Pastor’s Letter – Oct. 15, 2017: Bishop Barron on the “Pro-Life” Divide

Dear Parishioners,

Bishop Robert Barron, perhaps the most sought-after Catholic speaker in America, will give the keynote address at the Cornerstone Conference in Tacoma Oct. 20-21. There is still time for you to register. Bishop Barron is a clear thinker and excellent communicator and I have great esteem for the work that he his doing in the effort to evangelize and explain the faith in an understandable way.

Since I am on my walk from Assisi to Rome as you are reading this I thought it might be beneficial to feature Bishop Barron over the next few weeks. October is Respect Life month and Bishop Barron does a good job explaining the pro-life/ social justice split in the Church and how it is a tragedy for the church, as excerpted from his recent interview in Northwest Catholic, October 2017.

[Note: Bishop Barron’s remarks have been edited to incorporate the questions by the interviewer.]

The bishops of Washington state created the Cornerstone conference, first held in 2014, “to inspire and educate Catholics and others to continue working together to protect human life: the unborn, individuals who live in poverty or on the margins of society, and people at the end of life,” in the words of the conference’s mission statement.

The division between “pro-life” Catholics and “social justice” Catholics [explains Bishop Barron] is one of the bitter fruits, of the post-conciliar period of Vatican ll. Not the Council itself, for it is very clear on both issues. A tendency continues within Catholicism to fall into these two camps. Call it left-right, liberal-conservative, but it remains a false dichotomy, and it’s not in the great saints, it’s not in the teaching of the church, it’s not in Vatican II, but it’s a divide that happened in the wake of the council. And I think it’s really regrettable.

What we have to do is go back to Christ. You return to Christ, and what you find there is this integrated view of life. And you see, of course, this profound concern for the inherent dignity of every individual person and the respect for life from conception to natural death clearly on display. At the same time, you see a clear passion for justice, from the Hebrew prophets all the way up to Jesus and then through the great tradition. So, to my mind, it’s just glaringly obvious: These two things have to be central to the church’s preoccupation.

To begin healing that divide in the church we must turn to the Eucharist and the Mass. What brings together the great pro-life people and the great social justice people in our tradition is a love for the Eucharist. In the Eucharist we have Christ really, truly and substantially present. We have Christ offering himself to the Father. We find the unity of the mystical body in Jesus, and we find therefore this deep, deep connection to all people in the mystical body.

So I would take the Eucharist as the way forward — the Mass itself, that feeds both a deeply pro-life perspective and a deeply social justice connection. That’s what I’ll be emphasizing: the Eucharist and the Mass as the thing that draws us together and shows us the way forward.

[The full article may be found at http://www.nwcatholic.org/features/nw-stories/northwest-catholic-october-2017-edition.]