Tag Archives: USCCB

The USCCB Meeting, Jordan Peterson, and the “Nones”

It appears that the mere mention of the name Jordan Peterson is enough to send some on the far-left end of the spectrum into irrational conniptions.

BY: George Dunlap. I have read Jordan Peterson’s book, 12 Rules For Life, and found it to be very enlightening. As Bishop Barron mentions below, ” in no way signaled a one-sided or uncritical endorsement of his teaching. Nevertheless, his emergence and his success are, I argued, indicators that we could get a serious message across to a wide audience. “ But I do agree what Peterson has to say is very worth while for our “Nones” in faith. We are raising a generation with out a spiritual compass. With a compass we all are lost in our faith and love to Jesus Christ our Lord and God.

Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron responds to a reporter’s question during a news conference at the spring general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore June 12, 2019. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

June 18, 2019 Bishop Robert Barron The Dispatch25

Last week, I gave a presentation at the USCCB Spring Meeting in Baltimore. My topic was what I identified as the second greatest crisis facing the Church today—namely, the massive attrition of our own people, especially the young. I trust that the first—around which most of our discussions that week revolved—is obvious to everyone. Judging from the extremely positive reaction of my brother bishops and the lively conversation that followed my presentation, the talk was well received. I was also delighted it apparently prompted a spirited conversation on social media.

After laying out the rather dismal statistics regarding the “nones” or the religiously unaffiliated—50% of millennial Catholics now claim no religious identity, for every one person who joins our Church, six are leaving, etc.—I commenced to offer some reasons why so many are exiting. I told my brother bishops that these were not the fruit of idle speculation but rather of the many statistical and sociological studies that have been conducted regarding the phenomenon.

The number one reason—reiterated in survey after survey—is that young people are quitting the Church because they don’t believe in the teachings of classical Christianity. Moreover, the studies consistently maintain that this lack of belief is often because religion is seen as conflicting with science. Other factors, I continued, include the general secularism and moral relativism of the culture, the difficulty many young people have with the Church’s sexual teachings, and the supposed correlation between religion and violence.

Having presented these findings, I then shared what I take to be signs of hope. The first is that, among the unaffiliated, there are relatively few fierce atheists or determined opponents of religion. Most are indifferent to faith and have drifted rather than stormed away from the Church. A second indicator of hope is the massive presence of young people on social media platforms that trade in religious topics. I mentioned my own participation in a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), which yielded almost 12,000 comments and questions, making it the third most discussed exchange of its kind last year. Even though many, if not most, of those who joined in that conversation proposed challenging questions, or made skeptical observations, the undoubted interest in matters religious is something to build on.

Finally, I referenced what I called “the Jordan Peterson phenomenon.” I was drawing my brothers’ attention to the rather extraordinary fact that a mild-mannered, soft-spoken psychology professor, speaking of serious matters in a sober way, could attract tens of thousands to arenas and millions to his social media sites. I told my fellow bishops that most recently Peterson has been lecturing on the Bible, causing armies of people, especially young men, to take a fresh look at the Scriptures. I explicitly said that my reference to Peterson in no way signaled a one-sided or uncritical endorsement of his teaching. Nevertheless, his emergence and his success are, I argued, indicators that we could get a serious message across to a wide audience.

The reaction to my talk outside the walls of the bishops’ conference ballroom was, as I say, interesting. Most reacted very positively to my observations and suggestions, but some, on both the extreme left and the extreme right, took exception to what I said. On the starboard side of the spectrum, there were comments to the effect that I had underplayed the importance of the clerical sex abuse scandals. Well, no one has been more vehement in his denunciation of these outrages than I (see my recent Letter to a Suffering Church for the details), but judging from the available data, it’s simply not the case that the scandals are a major driver of disaffiliation. They indeed appear as a factor, but not a significant one, certainly in comparison with the causes I named above. I get the passion around this issue, but it shouldn’t prompt us to draw conclusions not supported by objective evidence.

But I was especially surprised, and more than a little amused, by the overheated response from some on the far-left end of the spectrum. It appears that the mere mention of the name Jordan Peterson is enough to send some into irrational conniptions. Though I had unambiguously stated that my reference to the Canadian was in no way meant as an endorsement of the entirety of his thought, some commentators and combox denizens characterized me as a Peterson disciple, an apologist for his program, a lackey.

One particularly hysterical observer had me “basing my apologetics” on Jordan Peterson! Oy vey. As I have made clear in my own articles and videos, Peterson reads the Bible through a Jungian, psychodynamic lens, and hence, by definition, does not read it adequately. It is not even evident that the Canadian believes in God in the accepted sense of the term. “Basing my apologetics” on him?! Give me a break.

What is particularly sad to me is that the commentariat, especially in regard to religion, has become so polarized and ideologically driven that the most elementary distinctions aren’t made and the most broad-brush analyses are commonplace. What makes it sadder still is that these distortions and projections stand in the way of addressing the vitally important issue under consideration. As left and right defend their respective ideological bailiwicks, the Church continues to hemorrhage young people. If we want to get serious about a problem that ought to concern everyone in the Church, it would be wise to attend to objectivities.


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About Bishop Robert Barron 156 Articles Bishop Robert Barron is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries. He is the creator of the award winning documentary series, “Catholicism” and “Catholicism:The New Evangelization.” Learn more at www.WordonFire.org. PreviousEritrean Catholic Church denounces government seizure of health clinicsNextUS Supreme Court will soon decide ‘Peace Cross’ First Amendment case

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Cleansing the Church of Clerical Sacrilege

It is time for clergy and laity to begin a movement for the purification of the Church. The shameful sexual sins and crimes of clergy—including cardinals, bishops, and priests—can no longer be tolerated. Tolerance is precisely what has allowed these problems to multiply for decades and persist up to today.

As Fr. Thomas Berg recently explained, the issue is sexually active priests and bishops. In the main, the persistent problem is with homosexually active priests.  Fr. Roger Landry argues—rightly, I think—that most priests who persist in infidelity with women eventually leave the priesthood, but priests who cheat on their vocation with men often continue to live a double life. Most of the issues stem from this kind of duplicity. Networks of active homosexual priests have developed: They protect and promote their own and others who will tolerate them. They become a major problem when they insinuate themselves into positions of power (in a seminary, in a chancery or diocese, in a religious order, in the Roman curia)—as occurred in the case of Theodore McCarrick.

The sins here are more grave than adultery or homosexual acts because they besmirch what is holy. Properly speaking, this is sacrilege, the perversion of Holy Orders, and the defilement of a person solemnly and publicly consecrated to God in chastity. The sin is even more serious when a bishop, a seminary formator, or a priest uses the authority of his office—an office instituted by Christ for the sanctification of the faithful—in a perverse way, in the service of shameful and selfish passions. The higher the abuse of authority in the Church, the more grave is the sacrilege. These are not private sins of individual Christians, and the victims suffer more because they are abused not by “private individuals,” but by priests. These crimes dishonor and offend God, and they wound the Church in a unique way.

Focusing on sacrilege is important because it helps us remember that we are dealing with something holy: the holiness of the priesthood, of the episcopacy, and of the Church. We must not give up on this call to holiness. Bishops and priests should be holy, they must pray for it, and with the help of grace, strive for it.  (And some really do become holy—something we should not overlook.) When priests habitually commit mortal sins, they lose their zeal for the gospel, they become numb to the truth of the Eucharist’s holiness, and they water down the doctrines of the faith. This leads to many other infidelities, and to a kind of pastoral despair.

What, then, can be done to fix this problem? We should begin by articulating clearly what remedies are needed. (Getting the bishops and the Vatican to adopt these reforms is another question, but first we need to know what reforms are needed.) Here are five bullet points.

First, we need to investigate the past and have a transparent accounting of the failures.  How were known networks of active homosexual priests (and bishops) allowed to continue?  What structures of accountability were missing?  This investigation won’t fix the future, but it will begin to identify where the biggest problems are.

Second, every diocese and religious order needs to implement an affirmative program to screen out vocations applicants with a history of deep-seated same-sex attraction—and certainly those who have engaged in homosexual activity. Applicants should not be allowed to apply for the seminary unless they are already able to live as habitually chaste single men, without recurring falls into unchastity. Candidates in seminaries who act out sexually should be dismissed. This policy is not homophobic in any way. It is simply non-hypocritical: The Church has to cultivate vocations of men who live and practice what the Church professes.

Third, American bishops should enact, as “particular law,” the canonical norms from the 1917 Code of Canon Law (they were mostly dropped from the current Code of Canon Law when it was revised in 1983) dealing with the sexual acts of clerics (whether homosexual or heterosexual, and whether with minors or with adults). Those provisions made sexual activity by clerics, even with other adults, a canonical crime. The punishments included “being deprived of office, benefice, dignity, responsibility, if they have such, whatsoever, and in more serious cases, they are to be deposed.”

Fourth, there should be an apostolic visitation of all provinces of religious orders, diocesan chanceries, seminaries, the offices of vocation directors, and of the USCCB, to investigate whether they have networks of active homosexual priests, structures of manipulation, or other such misconduct.

Fifth, there needs to be a system for reporting clerical sexual infidelity—even infidelity with “consenting adults”—akin to the system that currently exists for reporting clerical abuse of minors. The reports should not just go to the bishop or religious superior; they need to involve a review board and other lay outsiders.  Allegations should be investigated, using fair and just procedures, and should be concluded with a report of findings recommending canonical charges where warranted. This process needs to be instituted for both religious orders and dioceses alike.

These prescriptions are actually rather straightforward and simple. The hierarchy needs help from laity and investigators from outside the dioceses, religious orders, and seminaries to expose the corruption and begin the process of dismissing the wrongdoers. Let us cleanse the sacrilege, so that the Church will again be holy.

Hand-wringing and pious platitudes won’t fix things. It is time to confront the real problem with courage and sobriety.

Dominic Legge, O.P., is a Dominican priest and a professor of theology at the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.