Friday, September 27, 2013

A Vortex of Wreckage

Roughly 10 years ago, a colleague of mine (no longer affiliated with the traditionalist movement) wrote a work about how traditionalists were addicted to nonsense.  That lit the traditionalist movement on fire, and probably led to a lot of the people addicted to wreckage trying to push him out of trad circles. (I am withholding the name at his request, but veterans of the business know of whom I speak, and I ask they respect his privacy.)  One could say with these words, I really began changing my approach as a traditionalist:

I guess that's what it comes down to, really. Traditional Catholicism, as it is dressed up in the "store-front" of various Traditional newspapers, books, magazines, web sites, tapes, lectures, etc., is very good at identifying what we shouldn't be doing, what things we should be getting rid of in our lives (whether objects, like TV, rock music, etc., or ideas, such as NFP, Americanism, etc.) - but rarely does it tell us what to do with these new holes in our lives.

You must avoid all of these things - that part I understand. But now that has become my life! Looking out for things to avoid; taking a critical (and even cynical) approach to everything; replacing the bad somethings in my life with idle nothings. And frankly, I'm bored. And I'm not getting any holier.

Catholicism used to be on the cutting edge of originality - leading the way in producing the brightest thinkers, the most brilliant theologians, the most talented artists, the best musicians, the best-read historians, inspired poets, and on and on ... but it seems to me now that we've become largely unoriginal and boring - reactionary even.....

Let's start dealing with the universal and eternal, things that will be relevant long after the crisis has ended, and stop worrying so much about the temporal stuff that's going to be ancient history just as soon as Russia gets consecrated. 
Sorry for the lengthy quote, but this was on my mind when a discussion about Michael Voris' Church Militant and his Vortex podcasts came up.  In these podcasts, Mr. Voris (in incredibly sharp fashion) diagnoses just how bad things suck in the Church today.  He shows with evidence how corrupt bishops are, how lax the faith is in many quarters, and how in many places secular liberalism is ascendant, even in our Churches.  He is inspiration in telling people what to avoid.

Yet that is almost all of what he does.  It is about what to avoid.  It is seldom (if ever) about what to replace it with.  While Mr. Voris does not consider himself a "traditionalist", a huge amount of his fan base do identify as such.  We trads are really susceptible to this stuff.  It has gotten better since 2004:  we aren't the second-class citizens we once were for starters.  Yet still to this day a lot of people deny there is a crisis, or at least try to say the crisis can be solved with tinkering at the margins, or by, wait for it, implementing what Vatican II really meant.  Trust me, we are waaaaayyyyy beyond ecumenical council pixie dust fixing things.  We are scandalized by a lot of what goes on, and we should be scandalized.

Yet when you are scandalized, you risk letting that scandal dominate you.  I think Mr. Voris' Vortex promotes that mentality.  I find myself agreeing with most of it, yet finding myself utterly bored by it.  Don't just tell me how things suck:  tell me what I can do about it.  Don't just tell me how bad others are:  remind me to get my own affairs in order via the confessional, and pronto!  Tell me how to build Christendom in my own household, even if I can't instill it within nations.

All Catholics need this, not just the traditionalist movement.  Mr. Voris is obviously incredibly smart and a very good presenter.  Yet what is he presenting?  How often does he mention the great Catholic works of spirituality as ways to overcome all the crap we see today?  How often does he advise his audience to frequent the sacraments?  Read the Bible daily?  Organizations that operate on the local level to work with in building up the Culture of Christ?  If he even devoted 10% of his programming to these things, we would be a lot better off.  I'm not saying he never covers it.  Sometimes he does.

Faithful Catholics don't need to hear how things suck.  We know that.  We live that life.  We see how much things suck every time we walk out the door and are mocked for our faith.  We know it sucks when we hear Father give another dull homily full of his interesting little pet ideas, and having nothing to do with the Gospel.  We see it in the hurt souls experience because they got stuck in traffic and missed the 15 minute window of confession for the week.  We see it when even our church leaders from priests on up act more like secular politicians than individuals shepherding the Church of God.  Most importantly, we see it when we constantly screw up.  The righteous man falls seven times a day, and most of us aint' righteous.

How can we overcome these things?  That's what we need to hear about from Catholic personalities.... free of charge.  Voris could be a powerful voice in that effort.  Right now, it is just a vortex sucking in wreckage.


  1. "Yet that is almost all of what he does. It is about what to avoid. It is seldom (if ever) about what to replace it with."

    This is false. You're clearly unfamiliar with the vast body of his work, and are going on caricature. You might have watched a handful of Vortex episodes in which he highlighted problems in the Church. The Vortex comprises maybe 10% of what he does. I encourage you to take a look at the talks and retreats he offers around the world (some at the invitation of bishops and priests) to get a more accurate picture of his work--which is overwhelmingly positive.

    If you are going to publicly critique a fellow Catholic, it is only just that you actually familiarize yourself with his work rather than go on the say-so of others; otherwise, you may be guilty of mischaracterization.

    Considering that his work is encouraged by the likes of Cdl. Raymond Burke and Bp. Fabian Bruskewitz, as well as a number of priests I personally know, and considering hundreds of people have credited their return to the practice of the Faith to his teaching and preaching, there is clearly a place for him, and his work is valued by many.
    God bless,
    Christine Niles

  2. You are there in the same city as Michael Voris--have you reached out to him with your concerns? Have you visited his studio? I am sure he'd be glad to talk with you and address any concerns you may have.


    2900 Hilton Road
    Ferndale MI 48220

    God bless,

  3. Hello Mrs. Niles,

    I just want to make sure we have an understanding here. Others may want Mr. Voris' apostolate to shut down entirely. I'm not one of them. I like a lot of what he does. If you would like to look through the archives, you can even see that I've defended him sometimes, criticized him in others.

    My criticism was far more narrow then I think you are taking it. Perhaps I could have had greater clarity, or maybe in highly charged emotional issues things are misread. My focus was mostly on his Vortex podcasts and Church Miltiant TV. I do think that the overwhelming majority of those things are a little too focused on scandal and negativity, and little is talked about in how faithful Catholics in this struggle can actually build up the Church. When I said "sometimes he does" I had those conferences in mind, and I think those are good. Yet we need that stuff out there free of charge. Any Catholic who is still denying there is a crisis lacks a pulse and probably won't listen to Mr. Voris anyway. Those orthodox Catholics who are going there, they know things are terrible, and they are starving for nourishment.

    I think there certainly is a place for him in the Church, and a lot of the work he does is rightly praised by those leaders of the Church. Yet some Bishops are wary of it, and it isn't because they are liberals or they lack backbone. It's precisely the attitude you expressed here, coming out treating me like an ignormaus who clearly doesn't know the truth, rather than coming in peace and talking about it. I've seen more than a few vortex podcasts. Here's an idea, treat those you disagree with as intelligent sincere people.

    as far as visiting the studio, I haven't. I'm out in Howell nowadays, which is a good distance away from where I used to be, and I work a pretty busy schedule. (6 days a week out in southfield.) I didn't contact him because for the most part, I'm not terribly relevant, and had better things to do. Having possession of his contact info, perhaps I will reach out to him.

    But with all due respect, I pray that he doesn't automatically assume people who disagree with him are lying ignoramuses like some of his followers who comment on blogs. ;)


  4. "I pray that he doesn't automatically assume people who disagree with him are lying ignoramuses like some of his followers who comment on blogs. ;)"

    I am surprised by your defensiveness. Nowhere did I imply or even hint at the possibility of lying on your part, nor did I ever call you an "ignoramus." I was going on your claim that negativity "is almost all of what he does. It is about what to avoid. It is seldom (if ever) about what to replace it with."

    That is patently false. Anyone even slightly familiar with his work would know that. Thus my assumption that you are unfamiliar with the vast body of his work.

    As to offering conferences free of charge--that is not up to Michael, but up to the conference organizers who invite him to speak. The organizers determine how much (if anything) to charge. In fact, he is this very evening giving a talk in Indiana that is absolutely free of charge. But again--that was a decision made by the conference organizers, so that is neither here nor there.

    And again, if you were more familiar with his apostolate, you would know that a great deal of the content is absolutely free. They have just uploaded dozens of talks he has given all over the world to YouTube and onto their website, and anyone can access them, totally free of charge:

    Having said that, $10/month is absolutely nothing for the output of their apostolate; it is about 4-5 cups of coffee a month. Michael makes almost no profit from it, and his staff makes even less. So unless you are saying he needs to be homeless and unable to pay the bills for his studio, then the price of the premium subscription is reasonable and just. But again, a GREAT deal of content on their page is absolutely free, no subscription required.
    God bless,
    Christine Niles

  5. "You're clearly unfamiliar with the vast body of his work, and are going on caricature" Says who?

    "You might have watched a handful of Vortex episodes" How many have I watched, humor me.

    "it is only just that you actually familiarize yourself with his work rather than go on the say-so of others;"

    How do you know I"m going on the say so of others? You basically say I don't know what I"m talking about. i.e. I'm ignorant.

    How about "I don't know who you are Mr. Tierney, but I think you need to see reference X and link Y, or perhaps you are being a little too stern in your assessment of things."

    I'm hardly the only person who finds his Vortex podcasts exceptionally negative.

    So yes, I am familiar with his apostolate, and once again, I've acknowledged the good he has done. A lot of that content is also little better than scandal mongering, or where he implies that those he disagrees with are effiminate cowards. Might be true, might not be. How about we just stick to "this person is wrong" and leave the schoolyard insults at home? Kids get grounded for that kinda stuff. We adults should knock it off as well.

    Here's an example. A group I worked with today, St. Paul Street Evangelization. They ask for donations for their works at 10 bucks, and you get a ton. If you can't afford that, they ask for whatever you can. If you can't afford anything, they ask you to contact them, because they still want you to have the stuff. That's what Catholic organizations should be doing.

    We are getting nickle and dimed enough in our culture today by the world. We don't need to be nickle and dimed on the Gospel as well. And if you wanna look in my archives, I've long lambasted this aspect of American Catholicism and its monetizing the Gospel.

    You don't need to imply raw motives because people are disagreeing with you. Trust me, it's that kind of attitude that winds him and his supporters in hot water just as often as it is (rightly) criticizing crap in the Church.

    1. "where he implies that those he disagrees with are effiminate cowards."

      Nope. People who don't preach the truth for fear of causing offense--especially when they are charged with that duty--are cowards.

      And that's just the truth. If you don't like that sort of talk, I know of a number of Voris's Catholic critics who have called him far worse names than that, and have used obscenities to boot. Have you likewise scolded them? Or are you singling out Voris for criticism? Mark Shea & Pete Vere, for instance, have used far worse "schoolyard insults" against Voris--I don't see you chastising them. Maybe you have one set of criteria for your "friends," and another for Voris. If so, that's called a double standard, aka, hypocrisy.

      And if you're going to complain about people profiting from defending the faith, then your quarrel should be with the professional Catholics who are making a boatload more than he does while staying silent about the misdeeds of clergy so that they can stay in the good graces of the bishops. Michael Voris makes $40K a year--Karl Keating makes $250K a year, and Catholic Answers rakes in $5 million a year. If profit is your problem, then why is Voris being attacked on this score??

      Again--maybe you have one set of criteria for your friends or for the popular and influential Catholics, and another for Voris.

    2. I don't criticize Mark Shea? I think Mark will find that as news. The same with Pete. And I've criticized specifically the language he has used as not helpful, even if I agree with a lot of the focus. So really, it's no double standard at all.

      And if you look at my archives, once again you will see that I've complained far more about "career Catholicism", "tenured Catholicism" and I've gone after them far more than Mr. Voris, who I've just mentioned in two posts, and only one of them dealing with the profit issue. (When you factor in the cruises, the speaking and lecture circut, it's really a lot more than 40k, but your point that his profits are modest is valid.)

      So considering I've criticized both, and I've been known to criticze both, and I've criticzed publicly and engaged the likes of Karl Keating over said issues, I'm just saying, it might help to do a bit of homework. I understand Mr. Voris means a lot to you, as he does to all of his passionate legions.

      But we handle things a little differently here. We handle things like professionals. Busines is business. I've let you speak your mind with all your insinuations about me and my friends, and I'm going to ask from now on that you stick to the issues at hand, not the personal motivations or agendas of those you disagree with if you wish to continue this discussion.

      Otherwise I'm sure there are other places where someone, somewhere is saying Voris isn't an angel. Go play in their sandboxes.

    3. "passionate legions"? "Go play in their sandboxes"? Talk about insinuations and schoolyard insults. How about just a friend and supporter? I corrected a false statement you made in your post--that the overwhelming majority of Michael's work is negative. That's just not true, and a quick perusal of will show you that. Perhaps YOU are the one who needs to do your homework before inaccurately criticizing someone's apostolate.

      As to the rest, I've already made my points above. If you've taken others to task for their juvenile insults, good--I gladly stand corrected.

  6. Christine,

    Easy. Blue on Blue! Your firing on friendlies.

    This isn't like some other blogs that routinely attack fellow Catholics with seemingly no desire to make us all better. Kevin has some points and I would be surprised if Michael Voris hasn't heard them before in some way or another. His challenge is that the Vortex is what he is primarily known for. All of the other great content isn't really know by many people.

    I agree with Michael Voris on almost everything and I certainly don't doubt that his heart is in the right place. But if I had his ear, I would ask him some of the same questions. How can you take the success of the Vortex and become KNOWN more as a thought leader in making change?

  7. "If you are going to publicly critique a fellow Catholic, it is only just that you actually familiarize yourself with his work rather than go on the say-so of others; otherwise, you may be guilty of mischaracterization. "

    As Mr. Voris most certainly did when he carpet bombed "the bloggers" on the basis of something he read on one or two sites warning of Fr. Corapi's perfidy? And as he most certainly did when he contacted Keating, Akin, Staples, Kresta, Keck, Arroyo, and Warsaw as "excessively" paid and insinuating that they were money-grubbing whores and gutless cowards in the pay of the Church of Nice?

  8. "money grubbing whores and gutless cowards"?
    Is this a quote?

    1. No.

      Lots of misunderstanding with regard to that episode of the Vortex--which is why Michael did a follow-up episode clarifying. This was his main point:

      "No one cares what someone makes--that's not the point. The point is this: Salaries are being made from the protection of the status quo, and the status quo isn't cutting it in the face of a worldwide apostasy. Many of these guys--heck, all of them--do a great job laying bare the evil of the culture, the ignorance of other faiths in relation to Catholicism, and so forth. Again, not the point. THE point is that for all their fine work in THOSE areas--directing people to the Church and away from the degenerate culture--what good is it if the Church they are coming to is rife with corruption, both moral and spiritual on a scale unprecedented in her 2,000 years?"

      You can watch it here:

    2. Well no. He still claimed that they were in on the take, basically bought and paid for. As was said "salaries are being made from the status quo." That implies a financial interest in silencing people like Mr. Voris.

      That's going to make people angry, and they are going to demand proof. Why back away from it if it is true? I think it was a case of Mr. Voris write a check with his mouth his ego couldn't cash. If you are going to make that kind of charge, you gotta own it. If he didn't mean it, well then, everyone's gotta choose their words a little bit more carefully.

      So there wasn't any misunderstanding. Just like people didn't misunderstand Catholic Answers when they did that horrible series on "radical traditionalists." The "misunderstanding" was they spoke what they were actually thinking.

  9. Nah. It's more of Mark's oh so colorful way of stating what Voris did: that Catholic apologists are in the pocket of the liberal "establishment" due to the fact they aren't reporting on issues that he thinks they should.

    1. He's already been notified that the comment was approved but the language is close to borderline, but in this one case, in the words of Mills Lane "I'll allow it!"

    2. Sadly, such colorful language, or misrepresenting the words of other, only serves to get one's fan base all worked up rather than make a point. Even sadder, when there is actually might be a good point to be made all wrapped up in there somewhere.


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