Fr. Robert Barron Explains the Catholic Faith

Jan 5th, 2011 | By | Category: Blog Posts

One of the great parts of working on Called to Communion is getting to know Protestants who are truly seeking to understand the Catholic faith. Sadly enough, there are many Catholics in greater need of a fundamental understanding of Catholicism than many of our Protestant readers.

But fortunately for all concerned, Fr. Robert Barron, professor of systematic theology at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois has spent the last several years working on the Catholicism Project.

The purpose of the project is to present the story of the Catholic Church on its own terms by bringing viewers to the places where the Catholic story has taken place over the last two millennia. The 10 part video series, which will be available this fall with accompanying study guide, has been a labor of love for Fr. Barron. He’s spent the last several years putting this vivid, hands-on look at the Catholic Church together, and from the looks of it, it’s really paid off. Check out the latest trailer below:

I’m eager to use the program for my parish youth group, and I’m sure it will be a great resource for many Catholics and Protestants alike in gaining a deeper knowledge of the Catholic faith. On Fr. Barron’s site you can see more previews from each of the different locations he traveled to for the series and find out more about the project’s goals and methodology.

Fr. Barron also does regular video commentaries on cultural issues like current films and books that you can see on his Word On Fire YouTube channel. He also features conversations with important cultural figures like his series of discussions with former protestant pastor and current Catholic theology professor Scott Hahn that touch on many of the issues that continue to separate Catholics and Protestants. You can get a taste of those conversations in the video below:

We’re fortunate to be living in the time of this new evangelization that Pope John Paul II spoke of, where the power of new media can help Christians spread the message of Christ to greater audiences than ever before. I’m particularly thankful for the tireless work Fr. Barron is doing and I hope you’ll take a few minutes to check his work out too.

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  1. I download and listen to Fr. Barron’s weekly homily as well. He is fantastic.

  2. I particularly appreciate the way Barron engages the culture. He doesn’t look down his nose at it or bash, nor does he become a part of it. It’s a refreshing approach, reminiscent of Sheen, and a good way to evangelize.

  3. Gentlemen:

    I like what Fr. Barron is trying to do, but he needs to be more careful sometimes. Thus, I agree with most of what he and Prof. Hahn say in the video, but I think Barron erred in linking voluntarism to the Scotistic thesis of the univocity of ‘being’. That’s a separate issue. The real problem in Duns Scotus is what the Pope pointed out in his 2006 Regensberg address:

    In contrast with the so-called intellectualism of Augustine and Thomas, there arose with Duns Scotus a voluntarism which ultimately led to the claim that we can only know God’s voluntas ordinata. Beyond this is the realm of God’s freedom, in virtue of which he could have done the opposite of everything he has actually done. This gives rise to positions which clearly approach those of Ibn Hazn and might even lead to the image of a capricious God, who is not even bound to truth and goodness. God’s transcendence and otherness are so exalted that our reason, our sense of the true and good, are no longer an authentic mirror of God, whose deepest possibilities remain eternally unattainable and hidden behind his actual decisions.

    If we can know only what God actually does, and cannot explain what he does by a true account of his nature in se, then we cannot say what divine revelation actually reveals about God’s nature. All we can say is that God, being sovereign, must be worshiped and obeyed. That yields a number of bad consequences which fully flower in the Reformation and modernity in general.


  4. Though this trailer didn’t say anything about priestly celibacy, I was hit upside the head with a realization as I watched it… I realized just how tough it must be for a priest with a family to really devote himself to his priestly vocation. Look at all that Fr. Barron does. I’m not saying that married priests CAN’T sufficiently fulfill the duties which pertain to both roles. But were I a priest, either my family or my role as a priest would suffer, it seems. Imagine a married father of young children dedicating himself wholly to the development of his intellect, the various disciplines of the ordained life, and in Fr. Barron’s case, an undertaking of this magnitude. There is wisdom in the discipline of priestly celibacy. Praise God for the dedication of men like Fr. Barron.
    As for the married man, ” (he) is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided.” But for a priest: “(his) secret is easy … give everything away and keep nothing for yourself” -St. John Vianney

  5. (continued)
    What I guess I’m saying is that Fr. Barron provides such a model for priestly dedication that were he to represent the norm among priests, I imagine the perpetual row over priestly celibacy would fade away. People would look at priests and say “Well, of course he couldn’t be a priest AND have a family!”

  6. Mike,

    I entirely agree with you/Hahn/Barron/BXVI regarding the problem of voluntarism. Just a technical question. Are you saying that Scotus endorses a problematic voluntarism, but that this has little or nothing to do with his notion of univocity? I am, of course, no Scotus scholar; however, I am very interested in understanding the trajectory of epistemology from the Middle Ages to the present. If Scotus’ voluntarism is not located/attached to his notion of univocity, do you have an idea how he gets there epistemically? I suppose I have the idea that somehow Scotus must be fudging on Aquinas’ analogy of being in order to arrive at his problematic voluntarism. However, at this point, it is difficut for me to understand EXACTLY where Scotus stands on the issue. He is after all the doctor subtilis

    Pax et Bonum,


  7. Herbert — Thanks for the comments. You’re dead on. I came to the same realization when I first went to Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church in Homer Glenn, Illinois where Fr. Thomas Loya, the pastor there, wrote most of the icons that cover the walls of the Church.

    It was readily apparent to me that Fr. Loya could never have created the amazing labor of love that is that beautiful Church if he’d had a wife and children to attend to every day—at least not without being a lousy father and husband. Fr. Barron is much the same way with his media ministries.

    May God grant us the grace of more priests who take full advantage of their freedom in Christ to serve the Kingdom! And may we all remember to pray for our priests regularly as they are at the center of the spiritual battle.

  8. Ray:

    I interpret Scotus’ thesis of the univocity of being to mean that whatever exists in any fashion–non-living or living, extramental or merely mental, finite or infinite–can be said simply to “exist,” and that existence in that unqualified sense is the same for whatever exists. My difficulty with that thesis is that it seems to confuse language with what language is about. Assuming that whatever exists can be said simply to exist, it doesn’t follow that ‘…exists’ amounts to more than the existential quantifier, i.e. is an actual predicate standing for something univocal across categories of existence. That latter understanding of ‘…exists’ actually makes no sense to me.

    But even if ‘…exists’ is such a predicate, no form of voluntarism follows either. Scotus’ moderate voluntarism arises from two other theses: the characteristically Franciscan thesis of the priority of will over intellect, and the claim specific to him that God’s primary attribute is “infinity.” That entails that there’s a real distinction between God’s potentia absolutaand his potentia ordinata. If there is no limit to the former other than the laws of logic, then we cannot explain how God gets from the infinity of what he could will to the uniqueness of what he actually does will, save by the exercise of his sovereign will.

    That said, I’m not a Scotus specialist either, and I know a few Scotus specialists who have been critical of the Pope’s remark. But I think we can safely say that Scotus’ moderate voluntarism set the stage for the more radical voluntarism that we find later in Nicholas of Cusa, Ockham, and Biel.


  9. Mike,

    “But I think we can safely say that Scotus’ moderate voluntarism set the stage for the more radical voluntarism that we find later in Nicholas of Cusa, Ockham, and Biel.”

    Yeah, that’s what I am coming to as well. Even if a case can made that Scotus himself was not pushing an ockhamist form of voluntarism, his approach and difficult style seems to have at least opened the door to the same.

    Thanks for the thoughts.

    Pax et Bonum,


  10. Matt- I just visited the link you provided in comment #7. I’m blown away! “Something beautiful for God” indeed! Let us pray for a real vocation boom in the coming years.

  11. Matt and herbert:

    There’s already a vocations mini-boom in those dioceses and religious orders led by faithful and zealous people. Vocations will boom elsewhere if and when the same leadership develops elsewhere. But for that to happen, the general level of fidelity and zeal will have to rise among rank-and-file Catholics. So far that doesn’t seem to be occurring.

    At most of the Masses I attend, you’d never know from observing the countenance and activity of the congregation that they aren’t attending a funeral. I get reverence and even approve of it, but there is such a thing as joyful reverence, and I don’t see that in most “faith communities.” I see people who look depressed. Perhaps all they’re depressed about is missing a bit of brunch and/or football, but there it is.

    The good thing about what Fr. Barron is doing is that it will expose many people to the astounding riches of the Catholic Faith and Church. That should have some effect. But I suspect it will have less effect on bored and complacent cradle Catholics than on the many Spirit-filled Protestants whose attitude is, for the most part, what that of Catholics ought to be.


  12. […] Original post here: […]

  13. While we are on the topic of vocations, I ask the prayers of the Called to Communion Community for me as I am ordained to the Transitional Diaconate one week from today, on Sunday January 16th.

    Even though I don’t often comment, this site has been a tremendous source of encouragement for me during my final months in the seminary.

    Thank you all,


  14. Bryan,

    We will definitely keep you in prayer and I will offer you as an intention in our Family Rosary this evening. May God continue to lead you ever deeper into the mystery of His self-giving love.

  15. Bryan — You can add my family’s Rosary tonight to the list as well. Thanks for entering into the Lord’s service! Glad to hear CtC’s been helpful to you.

    Mike — Thanks for that encouraging info. I read a study recently, seems like in First Things, that seemed to say that vocations elsewhere in the world are more than making up for any lack of vocations here and, as you say, vocations to faithful orders and dioceses seem to be on the rise as well.

    That said, I think you’re probably right about who’s going to be reached by Fr. Barron’s project. But how do we re-ignite the flame in the hearts of the rank and file?

  16. Bryan – thanks for commenting. We’ll definitely keep you in our prayers!

  17. Bryan Ochs (#13):

    Congratulations and thanks! I have prayed for you.


    The best answer I can think of is: “more families like yours”!


  18. I would like to respond to the charge that I “erred” in linking Scotus’s voluntarism to his univocal conception of being. There is indeed a strong connection between the two. Once God is construed as one being, however supreme, among many, then the metaphysical links that tie creatures to God are severed and therefore the relation between us and God is established primarily through will. To see the details of the argument, I’d recommend my book The Priority of Christ, but that’s the very real connection between voluntarism and a univocal conception of being.

  19. I’ve posted some informal remarks on Fr. Barron’s book ‘The Priority of Christ’

  20. Also, regarding the Hahn video, Scotus was considered part of the via antiqua during the late middle ages.

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