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Fr. Barron makes incredible statements regarding the number of the elect December 4, 2012

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, contraception, Dallas Diocese, error, foolishness, Four Last Things, General Catholic, persecution, priests, scandals.

I’ve written before regarding well known Fr. Robert Barron’s embrace of a view of salvation potentiality, or the number of the elect (how many will be saved?), which tends towards universalism, or the idea that everyone, or virtually everyone, is saved, Catholics, protestants, atheists, etc..  A new book has been written by Professor Ralph Martin, a professor of systematic theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.  Fr. Barron comments on this book here.  I haven’t read the book by Dr. Martin, and had never heard of it prior to this review by Barron, so I’ll have to take Barron’s analysis at face value.MartinRalph

From what Fr. Barron states, it appears that Martin’s book is an attempt to counter the growing, and, from the traditional Catholic viewpoint, highly suspect idea that a truly “loving God” would never condemn anyone to hell for all eternity, or, at the most, only those who are truly monstrous, the various Stalins, Lenins, Pol Pots, and Mao Tse Dungs of the world.  Much of this recent, and to me very dangerous, belief, stems from the writings of Karl Rahner and Hans Urs von Baltasar, which Fr. Barron notes.  Martin’s book apparently takes many of the arguments of Rahner and von Baltasar apart quite well – Barron claims Martin “scores important points aganst both Balthasar and Rahner.”

So far, so good, Barron seems to be accepting much of what Martin relates, which as near as I can tell is the traditional, majority view of the Church.  But, then, at the end, he suddenly switches course, and then makes a really inappropriate, utterly unfair comparison.

Barron towards the end swerves back towards his previous embrace of a much more universalist position, by citing Pope Benedict’s encyclical Spe Salvi, written in 2007.  I’ve read the sections of Spe Salvi in question, and I will say that Barron gives a fair overview of the text, but I would also add that this text raises a whole host of questions, which Barron glosses over (my emphasis below):

 In a note buried on page 284 of his text, Martin cites some “remarks” of Pope Benedict XVI that have contributed, in his judgment, to confusion on the point in question. He is referring to observations in sections 45-47 of the Pope’s 2007 encyclical “Spe Salvi,” which can be summarized as follows: There are a relative handful of truly wicked people in whom the love of God and neighbor has been totally extinguished through sin, and there are a relative handful of people whose lives are utterly pure, completely given over to the demands of love. Those latter few will proceed, upon death, directly to heaven, and those former few will, upon death, enter the state that the Church calls Hell. But the Pope concludes that “the great majority of people” who, though sinners, still retain a fundamental ordering to God, can and will be brought to heaven after the necessary purification of Purgatory. Martin knows that the Pope stands athwart the position that he has taken throughout his study, for he says casually enough, “The argument of this book would suggest a need for clarification.”

Obviously, there is no easy answer to the question of who or how many will be saved, but one of the most theologically accomplished popes in history, writing at a very high level of authority, has declared that we oughtn’t to hold that Hell is densely populated. To write this off as “remarks” that require “clarification” is precisely analogous to a liberal theologian saying the same thing about Paul VI’s teaching on artificial contraception in the encyclical “Humanae Vitae.”

That is the totally unfair and ridiculous statement from Fr. Barron that utterly shocked me.  For there is no comparison between finding the Pope’s position as put forward in Spe Salvi regarding the relative number of the electm as needing more study/clarification, and apostasy from the constant teaching of the Church regarding contraception.0

I don’t know the number of the elect. Nor does any Saint, mystic, Doctor of the Church, nor any Pope, theologian, or anyone in the Church.  I personally share the fear of many great Saints that the number of the elect may be very, very much smaller than we think, but I don’t KNOW the number at all. On this blog, that’s all I’ve ever done.  In fact, the Church has stated definitively that NO ONE can ever know the number of the elect, or who in particular may be damned.  Because we can’t peer into men’s souls and really know the content thereof.  The Church has made dogmatic statements about certain conditions regarding salvation – being in the state of supernatural Grace being the the foundation – but it has never stated that person X or Y was damned.  By the Grace of God and a dispensation to His Church, the Lord does reveal by certain signs that souls are in Heaven – these are the Saints we know, which revelation God makes known to give us models for our earthly life and to encourage us in the way to salvation.  But as for the damned, we are really in the dark, all private revelation aside.

So, when the Pope writes in Spe Salvi about the relative number of the elect, I don’t take this to be a dogmatic statement, and neither did Martin.  He seems to feel that the Pope’s statements need a lot of discussion and scrutiny, and I agree, because there is muct to be unpacked there, far more than Barron reveals.  He is not reinforcing or restating some long held Doctrine of the Faith.  He is instead giving an opinion that must carry much weight because of the Office the Pope holds, but on this subject in particular, where the Church has made dogmatic statements to the effect that it has no way of knowing the number of the elect or their percentage, it is too much to say that one must give religious assent – de fide assent – to such a claim by the Pope.  Martin may have trivialized it excessively, I don’t know, but the Pope giving his opinion on this matter does not obliterate all the prior tradition and Magiserial statements.  From what I glean from this review, it appears that Martin is re-stating the traditional belief of the Church – by far the “majority opinion” – regarding the number of the elect.

In Humanae Vitae, however, in spite his strong personal disinclination to do so, Pope Paul VI was restating a constant, authoritative, I would say dogmatic belief of the Church.  Because he was not defining something new, but restating a constant belief made more forcefully in numerous other statements by many other Popes, Saints, bishops, priests, religious, theologians, etc., those statements DO require religious assent, and the assent of Faith.  They must be accepted, because this is the constant belief of the Church.  There are many other reasons for acceptance, of course, – the natural law, the proven dangers of contraception, the destruction it has caused in the culture, etc, etc,

In point of fact, I read that statement by Barron as virtually an emotional outburst against Dr. Martin, an attempt to utterly silence debate on this subject.  It is a shocking, amazing statement, because there is no comparison in terms of the doctrinal authority of the beliefs reaffirmed in Humanae Vitae, and the theological ruminations engaged in by Pope Benedict in a small portion of Spe Salvi. Fr. Barron also fails to mention his own bias in the review, which should have been related -he has written extensively on this subject, and has put forth public views that, as I said, tend toward universal salvation.  Certainly, a man of Fr. Barron’s theological background should be very capable of making the distinction between the authority in various papal statements. Not all statements in encyclicals carry the same weight, as it were – any 3rd year undergraduate theology student should know this fact cold.  It is particularly gauling that Barron would claim Martin is acting out in dissent, when, as I have already stated, his appears to be merely restating the dominant belief of the Church which held sway for centuries, before the revolution of the mid-20th century occurred.

One other point. Early in the review, Fr. Barron makes reference to the fact that while many Saints have claimed that the number of the elect is very small (St. Augustine, St. John of the Cross, St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Albert the Great, St. Bernard of Clairvaux…..in short, the greatest theologians in the history of the Church almost unanimously origenshare this viewpoint, and as great as Pope Benedict XVI may be, I am not prepared to put him in the category with any of the above), there are some Saints who feel that many or most are saved. He alludes to St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Maximus the Confessor, and……..Origen.  Really?  Origen?  Who was excommunicated after death and had his belief in universal salvation specifically rejected at a Council of the Church?  Ooops……that’s right……universal salvation has already been condemned by the 2nd Council of Constantinople as heretical.   Fr. Barron fails to relate any of this in hanging his hat on Origen, nor does he relate that the early Church, in the 4th and 5th centuries, definitively turned its back on ideas of universal, or even near-universal, salvation.  That might have been an important point to make, since he is excommunicating Dr. Martin for refusing to give a Pope’s encyclical statement the weight of dogma.

A final note: some may say, well, if the Church can’t judge definitively how many are saved or damned, how can it reject universal salvation?  The answer is because the Church is not being that specific, it is simply rejecting that none will be damned, because we have Christ’s assurance that damnation is a possibility for all, and statements in the Gospel state plainly that people do go there. It is counter to both Scripture and Tradition to claim that all will be saved.  And there is the gravest doubt expressed in conciliar statements, the statements of many popes, I could go on and on, about the number of the damned being minute.

This argument about the number of the elect is no sidelight for Fr. Barron – it cuts to the core of his theology.  Again, any reviewer worth his salt should make plain his own biases when reviewing others work.

Thanks to Dr. Jay Boyd for the linka.


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