By Catholic Apologist Dave Armstrong
Being an apologist is a lot like being an umpire: you always have folks disagreeing with you. I seem to be caught a bit in the middle here, so I'm-a-gonna splain a bit, if I could . . .
A big stir was made a little while back about my softening somewhat with regard to my criticisms of Michael Voris. I didn't say I thought he was perfect, nor that most of what I already stated in critique of his work was no longer valid. I didn't say he shouldn't be closely observed in the future.
All I did was agree with one video (and yes, there are a few things in there I would quibble with, such as his implied hostility to communion in the hand, the ad orientem issue, etc.). I haven't taken one thing back concerning the critique of his trashing of the Mass. His view on that ("Weapons of MASS Destruction" video) is clearly out of line with the Mind of the Church.
I don't see people as purely evil. Voris is a mixture of good and bad, like we all are. I've never followed the man. I've critiqued him all along and will continue to do so if he deserves it. I merely softened a little because I saw that he was expressing a lot of truth, too. I had accused him of believing in the defectibility of the Church, or the near-possibility of same, and on reflection that was a bit harsh, so I modified my view and took out those sections in my critiques.
Sometimes I will change my opinion, if I think the facts warrant it. People have to accept (or "take") me as I am. I call things as I see 'em. I have opinions and sometimes I change my mind (I did recently, for example, regarding my discontinuance of the term, radtrad: which had some serious problems in usage and reception). It's not instability; it's thinking; rationality. I always have a reason for what I do. I try to be as fair-minded as I can, and Michael Voris deserves that, just as any other person deserves to be treated.
One problem in all this is that many people almost fanatically follow people that they perceive to be "celebrities." Some people act as if they couldn't survive without their Voris video every day. They put him up on a pedestal. If someone tried to put me in that place, I'd tell 'em straightaway that they have a huge spiritual problem and should probably stop reading my stuff immediately and devote themselves to prayer and Bible reading.
There is absolutely no question that with Michael Voris there is a certain amount of "cult of personality" going on (i.e., among some [many?] those who follow his videos), because this happens again and again (Fr. Corapi, etc.). It's the American way. We love to follow men. I fight against that indirectly by agreeing with Voris where I can and critiquing him, too. That counters the notion that he's perfect or that he is totally evil (cardboard caricatures of real, complex human beings).
Many who like Voris seem to think he's perfect. The ones who don't like his stuff tend to despise him. What I'm doing is being realistic, not fanatic: he has good and bad qualities. I'm being a critic, but not a mere basher, or painting everything all black. Big dif . . .
People are much more likely to listen to a critique of him if they feel he's been given a fair shake, and if they know that the one who critiques has also acknowledged good things in his videos. Even the Catholic Culture site that urged "caution" about his videos did that. Likewise, those who despise him may hear when I note some good things, so that there can be less division. The dogmatism and "black-and-white" mentality on either side is what causes division.
I'm always willing to acknowledge truth and good things when I see them: whether in Luther or Calvin, or James White. This is what the Church does with Protestants, Jews, and Muslims. So I am applying Vatican II when I do it.
There is a place for hard-hitting reporting. I agree with Voris when he says that Catholic journalists are a bunch of wimps, for the most part. It's to our great shame that the secular media had to expose the sex scandal. No major player within our ranks had the guts to do so.
I remember reading stuff in The Wanderer about sodomy among priests, so it said something. But by and large, the secular world broke the story, and it has caused untold damage to the Church and priests as a result. Therefore, there is a place for it, and it should be done. It's journalism. It must be balanced with an attitude of obedience, though, which is the tricky part (how does one criticize a bishop and still be "subject" to him?).
Some saints have criticized popes (St. Dominic, St. Catherine -- who was very critical of the pope and anti-popes of the time -- especially; so did true orthodox Catholic reformers like Erasmus and others). One of the items in "traditionalist" boilerplate is that us non-trads think that no one can ever criticize a bishop or pope, ever. That's simply not true. Sometimes you can. But it should be rare, respectful, and from the right people: not every day, loud and vocal, and from any Tom, Dick, and Harry. I agree that generally speaking, we shouldn't make all these strong criticisms to our ecclesiastical superiors; but there is a time for someone to do so. And that is perfectly orthodox and in line with past history.
Perhaps Voris could do better and tone down his objectionable rhetoric (where it occurs), if folks give critiques that don't merely "yell" that he is Satan incarnate. I criticize Voris when I think he is dead wrong and I have now acknowledged that he teaches a good deal of truth in some of his videos, too, and says stuff that needs to be said. Credit where it is due . . .
We apologists proclaim truth (or I sure hope we do!). We don't fail to proclaim it because of how some folks may distort it. I couldn't be an apologist for a day if I did that. We rejoice in whatever truth is found in folks. That's true for Luther, Calvin, Muslims, and Michael Voris, too. That's Vatican II. If we don't do that, we're not applying the true spirit of Vatican II.
I "bash" Luther (along with Calvin and numerous others) when he gets it wrong, and I rejoice (and broadcast it) when he gets things right. Same with Voris or anyone else. The ecumenical element cannot be divorced from the apologetics task. Again, that is quintessential Vatican II (and JPII and BXVI).
John Calvin, for example, used the term "Mother of God." appeared to believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary (whereas most Protestants don't), and was against contraception. Sure as Hades I'm gonna point those things out. We oppose falsehood but rejoice in truth: whatever the sources are. Often both are found in one person.
I don't think Voris is a "kook" and I hold out hope for him to modify his views, where he is not in line with the Mind of Holy Mother Church. May God lead all of us -- with His grace and power -- into the fullness of truth, and give us the wisdom and humility to accept correction when we are wrong. Lord, help us to be open to that!
All of my papers devoted to Michael Voris can be found on my Radical Catholic Reactionaries vs. Catholic Traditionalism page, in one section devoted to him.
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