A reply to Michael Voris and his latest attack on those of us who dared to question him

Last week I posted about some conduct of Michael Voris at the 2014 March for Life that I considered to be little more than divisive grandstanding.

Well, in the last day or so, Michael Voris has responded to these criticisms with a follow up video called Ninja Catholics.

In this new video there is more uncharitable name-calling, more logical fallacy, and an even more strident ‘you are either for us, or against us’ mentality on display. The one thing that is absent from this video, however, is a direct response to the actual criticisms made of Michael Voris’ conduct in his previous video from the March for Life.

Before I respond to Voris’ latest video, let me start by making the following important points very clear:

1. I am a Catholic who strives to live fully and faithfully the teachings of Christ and His Holy Catholic Church, including the Catholic teaching regarding birth control, which my wife and I have committed ourselves to, without question, for all of our marriage.

2. I am a staunch defender and promoter of right Catholic teaching and practice, especially in the areas of human sexuality, marriage and bioethics.

3. I firmly believe and know that the ‘contraceptive mentality’ is a real thing, and that it plays a role when it comes to the issue of abortion (however, I also know that the relationship between contraceptive use and abortion is more complex an issue than some would acknowledge).

4. Lastly, I also know that there has been a major crisis in Catholic catechesis over the past 40 plus years, and that the Church now suffers greatly because of this.

With those qualifiers firmly established, let’s explore the problems with Michael Voris’ latest video response (starting at the 0:57 min mark in the video):

Voris:
“Typical of the ‘church of nice’ bloggers, was not to talk about the actual issue, of mostly Catholic pro-life kids not knowing Catholic morality, but rather attack us for being divisive. Whatever.”

I know a lot of good orthodox Catholics who are getting really tired of Michael Voris’ continual use of the illogical perjorative ‘the church of nice’. It is an uncharitable ad hominem attack that is designed to create an ‘us and them’ division within the Church, often where none actually exists.

This phrase is used arbitrarily and subjectively by Voris, and what often ensues are unintelligent and sweeping generalisations that totally fail to accurately represent various members and/or teachings/practices of the Church.

Basically ‘the church of nice’ is a way of Voris having his cake and eating it too, where he can attack and impugn his fellow Catholic laity and leadership at will, and then write off any challenge, or evidence to the contrary as being a delusion or symptom of ‘the church of nice’ mentality (like a recent Vortex video where he claimed that Catholics who believe in the new springtime of the Church are “crack addicted” and in “la la land”, and you shouldn’t listen to them because they are either “ignorant” or “lying to you” – yep, he really said that.)

See how convenient things become when you don’t actually have to respond to valid criticisms of your conduct, provide solid evidence, or actually show basic respect to the dignity of your fellow Catholics?

Ironically, ‘the church of nice’ has effectively become the Michael Voris equivalent of ‘the spirit of Vatican II’ excuse that is bandied about by Catholic dissenters who want to embrace some heterodox teaching or practice without having to give any legitimate justification for their actions.

Voris:
“Any person blogging, who thinks the March for Life is mostly a Protestant event, just plain disqualifies themselves from any intelligent discussion, and should simply be ignored. Forever.”

This is petty nonsense from Voris.

Firstly, while one Catholic blogger did incorrectly state that the crowd at the March for Life was “composed largely of Protestants”, he didn’t do this in a blog post, but rather in a status update on his personal Facebook Page in an introduction to my article – and my article does NOT say that the March for Life is a Protestant event, but rather that:

a. It attracts Catholics, Protestants, people of other religious faiths and non-religious people

b. This year the March for Life organisers worked even harder than usual to ensure an even larger Protestant attendance than that previously seen at the march

Secondly, it’s an absurd logical fallacy to suggest that someone should never be listened to ever again simply because they made a single factual error about this issue. Next time this blogger claims that the Eucharist is the Real Presence of Christ, should they be listened to, or ignored?

Voris:
“We had the good pleasure of bumping into two of the nations finest Bishops in the lobby of our hotel. We stopped them and talked with them about our polling, and they each responded the way you’d expect a loving father to respond; with concern, sadness, and so forth. One of them even said ‘we bishops need to do a much better job’.”

This little story is interesting, because it doesn’t actually have a lot to do with the concerns that myself, and others, have about Michael Voris’ conduct in his previous video.

Leaving aside the problems I pointed out last time with the way that Michael Voris actually structured the question in his poll, I certainly never said that I thought it would be acceptable for Catholics to reject such a fundamental teaching as this one, or that a failure of catechesis in this area isn’t something that should give us a sense of sadness.

I wonder if these two Bishops were actually made aware of the real content of the poll, and the way in which the subsequent findings were used by Voris?

Effectively, what he is trying to imply here is that these two Bishops were endorsing his last video, but any thinking person can see that what those Bishops actually appeared to have done was, rightly, express sorrow at a failure of catechesis that has been relayed to them in a hotel lobby. But this does not then mean that anything that happened after that point was endorsed by those Bishops, or could even be considered a good and prudent action on the part of Voris.

Voris:
“These two men, who are Bishops, are actual men. They don’t fall into the category of feminized, feelings-first males who so heavily populate the episcopate these days, as well as the ‘church of nice’ blogosphere.”

Any person of goodwill can see that this is not only the logical fallacy of ad hominem (if I call these people who disagree with me enough names, maybe no one will notice that I haven’t responded to their actual criticisms of my conduct), but it is also a particularly uncharitable and, I think, childish one. It’s a rehash of the old playground bully’s taunt ‘you’re not man enough’.

Anyone who knows me well will chuckle at such misguided characterization from Michael Voris, and anytime he wants to ascertain my masculine credentials he is welcome to join me in the ring, I spar three nights a week, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find an opening for him any time he’s interested.

 Voris:
“They hear the results and they want to solve the problem, not pretend there is no problem or attack the person who points out the naked emperor. But that’s all the ‘church of nice’ crowd can do. If they admit the problem, then they are automatically forced to answer the next question; which is: how did this problem arise in the first place? And then the next question: how is it being solved? And believe me, they do not want to go there, because they will wind up where we here at Church Militant TV, and scores of others have ended up; concluding that there has been a catastrophic failure on the part of Church leadership.”

This is nothing more than a meaningless and uncharitable mischaracterization of those of us who question the methodologies of Michael Voris.

Firstly, he wrongly assumes that anyone who criticizes him either does not see there is a crisis in the Church, or that they are not interested in doing anything about it. Neither of those accusations apply to me, and I doubt they apply to a lot of other orthodox Catholics who are critical of the conduct of Michael Voris.

Next, he sets up a false dichotomy (you are either for him, or against him), in the process subtly implying that only he, and those who agree with him are truly in touch with reality (while the rest of us are apparently either ignorant or in a state of willful denial), and then blames all of the failings on the Church leadership.

There’s just one problem, we, the laity, must also take some of the blame for what has transpired in the Church over the past few decades. There’s an old Irish saying (courtesy of Father Benedict Groeschel) that goes: ‘the laity get the clergy they deserve’.

There is a profound truth in this statement, about the fact that before any member of the clergy was even a seminarian, he was somebody’s son, and the formation he did, or did not receive, from his family played a large part in the priest, bishop or cardinal he eventually becomes. Now obviously the faith formation in the family is only part of the picture, but you can see what I am driving at.

The Church is not simply a body of believers who blindly follow the whims of the clergy, it breathes with both an ordained and a lay priesthood. Yes, there have been major problems with Church leadership over the past 40 years (and prior to Vatican II as well), yet these problems did not arise in a vacuum.

To blame only our clergy for the crisis in the Church is to make them a convenient scapegoat for a far more complex set of problems.

Voris:
“Now if they, ‘the church of nice’, said that in public, their speaking gigs would be cancelled, they would no longer be invited to appear on EWTN, or write their largely meaningless articles in the National Catholic Register. They would fall from grace with the Church establishment, and they aren’t men enough to do that. So, they attack those who say there is a problem, and in so doing they protect their own turf.”

Once again, none of this applies to me, because I have actually spoken in public about the crisis in the Church, and I don’t have a gig at the National Catholic Register (and let’s be honest, this was little more than a thinly veiled attack on Mark Shea), or on EWTN – which is a GREAT source of orthodox Catholic formation, by the way, so I’m really staggered as to how Voris could conclude that they are harming the Church.

Voris seems totally oblivious to the fact that several years ago, Father Benedict Groschel gave a series of public presentations entitled ‘The Crisis in the Church’. These presentations were a no holds barred examination and critique of what had gone wrong, and what the core issues facing the Church were. The audio recording of these seminars was even subsequently made available for any member of the public to purchase (which I did). Strangely enough, Father Groschel never fell out of favor or lost appearances on EWTN because of this. I know of other EWTN presenters who have been similarly candid in public presentations.

Has Mr. Voris ever stopped to consider that perhaps the problem is not the content, but the delivery?

I have no turf to protect, but I dislike bullying immensely, and I feel a strong sense of injustice when I see my fellow Catholics being unfairly maligned by others – so that’s why I have posted critical blogs about you Michael, because sadly, in your conduct I see someone who does exactly those sorts of things.

I really don’t care if this earns me your scorn, because my desire is to stay in the heart of the Church, not in the glowing praises of Michael Voris.

Voris:
“They even have to go so far in their ridiculous dissembling of the facts (scoffing and chortling) to actually write down in public that the March for Life is a Protestant event. A claim so stunning in its ignorance and stupidity that it bears mentioning again.”

And so, once again, I am forced to repeat that, as far as I am aware, only ONE blogger actually made this mistake, and it wasn’t in a blog post.

It certainly wasn’t an error I made in my post, and it really has little to do with the central criticisms of Michael Voris’ conduct in the editing and releasing of his previous video.

Voris:
“Yep, they demonstrate none of the manly characteristics which are so sorely needed today… please God, send strong MEN for leaders who model themselves on you, the perfect man.”

Once again, more of the childish schoolyard bully taunts of ‘you’re not man enough to be on my team.’

Like I said earlier, perhaps you should find out a little bit more about me, and the others who are critical of your conduct before passing baseless ad hominem judgments on our masculinity?

Voris then goes on to show video footage of 12 different young people from the March for Life answering ‘yes’ to the following question:

“Do you think a couple using birth control is always wrong in every circumstance?”

In doing this, Voris has simply repeated the same major error he fell into with the previous video that asked that question.

Let me repeat it again, for those who missed my last blog post about this:

An orthodox Catholic, could actually answer ‘no’ to that very question that Voris asked, and still be in full communion with the Catholic teaching about this issue.

Firstly, they could be reasoning that natural family planning methods (which are licit according to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church) are a form of birth control when used to space the births of children.

Or, they could be thinking of situations where birth control medications are used as treatments by a couple for another medical issue, and the contraceptive action of the medications is an unintended secondary effect.

This isn’t progressive Catholicism, this is Catholic moral theology 101.

Voris either seems completely unaware of this fact, or completely unwilling to actually accept the fullness of the Catholic teaching in this area.

Thus he repeats the EXACT same error he makes in the first video.

Ultimately, this video response from Michael Voris is a lot of uncharitable smoke and mirrors because it doesn’t actually address the fundamental criticisms that myself and others made of his conduct in his previous video from the March for Life.

Those criticisms were:

a. He went to an event that is frequented by Catholics, non-Catholics, non-Christians and non-religious people, and then expected everyone there to understand and accept Catholic teaching (did he even ask the people he polled what their religious beliefs were?)

b. He confused being a committed pro-lifer with being a committed Catholic, when someone can actually be a committed pro-lifer without being a committed Catholic. Now Michael Voris may not like that fact, but it is true none the less. His arbitrary distinction of calling pro-lifers who are not also anti-contraception ‘pro-birth‘ doesn’t hold any water either, because all people who oppose abortion (both pro and anti contraception) are ALL pro a conceived human person being given the right to be born.

c. He asked a poll question which contained a serious structural flaw in its phrasing – so serious that it could be answered ‘yes’, or ‘no’ without a participant actually violating Catholic teaching. He then used the results of this flawed poll to suggest that we shouldn’t actually be celebrating the March for Life, instead we should all be condemning the lack of people adhering to the Catholic teaching on contraception.

One commenter on my blog post last week even made this interesting comment:

“I know one of the individuals interviewed [by Michael Voris] is a moral theologian who is in full adherence to the teachings of the Church. I am pretty sure, judging from the look on his face, that he thought it was a trick question meant to pick up on the subtleties of the Church’s teaching regarding double effect.”

d. His actions lacked prudence, and did little to actually form people about the beautiful Catholic teaching regarding openness to life and contraception. The video largely just acts as a lightening rod for people wanting to blame our priests and bishops for yet another perceived failure.

e. He displayed an approach to human formation that seems to be out of touch with the reality that human beings rarely come to the fullness of the truth all in one instant. Instead this is a process that often takes years. I know this, because I regularly speak at, and run Catholic formation events, and I can tell you that, time and time again, I have seen it take months, or years for people to get on board with everything the Church teaches about human sexuality and bioethics.

I totally respect Michael Voris’ right to respond to my critique of his previous video (in fact, I would expect nothing less from someone so spirited), however his latest video response does not actually respond to the fundamental criticisms that myself and others raised about his video. Instead he has just chosen to attack those of us who dared to question his conduct with uncharitable ad hominem attacks, and judgements he is not qualified or even morally allowed to make (if he is interested in being faithful to the fullness of Catholic teaching).

I’ll leave the final word to my wife, (at least I think it was my wife) who said to me last week: ‘I don’t understand, isn’t the March for Life the best possible place for people who don’t actually embrace the Catholic teaching on contraception to be? The March for Life is probably the most likely place they’ll encounter people who are both willing and able to explain that very teaching to them.”

Now that’s worth thinking about.