Last night I changed my mind.
The book is short, only 100 pages of large, well-spaced print, hence, I suppose, its description as a "letter." The five chapters focus on the sex abuse crisis (The Devil's Masterpiece), Biblical teaching on sexuality (Light from Scripture), a concise history of some of the past bad times in the Church with bad clerics (We Have Been Here Before), a cogent argument for not leaving the Church (Why Should We Stay), and finally what comes next (The Way Forward) and a brief conclusion.
I was with Bishop Barron for the first four chapters and liked very much his emphasis on the Holy Eucharist, the primary reason we should never leave the Church. Where else can one receive Jesus - Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity -- to nourish both body and soul? Nowhere. No wonder Peter responded to Jesus' question whether he would leave saying, "Where can we go?...You have the words of eternal life."
Also in that chapter, Barron described the Ascension in a way I'd never considered:
We must never think of the Ascension as Jesus' leave-taking, but rather his assuming, in the manner of a general commanding a field of battle, a vantage point from which he directs the operations of his Church.Of course! And from there Christ invites us to rally under his standard and fight for souls!
So here I was, gung ho to buy 200 copies of the book, and then I turned the page and began chapter five.
It started with a description of the "institutional reforms" which was essentially a big high five to the Dallas charter and what followed. He neglected to mention that the bishops still exempt themselves from the same mandatory requirements for parish priests and laity. He also applauded the removal of priests for "credible accusations," a policy that is problematic on many fronts as I've often pointed out, particularly the public nature of accusations with little evidence. The Fr. Escalante debacle is just one example of using a "credible accusation" to deep six a good priest.
Bishop Barron went on to say some good things that I applaud. He called for "reinvigoration of the priesthood" and a "rededication to its ideals." They say you get the priests you deserve so I couldn't disagree with his statement that, "if we want holier priests, we all have to become holier ourselves." Amen to that.
If the bishops' protocols were my only beef, I might still have pulled out my credit card and ordered the books. But then I read the conclusion. The point was that we should all stay and fight. I agree. He could have given the examples of saints who fought heresy and corruption within the Church. Several immediately come to mind: St. Athanasius, St. Peter Damian, St. Therese of Avila, St. Catherine of Siena. Good grief their number is legion!
But who did he pick for his analogy?
send them to colonies outside the country. The one experiment with that ended badly with a colony of 450 freed slaves sent to Haiti. Most died of smallpox and starvation and the survivors had to be rescued. But that didn't keep Lincoln from continuing pursuit of his objective to keep white Americans separate from their black brothers and sisters. Like the British who sent their undesirables to Australia, Lincoln wanted his banished to Africa.
Lincoln had no desire for equal rights and said himself that if he could preserve the union with slavery intact, he would do so. And then there were the seances taking place in the White House and his enthusiasm for the war crimes of Grant, Sheridan, and Sherman who practiced a scorched earth policy against the South that targeted not only soldiers, but the civilian population. Lincoln wanted a quick end to the war and he achieved it in a way that Catholics could never approve under "just war" theory.
I think one could make the case that the North's war strategy set the stage for our atrocities in World War II including the firebombing of Tokyo that left nearly 100,000 dead, most civilians, and over a million homeless. Our Gomorrah Operation agains Hamburg conducted with the British using phosphorus bombs was barbaric and aimed at demoralizing the German civilian population by inflicting a "night of hell."
I think one could also make the case that the Civil War changed military tactics forever making "shock and awe" against civilians and the scorched earth policy acceptable. The North's conduct in the war enshrined the moral position that "the end justifies the means."
Lincoln, who was assassinated at a play on Good Friday, reminds me of Ted Kennedy who was out drinking with his nephew on another Good Friday. Both situations ended badly. Consider how different things would have been if they'd all stayed home reflecting on the Lord's passion, death, and resurrection. Neither Lincoln, the unchurched, nor Kennedy, the nominal Catholic, seemed to worry much about God's will.
I find it disturbing that Bishop Barron selected a man who was never a believer, who dabbled in the occult (God only knows what war decisions were influenced by Satan) to be used as our edifying? example to fight for revival in the Church.
If he wanted a secular example, Barron could have chosen the great Chancellor of Austria, Engelbert Dolfuss and his partner in arms, Dietrich von Hildebrand. Two heroes: one who survived and escaped to America where he continued to fight for Catholic truth and one who was murdered by the Nazis and denied a priest as he lay bleeding to death from wounds inflicted by his assassins. These two show how to fight according to Christian ethics.
But Lincoln? No way!
Needless to say, I will NOT be ordering Bishop Barron's book.
Is there an alternative? I recently read the preface to a new edition of Brandon Vogt's book Why I'm Still a Catholic. I haven't read the book, so I can't comment on it, and I'm not familiar with Brandon Vogt. But the preface for the paperback edition is very good. I wrote my own posts about Why I Remain a Catholic in 2009 before the McCarrick scandal broke into the mainstream media (I'd been writing about him for years, though) and a second post this past June. If you care to, you can read why I remain a Catholic and Why I'll never leave.
Really -- there's no place to go, folks. Besides. No matter how many clerics try to destroy the truth, they can only batter the bride of Christ. They're doing a pretty good job of that, they can never kill her! PLEASE! Don't you want to stay and defend your mother?