Ben Shapiro recently had Bishop Robert Barron on his show. You can watch the full interview here. I want to draw our attention to one very specific question posed to the Bishop.
@ minute 16:45
Shapiro : “I’m a Jew. I follow the Law. Can I go to Heaven”?
Barron: “Yes…the Catholic view…go back to the 2nd Vatican Council says it very clearly….I mean Christ is the privileged route to salvation…that is the privileged route….However, Vatican II clearly teaches that someone outside the explicitly Christian faith can be saved….it might be received according to your conscience….Now that doesn’t conduce to a complete relativism…We would still say the privileged route and the route that God has offered to humanity is the route of His Son…but no, you can be saved..uh…even Vatican II says that an Atheist of good will can be saved…..because in following his conscience…John Henry Newman said the conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ in the soul…it is in fact the voice of Christ…when I follow my conscience, I’m following Him..whether I know it explicitly or not…so even the atheist of good will can be saved”.
What to make of this answer?
Well, for starters, I think that his answer, objectively, is as good as telling Ben Shapiro that he is alright to continue as a Law-keeping Jew, as long as his conscience guides him, and he should make it to heaven regardless of whether he accepts Jesus as Lord and Messiah of Israel or doesn’t. Thus, objectively speaking, Barron’s basic answer to the question is explicitly opposed to the answer given to this question by Jesus Himself and the Holy Spirit speaking through the Apostle Paul. When a Jew asked our Lord “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life”? (Matt 19:16-22), our Lord responded saying, “..keep the commandments”, to which the Jew responded “I have kept all these”. Then, Jesus said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, then come, **follow Me**” (Mark 10:21). Notice our Lord includes following Him as something which the man lacked on his pursuit to attain eternal life. Barron concealed this to Shapiro, and to the watching world.
Secondly, after St. Paul had preached in a Synagogue in Antioch about the fulfillment of God’s promises in Jesus’s resurrection from the dead on the Sabbath, the Jewish people had rejected his message, and contradicted what Paul had said. Then, Paul responded with the following: “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you reject it and judge yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we are now turning to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46). Notice, St. Paul says that the Jews, by unbelief, have condemned their souls. He says they have “judged themselves unworthy of eternal life”. For Paul, disbelief to the revealed and spoken gospel of the Lord certainly had an affect on their spiritual destiny. And yet Barron conceals that aspect to Shapiro, and the watching world.
Christ Himself could not have been more clear when he commanded the Apostles saying, “Go and preach the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. Whoever does not believe, will be condemned“ (Mark 16:15-16). St. John writes: “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). The Quicunque Vult, otherwise known as the “Athanasian” Creed, states: “Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith“.
Even Lumen Gentium, the document of Vatican II most devoted to the subject of ecclesiology and soteriology, states the following: “Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved.” (14). If we read that carefully, Vatican II is saying that it is **commanded** by the Lord Jesus as necessary to exercise faith in the one true gospel and to receive sacramental Baptism for the destiny of eternal life. Consequently, anyone who rejects the Lord’s command cannot be saved.
When he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger said the following in Dominus Iesus: “This truth of faith does not lessen the sincere respect which the Church has for the religions of the world, but at the same time, it rules out, in a radical way, that mentality of indifferentism ‘characterized by a religious relativism which leads to the belief that ‘one religion is as good as another”. 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“. In other words, even in the elastic, speculative, and vastly liberal statements in Vatican II and its post de facto clarification documents, there is the added note that those outside the Church, and especially those disbelieving in the Lord Jesus, are in a gravely dangerous predicament if they fail to investigate and conclude in agreement with the data of divine revelation as promulgated by the Catholic Church.
Barron has misled Shapiro by not even mentioning that he is bound by the Law of God to believe in the Lord Jesus, be baptized, and join the Catholic Church. Focus was placed on conscience, and its liberties; rather than the necessity of one’s proper formation of that conscience in light of God’s revelation. As our Lord said, those who disbelieve will be condemned. That is not an emotional reaction of our Lord. It is a promise of condemnation. And yet Barron is here completely concealing this from the public. Why? Is is awfully misleading. It would be like if someone were to ask a Priest, “Father, I’m living with my girlfriend, having sex outside of marriage…am I eternally screwed”? and the Priest responds, “Naw…just make sure your not in mortal sin by doing it”. Um? Misleading, to say the least.
To make matters even worse, he brings Blessed John Henry Newman to the fore, as if his oft cited comment on the conscience being the Aboriginal Christ would somehow endorse this crypto-indifferentism (yes, I realize Barron attempted to exclude relativism) . Newman would have been disgusted with the way Barron answered this question. On the contrary, Newman was zealous to convert his close associates in the Oxford Movement (the movement of High-Church Anglicans or Anglo-Catholics). He did not call people into the Catholic Church as if it were a more “privileged” option among the world religions. On this point, the late Fr. Stanley Jaki summarized Newman’s position on this quite well after having read all his letters to converts:
“Therefore, he felt not only that they [Anglicans] had a grave responsibility to nudge them forward in that move so that they might save their souls. This and nothing else was in Newman’s eye the sole rationale for conversion. He did not call others into the Church as if it were a fuller depository of truth and a more satisfying source of spiritual experience. For him, belonging to the Church was a matter of life and death, eternal in both cases. His letters to converts convey his visceral conviction about a truth which was an existential truth in his eyes….Newman’s theological discourse was existential because he kept in focus that one’s eternal existence was at stake in the decision about whether or not to convert. He singled this out as his sole reason for converting. As a Catholic he never ceased to underline this point by calling prospective converts’ attention to the Roman Church as the ‘”One True Fold’, that is, the only legitimate framework of salvation. He never referred to other Churches as partial realizations of the true Church. He resisted any such trend as promoted in his day. by some Anglicans and Catholics..All his life Newman kept returning to the phrase, ‘One True Fold’, and especially in his dealing with prospective converts” (Newman to Converts: An Existential Ecclesiology, Pg. 8-9)
None of this, however, comes as a surprise. Barron has already been on the record for suggesting, alongside Hans Ur Von Balthasar, that we can have a reasonable hope that all men are saved and awaiting the resurrection unto everlasting life. I’ve written about this extensively elsewhere here and here. Now, to the one who will balk at this critique and insist that Bishop Barron does not deny anything I’ve said, I will say this. And? If he doesn’t deny it, why did he conceal this from Ben Shapiro? I understand there is a need to be ecumenical, and to build bridges, etc,etc. But to short change your dialogue partners by concealing the whole truth for the sake of those bridges, there is a disorder in methodology, and ultimately a malfunction in the Lord’s commission to make disciples of all nations.