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The Virtue of Bi-Polar Extremism

July 31, 2009

There are extremists in the Church today, and there are moderates – and all of them are wreaking havoc.  They are causing such distress precisely because they are ignoring, each in a particular way, the strangeness that lies at the heart of Christianity.  It is my contention that the chief problem we face in the Church is not lack of loyalty to Rome, not insufficient concern for the poor, not ignorance of women’s concerns, not liturgical abuse, not theological imprecision, not resurgent triumphalism – though each of these is, I think, cause for worry.  No, the chief difficulty we face is a lack of imagination, the inability to hold opposites in tension, the failure to be, boldly and unapologetically, bi-polar extremists.

Father Robert Barron, from Bridging the Great Divide:  Musings of a Post-Liberal, Post Conservative Evangelical Catholic

Brett Salkeld is a doctoral student in theology at Regis College in Toronto.  He is a father of two (so far) and husband of one.

  1. Mark DeFrancisis permalink
    July 31, 2009 10:12 am

    Living in that tension of the Catholic “both-and” is uncomfortable, but at the heart of the faith.

  2. July 31, 2009 10:18 am

    great insight.

  3. July 31, 2009 10:45 am

    How does one hold these tensions in balance? The answer is simple enough: through application of the principle of the choice of the lesser of two evils?

    This principle no longer seems relevant in ethics, especially concerning sexual matter. Yet, it is this principle that resides at the heart of sound ethical thinking? Without it, Catholics are left with theocratic authoritarianism.

    Too many vocal and activist Catholics have no philosophical background. They have too much confidence in inexperience. They are theocratic and authoritarian.

  4. Peter permalink
    July 31, 2009 9:50 pm

    Have you seen that Fr. Barron is working on “The Catholicism Project”– see

    I have always been impressed with his intellect and ability to explain the faith. Good quote.

  5. ockraz permalink
    August 1, 2009 12:26 pm


    My father (who is not Catholic) used the words “theocratic authoritarianism” Thursday in arguing that the Catholic church, because of its structure, is inferior to the Anglican communion. I wonder what you would have said in response.

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