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Bishop Barron Talks Catholic Faith, Reason, and Tradition at Harvard Memorial Church Lecture

Bishop Robert E. Barron, right, discussed the fundamental claims of Catholicism at a lecture in Memorial Church Sunday.
Bishop Robert E. Barron, right, discussed the fundamental claims of Catholicism at a lecture in Memorial Church Sunday. By Adelaide E. Parker
By Megan S. Degenhardt and Adelaide E. Parker, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard affiliates and Greater Boston area residents filled Memorial Church on Sunday for a lecture by Bishop Robert E. Barron on the fundamental claims of the Catholic Church.

Barron is the bishop of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, and the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, a global Catholic media organization. His lecture, titled “The Catholic Intellectual Tradition,” was co-hosted by the Harvard Catholic Forum and Harvard Catholic Center.

The bishop has attracted a large fan following through his work with Word on Fire and other media campaigns, with almost 150 million views on his YouTube channel. The line to enter Memorial Church carried into the Old Yard as attendees attempted to snag seats for the event.

After ascending the podium of Memorial Church to roaring applause, Barron discussed the Catholic intellectual tradition’s claim that Jesus is the basis of all Catholic understanding.

“Every intellectual system, I don’t care what it is, takes something to be epistemically basic,” he said. “The Catholic version takes Jesus Christ as epistemically basic.”

Barron said because God is not a being, there is no competitive nature between God and humanity. Thus, Barron claimed that “the closer God gets to us, the more alive we are.”

Being closer to God, Barron said, also enhances our sense of freedom.

“Freedom is the disciplining of desire so as to make the achievement of the good first possible, and then effortless,” Barron said.

Barron compared freedom to learning a language: One must first understand the disciplined rules of grammar and syntax before being able to express meaning. Similarly, Barron said, religion provides the moral discipline needed to experience true freedom.

Barron also discussed the relationship between God and the rest of the universe.

“Everything that exists outside of God comes from God,” Barron said. “There’s literally nothing that stands between God and the world.”

According to Barron, science and math complement religion rather than opposing it.

“Authentic religion and authentic science are not in an antagonistic relationship,” Barron said. “The greatest access to our God being visible today is through math and science.”

Barron concluded by encouraging the audience to use their knowledge — both religious and scientific — to serve others.

“Don’t worry about doing great things — do little things with great love,” he said.“Everybody is capable of that.”

Jackson C. Claflin, a student at Boston College who attended the lecture with a group of friends, lauded Barron’s impact and speech in an interview following the lecture.

“The atmosphere coming here was so exciting,” Claflin said. “There were so many young, faithful Catholics excited to see Bishop Barron because he works with media, YouTube, and podcasts.”

“It was very encouraging to see how many young Catholics there are who are really excited to see a bishop who has impacted us all,” he added.

—Staff writer Megan S. Degenhardt can be reached at

—Staff writer Adelaide E. Parker can be reached at Follow her on X @adelaide_prkr.

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