Michael Voris, Hell's Showrunner
[a note on content: there’s going to be a large amount of homophobia and Islamophobia and antisemitism in this piece, and then also a whole bunch of generally weird stuff]
Part of what I try to do with each of the G.O.T.H.S. pieces is not only tell a bonkers story about a Catholic in public life, but also provide a look at the whole universe of information that's available about very polarizing figures. I deliberately start drafting each piece while I'm in the middle of researching, before I have a full idea of what all will be included or where the story will go, because I want to recreate for a reader, as best I can, the excitement that I feel when I stumble upon a new piece of information or new chapter in the story I'm telling. For example, I didn't know when I started the Randall Terry piece that he had put out a terrible country album where the centerpiece song was about him having sex in his kitchen. And I didn't know when I started the Tom Monaghan piece that he had three dueling biographers, one of whom tried to publicly discredit another by insulting his knowledge of Catholicism. Finding stuff like that out is extremely fun to me, and I aspire to make it fun for a reader. That said, I have no idea what to do with Michael Voris.
Here's the stuff I can say with a high level of certainty: Michael Voris, in addition to possessing the worst haircut in the one holy Catholic and apostolic church, is the founder, senior executive producer, and eternal showrunner of Church Militant. Church Militant started under a different name as a local access TV program in Michigan in the late 2000s, but has grown into a bile-soaked far-right Catholic Internet outpost cranking out regular stories and videos on which left-leaning priests are secretly gay and the Satanic agenda behind Black Lives Matter. The clear analogue in political media is Breitbart, which traffics in the same homophobia, Islamophobia, antisemitism, straight-up racism, and prioritization of outrage over reporting; Church Militant frequently links to and references Breitbart as sources for its own political stories. And just as Steve Bannon brought his background in television production to Breitbart, Michael Voris had a steady career in the same field, doing production and on-air news work at various CBS affiliates and earning four Emmys for his work. Voris was born Catholic, came of age as the reforms of the second Vatican council drove significant changes in the church, and rediscovered his faith in 2006 after a series of tragic events and one below-average movie. He felt called to revive the church of his youth and create the program that would eventually become a website with visitors in the seven figures, with links that the weird girl from your college philosophy class still shares in her thirties. Voris’ 2016 book, Militant: Resurrecting Authentic Catholicism, describes the relationship between his website and the actual Catholic church, who once had to step in and tell Voris to stop using the word “Catholic” in the name of his website:
“The effort of this apostolate has been met with severe opposition from inside the establishment Church. We talk about things they don’t want talked about. It upsets the status quo. We ask questions they don’t want asked. We explore problems and issues they don’t want explored. As a result, we have been lied about, maligned, attacked, and so forth.”
Church Militant has been inseparable from Voris from day one, and he remains a very loud voice in culture wars both internal and external to the Catholic church. While his operation started with some truly hilarious levels of incompetence and poor graphic design, the 2016 election and general rising wave of white nationalism in America have, in recent years, given the site far more credibility and attention than it deserves.
Researching Voris was bizarre. There's no other word for it. Half of the stuff I found for this piece turned out to be Voris bragging on himself and was refuted by another source, and then that source ended up being a person who was even more insane than Voris. Somebody is assiduously editing Voris' Wikipedia page (likely a weird fan, of which he has many), deleting sources and reporting and replacing it with links to Voris' own work on the Church Militant site; this isn't even that effective, as the deleted stuff is still really easy to find if you are willing to spend ten minutes looking things up. Anything resembling objective truth flies away from this guy as if it's magnetically polarized. The combination of Voris' warped understanding of his own mission, his unhinged attacks on his perceived enemies, the actual enemies he's made that can sometimes be equally unhinged, his love of manipulating information, the fact that he's not particularly talented at manipulating information, and the very weird dudes he surrounds himself with led me to some strange places while researching this story. Let's see where we go.
CHAPTER ONE - ILLUMINATI VATICAN OPUS DEI HOMOSEXUAL MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE
"Julian Bashir ran a hand over his chin and felt the bristles of the beard roughly massage his palm. He was standing by the Romulan two-man craft waiting for Jadzia to turn up. She had been out all night trying to get the essential supplies they needed to mask their transporter beam, and the bed had felt lonely. He tapped his fingers against his thighs to mark time. "Smiley" O'Brien noticed it and - true to his name - grinned."
The pre-Church Militant Voris bounced around different CBS affiliates before eventually landing in Detroit in 1989, where he earned four Emmys working on local news programs. His foray into Catholic programming began in 2006, but there’s no way I can describe it that’s funnier than this masturbatory press release from 2008:
“It was The Da Vinci Code that triggered Michael Voris' "road to Damascus" moment. A devout, knowledgeable Catholic with more than twenty years of television broadcasting experience, Voris planned to produce a one-hour TV program to refute the distortions and outright lies about Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church that were being disseminated by the novel and the movie. Very quickly Voris realized that the challenges facing the Catholic Church in the United States were much larger and more pernicious than a single blockbuster, and so he planned something much more ambitious than a single TV special...Voris built a television studio in Ferndale, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. He christened his new venture--St. Michael's Media--placing the new company under the protection of the captain of the angels who drove Lucifer from Heaven. As for the television program, Voris chose a name as uncompromising as the great archangel--"The One True Faith"...Every broadcast is smart, entertaining, and when it comes to the hard questions, Voris and his correspondents never pull their punches.”
Oh, have you heard about “The One True Faith”? Perhaps you have questions about the man who created such an uncompromising name for his program, it turns out he’s a genius and is also selfless and entertaining. Four years later, Voris’ bio page at the RealCatholicTV site ran a more condensed story: “Michael Voris, S.T.B., president and founder of St. Michael’s Media, is among the generations of Catholics who simply didn’t receive thorough and accurate catechesis. Through his Catholic television show, The One True Faith, and his collaboration with www.realcatholictv.com, Mr. Voris intends to change that.”
That “thorough and accurate catechesis” part is important, and we'll look later at how Voris' career is in many ways a reaction to his early instruction in the faith. It's one of the recurring themes in his origin story that he tells across his various vlogs and books and posts. The rest of the origin story is pretty standard: he was a successful Emmy-winning producer who had it all, but the deaths of his mother and brother reawakened his interest in Catholicism, and the success of The DaVinci Code got his ire up, and made him one of the rare people who saw the movie and thought about it for more than fifteen minutes afterwards. He created a regular local access show, combining his Emmy-worthy television prowess with his graduate-level education from a seminary in Rome, and his short stint in seminary at the Archdiocese of New York. The show was, pretty much, exactly what you would expect, as reported in The Detroit Free Press in 2012:
“Voris said the church's liberal tilt in the years after the 1960s reforms of the Second Vatican led to declining mass attendance and the decline of morality in the West. In his videos -- which on YouTube have drawn more than 10 million views -- Voris criticizes everything from abortion (comparing it to a holocaust) to contraception to liberal Catholics who promote feminism and homosexuality. In one of his more controversial videos, Voris said "The only way to run a country is by benevolent dictatorship, a Catholic monarch who protects his people from themselves and bestows on them what they need, not necessarily what they want."...“Many current church leaders are "namby-pamby," Voris said. "It's all about, 'Love your neighbor.’”
Voris went hard-right right away with his programming and parallel Internet presence, pushing back against whatever pussy Catholic came up with “love your neighbor”. His advocacy for “a muscular Catholicism that isn't afraid to encourage battle and sacrifice” is part of what informed the name change from Real Catholic TV to Church Militant, although the other part of it, as we’ll see in a minute, is that he was eventually barred by his bishop from using the name Real Catholic TV.
I have to step out of the story for a second and say that some parts of Voris' biography are occasionally disputed. Voris has been accused - not always convincingly - of embellishing his own resume and accomplishments, and some of the things he brags about are difficult to verify. For example, there’s a weird blog post from 2016 on a Wordpress site titled “holytransparency” that purports to debunk every claim Voris has made about his bio, asserting that Voris never worked for CBS, never graduated from Notre Dame, never got his graduate degree in Theology, never won any Emmys, never was in seminary, and basically lies about everything. I don’t really trust this as a credible source because the conclusion of the post is this [all sic]:
“So who is Michael Voris really? He is an Illuminati Vatican Opus Dei Homosexual Manchurian Candidate propagandizing and covering up Benedict’s homosexuality and true reasons for “resigning” proclaiming Benedict as “Pope Emeritus” and recognizing Francis as Pope. This is all to accomplish the Alta Vendita goal of discrediting the Papacy by popes like Benedict as Pope Emeritus and Francis who does not wish to be thought of as Pope to such an extend that no one listens to what the Pope says. So Voris, and his homosexual supporter Cardinal Burke say that Benedict is Pope Emeritus, and that Catholics do not have to listen to Francis as Pope."
So, we’re not dealing with a coherent argument here; this will not be the only instance we'll find of an opponent of Voris turning out to be far stranger than Voris by comparison. But seeing the post did spur me to try and look up some of Voris’ biographical claims in more detail. Did he actually win four Emmys? The answer is "probably, kind of”: the Detroit Free Press called him an Emmy winner in 2016, but Voris certainly didn’t win the big national Emmys that you’d see in the televised awards ceremony, because those winners are very easy to look up. However, if he worked in local news, it’s more likely he’d have won local Emmys from the Michigan chapter of The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, who doesn’t have an easy way to look up their past winners, and also, winning four Emmys isn't nearly as impressive when you realize they're the Michigan Emmys. Did he get a graduate degree, what he calls an STB, from a seminary in Rome? Well, the school does exist, and they do offer an STB degree, although it’s not exactly a graduate-level degree, since you don’t need a bachelor’s to apply for the program. I think the most likely scenario we’re dealing with is that Voris’ list of accomplishments is kind of genuine, but he leaves out some key qualifiers to make himself sound more impressive than he actually is, which would be completely in step with everything else I’ve learned about him.
In summary, there's a bunch of weird information out in strange corners of the Internet about a guy who works in television. Not a huge deal, but it will get stranger as we go on. Regardless, don't let it distract you from the fact that Voris ran what was then called RealCatholicTV like a well-oiled machine just kidding he kept tripping over his dick for years, most notably when somebody in the Archdiocese of Detroit saw his show and told him he couldn't use the word 'Catholic' in the title.
CHAPTER TWO - A BEAUTIFUL ELVEN WOMAN
"She'll be here, Bash - don't worry about it. She wouldn't desert you - where else would she find someone as rough and as ready?" Bashir didn't smile.
"She could try you," he said detachedly. O'Brien grinned.
The name change from RealCatholicTV to Church Militant is the most obvious sign that the actual church and Michael Voris’ idea of Catholicism weren’t getting along, but it’s funny how much back-and-forth there actually was about the name change. After three or four years of RealCatholicTV building an audience, the Archdiocese of Detroit decided to get ahead of any future controversies by issuing a short statement clarifying that they shouldn’t be using the name ‘Catholic’ in their materials, asserting that “it does not regard them as being authorized to use the word “Catholic” to identify or promote their public activities. Questions about this matter may be directed to the Archdiocese of Detroit, Department of Communications.” That last sentence is important, because all of Voris’ fans apparently had a lot of questions for the Department of Communications, since the Archdiocese had to issue a second statement shortly thereafter explaining that yes, we’re sticking to this and also we are not mad:
“The Archdiocese of Detroit has been consistent in its statements to and about Real Catholic TV since the fall of 2008. Due to continued requests made to the Detroit archdiocese for clarification concerning the use of the title Catholic by Real Catholic TV, and to avoid any confusion among the faithful, it was determined a public statement should make clear what has been told to Real Catholic TV, namely, that it does not have the authorization required under Church law to identify or promote itself as Catholic.”
The Archdiocese was technically correct here: if you’re going to brand your business as ‘Catholic’, you do need permission from your bishop or other church authority. That’s not a part of church law that’s enforced very often, but it is part of it, and the Archdiocese was more than happy to lean on it to get Voris to shut up for a little bit. In order to clarify their positions further, they also referenced a canon law professor who worked in Detroit, linking to a personal blog post of his explaining some of the details around which parts of canon law are actually relevant in this case. The professor, Edward Peters, apparently also fancied himself as somewhat of a dry wit, writing:
“The AOD [Arch. of Detroit] simply has to show that one or more Voris/RCTV undertakings claim the title “Catholic” without having secured canonical authorization to make that claim. Some people apparently don’t like how Canon 216 reads; they are free (per c. 212 § 3 no less) to make their complaints to the competent ecclesiastical authority (postage for first class letters to Rome starts at 98 cents).”
Ah, good sir, you have won the Catholic Internet for today! One problem, though, you pissed off all of Voris’ fans, who now think you’re a heretic and a shill. Which is why you probably wrote a second blog post telling people to stop bothering you and reiterating your original points, saying “I must repeat, this matter turns essentially on canon law, and will finally be decided not by webmasters or combox jockeys, but by ecclesiastical officials acting in accord with the substantive and procedural provisions of canon law, provisions to which all parties in this matter have rightful access.”
And now, good combox jockeys, I must bid you good day, having bested you in the arena of logic. Peters, whose blog was literally at canonlawblog.wordpress.com, signed off in the hope of “defusing” the “distracting chatter” around this issue, and was clearly unsuccessful, as he had to write a third blog post digging himself in further: “It seems to me that some people (a) are unaware that I addressed this question in my earlier blogs; or (b) know of my answer but don’t follow the point I made; or (c) know of and understand my answer, but disagree with it. Group A, of course, I may simply refer to my original post.” Peters’ wit, already dry, is starting to run even dryer, and this third post on the same question is significantly longer than the first two, but he’s definitely Not Mad, this is actually funny to him, you see. And if you don’t see that, it was made extremely clear in the fourth and final post he had to make on this matter.
Peters’ fourth post addresses the apparent accusations he received that he was an employee of the Archdiocese of Detroit (he wasn’t, although he taught for a seminary in the Arch), and thus in their pocket and willing to misrepresent canon law to smear Voris. That Voris had followers in 2012 who would believe that Voris had enemies who would care enough to do such a thing says a lot about where Church Militant was headed. Peters begins his post again emphasizing how he is Not, in fact Mad, and this is just too funny to him:
“If someone does not know that I work for the Detroit archdiocesan seminary, it is because he or she has zero curiosity about me (which is fine!) and/or has never heard of Google. But for their convenience, every post on my blog should be made to look like a step-ladder plastered with disclaimers and warning labels and drawings of stick-people getting electrocuted by low-hanging wires? That’s too funny.”
Peters is sputtering at his desk (although, what could he sputter with, given how dry we know his wit is), but Voris had even more issues, beyond the name change, to be Not Mad about as the 2010s began. He had been denounced at World Youth Day in Madrid, publicly and hilariously, for trying to set up an unauthorized breakout session for which the webpage looked like this:
As Voris put it, his session was going to cover “hot-button topics” related to sex, and he conceded that “I understand that some people don’t like the style...We’re just faithful Catholics who want to add to the voice of the Church and amplify the voice of the Church.” World Youth Day isn’t the only place Voris was getting kicked out of at this time: the Diocese of Scranton rescinded an invitation for him to speak at a parish, and barred him from speaking at any locations owned by the diocese, likely because of that early RealCatholicTV video where he advocated for a Catholic monarchy to replace the American government. Or maybe it was one of the many, many antisemitic things he had said in the same time period. Whatever it was, it definitely had something to do with the communications from the Archbishop of Detroit and the USCCB to the Bishop of Scranton explaining that Voris was actually an asshole and they shouldn’t book him.
He also had a problem with his paperwork, as his nonprofit, St. Michael’s Media, had inadvertently dissolved under his nose in 2009 since he forgot to file records with the state for a few years. That was not nearly as embarrassing for Voris, though, as a story that broke around the same time, about one of RCTV’s on-air talent, Simon Rafe. As Catholic News Agency reported:
“Voris was equally surprised by evidence showing that his staff apologist and program host Simon Rafe – who is the webmaster at St. Michael's Media, and co-authored its “Saint Michael's Basic Training” apologetics course – had also written the “adult” role-playing game “Castle Dracula,” and fan-fiction depicting homosexuality in the Star Wars universe.”
It was around the time that I read this sentence that I felt like my piece was going to come together just fine. But obviously, Catholic News Agency wasn’t going to print any part of the text of Rafe’s sexy roleplaying ga-
“Signed and dated “Simon 'The Darknight' Rafe, Baptism of Our Lord, 2010,” the work contains a paragraph vividly describing a sexual encounter with “a beautiful Elven woman” revealed to be “Asrel, the goddess of love, life, health, healing, beauty and sex.” Rafe gives the player a series of options in the scenario: “If you would like strength and vitality, turn to 70. If you would like health and life, turn to 383. If you would like true love, turn to 467. If you would like sex appeal, turn to 203. If you would like sexual potency, turn to 366. If you would like make love [sic] to the goddess (even if you are female - Asrel is an equal-opportunity lover!), turn to 11.”
Sadly, Rafe scrubbed all of the contents of darkinght.co.uk from the Internet, and there is no way to ever view it unless you plug the URL into the Internet Archive and look up a crawler that scraped the page back in 2005, in which case you can read pretty much all of the fanfic that Rafe wrote in his spare time. Also the site looks like this:
While the Star Wars fic is in there, I was always more of a Star Trek guy, and was thrilled to see this disclaimer on his page:
“Most of my fanfiction is concerned with Deep Space Nine, and specifically the characters Jadzia Dax and Julian Bashir. Most of the pieces I have written or am writing are concerned in one way or another with the Alternative Universes (Mirror Mirror, Through the Looking Glass etc.) and the role the various incarnations of Julian and Jadzia played in their histories!...None of these stories were designed to offend, but some of them contain artistically justified scenes of sex, violence, torture or other things that small children and the easily offended shouldn't see! If you think you will be easily offended, please don't download the files! Doh!”
Rafe still works at Church Militant - he was interviewed in the Michigan studio in 2017 for a short documentary by The Atlantic. Excerpts from his story “Dissent” are included in the chapter epigraphs for your reading pleasure. Doh!
This isn't to say that Voris was a universal laughingstock, although there were a lot of people that didn't take him seriously at this point. But some people - even critics of him - at least understood where he was coming from. Going back to blogging canon lawyer Edward Peters, his fourth and final post on the name controversy ended with an interesting turn:
“Widespread, knee-jerk distrust of ecclesiastical authority is perhaps the most crippling legacy left to the John Paul II generation of Church leaders by the past. They didn’t grow up with the wackiness that many of us remember, and so they don’t understand the animus that is often directed by some otherwise orthodox Catholics against Church leaders just because they happen to be, well, leaders in the Church...Part of me understands that suspicion, at least when it arises from ‘the right’: I grew up with happy-clappy catechesis, suffered through clown Masses, watched the devastation wrought on religious life, mourned the closing of one Catholic school after another, etc, etc, etc. In short, I grew up waiting for somebody to do something...and I was often disappointed. But, by the grace of God, I never let my disappointment ossify into distrust.”
Peters had been getting battered by conservative Catholics for a few weeks now, and he finally said to them “okay, I do kind of understand where you’re coming from, all of the post-Vatican II stuff is horseshit, right?” It’s fascinating to me because it’s not something, generationally, that I’m familiar with. The way Peters puts it, he and Voris don’t trust church authority at all, but it’s because of the clown-ass vernacular masses and, as Peters puts it, general “wackiness”. For my generation, it’s different, because “wackiness” meant a global sex abuse scandal and coverup. But distrust of the post-Vatican-II church is central to Voris’ worldview. You can’t trust the people who are in charge of the church, look what they did in the sixties to make everything all fluffy and nice.
This all means that understanding Voris requires understanding the Catholic "wackiness" Voris saw as he came of age. Voris' experience of Vatican II, however, was very different than mine. It wasn't just his parish letting that lady play guitar at mass, it was his college years at one of the centers of rapid change in American Catholicism, the University of Notre Dame.
CHAPTER THREE - PUSSY FOR LOBSTER
"I reckon I'm next on the list after Sisko and you - all you gotta do is not come back from this mission and the lady's . . ." He stopped as Bashir slammed him into the wall, emptying his lungs in a hot burst.”
Voris (center in the photo below) shares a lot of details about his schooling in a late 2018 interview with Taylor Marshall and Tim Gordon, which I am screenshotting here mainly so you can see that one of the recommended videos is a best of Jeff Dunham compilation:
In all honesty, I did not actually watch the video, I instead listened to the podcast version of Marshall’s show, which was the most embarrassing thing on my Stitcher playlist by an order of magnitude.
Voris came of age in the late 60s, attending Catholic schools at a time when the changes in the Mass from Vatican II were first being implemented. Unlike previous subjects Marshall and Ahmari, Voris was born Catholic and went to Catholic school all of his life. At the time, he lived in Northern California, and his diocese appears to have embraced these changes very early on. As Voris put it in Militant:
“Born in 1961, I was among the first generation of Catholics raised in what I’ve termed the “Church of Nice.” From 1968–78, I was an altar boy and saw the various assaults against the Faith materialize, although obviously at the time I had no realization of what was going on inside the Church. I was, as were many Catholics of the time, a first-hand witness to the abuses being introduced into the liturgy—Holy Communion in the hand, for example, and guitar music (I was in a folk group when not serving).”
All of these themes are echoed early on in Voris’ interview. Voris then attended Notre Dame, and the late seventies and early eighties, after Vatican II had a decade to get cooking, would have been a fascinating time to attend the school. In many ways, Notre Dame was a laboratory for Vatican II reforms in the American church. The university president, Fr. Ted Hesburgh - a towering figure in American Catholicism who at this point had already worked on multiple US presidential commissions and for multiple popes who are now literal saints, and whom Voris calls "a traitor to the faith" - had already exponentially increased the university's national standing by making a few moves that would have really pissed off hardcore conservative Catholics. He had transferred governance of the university from Holy Cross priests to the laity, had begun to admit women to the school, and had collaborated with other presidents at other high-profile Catholic universities - Georgetown, Boston College, Fordham, etc. - to author the Land O Lakes Statement, which affirmed the need of these universities to remain independent of church authority in their operations. Schools that we've looked at earlier in the series, like Fisher More College and Ave Maria University, are deliberately run the opposite way, and prioritize fidelity to church authority even at the expense of their autonomy or academic freedom (Tom Monaghan founded AMU specifically in response to learning about Notre Dame's model and finding it lacking). Voris also shares an anecdote in his interview about Hesburgh addressing students in the lead-up to the 1980 presidential election and encouraging them to consider, as they vote, more issues beyond abortion; I don't know if it's true since it came from Voris, but it certainly could have been something Hesburgh did.
This isn't to say Hesburgh was any sort of radical anarchist, he was just relatively liberal for a priest; he once did a 60 Minutes interview where he said in passing that the church should consider ordaining women, and that's maybe the wildest thing he's ever done besides wearing this terrible shirt to meet Mother Teresa:
Hesburgh wasn't the only relatively liberal Catholic priest at the university. Voris also makes a passing mention of Fr. Richard McBrien, who was chair of the theology department while he was there; Voris specifically made an effort to avoid his classes for fear of taking in any heterodox theology, and to be fair to Voris, McBrien did get into his fair share of pissing matches with the USCCB since he was a high-profile theologian and a relatively liberal guy politically. In any event, they still taught his textbook at the university twenty-five years later.
In his interview, Voris also makes mention of one of the more unusual developments in American Catholicism at this time, which was the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. In its early stages, this movement was called Catholic Pentecostalism, which is a better term to illustrate what the movement looked like - Catholic services in this movement would feature people speaking in tongues, faith healing, and an emphasis on being born again into a personal relationship with Christ. To put this in perspective, I am someone who has only lived in a post-Vatican II liturgical world, I think Vatican II was by and large a good thing for the church and for the liturgy, I am (like most ND alums) a big admirer of Fr. Hesburgh, I have been a member of folk and contemporary liturgical music groups, I led a praise and worship band in college, my politics are far left enough that I’ve thought through what abolishing the episcopate would look like, and CCR people still weird me the hell out.
The CCR movement is still around today in communities like People of Praise, although it really peaked in the seventies, and it was essentially headquartered at Notre Dame. By the time Voris was a student, multiple intentional CCR residential communities were running in South Bend, while the theology professors at Notre Dame had helped connect the CCR to the Vatican II teachings on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and in turn helped legitimize the movement with the church hierarchy. On top of that, the university was hosting an annual CCR conference that drew tens of thousands of attendees. This photo is from Notre Dame in 1974!
This is all to say that when Voris is pushing for hard-edged traditionalism in the liturgy and elsewhere in Catholicism, he’s not just reacting to your 5pm Saturday guitar mass, he’s reacting to people and movements that he saw firsthand who fully embraced the ideas behind Vatican II and took them very far, very quickly. Notre Dame pulled the rubber band of Vatican II for a decade, and then it snapped back and hit Michael Voris.
He wasn't the only one that got hit. Crux - a Catholic news website that, by default, would have to be considered to Church Militant’s left - ran a piece in 2016 that tried to diagnose why the Catholic church had so many extremely online assholes:
“It doesn’t take a radical traditionalist to admit that Catholic catechesis over the last fifty years has been weak and often non-existent...Catholics who are looking for a faith with rigor, discipline and a tough line are invariably drawn to the traditionalist message. It is possible to find a strong, joyful traditional Catholic witness that combines clarity and charity, and those who relish Catholicism with grit should search out such communities. Unfortunately, such teachers and parishes are hard to find, and too often the “Church of the Internet” takes over.”
Crux put some of the blame on post-Vatican-II catechesis for giving these guys something to react against, and Voris would have certainly caught the extreme end of that in the diocese of Sacramento and at Notre Dame. While Voris still seems to be a fan of Notre Dame athletics today, he’s still not a fan of where the school stands theologically. He shared an anecdote with the New York Times about going back to visit campus in 2014 or 2015, and running into the current university president, John Jenkins:
“I said, “Father, I have to tell you, I’m concerned about some of the decisions that both you and the Board of Trustees and the fellows make here at Notre Dame and have made for a very long time and how it’s eroding the Faith.” His face went beet red. His veins popped out and he said, “I can’t stand it when people say that. This is the most Catholic university in America.” I said, “...I myself have heard heresy preached from the pulpit in there. A nice building doesn’t mean that you’re faithful to the Faith...Rarely do I bump into a student here who has any sort of cognition of the Faith, any sort of authentic transmission of the Faith.” He grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me — not violently, but emphatically — and said, “We’re not going to agree on these sorts of things, so this conversation is over.” And he released my shoulders and walked into the administration building. I thought to myself, “If I’d have done that, I’d be arrested for assault.””
Anybody who has met Fr. Jenkins is likely to doubt the veracity of this story, since it’s hard to imagine Jenkins grabbing anyone by the shoulders or generally being at all forceful - Jenkins is usually a pretty mild-mannered and soft-spoken guy - but I suspect that anybody who has met Michael Voris can easily envision a mild-mannered and soft-spoken guy being moved to literally grab and shake somebody as obnoxious as he is. So who the fuck knows.
Some other highlights from Voris’ interview on Taylor Marshall’s two-and-a-half hour show:
Pretty much right away, Voris says that he tried out to be the Leprechaun mascot at Notre Dame, but claims that he was disqualified at the last minute for being a quarter-inch too tall
In minute 20, Gordon brings up how the post-Vatican II infiltration of the faith and attack specifically on catechesis has been eroding the church for decades, because "intelligent men" don’t buy all of the touchy-feely catechism
By minute 22, Voris has used the phrase “me and the faith were like a fish to water” for the third time
Gordon says something really interesting in minute 28, when he claims that “when I know something, it’s in there for good, and I’ll take on the authority of the magister- whoever it is at the front of the room, the bishop, Bishop of Rome if necessary…”, reaffirming the same thinking that all of these guys have, that authority is bankrupt, but they’ve somehow been the only ones who have figured out the capital-T Truth, and that there is now no need to change or rethink anything ever again, even though you just said that thing about authority being bankrupt
Minute 34 is the discussion of the abortion episode of Maude
Minute 42 is when Marshall says "I really feel like the memes are going to be generated over this point here", prompted by Voris' stories about playing guitar in a liturgical folk group at Notre Dame. In fairness to Marshall, this is very funny to imagine
Minute 47 is when Voris points out that one of his teachers in seminary eventually left the priesthood to get married but "at least it was to a woman". Gordon comments that "that's almost progress in a way", and then they all laugh, and it's around this point that I gave up and went back to listening to Cum Town
While we have an explanation for why Voris advocates for a return to more traditional Catholicism, we don't have an explanation for why he's such an asshole, why he keeps picking fights with the actual Catholic church, or why Church Militant became increasingly focused on American politics going into the 2016 election. In Voris' narrative, these were all connected - souls were on the line, sin was on the rampage, and the modern church had become so weak that the only natural endpoint, rushing towards us with overwhelming inevitability, was persecution of American Catholics by the state. As Voris wrote in Militant:
“What will now follow, because there is no other alternative or scenario, is persecution on a grand scale. The refusal of leaders to teach, govern, and rule has prepared the way for the mass apostasy that now must be addressed by Heaven directly. Whenever the hand of the State is raised against the Church, it does not happen without the express will of God. This time will be no different. In a mysterious mix of divine justice and divine mercy, God Himself will have the final say over the current crisis of faith.”
It made sense that Voris would write this in a book published in early 2016, if he thought Hillary Clinton - commonly referred to as “Killary” on Church Militant - was a shoo-in for the presidency, and would push a suffocating anti-Catholic agenda, beginning with abortion on demand and ending with the eradication of the church. But things turned out differently than expected for Hillary Clinton, which means things turned out differently than expected for Michael Voris.
CHAPTER FOUR - DEEP DEVOTION, OOPS!
"Jadzia's mine, get it, O'Brien?" hissed Bashir, "you keep you [sic] hands off her and your eyes on Keiko - she's gotta fall for you one of these days." O'Brien shrugged him off and smoothed his tunic down. He was about to reply when Dax strode through the door.
In a 2016 interview with The New York Times, Voris was asked whether he thought Donald Trump’s election was providential. He responded:
“I see an answer to the prayers, the Rosaries of millions and millions of Catholics pleading that the Church be spared from what would have been in my view and I think many of their views certain persecution under a Democratic regime; rolling back of religious freedoms...the forcing down the throat of the Obama Contraception Mandate, the HHS Mandate; encroaching — you have to accept the bathroom thing that happened, the transgender bathroom thing that actually started in Iowa about a month or two — I think there was a quote rolling before the election a month or two, the whole gay bakery, florists, wedding photographers, bed and breakfasts, the whole bit.”
Not all of that is coherent, which is why this quote didn’t actually make the Times story; this is from what Voris claims is the full transcript of his Times interview which was misrepresented in the actual story that went to print, which means he thought the quote above made him look smarter than he came across in the piece. Fine, why not.
Voris voted for Trump in 2016, I don’t think there’s any question on where he stands on a traditional political spectrum. One interesting thing that Voris points out about the Trump administration, though, is that it had and has several conservative Catholics in high-profile positions, and Voris is a fan of all of them. Kellyanne Conway regularly goes on TV to advocate for the president, Michael Flynn was National Security Advisor for almost two entire months, and Attorney General William Barr got to give a totally-not-terrifying 2019 speech at Notre Dame’s law school explaining how Catholics were actually in the middle of an existential holy war. Outside of the executive branch, two seats on the Supreme Court were vacated by Catholics and then filled by two more Catholics who went to the same Catholic high school.
The most important Catholic in the early days of the Trump presidency, however, was Steve Bannon. Like Voris, Bannon is also a former television producer, and also someone who ran a hard-right infotainment website. The Times piece on Church Militant was actually prompted by the unearthing of a 2014 speech Bannon gave at a Vatican conference in which he used the term “church militant” to describe his own personal theology. Bannon wasn’t just high up in American politics, he also had a lot of connections in conservative circles of the church hierarchy, long before getting involved in the Trump campaign. Conservative cardinal Raymond Burke was even working with Bannon to open a theology school in Italy. To Burke’s credit, he cut ties with Bannon when he realized that Bannon had white nationalist leanings; against Burke’s credit, he cut these ties in 2019, about three years after everybody else had already figured that out and Bannon had admitted it several times.
Voris was a fan of Bannon, and of course he was a fan of Trump. Church Militant actually ran an nine-and-a-half hour election day stream, in which they called the election for Trump at 11:30pm, well before any of the major news networks (who presumably had a higher standard for verifying the reports coming in from precincts). Voris brags about this at the beginning of his 2017 book, Resistance: Fighting the Devil Within, which represents some notable changes to Voris’ strategy in a post-Trump world.
See, Church Militant had run into the same problem as every other right-wing media outlet; for years, these guys had been beating the drum that conservatives were under attack and radical leftists (meaning moderate liberals) had seized control of all of the levers of power and were hell-bent on extinguishing all of the values that we should be holding dear. This message ginned up outrage, got eyeballs, and sold merch. Then, conservatives unexpectedly gained unified control of the federal government for the first time in a decade, and nobody really knew what to do with that. Voris’ solution was to be even more of an asshole to everyone. He set up the context in Resistance:
“In the days after Donald Trump’s election to the presidency, leftist forces in America began forming a resistance movement against his agenda. That movement, fueled by funds from socialist elites both in the United States and around the world, has taken on impressive dimensions. Much of this is supported by heterodox Catholic clergy and laity...achieving their end of stalling Trump’s campaign agenda to “Make America Great Again."
I don’t know who the hell a “socialist elite in the United States” would be; according to Voris’ website, it’s George Soros, who is not a socialist. Regardless, Voris’ larger point was that if people were going out into the streets to demonstrate against a president that was merely trying to make America great again, the least that good Catholics could do was also take to the streets to defend Trump and our values, which I’m sure are also Trump’s values. Voris writes early in his book that "Catholics who are politically conservative generally tend to be more theologically orthodox, and Catholics who are politically liberal generally tend to be more heterodox"; the good Catholics happen to be the ones who agree with Voris on all political issues, which has to have just been a huge relief for him. And he asserts, with help from a quote from Fulton Sheen, “to whom Church Militant and St. Michael’s Media have a deep devotion [oops!]”, that the laity need to lead the way on this and not trust their bishops or priests to tell them what issues to care about or how best to bring about the change they want. The bishops have been compromised by, uh, "homosexualists", the only person you can trust to correctly expressing the true teaching of the church Christ instituted is Michael Voris, a former television producer with a terrible haircut working out of a home office in Ferndale, Michigan, who likes calling people “libtard” on Twitter.
Putting aside Voris’ arrogance in asserting that he is the only source of the truth, putting aside the fact that any movement built on “you can’t trust the people who are in charge, you can only trust me” will inevitably lead to “okay, well then why the hell are you in charge”, Voris’ pivot on his message met a click- and share-fueled media environment way better for Church Militant than anything he could have dreamed up himself. The increased audience and momentum for the site got poured into "activist" work on the part of Voris and his disciples, which appears to have mainly involved "yelling at gay people" and "yelling at people who are nice to gay people". One of Voris' more frequent targets right now is James Martin, a Jesuit priest with a decent media presence since he's written a lot of books and is buddies with Stephen Colbert. One of Martin's more recent books, Building a Bridge, is about the relationship between the church and its queer members, who often feel marginalized and excluded by their church.
Obviously, this was and is unacceptable to Voris, and he and other assholes made a lot of noise about Martin's "promotion and support of homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, transgenderism and progressive-liberal politics," and got some of Martin's book tour engagements canceled, even as Martin's book continued to get good reviews and approval from various members of the hierarchy. The only rational explanation for Martin's message, in Voris' mind, is that Martin himself is secretly gay and selfishly fighting for acceptance of his own mortal sins. In the below tweets from Voris, you can see how he hammers on this theme, each time coming up with a new, cutting, and very timely pop culture reference to describe James Martin:
(12/25/19) “Please. James Brokeback Martin distorts the true meaning of Christmas every time he opens his mouth. He doesn’t even know Jesus was divine whileHe [sic] was on Earth. He supports sodomy and uses his priesthood to promote it, abusing his role. Did ABC ask him about THAT?”
(12/14/19) “Do so VERY VERY few @USCCB bishops speak out against Brokeback Martin’s evil and dissent because they themselves are active homosexuals and actually agree with him? At this point, that HAS TO BE on the table. There certainly is no lack of precedent.”
(12/30/19) “Oh look. Another homosexualist bishop (this one from Australia) playing cutsie with Brokeback Martin instead of denouncing him. He’s one of the leading forces in Australia dismantling the Church. Wicked men- the whole lot of them. God have mercy, cuz they’re gonna need it.”
(12/29/19) “Like Brokeback Martin, Fr. Jim Sichko Of Lexington KY, should publicly admit that he’s gay. He blasphemes the Holy Family and gets to do it by hiding behind his Roman collar. Bastard.”
(okay, one that’s not from December, let’s do 9/19/19) “We r pleased to see our reporting on Evil Jimmy is finally starting to pay off. [Philadelphia Archbishop] Chaput had to respond today, somewhat weakly, but at least he did respond. Brokeback Martin and his homoheresy must be called out and condemned. [Springfield, IL] Bishop Paprocki’s statement was far more exact.”
I regret to inform you that this is what Voris considers wit, but I also like to imagine that Voris has been deliberately shielding himself since 2005 from any pop culture with queer characters. Anyways, it's not just Martin, Voris does this all of the time, usually for clergy and members of the church hierarchy with whom he disagrees. He loudly and publicly speculates on their sexual orientation, and insinuates that the reason anybody credible would disagree with him is that they are actually closeted gay men covering up their own perverted desires. This is not complicated, it's run-of-the-mill vile homophobia. It might be fair game to speculate the same things about Voris, but I'm not going to, and I don't have to because most of what we know about Voris' sexual history comes from Voris' own work.
CHAPTER FIVE - THE GAY PART
"Hiya, Smiley!" she grinned, running her blue eyes over him. She turned to Bashir. "Good morning, Julian - sleep well?" She had stepped over to him, their faces virtually touching.
In a 2016 episode of his YouTube series The Vortex, Voris came clean about his sexual history:
"I have never made a secret that my life prior to my reversion was extremely sinful...I will now reveal that for most of my years in my thirties, confused about my own sexuality, I lived a life of live-in relationships with homosexual men. From the outside, I lived the lifestyle and contributed to scandal in addition to the sexual sins. On the inside, I was deeply conflicted about all of it. In a large portion of my twenties, I also had frequent sexual liaisons with both adult men and adult women...Since my reversion, I abhor all these sins."
In addition to disowning his past life, Voris blamed it on somebody else; in a separate interview with The Atlantic about a year later, Voris related a story about his dying mother - who also suffered from bipolar disorder - telling him that “I never believed that you were homosexual or gay, I believed that you were acting out a response to how I treated you at home.” This does not reassure me that Voris ever had a healthy understanding of his own sexuality, or his relationship with his mother, or mental illness.
Why this and why now? Well, Voris was getting more attention, and probably felt that he wanted to get ahead of this in case any of his previous partners decided that breaking this story could be fun. That's just my theory, though; Voris' theory is that the Archdiocese of New York, afraid of his brilliant and fearless reporting and the damage it could do the church, put together a carefully coordinated smear campaign of Voris, and Voris was brave enough to fight back and bare his soul to his followers.
That the Arch of New York was putting together a massive disinformation campaign against a guy who ran a website halfway across the country seems very unlikely; anyone who has worked with any archdiocese or parish know how hard it is to even book the damn multipurpose room for the right day. Regardless, Voris is queer, and clearly was ashamed of it for a long time, and possibly still is. And, of course, in his line of work, that’s the kind of thing that would hurt his credibility. So I understand why he would want to get ahead of the story.
As it turns out, he did get ahead of an incredibly bizarre self-published book that came out three months later and purported to be a lurid tell-all of Voris’ gay relationships and how they influenced his work on Church Militant. The book, by E. Michael Jones, is not credible at all, for reasons that will become very obvious very quickly, but I will share the cover art with you because it is the funniest fucking thing that I’ve ever seen:
I did not end up reading Jones’ book in full, because one of the things I checked before purchasing the book was whether Jones was an insane person who spent all of his time self-publishing horrifying anti-Semitic screeds titled things like “Jewish Privilege” and “The Jews and Moral Subversion”, and, well, as it turns out:
In the short portion of the book that I actually read (the amount that you can download as a free sample on Kindle), Jones alleges that there was some sort of flame war on the message boards at Church Militant, with users questioning Voris’ sexuality and hearing rumors that Voris was suffering from AIDS, and Voris - whom Jones calls "a flaming crusader for reform in the Catholic church" - was trying to get ahead of the rumors. I don’t have more information than that, and I don’t trust that little information that I have, because Jones spent the rest of the passage defending himself against charges of anti-Semitism and quoting a source who explains that, sure, “almost ANYTHING can be called ‘racism’ today if you make objective statements that make any particular ethnicity look bad”. This is a famous rhetorical device known as “the thing racists say”.
Perhaps at this point, you’re starting to understand how I felt researching this piece. Voris, based on his actions and the legacy of Church Militant, is extremely noxious. His writing and his actions are sensationalist, self-aggrandising, and hateful. But on top of that, he’s also been accused of being an Illuminati sleeper agent and a gay puppetmaster, and he’s not either of those things. So what the fuck is his deal? Is there anyone I can trust who has reported on him? Yes.
CHAPTER SIX - GRIFTING PREDATES CATHOLICISM
“Better than I normally do, but not as enjoyably," said Bashir, kissing her full on the lips. She responded while Miles hung around and waited patiently. They eventually disengaged. "Let's get this show on the road," said Bashir, "I want to see what this Romulan rust-bucket can do."
After Trump's election, Church Militant didn't just get more viewers, it got more scrutiny from media outlets who tended to do their homework. One of the first was The New York Times in 2016, who repeatedly pointed out the similarities in Voris and Bannon's theological understandings of the world, and drew attention to some of the ickier parts of Voris' rhetorical style:
"He has also singled out the liberal philanthropist George Soros and the deceased community organizer Saul Alinsky, familiar targets for conservative activists like Newt Gingrich and Glenn Beck. Mr. Voris, though, goes a significant step further by prominently identifying both Mr. Soros and Mr. Alinsky as Jewish. Why is their religion relevant, particularly as neither man was observant? Mr. Voris responded, “The fuel, as it were, for the Democratic Party has come from a liberal Jewish mind-set.”"
This was the piece where Voris released a transcript of the interview separately, believing he was misrepresented. I don't think he was, but regardless, the Times certainly portrayed the content of Voris website accurately:
"ChurchMilitant.com, for example, hasdismissed climate change as a hoax. It likened the Black Lives Matter movement to “the new fascism.”...Contrary to the Second Vatican Council’s endorsement of interreligious dialogue, Mr. Voris views Islam as “entirely different” from Christianity and portrays Judaism in outdated terminology that experts in Catholic-Jewish relations consider anti-Semitic. In a statement that echoed one made by Mr. Bannon when he was still with Breitbart, Mr. Voris maintained that American Catholic bishops supported immigration solely to “shore up flagging numbers of Catholics” and rebuild a “shrinking, shriveling church” with both legal and illegal arrivals from Mexico."
A professor at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago asserted in the piece that "if the Trump election baptizes this stuff as more authentic Catholic teaching, that would be a disaster", which is pretty cutting, but not as cutting as some of the pushback from Catholic media outlets. Peter Rosica, a priest who assists the Vatican PR office and runs his own Catholic Salt & Light television network in Canada - which would be considered significantly to the left of Church Militant, as most things would - just dove right in, claiming that “often times the obsessed, scrupulous, self-appointed, nostalgia-hankering virtual guardians of faith or of liturgical practices are very disturbed, broken and angry individuals, who never found a platform or pulpit in real life and so resort to the Internet and become trolling pontiffs and holy executioners!”
Rosica’s comments, from 2016, don’t mention Church Militant specifically, but he’s definitely referring to them, among others. A year earlier, Rosica had gotten into a spat with a hard-right Canadian Catholic blogger that was basically doing the same conspiracy-mongering shit as people like Marshall or Voris. Church Militant ran with the story and helped make it a far bigger headache than Rosica wanted.
In terms of digs at right-wing Catholic media, “trolling pontiffs” is pretty good, but if you want the best owns of Church Militant, you have to go to Voris' local paper, The Detroit Free Press, who had been reporting on Voris since the bishop had forced him to change the name of his website, and gets in a good dig on the site's viewership:
"Church Militant's audience includes more than 180,000 Facebook likes, about 30,000 YouTube subscribers and nearly 12,000 Twitter followers. Voris estimates the operation, including social media and the website, accumulates about 1 million-1.5 million online views per month. A report the Detroit Free Press ran using SimilarWeb analytics, which don't measure social media traffic, estimates the website had a six-month peak of more than 750,000 visits in October and about 531,000 in December."
In addition to owning them for not doing their claimed numbers, the Free Press shys away from the Times' measured tone and is much more blunt about the "growing, Catholic fringe group hoping the forces that elected President Donald Trump will tear down the wall between church and state," who "broadcasts pro-life, anti-gay, anti-feminist, Islam-fearing, human-caused-climate-change-denying orthodox Catholic news on its website". It makes sense, these reporters probably saw Voris at the grocery store every week and are probably fucking sick of the guy after a decade of this.
The Free Press reporter also spends some time with Terry Carroll, a 71-year-old retiree who became a Voris superfan and began volunteering for him. At the time of the article, Carroll had donated about $300,000 to Church Militant, close to a third of what he had saved for his retirement. Church Militant, after all, is a subscriber model, with multiple ways to donate and further Voris’ mission.
It's at this point that I want to make my main criticism of Voris. I could say that he's a borderline-fascist ideologue, but he'd shrug that off, he has before. I could point to encyclicals and papal teachings and USCCB statements and say that Voris is directly contradicting church teaching on, say, things like our church's relationship with Judaism, or immigration, but he'd say that those teachings were actually written by traitor sleeper agents in the church and he's actually following correct Catholic teaching, you have to trust him on that one.
No, my main criticism of Voris is the same one I had for Ahmari: Voris is mundane and unoriginal. The only reason he runs Church Militant is because he knows how to produce a TV show, but if he didn't know that, he'd be running a standard direct-mail scam. In addition to the subscription model on his website, he sells merch, books, and "pilgrimage" trip packages including a cruise where he gives 12 lectures. Church Militant is a for-profit entity with information on how you can bequeath it gifts in your will or allocate 401k investments to its coffers (the website is not secure, please do not give your credit card information to Church Militant). He tells people that they should be angry and afraid of their church being destroyed, and that becoming a paid subscriber will make them "the best Catholic you can be". Televangelists have been doing this for decades outside of the Catholic church, and, in general, grifting predates Catholicism.
Driving this home, The Atlantic ran a mini-documentary in 2017 when they went to the Ferndale studio and interviewed Voris, Rafe, and other employees of the site. Sadly, Rafe either was not asked, or did not comment, on Asrel the Equal Opportunity Lover Elf; the video is only 10 minutes long so I like to imagine that Rafe actually gave the reporters three hours of material on RPGs and it was cut for time.
There's not any new information in the video that wasn't in the reporting above, but it was interesting to see the studio and hear from the other members of the Church Militant team; one member of the on-air talent explains that being called a member of a hate group or fascist doesn't make her mad but is actually funny to her. And Voris closes out the video by explaining that "the new Michael Voris is somebody who is now dedicated to helping other people realize that there is no limit to God.” A man who grew up in a faith that offered him some level of stability in a turbulent household, saw that faith get stretched and changed at his Vatican-II-embracing university, all while feeling conflicted about his identity and sexuality into his twenties and thirties and making his way in a famously sink-or-swim industry? Sure, maybe he didn’t just decide to channel his anger into something that could get him dedicated followers willing to give him a lot of money. Maybe he just finally found his calling and decided to spread the message that there is no limit to God. Unless you're gay, or Jewish, or want to hear mass in the vernacular, or have ever voted for a Democrat, or think Muslims are human beings, or treat gay people with anything but scorn, or don't subscribe to Church Militant on at least the $10 per month tier.
EPILOGUE - RAGE, NOSTALGIA, AND AUTHORITY
Sohrab Ahmari talked about outgrowing the "rage and nostalgia" of Iran and eventually finding a home in the Catholic church. It's a nice turn of phrase. Of the three subjects of this series, Ahmari is the most sophisticated writer, he lives in the world capital of media, and he's written for the most prestigious publications, including the Wall Street Journal. This prestige extends to his approval by well-known members of the church hierarchy, and respect within the neocon opinion writer community.
But who gives a shit! Of the three subjects of this series, Ahmari has the smallest audience, by far. His most infamous piece was in First Things, a magazine with a circulation of 29,000, smaller than the population of my hometown in suburban Illinois. He may never write anything that can sniff the kind of numbers that Voris can do. Rage and nostalgia, quite honestly, outgrew Sohrab Ahmari and are fully funding the careers of people like Marshall and Voris.
All three writers have no shortage of rage, usually directed at people who are already marginalized or powerless. All three writers are nostalgic for the same time period and the same kind of Catholicism, although Voris is the only one who can say he experienced anything like it in his early life. But all three of them also have some interesting ideas about authority, and understanding your relationship to authority is an important part of being Catholic. These guys all need to establish their own authority - otherwise nobody would listen to them - but they also repeatedly undercut their own arguments about the overall value of authority, each sticking themselves on a dumb rhetorical mobius strip. Marshall laments that people don't trust their church anymore, but also says that you can't trust the church because they're all secret communist masons and we need to resist them. Ahmari moved from Iran to the states and valued the freedom he had in a country that didn’t enforce religious beliefs, until he realized that he actually wanted that enforcement after all. Voris says that we can't trust anyone in the media or the church, so please subscribe to his media project so you can be a good member of the church. None of their arguments hold up against anybody who has read more than three books in his life, but their objective isn't to win the argument. It's to keep everybody angry enough to keep reading and forking over money, to keep the grift running on rage and nostalgia.
I don't know what to do with these guys. You can make the argument that we should all ignore them in the hopes that they'll go away - that without eyeballs, their presence in the church will eventually shrivel up and die. There's something to that. But I think there's also something to understanding what makes guys like this tick, reading their shitty books, and learning how they think about rage, nostalgia, and authority, as we continue the work of building the church we want while avoiding the traps these guys set for us (and mocking them, because it gives me something to do on the train ride to work). The church has been imperfect since the day Peter got put in charge, but I have to believe that there's a church out there in the future that directs rage at the powerful exploiting the powerless, that builds off of nostalgia for the past and adapts to the new crises facing the world, and that won't recognize the authority of a few extremely online grifters.
Grift of the Holy Spirit is a series by Tony Ginocchio detailing stories of the weirdest, dumbest, and saddest members of the Catholic church. You can subscribe via Substack to get notified of future installments. This is the final installment in the current series, which covers personalities in right-wing Catholic media.
Sources used for this piece include:
Michael Voris, STB - Militant: Resurrecting Authentic Catholicism (2016)
Michael Voris, STB - Resistance: Fighting the Devil Within (2017)
E. Michael Jones - The Man Behind the Curtain: Michael Voris and the Vortex of Homosexuality (2016)
Detroit Free Press - “Views on provocative Real Catholic TV station anger Detroit archdiocese and others” (2012)
Church Militant - “Biography of Michael Voris” (archived 2012)
The Maximus Group Press Release (2008)
Holy Transparency - "Making Up the Michael Voris Deception: A list of 15 Lies and Cover ups" (2016)
Taylor Marshall - "Episode 194: Michael Voris Tells His Story" (2018)
Studies in World Christianity - “The Origins of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the United States: Early Developments in Indiana and Michigan and the Reactions of the Ecclesiastical Authorities” (2019)
Archdiocese of Detroit - “Regarding RCTV and it’s Name” (2011)
Archdiocese of Detroit - “On Real Catholic TV” (2012)
In the Light of the Law - “The first thing to understand about the AOD vs. Voris/RCTV dispute” (2012)
In the Light of the Law - “A few more things to keep in mind about the AOD and Voris/RCTV” (2012)
In the Light of the Law - “Some Thoughts on the ‘Jurisdiction’ Question in the AOD - Voris/RCTV Matter” (2012)
In the Light of the Law - “Tracking just one tangent (mostly for fun) and then making a wider point” (2012)
Diocese of Scranton - “Statement Regarding Michael Voris” (2013)
Catholic News Agency - “World Youth Day organizers say Michael Voris catechesis not approved” (2011)
Catholic News Agency - “RealCatholicTV’s Voris Had ‘No Idea’ About Internal Problems” (2011)
Wilkes-Barre Times-Tribune “Unbowed, Conservative Catholic Speaker Will Speak at Wilks-Barre Hotel” (2011)
Darknight.co.uk (archived 2005)
Crux - "Backlash over Martin’s LGBT book prompts speech cancellations" (2017)
One Peter Five - "A Note on the Voris Confession" (2016)
Crux - "Critic of LGBT causes admits past sexual relationships with men" (2016)
Catholic Herald - "New York archdiocese denies allegation that it sought to smear Michael Voris (2016)
New York Times - “Church Militant Theology is Put to New, and Politicized, Use” (2016)
Church Militant - Purported Transcript of Michael Voris' New York Times Interview (2016)
Crux - “Radical Catholic blogs may be a cesspool, but saying so won’t help” (2016)
Crux - “Vatican PR aide warns Catholic blogs create ‘cesspool of hatred’” (2016)
The Atlantic - “Church Militant: A Right-Wing Media Empire in the Making” (2017)
Detroit Free Press - “How a right-wing Ferndale fringe group is building a multimedia empire” (2017)