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Dear catholic.com visitors: This website from Catholic Answers, with all its many resources, is the world's largest source of explanations for Catholic beliefs and practices. A fully independent, lay-run, 501(c)(3) ministry that receives no funding from the institutional Church, we rely entirely on the generosity of everyday people like you to keep this website going with trustworthy , fresh, and relevant content. If everyone visiting this month gave just $1, catholic.com would be fully funded for an entire year. Do you find catholic.com helpful? Please make a gift today. Thank you. Wishing you a blessed Lenten season.

Scott Hahn, Bishop Barron, and Guilt by Association

Trent Horn

There are a lot of problems facing Catholicism today, but for the life of me, I can’t understand why some people think the epitome of those problems resides in evangelists like Bishop Barron or Scott Hahn. If you talk to more liberal Catholics, they will criticize Hahn for endorsing some of the writings of Bishop Joseph Strickland and say that, because of this friendly endorsement, Hahn has now aligned himself with the “anti-Francis” wing of the Church. Bishop Barron likewise is considered insensitive or even racist for his opposition to modern wokeism.

But on the other side of the spectrum, more traditionalist Catholics say these two “aren’t Catholic enough”. They might criticize Hahn for not taking a more strident position in “the liturgy wars” or Bishop Barron because of his view that it is reasonable to hope (even if incredibly unlikely) that all people will be saved.

My take? These men aren’t perfect, and I don’t agree with all of their views (I’ve even addressed Bishop Barron’s view on salvation). But they have done more than almost anybody at either end of the theological spectrum to preach the Gospel and encourage people to become Catholic. To overly criticize them and fail to acknowledge the good they’ve done makes the perfect the enemy of the good.

I’ve also noticed a double standard in criticism of these men—especially from among liberal Catholics.

They will say Bishop Barron or Scott Hahn aren’t worth promoting or emulating because of their support of controversial figures like Jordan Peterson or Bishop Strickland. They unleash a rigid guilt by association that says Barron and Hahn should be held accountable for the more controversial opinions of figures they support.

But when their favorite liberal Catholics affirm pro-abortion politicians and dissenters who reject Church teaching on sexuality, we are supposed to be charitable and find nuance. They are “building bridges” and aren’t culpable for things other people say who they are trying to “accompany.” For example, when Pope Francis sends letters of appreciation to New Ways Ministry he is just affirming their love for people who identify as LGBT, not the group’s dissent against Church teaching.

Give me a break.

If you’re going to demand absolute purity and use guilt-by-association tactics to achieve that goal, then fairness demands you apply that standard to any Catholic—liberal or conservative. Of course, it’d be more fair to just evaluate honestly when someone is doing good, where they come up short, and whether their affiliation with someone who seems (at least to some people) to be at odds with Church teaching and practice is problematic or just a tempest in a teapot.

If we always find excuses to criticize or tear down popular evangelists because they aren’t perfect, we won’t have evangelists we can support until our Lord returns—and by then evangelism will be too late. We can respectfully point out flaws in their approaches while still affirming the good they generally accomplish.

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