  Barron says he wants people to be uncomfortable with it in a good way. He wants people to wrestle with it and to not summarily dismiss it as a piece of Christian triumphalism.  Because Christ really is the sole path to salvation and Saint Peter is preaching truth here.  Barron states this clearly and with a punch.  Only then he says do we go on to his “second move” where we acknowledge that there can be salvation outside of explicit faith in Christ since there are “seeds of the Word” scattered throughout the world.  Barron is in good company here since many Church fathers also spoke of the “logoi spermatikoi” that can be found in places outside of the Church.  And God’s christological grace can therefore find acceptance in the non-Christian soul owing to the fact that Christ is in some inchoate way already present in those seeds of the Word.  Indeed, those seeds can also be found in non-Christian religions, albeit in an opaque way, and therefore non-Christian religions, as Vatican II affirms, can also contain some truth.  It isn’t all darkness and idolatry outside of the Church.  And Martin and those like him who cast aspersions at non-Christian religions need to beware of a certain religious relativism of their own. Namely, that there is only one true religion and all the rest are pretty much the same – – they are all just univocally false.  But among non-Christian religions there are better and worse forms of religious constructions, with the worse forms often being condemned by practitioners of many of the world’s “higher religions.”  In other words, it isn’t just the Church that can sniff out a dangerous religious trend.

As I have said before, I have had the pleasure of teaching many Muslim and Hindu students and I challenge anyone to watch, as I have, a 21 year old Muslim girl take out her prayer rug in the middle of the university library, in full view of everyone, and to bow down in deep and reverent prayer, and then deny that the movement of God’s grace is present in that act in some way.  I challenge anyone who would watch that to say that what that young woman is doing is just dark ignorance and idolatry.  And if Matt Fradd were there, he would have walked over to her and politely told her that she needed to repent, instead of affirming the positive aspects of what she just did and to build on that going forward in friendship.  Indeed, I wish the Protestant and Catholic students I taught showed such devotion and reverence.  In fact, many of my Catholic students told me that witnessing the Muslim students at prayer shamed them and made them want to be more prayerful Christians themselves.  I guess I am just too “beige” in all of this and too much like Bishop Barron and do not really believe in the primacy of Christ.  Or maybe, just maybe, it is Bishop Barron who better understands the primacy of Christ since he, unlike Martin, sees Christ everywhere and does not confine him, like a prisoner in shackles, to the sacramental economy of the Church.  The sacramental economy of the Church is the height and summit of all worship, and a liturgical capstone to all of creation.  And in a very real sense all of the grace from God that is in the world mysteriously flows through those sacraments first.  But the sacramental economy is not in an either-or, zero sum, competitive game with all of the other seeds of grace in the world.  Christ fulfills the religious aspirations of the world, precisely as He clarifies and corrects them, but he does not merely destroy them and replace them with something utterly alien. And if this were not so then the non-Christian would never recognize the truth of the Gospel when it arrives.  It would seem foreign, extrinsic, and strangely alienating in an intrusive way. As Goethe puts it: “If the eye were not already sunlike, it could never see the sun.”

No less a light than C.S. Lewis also recognized this truth of the logoi spermatikoi which is why in “Mere Christianity” Lewis lists three ways that God gets knowledge of himself inside of us.  First is the moral conscience.  Second is what he calls “good dreams,” by which he means the full panoply of the human religious imagination. And third is God’s special Revelation through the Jewish faith and into Christianity.  And this is Bishop Barron’s exact view as well.  And it is my view too, and a boat load of others, up to and including all of the modern Popes. And Martin probably shares some semblance of this view as well, but he so weakens it in his rhetoric concerning salvation outside of the Church that it amounts to its virtual denial.

It would seem therefore that according to Martin Bishop Barron’s affirmation of this theology of the logoi spermatikoi isn’t wrong in an absolute sense but is, nevertheless, just far too fulsome and expansive.  But he offers no real alternative of his own other than his narrowing of God’s river of grace in the world to a trickle. I will leave it to the reader to decide which construction they think is most accurate theologically.  However, it should also be noted that this debate is not a new one since there existed in the early Church some Church Fathers who thought like Martin and had a far more negative view of non-Christian religions.  And their path was more “scorched earth” than that of those fathers who favored the logoi spermatikoi approach.  And the more negative view won over the Church for many centuries and led to a very narrow interpretation of extra ecclesiam.  And, in my opinion, this had disastrous results for the Church on many levels.  Therefore, Vatican II’s attempt to retrieve the logoi spermatikoi tradition in the interests of a more nuanced understanding of the movement of God’s grace and a more sophisticated understanding of the sociology and psychology of religious affiliation, represents a true development of doctrine. The new emphasis of Vatican II is no novelty or modernist invention.  It has deep roots in the Church’s Tradition. But those roots had been crowded out and lost sight of.  And that is why we hold ecumenical councils. 

What Martin represents in my view is a reactionary restorationism that seeks to bring back that more exclusivist, scorched earth approach.  And his exegesis of Lumen Gentium 16 bears this out.  Martin is quick to rush in and inform us, and the good Bishop, that we are all getting Vatican II wrong and that we have an incomplete understanding of Lumen Gentium 16 on the topic.  We are informed by Martin that if we look at what the Council really taught we would see that it affirms a narrow reading of extra ecclesiam and that it also affirms, based on some criteria it lists, that it is damn hard for non-Catholics to get on the stairway to Heaven.  Martin accuses Bishop Barron of ignoring this aspect of Lumen Gentium and is therefore not giving us the “full truth about Jesus.” That is a pretty serious accusation given Martin’s assertion that he is being civil and respectful toward Barron.  I have been criticized by Martin’s defenders for being too hard on him since he is, after all, such a sweet and nice guy who means no harm.  I am not so certain of that.  He seems perfectly capable of some ad hominem howlers, no matter how “softly” they are spoken with his grandfatherly demeanor.  And this is one of those howlers.  Bishop Barron is not giving us the “full truth” about Jesus simply because Barron disagrees with Martin’s pinched-up, antiquarian interpretation of Lumen Gentium? Say what you will about Bishop Barron, but I dare say that most ordinary Catholics who run across his materials would never claim that Barron is soft-peddling Jesus and is giving us a “Jesus lite.”  Would that most Bishops preached as Barron preaches.  The Church would be revolutionized overnight.  Which calls into question why Martin is so often critical of Barron all the while ignoring the perfidies of the many true episcopal quislings that litter the modern ecclesial landscape.  Perhaps Martin goes after Barron because Barron has a large platform. That would be my guess. In other words, he criticizes Barron because Barron’s style of evangelization – – converting via attraction rather than through infernalist intimidation – –  works.  Oops. 

Martin goes on to describe three criteria that Lumen Gentium enumerates as necessary for salvation outside of the Church that Martin says Bishop Barron ignores.  The first criteria for one to be saved outside of the visible Church is that one must be inculpably ignorant of the Gospel. I doubt Bishop Barron disagrees with that.  Who would? However, Martin then goes on to add that the corollary of this criterion is that there can be such a thing as culpable ignorance.  And I can only surmise that he thinks Barron does not emphasize this enough.  But in many ways and in many places Barron does emphasize that Hell is a real possibility which is why we can never accept universalism straight-up.  Barron emphasizes the importance of our choices and that they do have eternal consequences.  Therefore, it is clear that Barron does teach that culpable ignorance is possible since more often than not people make poor moral choices, not out of pure evil, but because they have failed to heed the movements of grace within and do so out of a cultivated ignorance.  So once again, the charge against Barron here is a red herring and is the product of cherry picking from Barron’s numerous videos to find just the right “gotcha” moment.  And it is deeply uncharitable of Martin to cherry pick in that manner and it bespeaks a fundamentally dishonest, ad hominem orientation in the service of a deeper agenda. 

But worse still is the example Martin gives of an instance of culpable ignorance.  He says that if you were to invite someone who is a non-believer to a Matt Fradd lecture on Catholicism, and that person declined on the basis that he has a hunch what Fradd will say and he isn’t interested, that that is an example of the kind of culpable ignorance that is damnable. As in, “eternal torment in Hell” damnable, because someone refused to go to a Matt Fradd lecture.  One hopes that Martin was just making stuff up off of the top of his head and came up with this brain fart of an example on the spur of the moment. But in reality it is most likely what poker players call a “tell.” What it shows us is the utterly wooden and forensic understanding of salvation that Martin subscribes to.  He seems never to have read Newman on the topic and is woefully ignorant of the sociology and psychology of how and why people choose their religious commitments. It bespeaks a naivete about human psychological inertia, mimetic desire, and the role and importance of culture as the chief formator of our worldview. For example, on a few occasions I have had Mormon missionaries come to my door, and before they can even begin their pitch I tell them politely but firmly that I am not interested. And when I dismiss them “with prejudice” I am not the slightest bit concerned that I am now culpably ignorant of Mormonism.  God help me if Mormonism turns out to be the right answer in the religion lottery.  Martin has no idea, none, zero, nada, of why anyone would come to the conclusion that Matt Fradd is not for them.  Perhaps such a person was abused by a priest in his youth. Perhaps he was raised in a wretched form of fundamentalist Christianity and is so scarred by it psychologically that he has a visceral disgust for all things religious.  Perhaps he is just a dullard intellectually and is just drifting with the culture. In short, the entire life circumstances of that individual may have created barriers to accepting such an offer.  But according to Martin the wretched dude has had the Gospel offered to him and turned it down. If he dies at the moment he will go off to eternal torment. QED. The level of obtuseness to the human condition in Martin’s example is beyond insipid and borders on a kind of inhuman spiritual violence that actually cares very little about the complex humanity of the people Martin seeks to evangelize.  For Martin, the man who turned down the Matt Fradd invite isn’t a concrete person, a person with a real history, but an abstraction: one of the many millions of faceless culpably ignorant “others” destined, most likely, for hell.

Another “tell” is when Martin and Fradd say that Barron, in his many interviews with non-believers, never “pulls the trigger” on a true evangelization.  This is an even deeper ‘tell” than the previous one since it builds on it and doubles down on its inner rationale. Because what they mean by “pull the trigger” is that Barron in his various interviews does not take on the persona of a “preacher evangelist” and prefers instead to be a “teacher evangelist.”  Martin and Fradd interpret that style of evangelization as too tepid since it is unwilling to pull the trigger on the kerygmatic pistol at the key moment.  However, Bishop Barron, knowing that his interlocutors are intelligent people who would sniff out in an instant the inauthenticity of someone who was not really interested in a true conversation and an exchange of views, but was instead merely a clerical head hunter looking to convert, knows that they would ignore anything he had to say.  There is a distinction between evangelizing and proselytizing and Martin seems unaware of it.  Barron is an academic and a gifted teacher.  And I spent twenty years teaching undergraduates theology as well.  And one thing you learn quickly in dealing with a religiously mixed audience of modern skeptics is that the best form of evangelization is to simply “teach” the beauty of the faith, to explain its inner wisdom and to unpack its existential logic.  And I was enormously successful at that and I say that with full pride and without shame.  I brought many people to a deeper faith and many others to the faith.  And even the ones I did not convert, usually left my classes aware that Catholicism was a force to be reckoned with.  Had I opted instead to be an obnoxious, catechism thumping, trigger happy, nitwit I wouldn’t have had any success at all.  Barron gets invited to these interviews and is able to get interesting guests on his own broadcasts precisely because he is an intelligent and genuine interlocutor who makes Catholicism interesting and compelling.  But according to Martin, Barron is a passive evangelizer who sells out the faith for the sake of a false irenicism. You be the judge. Not everyone has to be a Catholic Billy Graham. And thank God Barron isn’t.

Ironically, the form of evangelization that Martin seems to favor is rather evangelical Protestant in tone and tenor:  “I have good news to share! God loves you so much that he sent his Son to die for your sins and take you to Heaven when you die.  But beware: You have now heard the Gospel preached and if you reject it now and then die that same God of love is going to torture you for eternity. Here is a tract that explains it all.”  No wonder Martin thinks Barron is a sissy girly-man on this issue.  For Martin, Gospel preachin’ is for real men who have the stomach for a God of bestial injustice.  In Martin’s universe it is actually better NOT to preach the Gospel to someone because given Martin’s wooden and legalistic premises, preaching the Gospel to a recalcitrant slacker is the spiritual equivalent of a game of Russian roulette, with most of the chambers loaded. Martin says that Barron’s views discourage evangelization.  I would assert the opposite: Martin’s views make me terrified to evangelize anyone at all.  Better to leave everyone in inculpable ignorance if his vision of salvation is true. 

The second criterion Martin lists for salvation outside of the Church is that the individual in question needs to be sincerely seeking God and that such seeking is in response to a true movement of grace to which the individual responds with a choice.  I think that is true and I wager Barron does too.  What is Martin implying here then when he says Barron ignores these criteria, which would include this one? Is he saying that Barron’s view is that everyone goes to heaven no matter what and therefore there need not be any genuine seeking after the truth of God?? If that is what Martin is accusing Barron of here, and I think it is, then it is just one more example of how despicable Martin can be in the pursuit of his agenda for a narrow reading of extra ecclesiam.  Balthasar is clearly lurking in the background here and he is in my view Martin’s real target, his real theological bete noir, and Barron is just caught in the crossfire.  And since Martin has already mischaracterized Balthasar’s views as a closeted universalism that makes the Church an irrelevant redundancy, then it makes sense that he is accusing Barron here of fomenting a view of salvation where everyone can just get on the concupiscence party bus and just let her rip with a good old fashioned orgy of libidinous excess,  all the while waiting for the inevitable ride to Club Heaven. Party on Garth. But once again, facts are a stubborn thing and Barron has repeatedly and trenchantly taught how important it is for all of us to find our truth in God’s truth which is why we must seek God sincerely.  And Barron does this so often, and in so many different venues, that only one who is seeking a reason to discredit Bishop Barron can miss them. Therefore, one cannot avoid the conclusion that Martin thinks Barron isn’t  just “misleading” in some of his statements, but is in fact a deceptive liar, since he does not seem to think that Barron’s many statements on this topic are genuine.  Which is yet one more reason why I am not buying Martin’s “respect and civility” genuflections as true. 

Finally, the third criterion Martin lists is that salvation outside of the Church must involve following one’s sincere moral conscience.  Martin affirms the reality of the natural law and that we all have an ability to see the moral law. Furthermore, Martin also correctly affirms that even with our reason following natural law we still need God’s grace to live it.  But Bishop Barron not only affirms this, but he makes it the centerpiece of his analysis and even invokes Newman’s line that conscience is the “aboriginal vicar of Christ in us all.” I am at a loss therefore to figure out why Martin thinks that this too is something in Lumen Gentium 16 that Barron ignores. Because not only does he not ignore it, he foregrounds it.  Perhaps what Martin is implying is once again something rather dark.  Perhaps he is just lumping Barron in with all of those other modern infidels who think that I am square with God so long as I am some kind of a “good person.”  That interpretation of what he means when he says that Barron ignores Lumen Gentium on the role of moral conscience as necessary for salvation is the most probable since it is the only one that makes sense in light of Martin’s constant insinuation that Barron is just an insouciant universalist.  And remember this: in Martin’s latest book he not only falsely accuses Balthasar of being a universalist but goes on to say that Balthasar and von Speyr, in embracing universalism, have fallen under the spell of a Satanic deception.  Therefore, by implication he must think the same of Bishop Barron.  Barron too has been Satanically deceived. 

Yeah, but Ralph Martin is a nice man who means well. And by the way, spare me the comments about how nasty I am being to poor old Ralph.  I have put forward arguments in this long essay.  Deal with those. Nor I am being unnecessarily pugilistic.  I am responding to a bully with force.  If I see a bully attacking my sister I am going to leap into the fray and punch the miscreant in the face.  And nobody would then dare say, “Hey dude, you just did the same thing he did!”  No I didn’t, and if you cannot see the difference between what I am doing here and what Martin has done, and continues to do, to good people in the Church, then please never read another one of my blogs. It is time for Ralph Martin to repent of his uncharitable attacks on perfectly orthodox church men and women of high stature and enormous accomplishments for Christ and His Church.  Because if he doesn’t, he might just find himself someday needing to justify his uncharity before the Lord, along-side of all of the folks who turned down an invite to a Matt Fradd lecture.

Dorothy Day, pray for us. 


  1. As always, THANK YOU. My sister and I have practically come to blows on the subject of questioning Bishop Barron’s fidelity to the Church’s teachings on salvation. Her husband ended it with a loud “ENOUGH!” in her direction. Which, to give her credit, she followed. I’ll hold onto this hoping a good opportunity comes up to share it. Anywhere it comes up.

    God bless you and your work on our behalf Larry.

    Get Outlook for iOS ________________________________

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It absolutely breaks my heart to see people “represent” the Catholic faith in such a manner as Martin and Fradd have in the podcast. I always think how sad Jesus must feel to see such negativity represent our faith, and have to remind myself that is why we all imperfectly human. I pray these men see the light, and the truly simple Gospel message that seems to be overlooked too often in our attempt to be “perfect” Catholics. Bless you Larry and Bishop Barron, you both do wonderful work for the Kingdom!

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  3. Thanks for this analysis, Dr Chapp.

    Just two small points:

    1. Vis a vis Martin’s “obsession”, in fairness to him this was brought up by Matt, and Martin merely responded. And in Matt’s defence, he’s interviewed Martin before (I think twice) so this was a bit of rehashing old ground purely due to timing of this interview and the last they had.

    2. Matt does long form discussions so this was 5-10 mins in a 2.5 hour interview – little videos like this are then cut up and released (alongside the longer one). Again, 5-10 mins in a 2 hour interview gives less of an obsessive vibe, although the short form video you were alerted to could certainly make it seem that way.

    Finally, I think it would be great if you could go on Pints with Aquinas. It’s a great podcast, and has actually had Barron on (I think twice before), so there is a wide variety of views presented. Matt himself says (no doubt quoting some saint or another) that “we should not demand uniformity where the Church allows diversity”, so I actually think you’ll have more in common than not. Matt’s audience does tend towards the traditionalist view, but not crazily so (there is quite a distinction between the Pints with Aquinas crowd and the Taylor Marshall crowd, for example). He also has people from the eastern Catholic churches on as well, so he is actually a big fan of the full breadth of opinions within the church.


    1. Hi Ben. Thanks for these comments. I too have done many podcasts with various podcasters and they were long but were then broken up into smaller chunks. And the small chunks are designed and edited to exist as stand alone segments. Therefore, I think I am thoroughly justified in merely responding to this shorter segment since it was presented by the podcaster himself as a stand alone piece. If Fradd thought it was misleading in its brevity then he should not have posted it. I can only assume therefore that he put it forward as a legitimate expression of their conversation on that topic. And Martin was responding to a question, but Martin had made a career of late “answering” that question. He now has a long track record of trashing good people in public just because they do not think Hell is deeply populated, as Martin does. And this is not the first video Martin has produced where he criticizes Barron on this topic. You seem to want to minimize Martin’s obsession with this issue by asking me to view it in a larger context. Trust me, I have no need to do so since Martin has published extensively on the topic and has made numerous videos on the topic. He is indeed both obsessed with and grossly unfair to Barron. Quite frankly, he should be ashamed of himself. You can minimize this if you want, but I stand by my criticisms. I am not criticizing you and I thank you for posting this, but I do not agree with you that there is a “bigger picture” here. Martin has framed a very big picture on this very topic over many years now.

      As for Matt Fradd this is the first time I have watched him. He has a good voice for podcasts and has a good visual presence. He is smooth and polished. I have many friends who follow him and like him. And so I have to defer to the experience of others here. But… I would never give a platform to Ralph Martin. He is uncharitable and a zealot on this issue of Hell. And giving Martin a platform with which to uncharibaly and unfairly criticize Barron is on Fradd. It is his show and he can put on who he wants. But if he is going to foreground someone like Martin I will gladly say no to watching his show. Furthermore, I can appreciate having all kinds of different guests on in order to cover a wide variety of views. But Fradd was doing more in this clip than merely allowing a guest to air his views. Fradd was agreeing with Martin. He was joining in on Martin’s stupid accusations and concurring with them. And it was Fradd who brought up the damn Shapiro interview again and it was Fradd who said Barron should have told Shapiro to repent. And it was Fradd who said Barron is not a heretic but he does mislead people and lead them down wrong paths. It was Fradd who agreed with Martin that Barron does not “pull the trigger.” So sorry, I am not impressed with Matt Fradd if he is going to indulge this kind of nonsense. And it is nonsense.


      1. Nice response, Dr Chapp. For what it’s worth, I have very little time for Martin on this topic – I think he’s correct in the sense that there is a crisis in the Church but his answers vis a vis this particular topic seem designed more to generate applause amongst a particular group of traditional Catholics rather than get to the actual issue.

        I also think the idea that “believe this or go to hell” is a good tool for evangelisation is nonsense. I’m much more on the Bishop Barron side of the argument, and I for one wish traditionalists would stop pointing to the Shapiro interview as some kind of evidence of Barron’s beige Catholicism – how anyone could view that interview and think that it was a negative for the Church’s message of truth is really beyond me.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for this article. I have been one of those rad-trads who put down Balthasar as one of those ‘ modernist heretics.’ What I really did, like all the others, is I relied on on others’ interpretations of him and did not read the source for myself. I was wrong, as are those with whom I am still good friends with. In some ways I feel like I am being drawn closer to the Church again through my encountering the ressourcement theologians and those who have been summarily dismissed by the traditionalist circle.

    Matt Fradd’s channel played a part in my conversion, so clearly he does good. Far too many others who criticize Balthasar and Barron cannot show how they have worked for the Kingdom of Heaven. This is especially noteworthy in their criticisms of Bishop Barron, the definitive leader of evangelism in North America. How can they say that his understanding of Balthassar would lead to passivity in announcing the gospel? Well, how could I have said that? For I did. and I was wrong.

    My heart needed to be massaged, to be broken in fact, in order to come to terms with it’s hardness. I pray that others stuck with a hardness of heart come to have it worked on. For we know God desires the salvation of everyone, how could I then not hope for God’s desire to be done?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Is Dorothy Day a canonized saint ? If not, mildly imprudent to sign off with the pray for us homage.
      I have alot of deceased friends and family i ask for prayers from too but would not presume in a public forum. Beyond this, I enjoy your blog very much. Keep up the good work, Larry.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. She is in the canonization process and is currently at the status of “Servant of God.” And you are allowed to invoke her intercession. In fact, it is part of the canonization process. She might intercede and get us a miracle!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Many of us have had a painful and long walk back from Tradicalism. Me included.

      Yes we were short-changed by liberal nonsense, but also short-changed by hardline, fear-driven Tradicalism.

      Our authentic Catholic heritage is rich, varied, lavish, glorious in its mercy and with room for all the birds of the air. But only the ones who want to be there.

      It’s nice to be out of the dark stable, and especially nice to be able to stop chanting “The Dwarves are for the Dwarves”.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Bravo Larry! I was struck by your example of the 21 year old Muslim woman unselfconsciously prepared her rug in order to pray in a university library (DeSales?). Reminds me of the agnostic/atheist and pleasure seeker Charles de Foucauld (1858-1916) who was so moved by his experience as a young man of the Muslims of Algeria and Morocco at prayer that briefly in his 20s he considered embracing Islam. Many roads to Damascus. Next year on May 15th God willing, the present bishop of Rome will enter his name in the canon of saints! Not bad for the kid who graduated last in his class at St Cyr, the French West Point. The last word again to Leon Bloy: “the only tragedy in life is to not die a saint”.

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    1. Yes this was at DeSales and I remember the day vividly. I was in our library looking to see if a book I had ordered for the library had arrived. And I saw this Muslim girl – – a young woman who I had in class at the time and who loved my theology class – – get out her prayer rug and prostrate herself on the ground in prayer. I saw many students who were there stop what they were doing and who were staring at her. At first they all had a look on their face of “what is she doing??” But that gradually morphed into a look of “damn, that is really cool.” The students at DeSales are really wonderful and kind generally speaking. And so it was very moving for me to watch these really great kids, most of whom were secularized Catholics and Protestants, grow teary-eyed as they watched this girl pray. And I dare say not one of them would have dared walk up to her after she was done praying and tell her she needed to “repent” or be damned. But what did happen with this young woman is that as a result of my class, and as a result of her many campus friendships with some really wonderful and intelligent Catholic students, she gained a deep appreciation for Catholicism and told all of her Muslin friends and family back home about what she was learning. No… she did not “convert”, but in a larger sense, yes she did. And it is that larger sense that Martin and his ilk disavow.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Unfortunately, many of us often repeat what we’ve read or heard from people we (erroneously) deemed credible. Matt Fradd is probably simply repeating someone else’s opinion on the subject (or their own repeating of someone else’s opinion). Bishop Barron’s ”dare we hope all people will be saved” has been the subject of criticism for a long time now, so much so that it may seem like there is a ”consensus” on the issue on the larger conservative side now. I’m not saying it is a just criticism, simply that it so widespeard that some people don’t question it anymore. But Matt is a man with a good heart. He would surely change his mind if he were presented a correct presentation of Bishop Barron’s worldview. I am sure he would be happy to have you on his show. I hope you two get together sometime.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for this great post, Larry. I just finished reading Barron’s The Priority of Christ, and I thought it was excellent. Never have I wanted so badly to know Jesus Christ and to become a saint. I’ve been a fan of Bishop Barron for a while, and Word on Fire was absolutely instrumental in bringing me back to the Church, especially at one of the worst times in history (it seems) to be in the Church! I also got that “hungering for God” after listening to Mozart’s Great Mass on repeat and reading The Divine Comedy during COVID–all of it evidence that beauty really is a path toward God, especially in such fractious and wounded times as these, both in and outside the Church. I know many people who have been converted, or begun a promising path to conversion, by Word on Fire (my dad, raised Lutheran, went to Catholic Mass every Sunday with my mom and my sisters growing up, but only entered the Catholic Church at age 61 after listening to Bishop Barron’s podcasts for about a year. He’s the happiest I have ever seen him.) 
    It’s funny, because this style of evangelizing–the one that says that one cannot be saved unless they are explicitly members of the Church, the extremely narrow reading–seems to me to be based on startlingly modern Enlightenment assumptions about how the human mind receives truth. Namely, the idea that we are all rational, autonomous tabula rasas (once we have reached age 18 or so, and our childlike stupidity has fallen off), and we are thus equally empty vessels, equally, neutrally predisposed to receiving the truth–having it dumped in you, pretty much, and if you haven’t accepted it in full, right in that very moment, then you have effectively damned yourself. Nowhere in that view, it seems, is there room for a flourishing Catholic culture, for family, for vocation, for a genuine love of God that stems from anything except a white-knuckled desire to avoid hell. It has sucked all the romance out of the Christian story, turning it (ironically) into a very mechanistic style of “evangelizing”–as long as you punch in the right equations, give the correct marketing spiel,then you’ve done it and anyone who receives these truths in a position “outside” and doesn’t accept them, is hopelessly damned. Weirdly, for trads who supposedly want a return of a robust Catholic culture of beauty in art, liturgy and social reality, it’s a view that treats all these things as trivial, at best incidental in forming saints. Those who criticize Barron for using Michaelangelo and Dante to evangelize as much as Aquinas, make the same mistake as the postmodern tourist does in approaching these treasures of the Catholic tradition–they are merely pretty accoutrements that belong in the museum or the literature classroom, but have nothing really to say to us spiritually. Why bother with beauty if sits and stirs in the soul and takes time to take root, to form the moral and religious imagination, to lead us gently to goodness and then to truth? The equation-puncher evangelist has no time for such trivialities. 
    It wasn’t until I read Barron, Newman and MacIntyre that I really understood this–we are not angels, we are not pure intellects, we operate and understand truth in the context of space and time and the “furniture” of reality. Thomas Aquinas was operating out of the profoundly Catholic culture of his time, with all of the assumptions undergirding it. So we are today. We take what we receive and we do with it what we can, operating on assumptions that we’re often not even aware of. Heck, Our Lord Himself willed to subject Himself to this most human of humilities! Isn’t this why we as Catholics honor the Blessed Virgin Mary so highly, not just because she bore Jesus from her womb, but that she raised Him and taught Him and situated Him in the Jewish culture and the entire history of Israel, and in which He as a child, gradually grew in “wisdom and stature and in favor with God and with men?”
    They say the Council Fathers were too naive about the wider culture’s view on the Church, and while that may be true, I think this style of evangelizing is even more naive. I’m one of the younger millennials, living in one of the most godless and liberal cities in the world, and I cannot emphasize enough how profoundly nihilistic this generation is. I don’t mean nihilitic in the 19th century, “grand” terms, like a Nietzsche or a Sartre. I mean in the technocratic terms, nihilism as “the gas you breathe,” I think Flannery O’Connor wrote in one of her letters. The mechanistic idea of the universe is so deeply and unquestioningly ingrained in our thinking, in the worldview that we have inherited (even, or especially from religious people), the pandemic and the economy has worsened that more, we are atomized and cynical as ever, that it’s no wonder that so many are attracted to the woke ideology–finally a narrative arc to history, finally something to live for! How do you proclaim Jesus Christ to this weary and cynical generation, a generation that has inherited these modes of thinking and didn’t just choose them because they were so relativistic and lazy? At least the pagans of antiquity has some idea of community values and martial valor and all that, on which the Apostles could build. It seems we have not even those natural platforms on which to build. What to do? We still have a capacity and a desire for beauty. Barron, Ratzinger, Balthasar et al. come in nicely here. They sure have for me. 

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Kate: This might be the single greatest thing anyone has ever posted in my combox. Thank you for taking the time to compose such a masterful analysis of the situation. I agree with every single word that you write here. In fact, you have put your finger on why I started this blog in the first place. Namely, to try and defend Vatican II”s insight into the changed conditions in which we find ourselves in the modern world and, therefore, of the need to radically rethink how we approach that world. And in so doing the Council chose to get away from a propositional understanding of salvation (which you correctly note is a thoroughly modern construct) and a narrow and exclusivist ecclesiology of “insiders versus outsidesrs, saved versus damned” and to move in the direction Barron and others foster. Having been a professor of theology who taught a mixed gaggle of skeptical undergrads for 20 years, I can only say your description of the landscape of their worldview is spot-on. And I know from experience that Barron’s approach – – attraction through beauty – – works, and the Martin approach – – believe this or go to Hell – – does not.
      Thank you, thank you for this lovely post. And thank you for reading the blog.


      1. Thank you! I have profited a lot from your blog, it has helped cut through the noise. I’ve learned a lot–please keep writing!


    2. Kate,
      I think your last paragraph deserves expansion. I suggest that Dr. Chapp allow you a guest post (seriously) to develop this very necessary discussion of how to evangelize the “nihilistic poor”. Or, perhaps this very specific discussion is ongoing somewhere and I haven’t connected to it (yet)? I see it in pieces in different places yet in a focused way. Anyway, this is precisely where our intellectual efforts should focus, especially for those of us moved by encountering so much of this poverty.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. @Kate: “Isn’t this why we as Catholics honor the Blessed Virgin Mary so highly, not just because she bore Jesus from her womb, but that she raised Him and taught Him and situated Him…”
      I don’t remember hearing or reading anyone who expressed it in just this way. Many books, prayers and hymns do focus on the bearing of the child Jesus in Mary’s womb. Another strand sees Mary’s fiat, her willingness to say yes to God, as the reason we honour her. Of course the third Joyful mystery is sometimes introduced as the “birth and CHILDHOOD” of the saviour, but immediately the HMs come onto the track and gallop along to the fourth mystery. As a question of what actually happens, not what should happen, I think the role of Mary in bringing up her child is not emphasised.

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      1. All very true! I suppose my main point was that, Our Lord willed it that He Himself would take on all of what it takes to be human. Meaning that He didn’t take on the form of an angel (a being that does know reality through space and time as we do, but purely through intellect) to enact the redemption, nor did He appear on earth already as an adult ready to begin His public ministry. Rather, He spent the first 30-ish years of His earthly life as we humans do–growing in a womb, being born an infant, being nurtured by a mother, being raised by parents, learning the world through the context of a family and a community and an entire history of a people. The fifth Joyful Mystery has always fascinated me in this regard–at age 12, what had He already known thus far when Mary and Joseph found Him at the temple, and what else did He still have to learn? What was it that caused those at the temple to be “amazed at His understanding?” I’m always cautious to speculate, and I’m sure pages of theology are written on this very topic that I’m unaware of. But speaking personally, it has deeply moved me that He willed to take on infancy, childhood and teenager-hood too. 


  8. Dr Larry Chapp, intuitively i also sensed a rather abject motivation in the comments of dr Martin regarding Bishop Barron, who inspired me to live our faith via his saying ” start with the beautiful, it will lead you to the good, and that will lead you to the truth”, i could not quite pinpoint it yet, but well i began skipping over his comments, losing interest. Thank you for analyzing this more in depth. On the solemnity of Our Dear Lord Christ Jesus, Christus Rex.

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  9. I really appreciated this article Dr. Chapp. Matt Fradd and Bishop Barron have been the two most significant evangelists for me in my conversion away from atheism and to Catholic Christianity, I am only now in RCIA so many of these issues are new to me. Since I started reading and listening to Catholic sources it has been discouraging to hear some of the uncharitable fighting between prominent Catholics. I think most of this only causes confusion to those who are interested, distracting from Christ and his Church and making people feel as if they have to “pick a side”. I thank you for cutting through the egoism within these debates. It really was a breath of fresh air when I first discovered your content.

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  10. Wonderful piece. Thank you again. Lightbulb moments for me:

    1) The Tradicals win few souls with love – so instead they try to drive people into the Church with fear. And anyone who isn’t doing it ‘the proper way’ – their way – must be selling Catholicism Lite. This would be how they explain away +Robert’s evangelical successes.

    2) The Tradicals are selling Gnosticism, not Catholicism. Only the lucky few who read the clues correctly, and get the secret decoding ring, and subscribe to the right video channel, make it through the narrow gate.

    3) Your mention of Islam is timely – the Tradicals are in fact Catholic Muslims, with the worst of both worlds.
    Conversion at the point of a sword? ✔️
    Theocracy as the ideal form of government? ✔️
    Belief in a distant, angry, and vengeful God? ✔️
    Veiled women with minimal rights, occupying an inferior rather than complementary position? ✔️
    Lots of under-employed or unemployed men who like sitting around all day talking endlessly about this stuff while their wives work? ✔️
    It would be better if they were just honest Muslims, because perhaps they’d have a better chance of getting to Heaven …

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    1. @Philippa Martyr – are you stating that Ralph Martin and Matt Fradd promote the five points ticked in point 3? Or should we look elsewhere for these Tradicals?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have never met either Mr Fradd or Dr Martin. I’ve had minimal engagement with their respective oeuvres as well.

        But I’ve met a bunch of people in Latin Mass circles, here and abroad, with the above rather grim outlook on life and on Catholicism.

        Much of Larry’s critique has gelled it for me.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. You don’t have to like Ralph Martin, but he is not a Tradical. He has been a leader in the Cursillo Movement, the Charismatic renewal, and a long-time defender of Vatican II. In the 70s, he was asked by Cardinal Suenens, one of the four moderators of Vatican Council II, to move to Belgium in order to work closely with him. He was was privileged to attend several private masses with JPII who praised Martin for his ecumenical efforts and was named Consultor to the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization by Pope Benedict XVI. He is the President of Renewal Ministries which does evangelization work in Africa, Vietnam, Northern Ireland, Eastern Europe, and other locales. He is the author of many books and has given many retreats to priests. Ralph Martin has made mistakes in his 50 years as a Catholic evangelist, but, again, he is not a Rad-Trad. I say this as someone who has read and has been edified by Hans Urs von Balthasar and Adrienne von Speyr.


      1. I believe I stated explicitly in my essay that he is not a rad trad. However, and despite his past accomplishments during a period in his career when he was far more irenic, he has indeed of late taken a turn to the Right and does indeed have some views that are very similar to those of the rad trads. He has changed his tone and become far less irenic since he re-invented his career as the grand slayer of universalism, which he sees everywhere. In latest book he has an absolutely execrable section where he accuses Balthasar and von Speyr of falling under the spell of Satan in a chapter devoted to all manner of evil doers like the abortionists and the nazis. To lead off that chapter with an attack on Balthasar and von Speyr, to accuse them of satanic influence, and to lump them in with such other awful people is just plain wrong. He should be ashamed of himself. And lately he has decided to nitpick and snipe at Bishop Barron for all of the same reasons. You can defend Martin all you want by appealing to his past, but I am more concerned with his present iteration as a theological bully taking unfair potshots at very fine people just because they disagree with his view that Hell is deeply populated.


    3. Wait are they gnostics or Muslims? Because those aren’t the same thing. Also do any of the things listed make you no longer Catholic? Perfectly happy to not be an integralist but calling them Muslims seems like a myopic view to both religions. Also why do those things possibly lead to Heaven when your Muslim and your 20 year old daughter is at Catholic school but not otherwise? Totally happy to dislike trads but we can’t just throw every name we can think of at them and hope something sticks.


      1. Jacob, it was a bit stream of consciousness – it was points gelling for me as I read Larry’s piece.
        I can see a strong gnostic streak in the more apocalypto-Trads, who really do want the decoding-ring version of the gospel.
        And I have wondered for a long time about the similarities between some Tradicals I know and their take on God and the faith generally, which is far closer to crude Islam than Catholicism. I’m not sure they can see the similarity themselves. This is a work in progress for me.
        And no, nowhere did I say that Ralph Martin or anyone else was a Tradical, especially not of the more extreme kind. I thought I’d made that clear by not mentioning them by name. But let me make it very clear by saying it here, for everyone’s benefit.
        Just for context: I know a local TLM Catholic family who believe that the sun rotates around the earth because ‘that’s what Scripture says’. I also know two middle aged practising Catholic fathers of families – one TLM, one NO – who believe the earth is flat. The TLM one is also a self-proclaimed MGTOW, but somehow his wife still does all the cooking and laundry for him. So I know some quite extreme people.


  11. Excellent. Thank you. And anyone who just watched Bishop Barron’s sermon on YouTube today —Sunday, Nov. 21— would see immediately that there’s nothing “lite” about his Catholic Christianity.

    On Sun, Nov 21, 2021 at 7:11 AM Gaudium et Spes 22 wrote:

    > Larry Chapp posted: ” “Begin with the beautiful, which leads you to the > good, which leads you to truth.” Bishop Robert Barron. A friend of mine on > Facebook recently tagged on my page a short YouTube clip of Dr. Ralph > Martin being interviewed by Matt Fradd on his podcast” >

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you Larry for your words and you passion! I like to read the sources and so I’ve read many of Bishop Barron’s books, as well as “Dare we hope …” by Von Balthasar and “Will many be saved?…”by Ralph Martin. I watched many of their videos as well. I chose to learn from both Bishop Barron and Ralph as they put their accent on certain aspects of salvation, with different styles and approaches to eveangelization. They both help me open my heart and mind to the beauty, truth and mercy of our Lord. The first part of LG 16 clearly opens the possibility of salvation outside of the Church (and I leave up to our Lord if those are few or many) The last part of LG 16 however is what should inspire all of us to bring Christ to a desperate world in any way we can: “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. Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, “Preach the Gospel to every creature”, the Church fosters the missions” God bless!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hear, hear! Well said, good doctor! Thank you!

      I would add that we must hold, as stated in Dominus Iesus: “If it is true that the followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation.”

      I acknowledge that it would almost certainly be counter-productive to lead with this statement in our conversations with non-Christians. But that’s a matter of evangelical strategy, not of what we believe.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I have to say first that, while being no expert on Matt Fradd, I have watched, enjoyed, and learned from many of his interviews, and this clip demonstrates an irresponsibility I had not seen from him in his past interviews. As you state, Fradd brought the topic on his own and didn’t clarify that he was woefully uninformed on Bishop Barron’s body of work but even pressed into it. Honestly, Fradd should know better about the “people just need the Gospel preached to them and they’ll convert” approach from his own conversion story and the numerous interviews he has done with people and their own conversion stories. These stories and interviews of people asking hard questions of the Gospels have, according to Matt, converted many people. Why Matt is not more prepared on this Bishop Barron topic with Dr. Martin is shocking. I mean, literally, scrolling through Barron’s YouTube page and picking the most interesting looking one (and Matt is not against scrolling through internet looking for stuff during his interviews).

    Sometimes I wonder if the traditionalists and traditionalist-lites forget the first rule of evangelization is that you convert no one. All you can do is plant seeds and let the Holy Spirit grow them and convert them.

    Also, I can’t stand people who say they don’t want to cause controversy and then cause controversy. Just own it.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Since there was no “Reply” button under your reply to me, let me say something here. My comment was a direct reply to Philippa Martyr who, at least implicitly, linked Martin with “Tradicals”. Ralph Martin may be a very flawed man but he is not a Tradical, Rad-Trad, or a proponent of the Tridentine Mass. I have stated on your blog before that I disagree with Martin’s view on Balthasar. In the same post, I spoke critically of his involvement with Covenant Communities which, to his credit, he repented of. I am not defending his views on Hell nor am I wading into the disagreement he has with Bishop Barron.


  14. “If I see a bully attacking my sister I am going to leap into the fray and punch the miscreant in the face.” Ha ha, so what are you saying about Bishop Barron? I am sure he appreciates your willingness to jump into the fray, but he might blanche at your comparing him to your sister! I have no doubt he’s man enough to defend himself if necessary.

    I have not listened to the Matt Fradd interview of Dr. Martin and likely won’t. Here’s the thing: we have no idea how many will be are saved. It is a fool’s game to spend so much time and energy speculating about whether all, or many, or few will be saved and what we can reasonably hope for in that regard. We may have our private opinions based on our reading of Scripture and the historical teaching of the Church, but I suspect this is one point on which God is not inclined to allow us to pin him down.

    But we do know that God wants all to be saved and that he has given us the ordinary, or normative, means for achieving our salvation in and through his Church. We should do everything we can to draw people to the Church and keep them there. It is so incredibly discouraging to read about PF telling Anglican clergy members not to convert, saying he does not want converts from other Christian traditions, but rather wants them to stay where they are, and publicly ridiculing or shaming Catholics who have successfully evangelized members of other religions so that they have accepted Christ and become Catholic.

    I believe Bishop Barron is doing probably the most effective evangelization work in the entire world. I know his weekly homilies, podcasts, articles, blog posts and videos have been very impactful for me. But he does seem to back off too far when a direct question is put to him in a public context: “So am I screwed?” or “Should I become Catholic?” I do think he could go further without becoming obnoxious. The answer should always be “”Yes, a million times yes, I believe you and everyone should become a Catholic! I believe the Church offers the surest path to salvation and I don’t want anyone to miss out on it. And we need you in the Church!” There is a way to gently and generously say “Yes, I think you should become Catholic” without being rude or boorish or saying “Yes, you’re screwed if you don’t convert. When Bishop Barron stops short of that in public conversation, I see it as a missed opportunity. In those situations, it’s not just his interlocutor, but his also his listening audience that needs to be taken into account. The last thing we should want is for listeners to come away with the impression that a Catholic bishop thinks it is not critically important for his interlocutor to become a Christian, or a Catholic.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I don’t have time for von Balthasar–there’s only so much time in a life, and I’m not going to try to read everything. Too many books to read as it is, at age 52.

    Bracketing that, I think Dr. Martin’s main problem is swiping at *Bishop Barron.* If you are worried about the functional indifferentism and loss of the evangelical imperative within the leadership of church, why go after the guy who’s most visible in trying to present the beauty of the faith to the world? Sure, one can disagree with and criticize the bishop…but don’t deny he’s evangelizing at all. Evangelism is not merely proclamation.

    Why go after Barron when there is no shortage of Catholic leaders or officially-sponsored gatherings where the Catholics present are amiable mutes or worse when it comes to the evangelical imperative?

    It reminds me of people who fret about the possible use of NFP with “a contraceptive mentality.” To which I reply: “Can we get NFP use to double-digits before we start checking motives?”


  16. I don’t know if you remember me, but I’ll go out on a limb:

    Hi Papist Pig!

    Martin’s comments on Bishop Barron remind me of a scene from the terrifyingly Catholic “Book of the New Sun”. Gabriel the Archangel meets a pair of demons and asks them if they’re his enemies. The demons deny the question, saying they are just as faithful servants of the Lord as Gabriel. When Gabriel asks the demons what the last message they heard from the demons remark God doesn’t talk to them anymore, so they have to guess as to what God wants.

    Gabriel sadly tells them he suspected as much, and pushes the matter no farther.

    While there’s a good amount of snark in this reply, as Kate so beautifully put it, Beauty and His encounter with our wretchedness, and the mercy of Beauty continuing in the face of our wretchedness, is true knowledge of God. Anything else confirms it. Dogma and doctrine confirm experience, you cannot substitute.

    And if you don’t have that first you kinda hafta guess with dogma, don’t you?

    The Orthodox Ethno Anarchist

    (For anyone confused, the esteemed Mr. Chapp had come onto a live stream I’d hosted. Unfortunately we experienced heavy and awful interference. But we found whenever we – a Roman Catholic and an Eastern Orthodox- insulted each other the stream got better.

    We had some fun.

    The stream died anyways. Turns out the stream figured it out.)


  17. Well said. Bishop Barron is orthodox in his presentation of the Faith. Dr. Ralph Martin seems guilty of the sin of scrupulosity, at least.

    On Sun, Nov 21, 2021 at 7:11 AM Gaudium et Spes 22 wrote:

    > Larry Chapp posted: ” “Begin with the beautiful, which leads you to the > good, which leads you to truth.” Bishop Robert Barron. A friend of mine on > Facebook recently tagged on my page a short YouTube clip of Dr. Ralph > Martin being interviewed by Matt Fradd on his podcast” >

    Liked by 1 person

  18. It is an interesting phenomena in the Church that we are overcome with a particular desire to attack successful evangelists (I know God cares more about our faithfulness than our successes, but it’s the most convenient word to use). At the same time Bishop Barron is being attacked by the likes of Martin, Taylor “I must delete my JP2 videos” Marshall, and other fear-mongering Trads, he is also the subject of renewed criticism from the left, from Sam “Wokeness is the way of Righteousness” Rocha, Michael Sean Winters at the Fishwrap, and now even Mark “You have a moral imperative to vote for the Democrats” Shea, who was once an inveterate fan boy (not an insult, I too am a proud Barron fan boy). Similarly, I’ve noticed a phenomena of attacking Scott Hahn, of all people, as a Trojan Horse for fundamentalism and everything else those nasty right wingers have infected the Church with. I remember reading criticisms of Ronald Knox and Martin D’Arcy from back in the day, and thinking they were rather quaint. Little did I know I’d be living in such a world. Leave it to Catholics to shoot themselves in the foot so readily and repeatedly. Dr. Chapp, I love this blog even when I disagree with it; I will pray for you, and keep up the good work.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I’m not sure what your rules are about commenting a 2nd time, separately from the first, but I’m going to comment anyway. I had not watched the Bishop Barron – Ben Shapiro interview until after reading this post, and I was pretty incredulous at Martin’s position after watching it, especially starting at the 46th minute when the Bishop starts talking the philosophical differences between Judaism and Catholicism, about re-Judaizing the Catholic faithful as an evangelical matter. I don’t really have much to add to what you have said here and in other posts. I also watched the John MacArthur – Ben Shapiro interview, which Ben references in his interview with Fr. Bishop Barron. While MacArthur can quote Bible chapter and verse like he’s reading box scores, I found his approach to evangelizing, especially a person of Ben’s intellect, the Bible for the Bible’s sake, to be rather not as convincing as compared to Bishop Barron.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You can post as many times as you want and as separate from previous comments as you want. I only have one rule on here for comments: no ad hominem personal attacks and/or insults to anyone. And I agree 100% with your comment so I am glad you made it!


  20. Thank you for the competent and humorous defense of Bishop Barron/critique of the typical internet apologist’s style. I note also from the liberal side, Barron gets a lot of flack for failing to criticize Shapiro/Peterson/others for making x or y comment they disagree with or find racist, sexist, etc. This is the flipside of the critique that Barron doesn’t similarly alienate his interlocutors by asking them to accept Jesus in their hearts or else face damnation. As most people understand, dialogue requires Barron and everyone else to hold off on going for the jugular in every conversation. Barron threads the needle of evangelization in these tough conversations well.

    Liked by 1 person

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