Michael Voris versus Mark Shea on Bishop Robert Barron

Michael Voris has accused Bishop Robert Barron of teaching a form of the heresy of universalism, based on Barron’s assertion that “perhaps” no human persons are ever condemned to eternal punishment in Hell, and that we may “reasonably hope” that all are saved.

Mark Shea has said some very negative things about Michael Voris on this topic. Shea also defends Bishop Barron by claiming that Barron has essentially the same position on Hell and salvation as Pope Benedict XVI in Spe Salvi. But is this true? Not at all. Bishop Barron himself says so here:

“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.” [How Many Are Saved?]

Bishop Barron himself summarizes the position of Pope Benedict XVI, that most people get to Heaven by way of Purgatory, a small number (or we could say a small percent) go directly to Heaven, and a small number (or percent) again go to Hell. And a read through other sections of Spe Salvi shows a clear belief, by Pope Benedict XVI, in Hell as a place of great suffering, which is populated by human souls.

And that is most decidedly NOT the position Bishop Barron has publicly expressed. Barron’s position is that “perhaps” no human souls are ever sent to Hell, and that we may “reasonably hope” that all human persons will be saved. Yet Pope Benedict XVI himself NEVER said anything like that.

So Mark Shea is using a specious argument to justify the position of Bishop Barron. He makes the false claim that Barron and Pope Benedict have the same position, so whenever Barron is criticized, Shea makes it seem as if it were an attack on the holy Pontiff (emeritus). But as a matter of fact, and as Barron himself explains in the above quote, Pope Benedict XVI has a different position than Bishop Barron.

Shea’s position is essentially the same as that of Barron, not Benedict. So when Michael Voris accuses Barron of teaching a grave error on salvation, Shea is defending his own position as well as that of Bishop Robert Barron. My position, by comparison, is like that of Pope Benedict XVI — most persons go to Heaven by way of Purgatory, a small percent go directly to Heaven, and a small percent (though a large number) are sent to eternal Hellfire.

Without Pope Benedict XVI as a shield to hide behind, Mark Shea has no substantial theological argument to support his position. And I would say the same about Bishop Barron. The claim that perhaps no human persons go to Hell seems to have only two main points:

1. They claim that saying “perhaps” and “reasonably hope” distinguishes this position from the heresy Restorationism (which Barron and Shea both condemn as heresy). The one position asserts positively that all will be saved. The other position says only perhaps all will be saved.

To the contrary, Canon Law and the Catechism of the Catholic Church condemn heresies based on obstinate doubt as well as obstinate denial. If you say “Jesus is not really God”, then that is heresy. But if you say “Perhaps, Jesus is not really God”, that is still heresy. Faith requires definitive belief in certain truths, not merely an absence of definitive belief in errors.

2. They claim that the Church has no teaching on whether anyone is in Hell.

To the contrary, I can list several clear and unequivocal teachings, all from Ecumenical Councils, implying that Hell cannot possibly be devoid of human souls. And since Barron and Shea are teaching in direct contradiction to these teachings of Ecumenical Councils, they are each guilty of teaching and promoting heresy.

Council of Trent: “Truly, even though He died for all, yet not all receive the benefit of His death, but only those to whom the merit of His passion is communicated.” [Decree on Justification, chapter III]

The Council infallibly taught that not all human persons receive the benefit of the salvific death of Jesus Christ. And what is that benefit? Eternal life. Bishop Barron and Mark Shea reject this teaching, by asserting the possibility that all will receive the benefit of His death. For they think that “perhaps” all are saved. But this implies that “perhaps” the Council of Trent erred in its dogmatic teachings.

Mark Shea also rejects another teaching of the Council of Trent, he rejects the true teaching that non-Christians can be children of God by spiritual adoption without formal Baptism [Trent, Justification, chapter IV]. See my previous post on this topic. It is one error to be ignorant of the teachings of the Council of Trent. It is a much worse error to teach others from that ignorance.

Fourth Lateran Council: “He will come at the end of time to judge the living and the dead, to render to every person according to his works, both to the reprobate and to the elect. All of them will rise with their own bodies, which they now wear, so as to receive according to their deserts, whether these be good or bad; for the latter perpetual punishment with the devil, for the former eternal glory with Christ.”

“There is indeed one universal church of the faithful, outside of which nobody at all is saved, in which Jesus Christ is both priest and sacrifice.”[Confession of Faith]

The above infallible teaching of an Ecumenical Council becomes null and void if there is no one in Hell. The General Judgment becomes not a judgment at all, if all are saved. The dogma, stated by Saint Paul: “there will be a future resurrection of the just and the unjust.” (Acts 24:15) becomes a lie if there are no unjust souls to be resurrected from Hell.

The Fourth Lateran Council infallibly taught that some of those persons judged at the end of time are “reprobate” (the souls in Hell), and that not all are “the elect” (souls in Purgatory or Heaven). The Council also taught that the reprobate suffer “perpetual punishment”. But if Hell is empty, then that teaching would be false.

The dogma that “Outside the Church, there is no salvation”, becomes a ridiculous tautology if all human persons are saved. It is like saying “Other than everyone, no one is saved.” The profound truths of the Catholic Faith become worthless and meaningless if everyone goes to Heaven, and no one goes to Hell, despite all the manifest grave sins committed by billions of persons.

Council of Florence: “But the souls of those who depart this life in actual mortal sin, or in original sin alone, go down straightaway to hell to be punished, but with unequal pains.”

“Thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead. At his coming all shall rise again with their bodies, and shall give an account of their own deeds. Those who have done good shall go into eternal life, but those who have done evil shall go into eternal fire.”

“Finally, unless they repent from their hearts, perform deeds worthy of repentance and make worthy satisfaction to your holiness and the universal church for the enormity of their sins, may they be thrust with the wicked into the everlasting darkness, doomed by the just judgment of God to eternal torments.”

“It firmly believes, professes and preaches that all those who are outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans but also Jews or heretics and schismatics, cannot share in eternal life and will go into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless they are joined to the catholic church before the end of their lives; that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is of such importance that only for those who abide in it do the church’s sacraments contribute to salvation and do fasts, almsgiving and other works of piety and practices of the Christian militia produce eternal rewards; and that nobody can be saved, no matter how much he has given away in alms and even if he has shed his blood in the name of Christ, unless he has persevered in the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church.”

The above teachings of the Council of Florence are incompatible with the claim of Bishop Barron that we may hope that Hell is empty and all are saved. The teaching on the Church as the sole Ark of salvation certainly includes all persons of good will, who unfortunately reject Christianity or Catholicism with a sincere by mistaken conscience due to invincible ignorance. So only those who reject the Church to the extent of an actual mortal sin are sent to Hell for that rejection. But according to the same Council some souls do “depart this life in actual mortal sin … [and] go down straightaway to hell to be punished….” We cannot suppose or hope or opine that maybe no one is actually outside the Church and all are saved, when the Church clearly says otherwise.

Fifth Lateran Council: the Lord “promises eternal rewards and eternal punishments to those who will be judged according to the merits of their life” [Session 8]

The Council forbid anyone to teach the contrary. The Council also taught that “subjection to the Roman pontiff is necessary for salvation for all Christ’s faithful”, just as Pope Boniface VIII taught in Unam Sanctam. But if all are saved no matter what they believe or do, then nothing is necessary for salvation and every teaching of the Magisterium on things that lead to eternal life, or to eternal punishment would be empty.

The First Vatican Council taught: “Since, then, without faith it is impossible to please God and reach the fellowship of his sons and daughters, it follows that no one can ever achieve justification without it [faith], neither can anyone attain eternal life unless he or she perseveres in it to the end.” [Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith, Chapter 3].

Second Vatican Council: “The Christian who neglects his temporal duties, neglects his duties toward his neighbor and even God, and jeopardizes his eternal salvation.” [Gaudium et Spes 43]

Both the First and Second Vatican Councils taught that eternal salvation can be lost.

Given all of the above teachings of Ecumenical Councils, how can anyone propose that Hell is empty, or that all human persons go to Heaven, even if he adds the words “maybe” and “perhaps”? If there is no eternal punishment of any human person in Hell, then the above infallible teachings, which are required beliefs under pain of heresy, would be false and meaningless. So either you believe the infallible teachings of multiple Ecumenical Councils on the punishment of the damned in a very real Hell that is not at all empty, or you depart from the teachings of the Catholic Christian Faith.

Essentially, what Bishop Robert Barron is saying is that he hopes and prays that all the infallible teachings of the Magisterium on salvation and Hell are false. So it is in no way faithful or reasonable for any Catholic to hope or to pray that all are saved, or that Hell does not exist or is empty, or anything similar. In fact, this type of claim implies an utter rejection of multiple infallible teachings of the Magisterium, and is therefore abject heresy. If Hell is empty, then our Faith is in vain.

It is very unfortunate, but also very clear: Bishop Robert Barron is a heretic who has rejected numerous infallible teachings of the Magisterium by claiming that “perhaps” no human persons will suffer eternal punishment in Hell. And Mark Shea is his little helper in promoting this heresy online.

Is Jesus a Liar? Is Mary?

Already, from the teachings of Ecumenical Councils, it is clear that all the faithful must believe that some human persons do suffer eternal punishment in Hell. But this doctrine is also clear from Sacred Scripture. The teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ is absolutely clear that Hell exists, and it is a place of unending punishment. If no one ever goes to Hell, then Jesus was lying and the Bible is lying. So when Bishop Barron and Mark Shea promote the idea that we may “reasonably hope” that no one goes to Hell, they imply that it is reasonable to hope that Jesus has lied, repeatedly and deliberately, on a serious matter. They don’t say those words, but no other conclusion is possible. Whoever says that “perhaps” no human persons ever go to Hell is implying that “perhaps” Jesus lied to us in His teachings on Hell.

So when Mark Shea next brings out his “good reputation” argument — the idea that Bishop Barron and others cannot be heretics because they have good reputations — I am struck with dismay. Does not the teaching of Jesus and of His Church outweigh any reputation? Or have you never read that God is no respecter of persons? How good can a reputation be, such that we should prefer the claims of someone with a good reputation among fallen sinners over the definitive teachings of Jesus and His Church?

Shea also presents Jimmy Akin as if he had a good reputation and therefore could not be a teacher of heresy. But I have proven time and time again that Jimmy Akin has repeatedly taught heresy on a wide range of topics.

And when someone is promoting the idea that “perhaps” no human souls are in Hell, not only do they ignore the words of Jesus in Sacred Scripture, but they also ignore the words of the Blessed Virgin Mary. At Fatima, Mary said: “More souls go to Hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason.” And she also said: “many souls go to hell because they have no one to pray and make sacrifices for them.” If no souls go to Hell, then Mary is lying, or the Church has falsely promoted Fatima as true private revelation. Take your pick.

Shea tries to answer this objection in his post here. He says we don’t have to believe in any private revelation. Then he suggests that it could be an error, as if Mary was misunderstood? Then he call is a paradox, as if all could be saved despite these assertions by Mary. So, by the end of the post, you realize that he has no answer to this objection.

By the way, Mark Shea claims: “St. Catherine of Siena, in her Dialogue with God the Father, reports that she was told the Virgin Mary was not immaculately conceived.” But I can find no such assertion in the Dialogue of Saint Catherine. Errors are possible in true private revelation, but it is inconceivable that all the true private revelations which speak of souls in Hell are all reporting one and the same grave error again and again. Many Saints had visions from God of Hell. In EVERY SINGLE CASE, these revelations showed human souls in Hell. Are all of those visions false?

The claim that “perhaps” no souls are ever sent to Hell implies all of the following:

* that Jesus is a liar
* that Mary is a liar
* that every vision and revelation given to the Saints on Hell is a lie
* that Sacred Scripture is full of lies on Hell and salvation
* that Sacred Scripture is not the Word of God, or that God lies
* that the Resurrection includes no human persons resurrected from Hell, contrary to Church dogma and Sacred Scripture.
* that several Ecumenical Councils taught grave errors on salvation
* that Ecumenical Councils can err gravely, and are therefore not infallible in their teachings

So when Mark Shea and Bishop Robert Barron say that “perhaps” no souls are sent to Hell, and that we may “reasonably hope” that all are saved, what they are really saying is perhaps Jesus and Mary are liars, and we may reasonably hope that the infallible teachings of Sacred Scripture and Ecumenical Councils are utterly false. Such wickedness, disguised as holiness!

Michael Voris is right to sharply rebuke Bishop Barron for his false teachings on Hell and salvation. Bishop Robert Barron is a teacher of heresy on the topic of salvation. He is leading many souls astray. And Mark Shea is complicit in that sin.

See my past posts on this topic:
* Bishop Robert Barron on Hell: May we reasonably hope that all will be saved?
* Bishop Robert Barron versus the Magisterium on Hell
* Can we be absolutely certain that some human souls are in Hell?
* Mark Shea promotes Heresy on Salvation and Hell

by
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.

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