It is well known that Bishop Barron doesn’t like something he refers to as “wokeness” or “CRT” or a variety of other names that describe the same thing, however unclearly. I believe his admonitions demand concrete examples and better arguments to clarify. I think he ought to submit to scrutiny and dialogue with those who disagree with him to a degree that might discomfort him. But these demands are in many ways routine and not enough. My concerns are not limited to pedantic fact-checking.
Over the years, I have expressed similar concerns and criticism about the influence of other popular figures who appealed to sizable numbers of Roman Catholics such as Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option and Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life. Even my trenchant criticism of Donald Trump was principally concerned with the moral effects of his cultural politics and persona. But none of these figures is a Roman Catholic. Not one of them is an auxiliary bishop. Barron is categorically different and, for that reason, I have tried, and will continue to try, to measure my response. But that same measure increases my sense of urgency. I want to make sure there is some record of why I am doing this and what I think is important about it. I do not want to give the wrong impression.
In future work, I will do some deep dives into the intellectual histories and conceptual claims that Barron is appealing to and making. I may try to track the optics and content of his range of intellectual associations, especially his interaction with, and repetition of, the thought of Jordan Peterson. We can get into a lot of details here and I do believe that the details matter.
I think figuring out what is bad about what he says is bad, and asking if it is so bad after all, matters. I think looking at counterexamples of Catholics who engage with Marxism (e.g., McCabe), postmodernism (e.g., Marion), and Critical Theory (e.g., Benedict XVI), and secular thought in general (e.g., Augustine and Aquinas) is important. I wish we could better appreciate the bishops whose witnesses and ministerial testimonies contradict Barron’s assertions. I think turning a blind eye to Liberation Theology is a huge problem in his work. But none of this intellectual work matters more to me than the real pain that Bishop Barron is causing his flock.