Caught in the Vortex of His Own Making

Michael Voris twirls his pencil at the beginning of each of his vortex videos as a visual aid to his tagline: “where lies and falsehoods are trapped and exposed.”  One might argue that he should point the pencil downward instead of upward as a visualization of perhaps a more accurate tagline:  “where I stir the pot everyday in the Cathlolic blogosphere.”  But actually, I am okay with the vortex metaphor.  Vortices tend to suck all that surrounds them into themselves and create a great deal of destruction.

We all know that the blogosphere can be a pretty toxic environment.  It is easy to depersonalize others or even to depersonalize oneself in the isolation of the virtual world. Professional communicators as a species are particularly susceptible to the love of hearing their own voices, of being clever and eloquent and of getting one up on an adversary.  I have done it many times.  The internet provides endless opportunities to indulge oneself.

The voice we choose to use can become a vortex.  The eye of such a vortex is a devotional echo chamber for one’s disciples.  Everyone stranding outside of it gets sucked up and spit out in pieces.

Obviously that is not a condemnation of blogging, only a caution.  The internet has ended monopolies on information, once for all.  Thank God.  No individual vortex is any longer big enough to suck everyone up.  The blogosphere provides a level playing ground in which Catholics have an opportunity to show an examples of intellectual excellence and independence as well as sincere charity.

Like it or not Catholicism is inherently controversial, both in terms of doctrine and practice. Sometimes this is complicated by the fact that individuals confuse their sincere opinions with Church doctrine.  There are many things in the Catholic universe about which good men can disagree.  But sometimes Catholics, who tend to spout off about controversial matters, ironically don’t like criticism, and claim to be persecuted or treated uncharitably when someone strongly disagrees with their provocative statements or are turned off by their self-righteousness.

Michael Voris has done good work.  Many look to him as a guiding light because he is willing to address issues that most others will not even mention.  For people who never hear a homily on sin, hell, the devil, contraception and same-sex marriage, and who are subjected to liturgical abuses week after week and year after year, Michael Voris is a hero.

But setting aside any discussion of calumny and detraction there is such a thing as morose delight, that is, taking satisfaction in the misfortune of others.  Some people might objectively deserve a beat down–maybe.  But there are very few indeed who are able to deliver such a thing virtuously, especially when they do so for a paying audience.

I think there is a growing number of Catholics who have had enough of Catholic celebrity. There have already been too many scandals and let downs.  And since when is it a good thing to build up a person’s ego, especially when that person is inclined to sell himself to the public as the “Real Catholic?”

Recently Voris got his own beat down.  Perhaps the “Real Catholic” has finally jumped the shark.  But it was bound to happen sooner or later.  No one can claim to be the spokesman for the Church and the litmus test for orthodoxy without falling into illusions of grandeur.

The restoration of Catholic life is not going to come by way of any fast-talking, self-appointed and self-defined Lancelot riding in to save the day.  The result of such efforts are inevitably sectarian.  It is no wonder that Voris’ kind of knighthood is all entangled in the dogmatized private opinions and conspiracy theories of the traditionalists.  I approached him privately him about a year ago concerning his personal opinions concerning a benevolent Catholic dictatorship, which by the way he never really retracted, and he blew me off.  This is the man who compares the novus ordo liturgy–not the abuses of it, but the approved liturgy itself–with confessing to a heretic priest: the sacrament is valid but doing it is likely to destroy your faith.  You can argue all you want that this is a legitimate opinion. (I do not think it is.)  But at the very best it is only an opinion.  In typical traditionalist  fashion Voris cherry-picks from the papal magisterium in order to proof-text his sectarianism.  This is life inside the vortex.

Mark Shea in his own caustic way has pointed out Voris’ demonization of Bishop Lori, the National Catholic Register and EWTN.  No one is beyond criticism.  No one who publishes their personal controversial opinions, no matter how sincere, can expect to be handled with velvet gloves.  But this kind of demonization is based on sectarian paranoia.  It is only within that self-imposed bubble that such things seem normal.

My posts over the last year or so on traditionalism have largely been motivated by the concern that we are at a critical juncture in the postconciliar period.  After fifty years of the progressive/modernist hijacking of Vatican II, the persistence of the papal magisterium has payed off.  The Holy Father has the controls and is promoting effectively his teaching on “reform in continuity.”  This period is critical because the traditionalists have revamped the modernist myth that the Council was a rupture with Tradition and are attempting to co-opt Pope Benedict’s reform and turn the Church into a little elitist sect.

This is what happens in a vortex.  Blowhards are often necessary, but frequently they do more to entertain and justify us than they do to enlighten us.  And they do not solve real problems.  It is time to get back to the Church universal and find ways in which the Internet culture can contribute to a real restoration rather than the cultivation of a remnant.

Voris has been caught in his own vortex.  It is a bit of poetic justice, but I doubt he will see the irony.

22 thoughts on “Caught in the Vortex of His Own Making

  1. I have seen some videos of Vortex with legend in Portuguese. At a first sight, they seemed an exemple of ortodox catholicism. But later, I started realised that there was something wrong, a kind of fanaticism.

    It’s so impressive how tradicionalist ( or rad-trads) are similar in the whole world. In Brazil, it has happened the same things.

    Some time ago, I used to like following a tradicionalist blog. There was a blog of a young woman. She was very cultured and I got very impressed by her culture or knowladge. She seemed very pious. But with the course of the time (while the time had been passing), I realised she was a fanatic and she didn’t want to serve really God, but her own Ego (self).

    I don’t like to share my personal experiences, but I’m doing that because I think it might be helpfulto other people.

    And I know other similar cases happened with other people too.

  2. Fr. Angelo, I can appreciate what you’re getting at with Voris, but the Register writers have been as bombastic and critical — and sometimes in the most juvenile and vulgar manners of self-expression. They just choose more vulnerable targets. They are almost always given a pass by the majority of faithful Catholics while the Vorisses are always called out for their errors in theology and judgment. Given how scathing the Register crowd have been, I’m rather sorry to see you use the opportunity to call Voris out in this particular kerfuffle. Another time may have been better, yes?

  3. Suzanne,

    I am not arguing that anyone should get special treatment, not the Register, nor Voris, nor anybody. Could there be a better time? When do you think the last time was that Mr. Voris asked himself that question? But to answer your question, I do not really know.

    But I am not going to quibble with you. You may be right.

    Even so you get my point, and I believe this particular piece was a tad more respectful than the vast majority of Voris’ critiques. If Voris were me and I was Voris in this situation, I would say I got off easy.

    Please also consider that I thought the poetic justice was an opportunity to say something generally about what has been bothering for a very long time now.

    God bless you.

  4. Fr. Angelo — Your piece is absolutely respectful and very fair. I guess, I am afraid that authentic correction doesn’t get “heard” by those who need it when there has been such a recent pile-on that encourages the strong-hearted (or stubborn) to disregard automatically everything thrown in their direction for a period. Not even by their supporters will hear it. They just dig in their heels. On the other hand, grace can work when and in ways we don’t expect. So, there’s that!

    I guess my take away from the whole dust up was that Catholics are so dishearteningly nasty to one another online. It’s so painful to watch. On the bright side, as a blogger, it has all made me want to be very, very careful not to fall into snark and cruelty when it can be so very tempting to do so.

    God bless you, Father! I do so enjoy your blog!

  5. I looked up the word “retreat” in the Catholic encyclopedia http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12795b.htm
    I am surprised by some of the comments that indicate an objection to the cruise only because it is during Lent. In or out of the Season of Lent, it is certainly a departure from the *traditional* understanding of the word.

    In Christ,
    Marian

  6. I agree with Father 100%. I am certain Voris has the best of intentions and he is a brother Catholic (this is why we should pray for him). However, I often find his approach toxic and not helpful. That being said, Voris and his supporters do not emerge from nowhere. In part, they are the product of an often timid clergy and episcopacy who are afraid to teach the Catholic faith in its fullness. In addition, often the hierarchy comes down like a tonne of bricks on traditional Catholics whilst allowing liberal and even dissenting Catholics free reign. This of course sprurs on Voris and those like him. What we need is a return to orthodoxy, virtue, personal holiness and strong leadership from the clergy.

  7. The only reason Michael Voris discusses subjects the way he does is because virtually NO ONE else in the Catholic heirarchy will even recognize that there are massive problems in the world and Church which are sending countless souls to Hell. I am not aware of a single instance he has veered from Doctrine or the Magisterium. He simply is trying to bring to light these problems so that solutions can be developed. And, there’s nothing wrong with trying to “force” these changes by embarassing those who don’t take their responsibilites of leading the sheep seriously.

  8. virtually NO ONE else in the Catholic hierarchy will even recognize that there are massive problems in the world and Church which are sending countless souls to Hell.

    Really?

  9. re: Catholic. It’s Father Angelo.
    Bishop Tobin of Providence does an amazing job. We also have several amazing retired Bishops and many priests here who are staunch pro-life, pro-family, brave men. Servants. Devoted to God and devoted to Our Lady. No, they can’t fix all things wrong with the Chuch in an instant or even over a few years. It took time to get where we are now, and it will take time to get back. We must pray for our priests and Bishops.
    Yes, there are problems, and lots of them. But you can’t paint the entire Heirarchy with such a broad brush. There are courageous men trying to lead. Let us get behind them and support them.

  10. Fr Angelo- Great post. Regarding your mention of “Catholic celebrity”… I have been concerned with the burgeoning Catholic media industry for sometime now. As I sit and find comfort in being able to watch a Catholic channel like EWTN, and ocassionally drop in on Mr Voris to release a little pent up intellectual frustration over the state of the Church in certain areas, I am haunted by the suspicion that the very footage I am watching will be cherry picked, twisted, reissued and used to hang us one day. The devil is the most caniving editor of all.. and probably quite proficient with Photoshop and other impressive editing software packages. Loveable Fr Mitch, likable news dandy Raymond Arroyo, Johnette Benkovic, and, of course, others like Mr Voris, will be edited out of context and into either intolerant or unsophisticated characatures of themselves quite easily when the war on the faithful really ramps up. Mr Voris, fairly or not, will likely be the easiest to throw together for the team working on the intolerant dopplegangers for the chief liar.

  11. Father Angelo –
    I agree with what you say. I think for Voris to start implying that Vatican II was a mistake and thus we need to go back to the Mass PRIOR to it, flies in the face of what Our Holy Father is trying to say. It’s rather egotistical of him, to be honest. And, yet, being one of those people that never hears homilies “on sin, hell, the devil, contraception and same-sex marriage … Michael Voris is a hero.” Well, I don’t consider him a hero. But I have to admit that I’ve learned things that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise. For instance, I learned about all of the abuses with the Campaign of Human Development. What do you think would be a better way to educate Catholics on abuses, like CHD, which they can DO something about (like not contribute)? His regular quick soundbites are definitely appealing to us lazier folks and/or those of us who don’t have the time to read all the documents coming out of Rome? He’s filling a niche that no one else seems to be filling … even if he’s doing it in a rather harsh way and even though he’s got a definite off-kilter slant.

  12. I like Michael Voris. I have met him on several occasions and even been part of a group discussion over a meal. He is humble and not full of himself at all. He has courage to speak up. He is quite knowledgeable on many issues of the faith and has a good deal of teaching programs for Catholics who might never have had such teachings nor access to them. I certainly do not get Catholic teaching from the pulpit although my pastor is an entertaining homilist. I appreciate Michael and I know he has had much persecution. He did remove ‘Catholic’ from his program in obedience which you do not see happening with the ‘National catholic Reporter’.

  13. I feel very blessed to be in a parish and diocese that is very faithful to the Teachings of the Church. I agree with you about the problems with NCR and from what I have read, they have been given a warning and may possibly be in the same situation where they will need to change their name. http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/canon-lawyer-bishop-has-warned-national-catholic-reporter/ but why do you believe Michael Voris is any more deserving of your time than NCR? If he was truly obedient, don’t you think that would have meant conforming his program to the Teachings of the Church rather than drop the name Catholic? Is that what you think the NCR should do?

    In Christ,
    Marian

  14. Jen,

    Agitators always have their work rooted in legitimate gripes which they show themselves committed to address. If they did not, they would get no where at all.

  15. Voris is a hero. He is right on target. A single Vortex video is more beneficial to your soul than 99% of all the homilies in all the Catholic Churches this Sunday. Period.

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