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.