Michael Voris vs. “Financially Compromised” Catholic Apologists

Michael Voris vs. “Financially Compromised” Catholic Apologists September 2, 2013
. . . Thus, “Establishment” Apologists Deliberately Avoid Criticizing Bishops (???)
Photo by “gfpeck” [Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0 license]




This is a follow-up paper, to my previous one having to do with Michael Voris making an issue out of the salaries of apologists like Karl Keating and Catholic radio talk show hosts like Al Kresta (both personal friends of mine).

* * * * *

I had noted that Karl Keating clarified that Catholic Answers doesn’t receive grants from the bishops; therefore, it is unreasonable to accuse the organization of kow-towing to them and being silent about any corruption or scandal in the hierarchy. Two supporters of Michael Voris replied similarly, as follows:

Jay Boyd wrote in my blog combox:

It’s not about the dollar-amount salaries themselves. It’s about the fact that if any of those speakers/writers did the kind of reporting MV does – i.e., if they openly acknowledged the problems in the Church instead of pretending all is well, and if they called out wayward bishops – they probably wouldn’t have their jobs, nor their salaries, because of the bishops’ disapproval and resultant pressure on the employers.

Even if the bishops don’t contribute a dime to those salaries, they still have the power to blacklist speakers in their dioceses. And that does have an effect; just ask Michael Voris. The bottom line is that the mainstream Catholic media does not report much that addresses the crisis in the Church, and if they did, their heads would begin to roll. Does anyone deny that?

Likewise, Terry Carroll, a person who actually works directly with Michael Voris, noted on a “traditionalist” site (I have italicized where he used caps):

So Catholic Answers and EWTN etc. say “we don’t take any money from bishops” and, therefore, Michael’s Voris’ allegations are demonstrably false. Well try this on.

Suppose that Catholic Answers did precisely the same things that Michael Voris does, i.e., hold the feet of the hierarchy to the fire and expose the state of crisis in the Church? How many of their apologists would be welcome to speak on diocesan property? How many guest appearances would there on be on mainstream Catholic media outlets, like EWTN and Catholic radio? Would there even be a Catholic Answers Live show? How might donations to Catholic Answers be affected if it were publicly known that they were “not an approved apostolate”? None of this is “money from the bishops” but is a consequence of “not playing ball” with the bishops. So, yes, it is possible to speculate whether refusal to expose corruption in the Church might be influenced by money and access.

If EWTN continued on the path of Mother Angelica, who was very critical of the hierarchy, how many bishops or priests would appear (or be allowed to appear) on the air?

Those are the consequences that Michael Voris must endure. He is banned from appearances on EWTN and Catholic radio. It’s the exceptional bishop and priest who agrees to be on the air with him. Since his diocese goes out of its way to advertise that he is “not approved,” this makes it necessary that those who invite him to speak to find locations not on diocesan property.

To piously intone that you “don’t take any money from bishops” and therefore, Michael Voris’ charges are false is … disingenuous in the fullest sense of the word. All the squealing from the targets of these Vortex episodes is proof that Voris hit his targets. He’s holding up a mirror to them and they don’t like what they see.

I have two replies to this line of reasoning: coming at the same error or falsehood from two different angles. The first I developed in its specifics last night (and have been mulling over this in my mind — in a general sense — for many months). It has to do with what the very purpose and modus operandi of the apologist is, in the first place (something I know about, being one myself, full-time for almost twelve years now). I wrote:

There is also a whole other sub-discussion about this sort of thing that I have engaged in at length with Jay McNally: what is the function of an apologist in the first place?

When I wake up in the morning, I am thinking of how I can defend the doctrines of Holy Mother Church and help encourage Catholics in their faith. That’s what apologists do, by definition. Journalists, on the other hand, can (and do) probe and troubleshoot and do hard-hitting investigative reporting. That’s Michael and Jay’s thing, because they are journalists. I have a problem with their demanding that I and other apologists must do exactly what they do. It doesn’t follow. I’m not against criticism of corruption or bishops at all; only against the notion that apologists have that as one of their duties or priorities.

What compels Voris to take on people like Catholic Answers and Al Kresta? Why can’t he just do his thing and not attack fellow Catholics whom he readily admits are doing good work — in apologetics, which is what they are devoted to! DUH!!! Apologetics is one thing; journalism is another.

Karl Keating made a variation of this response to textbook RadCathR Chris Ferrara last night in the combox for his latest article, having to do with radical Catholic reactionary criticism of the two shows Catholic Answers Live did on that topic. Chris Ferrara commented and Karl replied:

Chris Ferrara: What about the ‘radical neo-Catholicism’ of these liberalized masses of people in the pews, who are helping to perpetuate the culture of death by slowly contracepting the Western world into oblivion, voting to elect radically ‘pro-gay’ and pro-abortion politicians to public office everywhere?”

Karl Keating: Yes, indeed–what about them? Catholic Answers has an extensive chastity ministry that reaches hundreds of thousands of people yearly with the Church’s teaching against contraception and in favor of the historic understanding of marriage and sexuality. We have published books and booklets on homosexuality and abortion. Our voter’s guide, which covers those two issues and others, has been distributed in the millions of copies. We’re doing our part. We’re trying to fix a problem that you and we all recognize.

What is “The Remnant” doing beyond pointing out that there is a problem? What are you doing to convert those masses of Catholics to full Catholic morality? It’s one thing to raise an alarm about a fire, but then one needs to attend to putting the fire out.

Later in the same thread (comment #192), he reiterated the same theme. Someone had written: “If the mainstream Catholic media would bemoan the scandal inside the Church half as much as they bemoan Michael Voris, ‘rad trads’, and ‘hyperbolic traditionalists’, I truly think things would be noticeably better. . . .” Karl replied:

It depends on what you identify as a scandal. Poor liturgies? Poor homilies? Poor music? Poor church architecture? Poor schooling at nominal universities? Those things and more Catholic Answers has talked about, multiple times, in its magazine and on the air. But we do more than merely complain about them. We explain how things ought to be and how our readers and listeners can help move things from A to B. Some other groups and publications never get beyond harrumphing.

Bravo! This is exactly right, and hits the nail on the head. It’s a theme I have talked about for many years now: the RadCathRs and many “mainstream traditionalists” as well, are far too busy complaining and moaning about the Church to do something as mundane as apologetics and evangelism. They don’t have time for it. And who would want to come into a Church (a warped, grotesque caricature of the actual thing) that is presented as a radical like Christopher Ferrara presents it anyway?

Keating (#193) then makes a withering response to another typically way-out statement of Ferrara’s:

Ferrara: Now, what is your comment on the patently poor—indeed, disastrously poor—judgment of the Holy See and the conciliar popes who inflicted on the Church a plague of hundreds of bad, incompetent, criminal (re the homo scandal) or just plain weak-kneed bishops, from Weakland, to Mahony, to Gumbleton, to Dolan (whose disgraceful invitation to Obama will go down in infamy). This list of episcopal appoints reflecting Rome’s “poor judgment” goes on for many pages.

Keating: Hundreds of such bishops? That means at least 200. I don’t think you could list 200 “bad, incompetent, criminal” bishops. If you could, out of, say, 10,000 episcopal appointments since 1965, that admittedly would be a grossly high number (since there shouldn’t be any such men among the successors of the apostles) but a fairly small proportion (2%). By your own estimation, Lefebvre erred in 25% of his appointments. . . .

In the last half century there have been thousands of Vatican appointments, some of them spectacularly good, many good, many so-so, many inferior, and more than the three you list were downright bad–something of a bell curve. I wouldn’t put any of Lefebvre’s appointments above the middling level, with Williamson in the downright bad category.

He proceeded to offer great insight in his  reply (#196) to yet another “traditionalist” (or RadCathR) who provided the usual boilerplate complaints about the Novus Ordo Mass:

DM Ferra: Whereas the Novus Ordo is a sinking ship whose pastors have abandoned the “hard teachings”, whose parishes specialize in all forms of sacrilege, and whose catechesis is in such shambles that it requires damage control from lay apostolates like Catholic Answers.

Karl Keating: You paint so broadly that you paint falsely. There are 17,000 parishes in the U.S. You suggest that in all of them the “hard teachings” are not taught and, worse, that all these parishes “specialize in all forms of sacrilege.” It’s talk like this the makes people think Traditionalists aren’t qualified to be part of the discussion. That’s unfair to the large majority of Traditionalists, of course, but it’s an understandable reaction since what you say is gross nonsense and betrays a lack of knowledge of the wider Church on your part.

My own diocese, San Diego, is not known as a conservative stronghold, liturgically speaking. I’ve visited a fair number of the parishes over the years. Some have sophisticated liturgies (even with incense and fine choirs and some Latin used). A few seem stuck in a 1970s time warp. Most are okay, neither greatly inspiring nor manifesting many (or any) abuses. Granted, I haven’t been to all the parishes (there are 99 in the diocese), so I can’t speak universally, but I’ve been to a fair sampling, and it’s ludicrous to say that these parishes, as a whole, “specialize in every form of sacrilege.” In fact, I’m sure that can’t be said of any of them.

Can anyone imagine Chris Ferrara out street witnessing or doing outreach on the Internet (say, in a Calvinist or evangelical venue)?:

“Hey folks, come and join the Catholic Church! It’s self-destructing, at death’s door; 95% of our bishops are fundamentally compromised; so are most of our apologists, even the orthodox ones who tell the truth (kow-towing to all the modernist bishops); our popes are spineless wimps who encourage pagans to pray, as if that was equivalent to Christian prayer, and who think Allah and Yahweh are identical. Everything is hopeless and dismal in our ranks; vocations are declining drastically, Mass attendance is a shell of what it used to be; 2% of our people even believe all that the Church teaches anymore, it’s spiritually dead, everything is in terrible shape. But come and join the Catholic Church because we’re the fullness of truth!”

I would have (quite literally) laughed such a message to scorn, back in 1989 when I was a happy, confident evangelical apologist (fully a Christian by virtue of my valid baptism) and zealous pro-life activist. It would have been far more likely for me to become a jihadist terrorist or travel to the moon in a hot air balloon, than to become a Catholic on that basis.

Karl Keating makes the obvious point. If there is darkness, you don’t just stand there and do the purely negative, reactionary thing of cursing the darkness. You do the positive, pro-active thing of turning on a light, sharing the light, for heaven’s sake! Teaching and spreading the truth is opposing the darkness and the lies and falsehood. You don’t just condemn the error, but you overcome and replace it with the truth. But that’s not good enough for guys like Ferrara and Voris. They have to curse the folks who are turning on the lights, too: precisely what will defeat the darkness in the Church (insofar as it is present) in the long run. They keep bashing and moaning day in and day out. Keating and Al Kresta and myself and others in the apologetics movement in the Church keep promulgating and preaching Catholic truth. Which is likely to have more long-term positive effect?

We also see this methodology in someone like Fr. John A. Hardon, S. J.: my mentor, who received me into the Church and who wrote the Foreword for my first book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism (who is now being considered for canonization). Fr. Hardon knew better than anyone, what it is like to be subjected to liberal nonsense. He was a Jesuit after all. He used to be mocked and made fun of by his fellow priests in the order. Some of us who were taught by him actually observed this firsthand.

Now how did he respond to that? Did he spend all his time writing books about “neo-Catholicism” and the modernist scandals in the Church? No; he simply wrote orthodox Catholic truth, and trained Catholics to do the same. He conducted Ignatian and Marian Catechist classes (I was part of the former). He was a catechist to Blessed Mother Teresa’s nuns. He taught the truth. Most “traditionalists” highly respect Fr. Hardon. His orthodoxy, personal holiness, and zeal are unassailable. He may very well one day be proclaimed a saint. I was honored and privileged to have known him. And he paid me the greatest compliment I’ve ever received about my writing, saying that it was “very Catholic” (that would have referred to what was to become my first book).

As an illustration: when Fr. Hardon was giving his talks at these classes, they were being recorded by a friend of mine, Dan Peper, and Father would slyly half-smile in his endearing fashion and say in the middle of some observation he was making, “turn off the tape player.” Then he’d make a “political” or “controversial” observation about liberals in the Church. When he was done, he’d say, “turn the tape player on again.” We all knew why he did it. Now, from Ferrara’s and Voris’ perspective (given how they are treating Catholic Answers and other apologists), this would be proof that Fr. Hardon was a moral coward who was afraid and unwilling to speak out against liberals in the Church.

But it’s all in how you look at it. In my mind, he did speak out against them, but in these instances, he did so in our presence only, without wishing it to be public. He wished to limit the audience who heard that aspect (which is wisdom and prudence: an instance of not airing dirty laundry to all and sundry); thus, those observations didn’t make it onto the tapes that were made. But we heard them (sort of like oral tradition in the Bible). He also opposed the modernist nonsense (per my contentions above) by teaching the truth and inspiring many hundreds of Catholics (I often hear from them) to try to follow his noble example.

Moreover, one might ask how bad Fr. Hardon thought affairs in the Church were? He said many times that the modernist crisis was the worst in the history of the Church (and I agree). But how bad is the “worst crisis”? There are degrees of doom-and-gloom. The quintessential doom-and-gloom guy and “traditionalist” conspiratorial type in the 1990s, was Malachi Martin (sort of the Christopher Ferrara of that period). I witnessed once a person back in 1990 asking Fr. Hardon, “are things really as bad in the Church as Malachi Martin says they are?” Fr. Hardon immediately (and firmly) replied, “no.” I wish I could remember what he said after that, but I can’t. I’m certain of his initial negative response. Thus, he freely acknowledged that things were very bad, but not as bad as the “traditionalists” would have it. The same is true today. I follow Fr. Hardon’s lead, as I do in most things.

Now for my second and different response to the two quotes at the top of this paper:

I continue to deny that apologetics groups or individual professional apologists are “financially beholden” to the bishops insofar as (it is claimed by Voris and his devotees and RadCathRs in general, and many “traditionalists”) they would be subject to banishment from parishes, thus resulting in “heads rolling” (Jay above). This is simply untrue as a generalization, and at best, only partially true in some cases, to a minor extent. Let’s look at several examples and see how it works out.

1) Catholic Answers: as Karl Keating has made clear, CA doesn’t receive any grants from the bishops. So they aren’t supported in that way. They receive approximately 69% of their income from donations, and 31% from the products they sell. CA has a staff page of 44 people. Now, how many of these people would bishops’ hypothetical refusal to allow use of parishes affect? Well, only the public speakers, who go out and give talks around the country (e.g., Staples, Fradd, Molina, Horn, Coffin to some extent). They would indeed be affected to some degree by such a banishment. No one else would be.But this is but a small percentage of the whole staff

CA is supported independently of the hierarchy. Karl Keating does some talks and occasionally a debate, but not many. Mainly he writes for the magazine and blog and appears on the radio show. Jimmy Akin does the same, as he is averse to flying, as I understand it. Then there are “house apologists” like Michelle Arnold and Peggy Frye: not affected if there were such a “ban.” Patrick Coffin is primarily the radio host (in-house). who does some talks, too. My good friend Todd Aglialoro (editor of four of my own books) wouldn’t be affected by such a possible scenario. Even if it did occur, the speakers on staff could simply stick to radio and writing articles, or talk in non-diocesan venues. No biggie. Thus, the accusation is untrue; it’s a non sequitur. Besides, Voris is doing fine, even being banished as he is (and why he is banished, is relevant also). He’s getting his message out to multiple thousands.

2) Coming Home Network: I worked for them for three years (2007-2010) as their forum moderator. They have a donation base as well. They produce their own radio and TV shows out of their own building (I’ve been there, just as I’ve been to the CA offices). When they had a yearly conference it was at the Hilton Hotel in Columbus, Ohio: that could hardly be prevented by a bishop: what would he do? They have freedom of assembly and speech. They have their own publishing operation.

3) Peter Kreeft: he is a professor at Boston College: hardly a bastion of Catholic orthodoxy. He manages to publish his many books and to be the greatest living Catholic apologist (as Fr. Hardon thought, and I agree). How would a hypothetical banishment by bishops affect his success? Not at all . . .

4) John Martignoni: has his own radio station. He’s gonna do what he likes, independently of bishops and the hierarchy (in terms of them “controlling” him in a bad sense). But he’s orthodox, like all these groups and persons and myself are. We’re not against the hierarchy; we’re simply not financially dependent upon them.

5) EWTN: even Terry Carroll, above, made reference to “Mother Angelica, who was very critical of the hierarchy.” So he admits that they were critical in the past, but thinks EWTN has since compromised and now shut up about any liberal corruption. I don’t know if that is the case or not, as I hardly ever watch the station, so others will have to speak to that. But I highly doubt that things have changed as much as is made out. I know that they have plenty of material in their literature archives that is critical. One personal favorite, that I have touted for years (often link to), is a 1995 article, “Conservative Bishops, Liberal Results,” by James Hitchcock. That continues to be online, hosted on their site. Now, if they were so cowardly and unwilling to utter the slightest criticism, why would it still be up on their website?

6) Al Kresta: Ave Mario Radio (and University) was begun by pizza magnate Tom Monaghan (founder of Domino’s Pizza), so that is an independently begun enterprise, not beholden to the hierarchy, either. Nor could it be fundamentally affected by a disapproval.

7) Myself: I’m just a small player in all this, with my pitiful pittance of an income and no public speaking or TV appearances, but hey, I do have nine “officially” published books with five different major publishers (no small or easy feat, believe me), lots of published articles (in paper magazines), some 25 radio appearances (including on EWTN affiliates), and a fairly influential website / blog with almost 2,500 papers, that has been online for 16 years.

How does this theory of “compromise with the bishops” work with me? I’ve managed to be perfectly free to speak my mind and say whatever I wish. I have a few Imprimaturs (one from my own bishop) but that is no proof that I am “muzzled.” It’s proof that I write orthodox books! I’ve never received a dime from my own archdiocese (by quite deliberate design) nor had any formal connection with them whatsoever (nor do I wish to). Nor have I ever been supported by my own parish (22 years of attendance). I have given exactly one talk connected with it, that was at a pizzeria (the famous “Buddy’s” in northeast Detroit).

I have my own website; don’t do talks (so that isn’t affected by any hypothetical disapproval), I have put out 31 books on my own with Lulu: a secular book publishing operation. I raise money on my own, as needed, via the Internet and secular means of Facebook and Blogger (did so last year and will again starting tomorrow), or by part-time jobs: usually utterly unrelated to anything Catholic. The great bulk of my tiny (yet adequate to pay bills) income is from my own books, written by the sweat of my brow.

I could start blasting bishops and the Church on a daily basis, as Michael Voris does. I freely choose not to do so, per the reasoning above in my first lengthy reply, because it’s not my area. I would argue that in order to do so (i.e., to make intelligent, specific criticisms or to issue necessary respectful rebukes), one has to do the hard work of serious journalism. My task is apologetics. But if I wanted to — tomorrow — start writing like Voris speaks, it would cause virtually no harm to the way I make my living, and the sources of it, which would remain primarily my own book royalties, and donations from regular old people: not from the hierarchy.

The whole thing is a complete non sequitur. It doesn’t apply to us “establishment” so-called “neo-Catholics” or whatever epithet we are called. If Voris wasn’t doing fine financially, he wouldn’t have a staff of twenty. I have no staff except my hiking stick . . . but look at the work I manage to do! Everyone’s doing fine. Support or no support from the hierarchy is almost perfectly irrelevant to — has no relation to — the fact of someone succeeding in getting out their message or not. Lay apologetics is strongly encouraged, from the highest levels of the Church. That’s all we need. We follow our calling  and go out and do our thing, and it’s an honor and a privilege and a joy to do so..

Thus, this charge is simply irrelevant in my case, and that of the others above. It’s based on the prior quite questionable and dubious, logically fallacious and factually-challenged  assumptions that:

1) We must speak out (as a matter of duty) on issues of corruption in the Church exactly as radical Catholic reactionaries like Voris and Ferrara do (and this assumes in turn that we must agree that things are precisely as bad as RadCathRs claim they are),


2) We don’t do so because of some nefarious compromise or cowardly traits that prevent us from doing it, lest we lose the bulk of the vast amounts of filthy lucre that we have obtained as ill-gotten gain (especially in my case: I just joined the Forbes 500 last week!).

My first reply above disposed, I think, of the charge in #1, and my second explains why #2 is also a bum rap. Easy to baldly assert as an accusation: much harder to withstand scrutiny . . .It always take a hundred times more ink to refute a falsehood, than to state the thing, which is easy and can be just one or two sentences.

[see also Facebook discussion of this post]


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