Word on Fire Principles
Evangelization of the Culture
Special Commitment to the New Media
Being Rooted in the Mystical Body
Leading with Beauty
Being Grounded in the Eucharist.
These pillars are the foundation of every initiative at Word on Fire and will continue shaping its evangelists desiring to better reach the modern world.
– Jared Zimmerer Introduction to Centered: The Spirituality of Word on Fire
Ever since I first learned about and started listening to Word on Fire oh so many years ago I have always been captivated and exhilarated by Bishop Barron’s commentary on culture, current events and christocentric theology. He helps me to know Christ better. And the more you know about Christ, the more you will love him. I even talked to Bishop Barron once on the phone in connection to my job at CatholicTV where we showed his programs on the air. So the recent controversies involving his ministry and their handling of an ex-employee’s sexual misconduct has weighed heavy on my heart and mind. So I felt compelled to write something about it. If you need to get caught up to speed on the situation here is the latest article from ‘The Pillar’ on the ongoing situation.
I don’t know the full scope of the situation, probably because reporting on this incident has only come out from a few different sources. The original source of the news came from a internet writer named Chris Damian. And from my reading of the article it came across more as a gossip piece then actually any real credible evidence of wrongdoing. Think of a less formal hit piece from Church Militant. The series of articles from a few different sources and WOF read as a He Said She Said type of argument. This latest Pillar article however points more to an atmosphere at Word on Fire that probably needs some fixing.
Two very well known Catholic writers Jackie and Bobby Angel have resigned their position at Word on Fire. The Angels have also worked closely with Fr. Mike Schmitz and Ascension Presents. Here is what they said in a resignation letter.
“We believe in the mission and the principles of Word on Fire, but not at all costs, and definitely not at the expense of our mental health. Any ministry that speaks truth with love will receive spiritual attack, but it is poor leadership, communication, and organizational principles that brought us here.”
This resignation letter was obtained by The Pillar. Damian’s ordinal article was from an undercover recording of a WOF staff meeting in October 2021. Somehow these lone Catholic writers on the web seem to be getting secret information from somewhere and we only have their word that it is authentic and true.
From the Angel’s statement I have two conclusions.
- As much as I like WOF, it is not beyond criticism.
- Some change needs to be brought to Word on Fire. What it is I don’t know.
- The Mission and Principles of Word on Fire are still worth keeping Word on Fire around.
Someone on FB summed it up well in this statement.
Alex: I hope this leads to what sounds like some much needed reform within their organizational structure and decision making, and that Word on Fire is able to come out of it stronger and more effective at evangelization than they’ve ever been.
I have some more conclusions about the situation from talking to some other people about it, reading different comments about the situation and from years of listening to Bishop Barron. I also conclude that
- Bishop Barron is a good and decent man.
- Bishop Barron Derangement Syndrome is real.
People seem to dislike Bishop Barron for different reasons. Some of the reasons include liking Jordan Peterson, praising a book written by Fr. James Martin, saying something nice about Martin Luther, not saying enough about Racism, not saying enough against gay marriage, saying too much about being woke, not telling Ben Shapiro he’s going to hell, hoping people don’t go to hell, praising Vatican 2, not focusing on the right Vatican 2 documents, criticizing one particular politician at one point and not criticizing another for some other reason that he should have, blocking certain individuals on social media (this seemed to hurt someone’s feelings) and drinking coffee while sitting in front of the blessed sacrament.
What do the National Catholic Reporter and Church Militant have in common? They both dislike Bishop Barron. For example they both have complaints about the WOF Catholicism series. Click on the links to read the complaints.
My big complaint would be that in a Q and A with children his answers to the kids questions were too above their heads.
When this scandal came along those who had a grievance against WOF and Bishop Barron were all too eager to believe it. As I said up above I am not saying WOF doesn’t need some changes but I am saying both Left and Right Catholics are unfair to him and criticize him for not lining up with their understanding of the Catholic faith.
Through Bishop Barron I have learned that God doesn’t need me and that is good news. He emphasised that Jesus needs to be the center of the wheel of my life. Love is willing the good of the other as other. He took hard to understand biblical passages and made them sound loving and intelligent. His work and ministry has emphasized the validity of the Second Vatican Council, the importance of the saints and other history making Catholics, and has given us a chance to dive deep and immerse ourselves in the written word of God. Bishop Barron demonstrated that you can make any movie or book into a catechetical lesson. He gives me hope that God will grant his mercy to those whom it may look like mercy has escaped. Recently he has given the average Catholic a chance to pray the Liturgy of the Hours easier by printing a monthly magazine that contains a monthly reading of the Divine Office in a easy physical format.
In this last big section of this post I want to share some thoughts from theologian Larry Chapp. These comments are from a FB post.
[Bishop Barron] is unjustly treated by many. None of us are perfect and Bishop Barron has his flaws. I have a few quibbles with him myself. Nevertheless, because of his success at Word on Fire, and because he has now built such an enormous platform that reaches millions, there are those in the Church who wish he would use that platform to push for their ecclesial hobby horses and get peeved at him when he doesn’t. The Left dislikes him because he does not talk about racism enough and other related issues. The Right hates him because he seems too irenic toward Francis and Vatican II and the Novus Ordo.
And lots of folks want him to criticize his brother bishops more and to talk about the abuse scandals more. So it is weird… the more successful he becomes the more they get mad. And his success is real and substantive and not simply an ephemeral popularity. The stuff he produces is first rate and is having a very positive impact in the Church. His critics all fail to consider what the goals of Word on Fire are. What its target audience is. What its evangelizing methodology is. Because if they got that then they would know that it would all be destroyed quickly if Word on Fire became just one more platform filled with invective and “attacks” and endless debates on the ecclesial hot button issues. What C.S. Lewis did in “Mere Christianity” is what Barron is doing with Word on Fire. It is in a sense an attempt to present “Mere Catholicism” in all its beauty but absent all of the current animosities over various “issues.”-
To me, the whole affair smacks of the gossipy, cat-fighting, sniping atmosphere of any large corporate organization. I have been there. And this seems all too typical of that kind of infighting. I think the Pillar article probably hits the nail on the head when it points out that WOF began as a very small enterprise in Chicago and was easy to manage back then, but has since grown into a large and complicated entity that those who run WOF probably did not have the expertise to manage with expertise. But even that is a guess.
All I know is that Bishop Barron is a very good and decent man, a fantastic priest, a great scholar, and a gifted communicator. And I know many people who work for him who are also excellent at what they do and are good people. And many of them do not share these criticisms of him at all. They think they are trumped up and based on the grievances people have. Larry Chapp
I think that sums up Bishop Barron and his critics rather well .Here is Dr. Chapp interviewing Bishop Barron.
Think what you want of Bishop Barron, but he has helped me to love know more about Jesus and the more you know about Jesus the more you will love him. That is why I believe in the mission and the principles of Word on Fire and that they are worth preserving. I know Bishop Barron is a good man and pray that God will move him accordingly to fix whatever problems there are present there so he can continue to bring Jesus to the culture at large.