The Catholic bishop discusses the problems of liberalism, the “society of petty tyrants”, with a politics professor

Catholic Bishop Robert Barron last week described the problems with the modern understanding of liberty as that of a “society of petty tyrants” in an interview with Patrick Deneen, a political science professor at the University of Notre Dame.

Barron and Deneen, in an interview broadcast Friday on Word on Fire’s “Bishop Barron Presents,” compared a vision of freedom that seeks to remove all constraints on individuals to what they described as a ancient, Platonic and more Christian understanding of freedom.

“We’ve all become our own little tyrant,” Barron said. “Now, there’s not one tyrant. We’re all tyrants because, hey, look, this is my will, this is my desire. And as long as I don’t hurt you, I have the freedom to do what I want. And then you have a society of petty tyrants who have no sense of cohesion or true common good.

Bishop Barron stands at the podium of his lecture at Word on Fire Studios. (The Word on Fire Ministries)

Philosophers from ancient Greece and the Christian tradition, Barron said, show that “the purpose of government is actually to make us good, and that has something to do with virtue. And that freedom is not just, as you say, doing what you want. I want… It’s actually a kind of discipline of your desire to make the achievement of virtue possible.

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Deneen is the author of “Why Liberalism Failed,” which former President Obama praised in 2018. Although Obama disagrees with many of the book’s conclusions, he said it offers “a compelling insight into the loss of meaning and community that many Westerners feel.” “

The book demonstrates that liberalism failed because it succeeded, and that the understanding of freedom as the absence of obstacles led to the collapse of society at all levels, including the family and institutions social.

At another point in the interview, Deneen denounced the breakdown in contact between America’s elite, those who hold more political and economic power than most of the country, and ordinary citizens.

Patrick Deneen and Robert Barron

Bishop Robert Barron of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester interviewed political philosopher Patrick Deneen (Fox News)

“I think contemporary elites from institutions like mine mix very little with ordinary people,” Deneen said.

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This disconnect involves, in part, political division, condemned by populists as elites versus “deplorables,” but “there is also a kind of unprejudiced form, which is just not having contact,” Deneen said.

It involves “going from upper-middle class to the affluent suburbs, to the top schools all the way to Notre Dame, to living with your grad friends in Brooklyn, then moving to the wealthy suburbs and retiring in Florida.” , without ever mingling with “ordinary people”.

The solution to the division and concentration of economic and political power in the hands of a few people may at some point require structural change, Deneen said.

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Deneen argued in her 2023 book, “Regime Change: Toward a Postliberal Future,” that America is heading toward a fundamental transformation. His book advocates a “peaceful but vigorous overthrow of a corrupt and corrupting liberal ruling class and the creation of a postliberal order in which existing political forms can remain in place, as long as a fundamentally different philosophy informs these institutions and the personnel who populate them.” offices and key positions.

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