Friday, August 15, 2014

Is Church Militant TV Irrelevant?

Michael Voris
A respected reader and fellow blogger voiced the opinion recently at St. Corbinian's Bear that Church Militant TV -- more particularly, it's flagship program, Michael Voris' "Vortex" -- was irrelevant. Why? Because they do not criticize Pope Francis, no matter what he does.

It is true that much of the news in the Catholic world, at least among those who are paying attention, revolves around the loosey goosey communication style of the Pontiff, and the curious beliefs he seems to hold. For example, he seems to believe that it is not essential, or even important, that non-Catholics become Catholic to further the cause of their salvation. The Bear says "seems" because the Pope has never articulated his theology of salvation, or his theology of the Church: soteriology and ecclesiology respectively.

Catholics are left to guess about Pope Francis' beliefs. However, we may make educated guesses, and it is not without cause that we wonder what Pope Francis means when he claims to be a "loyal son of the Church." It probably depends on what "Church" means to him. Perhaps it is the broader-than-the-Catholic-Church "Church of Christ" that has caused perennial confusion since Vatican II muddied the previously crystal clear waters of ecclesiology.

Please... just stop.
At any rate, Pope Francis, time and time again, floats the non-explicit, but nonetheless clear, idea that the Catholic Church is one Christian sect among many. He does it when he tells a friend who wants to convert not to, because he is needed as a "bridge builder." He does it when he talks about "unity in diversity." He does it when he illustrates Christianity with a polyhedron: each manifestation of Christian "diversity" is like the face on a three-dimensional multi-sided figure. He does it when he calls proselytizing "solemn nonsense." He does it when tells Anglicans that we do not need them in the Church, we need them where they are. He does it when he announces that there are too many doctrines for Christians ever to agree upon, so we should all just be the best whatever we are.

What does one need to do to be saved? Pope Francis has confused even this fundamental issue of Christianity. Are sacraments important? Or is knowing Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior all you need?

Despite Pope Francis' hobby horses, the poor are not at the heart of the Gospel. Christ is. Unemployment, yea, even of youth, is a real, but temporary problem in the grand scheme. How to get people into heaven should be the occupation of a pope. (Yeah, the Bear knows, crazy stuff, huh?) Pope Francis smiles and waves a hand like this is unimportant and returns to his favorite topics: youth unemployment, the loneliness of the elderly, and his published philosophy of "live and let live."

The Bear has gone from being an early fan of the Pope to deep distrust. Pope Francis has been entrusted with the deposit of the Faith. He should be as cautious as a man carrying a Tiffany lamp on roller skates. Instead, he is careless, reckless, even. He treats the papacy as Jorge's Big Chance to Do Whatever He Wants. To cultivate a Church of the descamisados*. To surround himself with a kitchen cabinet of Protestants on the back channel. To quash the occasional Traditionalist. We have less of a shepherd than a prophet, and less of a prophet than The International Man of Mystery.

What if the Spirit of Francis
is riding the Spirit of Vatican II?
In short, we are seeing the sly superimposition of a Franciscan Church upon the Catholic Church.

Bear believes the Church is in a crisis of historic proportions. Changes do not have to come by way of encyclicals, councils or ex cathedra pronouncements. If we learned anything from Vatican II, we learned that a "spirit" can seize the Church and attack the people where they live. The replacement of the Church with the "Spirit of Francis" is a real and dangerous possibility. (We will see which way the winds are blowing when October's Synod rolls around.)

So, what does that have to do with Church Militant TV?

Simple. We have reached a point where people are confused, discouraged and even frightened. Oh, the low-information crowd will always love Pope Francis because he smiles, or something. His apologists will trumpet every time he mentions "the devil" in a homily as proof of his orthodoxy, but ignore his soft heresy and bizarre actions. But those of us who love the Church -- the real Church, not what we wish the Church could be if only we had women priestesses, or married clergy, or allowed contraception, or installed the idol of the descamisados in the sanctuary, or lowered the Bride of Christ to the level of another sect alongside 30,000 Protestant ones  -- those of us who love the Church and are paying attention are alarmed.

The mainstream Catholic news outlets and blogs are a 24/7 spin machine for Pope Francis. They are a tidal wave to the Bear's tiny sand castle. We need what few heavy hitters we have in the conservative Catholic media to take a stand. Not against the Pope, but for the Church.

The reader who felt Church Militant TV was irrelevant was articulating disappointment that a policy of "silence is golden" when it comes to the Pope is letting Catholics down.

There is an old legal principle that there are circumstances when people might reasonably expect someone to say something. For example, if I seriously accuse you of murder, and you do not deny it, your silence is admissible in a court of law as a tacit admission. Well, history has handed us one of those circumstances where all informed men and women of good will must speak out. If you are not invincibly ignorant, you have to know the dangers Pope Francis is creating. Just in case you don't, let the Bear spell some out:

  • he is using soft heresy to revoke the infallible doctrine of extra ecclesiam nulla salus -- no salvation outside the Church -- and replace it with the Franciscan doctrine of "Jesus wants you to blossom where you are"
  • he is using that same soft heresy to gut what little remains of the Church's missionary spirit and pull the life support from the comatose New Evangelization
  • he is churning the Church's historic and doctrinal sense of herself until no one has any idea what the Church even is anymore
  • he is keeping the faithful in a constant state of turmoil by his ill-considered media forays and actions, which distracts them from their own spiritual development
  • he is making converts wonder why they bothered (often at great personal cost) to enter and promoting general lukewarmness by undermining the teachings of the church, e.g. communion for divorced and remarried, and the practice of traditional devotions
  • he has overseen the suppression of Traditional Latin Masses, alarming and discouraging some of the Church's most fervent children
This is what "meh" looks like.

In a nutshell, for all his vaunted humility, Pope Francis, more than any Pope in memory, has made the papacy all about Pope Francis. He is leading the Church from "wow!" through "huh?" to "meh."

And this is why people look to Church Militant TV. What good does it do to talk about the Pope? There is a lot to be accomplished, actually:

  • Catholics need the comfort of knowing that it isn't just them, there is a problem with Pope Francis
  • Catholics need to be instructed in sound doctrine when Pope Francis seems to go off the rails
  • many Catholics are not in "conservative" or Traditionalist parishes, and benefit from a sense of community where they can freely acknowledge and share their fears
  • Catholics can network and maintain a sense of what the Church is
  • troubled Catholics can receive support and encouragement, e.g. the Bear always reminds people to "nail your foot to the floor in front of your pew and die there"
  • Catholics can be inoculated against "The Francis Effect" and remain true to historic Church teachings

No, the Pope is probably not going to change. He's an old man. He's playing a tune he learned forty years ago. That doesn't mean all of us have to dance to it, because he has proven himself to be not always reliable in basic Catholic teachings. As crazy as it sounds, we can't safely assume the Pope is Catholic in what he says (which makes being Catholic a lot more complicated than it should be).

The Bear has avoided answering the question: is Church Militant TV irrelevant?

In a word, no. 

The Vortex is remarkable when you consider that every day a new, high-quality episode is rolled out of production. Usually, it focuses on a problem in the Church. Let's face it, The Vortex is their "red meat" program. But they do a good job. I can't remember the last time Michael couldn't make it in front of the camera, complete with hair and dimples. Love him or hate him, you have to admit the man's a pro. And not every episode is negative. Today, there was a very moving story about Carmelite nuns executed during the French Revolution. The final scene from Dialogues des Carmelites is one you will not soon forget.

Ironically, it is precisely because The Vortex has been so issue-focused and fearlessly hard-hitting that its silence about Pope Francis is all the more noticeable.

But Church Militant TV is not irrelevant.

  • The Vortex remains a snappy, well-produced show and a faithful watchdog who barks at everybody (except the Pope)
  • Although it seems like the Pope dwarfs everything else, he is not the Church's only problem, and The Vortex still has plenty of work to do
  • The Vortex can provide instruction on doctrines that Pope Francis seems to call into question, without saying anything about the Pope directly
  • The Vortex is only a tiny part of what's available to premium users -- literally a bewildering variety of Catholic programming for 10 bucks a month

While we might hope for more from Church Militant TV, the Bear counsels everyone to let them figure out their own course on this matter. In the meantime, Church Militant TV remains one of the top go-to places for excellent Catholic programming. The worst thing we could do is cut off our noses to spite our face by cancelling subscriptions or tuning out their shows. For once, let's not give in to fratricide. Whether you are a conservative Catholic, prefer the Traditional Latin Mass, or are just an ordinary pewsitter with a growing sense that something is very wrong, we all need to work together and support each other.

Of course, there's always Patheos.

*descamisados (literally "shirtless ones") the poor; affectionately used by Juan and Eva Peron for their poor supporters in Argentina.

A "Best Of" Show: The Martyrdom of French Carmelite Nuns
During the Revolution


  1. I have had similar thoughts on the work of Voris, but I really like him and I am inspired by his fortitude. It goes a long way with me.

    It will be interesting once the Oct. synod rolls around, that is for sure.

    As one of the priests over at Audio Sancto and Video Sancto said (something like), "We may not like what the pope is saying...but he is the pope."

    I can only control my level of holiness. Not his.

  2. I pretty much agree with everything you've said, I might later borrow this for my own post

  3. August 15, 2014
    Fr.Robert Barron and Michael Voris like most people interpret Vatican Council II with the right hand side values

  4. I had to read carefully. I thought you wrote "irreverent." I was thinking of posting "Is the pope Catholic?" Whoops! That one doesn't work these days, eh?

  5. Yes, the two foundational propositions of popular wisdom, the one about the Pope and the one about... never mind.

  6. Clarity Bear.....crystal clear.

    1. I count on the Badger to keep me in line.

    2. Oh, I take the job VERY seriously :)

      And send some of that stale birthday cake my way Bear....the badger celebrates 53 years today (what'd'ya think that is in badger years?)


      .........on second thought, I look pretty bad for a 26 year old. dang.

  7. If the Vortex doesn't take note of the Pope's foibles, that's their decision. Where I must take issue is when the Vortex chides us for pointing out papal gaffes.

  8. I canceled my premium subscription with the Vortex and so far they've sent me four emails asking me to change my mind.

    1. Four emails asking you to change your mind? I wonder if they're losing subscribers, due to their refusal to point the finger at the one man responsible for the continuing mess in the church?

    2. With all due respect, I invite everyone to reconsider trying to punish one of the most effective media apostolates out there. Nobody's perfect.

    3. St. CB, I'm a former cult member. Voris is talking like a cult devotee. Like a typical cult devotee, he refuses to admit his leader can be wrong. We don't need that kind of mindless nonsense coming from a supposed lay leader in our Church. Not to confront the head man is not to deal with the evil that's ongoing in the Church. The Pope, when he's aware of this garbage, is the one ultimately responsible to do something about it. If he doesn't, he's a part of the problem. And if Michael Voris, or any of us refuses to confront him, we become part of the problem.

    4. Oh, I don't think it is that Pope Francis can do no wrong. If you watch carefully, they are just saying we don't think it is a good idea to comment. You don't hear CMTV rah-rahing the Pope. That may not seem like much of a distinction, but it is. And I remain hopeful that they will weigh in in some useful fashion. Believe me, my own decision to take on elements of the Pope's message -- his unprecedented soteriology and ecclesiology -- does not come easy. All I'm saying is the Pope seems to be off the reservation and we need an explanation if he wants us to follow. There are enough warnings about criticizing the Pope, starting with Matthew 7:1ff in general to make it a big deal. I have decided we have reached the tipping point and we must resist in our Church. Other people may have different tipping points. I'm comfortable with that.

  9. While CMTV does put out good stuff, I can't accept Voris's 'we won't criticize the Pope' stance. It's like criticizing the Nazi's, but not targeting Hitler. The problem's in the church start with the Pope, and they can only be fixed by him.


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