So Whatever Happened to the Audio/Video of My Debate with Michael Voris?

So Whatever Happened to the Audio/Video of My Debate with Michael Voris? August 31, 2015

A reader writes:

I followed the news of your debate with Michael Voris at the Argument of the Month Club in St. Paul, Minnesota in October of 2013. Do you have any idea why AOMC has never posted the audio files of this debate? They have posted a number of other presentations; however, your debate with Voris, which probably has a wider audience than any of their other presentations, is missing.

Perhaps they had technical difficulties.  Perhaps it was that I was essentially arguing the affirmative of an absolutely bulletproof resolution (“Resolved: The way to address the crisis in the Church is through prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and the corporal and spiritual works of mercy”) and that Michael therefore chose to take the utterly impossible task of telling Jesus and the entire Catholic Church they are wrong to recommend these things.

The debate organizers came to me with a resolution that was no resolution at all (“Is there a crisis in the Church and what do we do about it.”) Realizing this was impossible have a debate about, I was the one who suggested the new resolution off the top of my head with the assumption that, surely, somebody would reword it a bit to make it more… arguable.  But to my astonishment, the debate organizers simply proposed it, unamended, to Michael and, to my even greater astonshment,  he accepted without proposing any changes.  This meant that I literally could not possibly lose, even if I had a stroke and lost the power of speech.  All I would have to do is gesticulate at the resolution on a chalk board, pound my chest, and nod furiously and I would still win.

This became evident in the debate itself.  There was simply nothing Michael could say against the resolution because he would have been arguing against Jesus Christ himself in the Sermon on the Mount and the parable of the sheep and the goats.  It was the theological equivalent of “Resolved: 2+2=4”.  Impossible to argue against.  So the debate was taken up with the only tactics somebody defending a hopeless position could use: complain that I was a bad person who was mean, and talk about other stuff like how much various bishops and clerics sucked, in his opinion.  All I had to do was just stick to the resolution and say, “Yes, it’s true I’m sinful and I’m sure you are indeed miffed at Bishop Whosit, but the *resolution* is ” Resolved: The way to address the crisis in the Church is through prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and the corporal and spiritual works of mercy”.  I say “Aye!  So does Jesus and the entire Catholic Church.”

I have no idea who decides the winner in such debates.  I am told (by Dale Ahlquist) that, on the whole, the crowd moved in my direction, so I’ll take his word for it.  I’m a bad judge of such things.  But it was, at any rate, a fun evening and I felt generally pleased with how it went.  Hopefully, one of these days it will show up on video or audio.  You might drop Church Militant a line and ask them whatever happened to it.

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  • Derek Brown

    I had contacted Church Militant for the debate a few months ago. In the response, they said that they had recorded video of the debate but were not free to publish it, per their agreement with AOTM. I have tried several times to contact AOTM, through email and facebook, to inquire about when the debate would be posted. They have not returned any of my messages.
    It’s a shame. I was looking forward to this debate and I know many have been waiting for it to be released.

    • Stu

      I think they had a change of heart on posting their debates. Not sure why, but I think I recall the organizer remarking “what happens at AOTM, stays at AOTM.”

      • chezami

        In which case, what was the point of recording the debate–or AOTM giving permission to record it?

        • Stu

          Don’t know and I question that as welll. It does seem odd and I would agree that a plausible explanation is that someone doesn’t want it released. Now I really think I remember The organizer (Ken) telling Michael Matt such after the debate in some interview, but I wouldn’t testify to that. But I will say this, there are later events on their website that do have at least the audio present. So again, the question remains.

          • chezami

            My suggestion would be to go pester CM and Michael Matt. Somebody should be able to give a straight answer to a straight question.

  • tj.nelson

    I checked and the original tape is now in the Smithsonian.


  • Pappy


    You say that Michael Voris “chose” the side. This was a debate, you had one position, Michael was arguing the contrary. I recall that Dale Ahlquist argued (in the same venue) that there is no such thing as a just war. Now I don’t believe for a minute that Mr Ahlquist denies the Church’s teaching on just war, nor do I believe that Voris denies the efficacy of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

    As someone who has been attending AOTM for years, I think you are missing the point about having a debate format. Sometimes the the debater are NOT arguing a side because that is what the really beleive.

    • chezami

      I have no idea what Michael Voris was thinking when he decided to argue against the resolution. As I say, I just tossed it out because I wanted a valid resolution, but I assumed they would retool it to make it more debatable. To my astonishment, they did not, and to my greater astonishment, Michael simply agreed to argue the hopeless negative.

      • Pappy

        He was thinking that he was going to participate in a manly debate.
        And to be fair I don’t think he ever said that your position was wrong, more along the lines that your position wasn’t complete (I don’t think that was his language, but that’s the gist I got).

      • CradleRevert

        Having been in attendance, I specifically remember Voris saying that he didn’t disagree with the resolution at all, but that he just felt that it wasn’t specific enough. I think he was happy to agree with whatever topic just to have a reason to debate you.

  • DJ Wambeke

    I’m glad to hear that, according to Ahlquist, many people moved towards your side.

    That was my first (and probably last) AOTM event, and to be honest I had the entirely opposite perception of the debate. Even though I agreed with you, and left still feeling persuaded of your correctness, it felt to me that Voris “won” the debate, mostly because he was more aggressive than you and it seemed like the crowd was responding to that.

    • chezami

      Certainly the bulk of the crowd was there because they are Voris fans and I was seen as the villain. But I think fewer people saw me as the villain at the end, which I take for a win. 🙂 It was a crazy evening and I had fun. Thanks for coming and being one of the sensible folk who agreed with me. 🙂 (JOKE!)

    • Pappy

      DJ, that’s exactly the way saw it too. Mark definitely had the stronger side to argue from, but in the end I think he missed some good opportunities to bolster his position in concrete ways. (e.g. when Voris asked “how much prayer, fasting, etc. is enough for the current crisis?”, I would have replied with Sheen’s famous line “the word ‘enough’ is not in the vocabulary of love”).

      Having been an AOTM member, I dispute that the bulk of the crowd was there because there were Voris fans. I knew who Michael Voris was,but didn’t follow his organization with anything more than a passing interest. On the other hand, my shelf is full of Mark’s books (a big fan from a long time). The bulk of the crowd was not there to see either Mr Voris or Mr. Shea in particular, but because they wanted to be engaged in a “manly argument” and have a “manly meal” (the kind neither your wife nor your doctor want you eating 😉

      Sorry Mark, but I don’t think you “won” the debate. At best, you edged Michael by a nose (I’m more inclined to call it a draw), but you should have had a easy romp with your position.

      • chezami

        I’ll take your word for it. I’m the worst judge in the world of such matters.

  • Re_Actor

    The debate organizers came to me with a resolution that was no resolution at all (“Is there a crisis in the Church and what do we do about it.”) Realizing this was impossible have a debate about, I was the one who suggested the new resolution …

    Granted that the organisers’ original wording was a question rather than a resolution, I don’t understand why it was impossible to debate. Surely the problem with “The way to address the crisis in the Church is through prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and the corporal and spiritual works of mercy” is that a significant proportion of “the entire Catholic Church” think everything is hunky-dory — including, it seems, the Holy Father: ““I dare to say that the Church has never been so well as it is today.” Crisis? What crisis?

    • chezami

      Because a resolution has to be a proposal of something concrete. That’s how debates are structured. “Is there is a crisis in the Church?” is not debatable because there is *always* a crisis in the Church. “What do we do about it?” is not debatable because nothing is proposed. My resolution took for granted that there is a crisis in the Church and proposed a course of action for yay or nay debate.

  • Stu

    So what in the wide world of sports was actually debated? I’m quite confident that Voris doesn’t disagree with the resolution and I suspect his point was that we have to take action in addition to prayer, fasting, etc. But I would wager that Mark doesn’t disagree with taking action in addition to those things either.

    So it seems that the disagreement has really always been about style and tact where no one bats 1.000.

    What is interesting to me is how well everyone seemingly got along with each other in person. Why can’t that be replicated in the blogosphere? Why can’t that be replicated in the Catholic blogosphere?

  • Dave

    You were definitely the winner Mark.

    That’s why the video/audio has never been posted at AOTM. You see, Michael Voris’ team took over the recording and they’ve never released it because it didn’t go as planned.

    Did you see the look on Voris face when you yelled out: “I love you Michael Matt!”

    He knew he was in a lonely position.

    They expected to draw you in and watch you getting beaten to a pulp as happened when Sungenis walked into the trap they set up with a real astronomer.

  • Pappy

    Resolved: 2+2=4. Impossible to argue against. (or not ?)

    In physics I learned that in any equations, the units are very important. For instance 2 apples plus 2 oranges does not equal 4 lemons.

    If we keep the units the same (why not ?), It does seem right that 2 grains of sand plus 2 grains of sand does equal 4 grains of sand, but is this universal ? No, if the units are miles per hour (mph), and I’m walking at a rate of 2mph on a train that is moving in the same direction at 2 mph, Newton’s claim that 2mph + 2 mph = 4mph is disproved in a world with relativistic physics and the Newtonian claim is but a mere approximation.

    If I have two vectors whose magnitude are both 2 units, but who at right angles to one another, the then resulting vector does not have magnitude 4, but 2 * sqrt(2).

    If I live on a sphere, and I am measuring how far I am away from a starting point, I move 2 feet and then another 2 feet in the same direction, I am indeed 4 feet from my starting location. But that doesn’t work if the units are “big”. For instance if the units are “1/2 the circumference of my sphere”, then 2 + 2 isn’t 4, it’s 0. (Mark Shea should recognize this example, as he once played a character on TV that did this as I recall).

    If we move to the abstract, ideal realm of mathematics and limit ourselves to the discussion of integers, then I do concede that 2+2 = 4. Any first grade student can tell you as much. But repeating the assertion is not an argument for the assertion. In my days of graduate school (over 30 years ago), we “proved” the algebraically equivalent, but simpler formulation that 1 + 1 = 2. But that proof involved precise definitions of successors and predecessors among the integers.


    I think I see why I went away from the debate with the sense that you really hadn’t “done your due diligence”. You presumed that the position was obvious and didn’t need an argument. But if you listen to call-in Q&A like Dr. David Anders or Trent Horn, you see pretty quickly that there are a lot of people in the world who do agree on what is obviously true. One of the aims of AOTM is to help men explain and defend their faith. That is why certain men do play the “devil’s advocate” in the debates.

    • chezami

      My head hurts.

  • Maolsheachlann

    Interesting that Voris disables comments on his videos, too– unlike Father Barron.