Until now I have kept mum about the controversial self appointed prophet Michael Voris. However, yesterday I viewed his latest video in which he ‘exposes’ the salaries of people he disparagingly calls ‘professional Catholics.’ He calls out Catholic radio host Al Kresta, author and founder of the apologetics apostolate Karl Keating and his employees Tim Staples and Jimmy Akin. He accuses them of taking exorbitant salaries, then proclaims that his salary is only $40,000.00.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing to hold people accountable and to make sure our ministries are financially sound and communications are transparent.
However, there are serious problems with the way Voris has made his criticism. First of all, what status has he as a Catholic watchdog? Who appointed him as the policeman of all Catholic apostolates? Are the financial situation of Catholic Answers and Al Kresta any of his business? Does he have all the facts? Has he checked them? Furthermore, judging another person’s financial status is always dangerous. Money is a very relative thing and we have no idea how the other guy earns it or uses it.
I learned this as a Protestant. There was this rich guy called R.G.LeTourneau who made a pile of cash inventing a better bulldozer of something like that. He lived like a prince. I think he had a ranch in Texas, homes elsewhere, his own jet, a yacht—whatever. I don’t know the details, but I know lots of Christians pointed the finger and accused him of being a rich hypocrite. When he died it turned out that he had quietly given away 90% of his wealth and was living like a prince on 10%.
Therefore it is very ill advised to start judging people on their financial status unless we have all the facts. Clearly when there is dishonesty, greed or overwhelming corruption something must be done and whistles must be blown, but unless that is the case it’s a big mistake to start throwing stones just because somebody has a salary of X amount of dollars. So, for example, Keating’s or Kresta’s salaries might come from the royalties of books they have written, and maybe the royalties are far higher than the salary, but they put all the money into the apostolate, and only take their salary. I have known this to be the case, and if it is, then rather than taking an exorbitant salary the person may be living on less than they could be making with the rest going into the Lord’s work, and the accountants may have advised them to do it that way so they and the apostolate are on the most secure footing. Unless you know what he does with that money and where it comes from–indeed unless you are privy to the full financials you better keep quiet.
Then there is the problem of criticizing another person’s wealth at all. The social teaching of the church makes it clear that there is nothing wrong with a person accumulating wealth as the result of their hard work and enterprise. These are laypeople with families. They have not taken a vow of poverty. Why should they not get a fair wage for the hard work they do? Why should they not be rewarded properly for the education, learning and ministry they give to the church? The question is not really how much they are paid, but what they do with it. If they are good stewards of their blessings great. If they are living opulent lives, then comment and criticize.
So what if they are “professional Catholics”? Would that we had more of them. Would that ordinary Catholics gave so generously that we could afford to hire more “professional Catholics” who are well educated, devoted and ready to serve God and his church. Our good colleges and universities are pumping out well educated, enthusiastic and eager young Catholics who would make great DREs, evangelists, youth workers, organists and choir directors, school teachers and administrators, but Catholics are too stingy to tithe and parishes can’t afford to hire them. Give us more professional Catholics not fewer!
The next problem with Voris’ attack is that his method is unscriptural. The Sacred Scriptures teach us that if you have a problem with your brother you are to go to them first in private. Did Voris sit down in a meeting with Keating, Kresta, Keck and the others? If he thought it was his business did he make an appointment and say, “Fellas, there are some criticisms about the level of your salaries, could we gather some more information?” I don’t know, maybe he did or maybe he simply got in front of the camera and started blasting away. The Sacred Scriptures teach that if the person does not hear you after a private meeting you are to go with two or three brothers for a second meeting. Did this happen, or did Voris simply dish the “dirt”. Lest people accuse me for doing the same thing, the scripture was talking about a private affair that should be kept private before becoming public. I’m criticizing Voris publicly for an action he has already made public himself. Public wrongdoing can be corrected publicly and if amends are due they should be made publicly.
An even more worrying problem is the link back to Catholic Answers’ program criticizing radical Catholics. I have not heard the program, but I’ve done some radio shows with these guys, (BTW I did not receive a fee ) and they’re solid, sensible and level headed Catholic apologists. If they criticized radical Catholics, so have I. When we do, we are careful to repeat over and over again that we love the traditionalist movement. If they are like me they say time and again that the vast majority of traditionalist Catholics are good, God fearing faithful Catholics. They love the liturgy. They l0ve the church. They love their families. We are on their side–and that’s exactly why we criticize the RADICAL traditionalists. We criticize the extremists because the extremists are actually hurting the traditionalists we admire and support. This is not rocket science. We are NOT criticizing traditionalists or the Latin Mass or the traditionalist movement. We’re criticizing the lunatic fringe of the movement. We’re criticizing the angry, sedevacantists, anti Semitic, misogynistic, paranoid conspiracy theory loons. We criticize them because if the traditionalist cause is not careful they will allow these high volume, vocal extremists to do great damage to their own cause and to the Catholic Church and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Therefore the most worrying thing about Voris’ attack on Catholic Answers, EWTN and others is that it seems like some kind of sick revenge thing. So the guys at Catholic Answers had just one program criticizing the lunatic fringe of the traditionalist movement and a counter attack is launched? For what end? To destroy Catholic Answers and EWTN? To bring down Al Kresta? Within Voris’ video I sensed a kind of gloating glee that Catholic Answers was in financial trouble and the implication that they were down because of their criticism of the traditionalist movement and that it was because traditionalists had withheld donations that CA was going down.
Please do not misunderstand this post. Because I am criticizing this video of Voris does not mean I dislike Michael. I don’t know him. It also doesn’t mean that I condemn everything he says. The few other videos of his that I have watched I pretty much agree with. If I have worries about this particular video of his it does not mean that there should not be whistle blowers in the church or that laypeople should not play this role.
However, I have to be blunt. There is a certain type of personality that is never happy unless it has an enemy, and the enemy they like best are the ones around their own table. This dynamic exists in many different types of groups, but I’ve seen it most in many religious situations. A little group gathers together and they all feel good about their group because they’re right. However, they are never secure in their rectitude. They always feel a bit insecure and the most insecure even feel paranoid. So they begin to blame everyone else for being wrong, for being heretics, for being apostates. Then they feel snug and warm and good about themselves and their little religious group for a little while until the next “enemy” appears. Then they can go on the attack again with their smug self righteousness.
I recognize this sick dynamic. I’ve been in too many groups where this was going on.
Furthermore, I admit that I recognize this sick dynamic because I behave that way sometimes too.
I have also sought to remove the speck from my brother’s eye before removing the plank in my own.
And for this I repent unconditionally.
UPDATE: A commenter has asked about my salary. Although I have a wife and four children I receive no more than the salary and benefits of every other priest in my diocese. I minister more widely and help support my family through writing and speaking. Of this extra income I tithe 15% back to my parish. I don’t think it’s smart to put specific financial information online, but if anyone wants more information they can drop me an email.
UPDATE: A sentence in the post which may have been construed as lack of appreciation for all the dedicated people who faithfully serve our church as volunteers has been removed, and I apologize for causing offense.