Bishop Tells 8,000 Catholic Students to Reject 'Anti-Intellectualism' in Church

St. Patrick's Cathedral
St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York. |

The Church should reject "anti-intellectualism" when witnessing to the world, according to a bishop speaking before approximately 8,000 Catholic students.

Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, who also founded Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, addressed a Fellowship of Catholic University Students conference in Chicago on Wednesday.

In his remarks, Bishop Barron talked about the problem with St. Francis' famous statement "preach the Gospel and when necessary use words."

Barron spoke of having a "cordial dislike" of the phrase and argued that according to at least one scholar, Francis likely never said the often quoted remark.

Robert Barron
Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries. |

"The danger is that statement can be used as a justification for a kind of anti-intellectualism. It can be used as a justification for a kind of pastoral reductionism," stated Barron.

"This is not the time for anti-intellectualism in our Church. We have lots of young people, you know them, they're your colleagues and friends, who are leaving the Church for intellectual reasons."

Invoking the Book of Acts and the event of Pentecost, Barron told those gathered that the Church needs people like the conference attendees "to have tongues of fire set all over their heads so they can engage in this bold speech."

"The Church engages from the beginning in bold, fiery, coherent, confident, and intelligent speech," said Barron, later quoting Peter when he addressed the crowd at Pentecost in Acts 2.

Barron's remarks were before FOCUS' Student Leadership Summit, held Jan. 2-6 at the McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois.

The Summit identifies itself as a "leadership conference which strikes a perfect balance between inspiration and practical application."

"With insights and tools from some of the Catholic Church's top-notch leaders in evangelization, you'll gain confidence in your call as a leader as you learn more about prayer, incarnational evangelization, leading and teaching others to lead Bible studies, inviting others into discipleship, and sharing the gospel," stated the Summit.

In addition to Barron, other speakers at the conference included Mike Sweeney, five-time MLB All Star and member of the Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame; Fr. Mike Schmitz, director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Duluth; Helen Alvaré, a professor of law at Antonin Scalia Law School of George Mason University; and Bishop James Conley, the ninth bishop of the Lincoln Diocese in Nebraska, among others.

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