|This biographical article relies too much on references to primary sources. (January 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)|
August 20, 1961 |
Big Spring, Texas
|Education||Bachelor of Arts|
|Alma mater||University of Notre Dame
Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas (S.T.B.)
Gary Michael Voris (born 20 August 1961) is an American Catholic journalist, author, and apologist. He is the president and founder of Saint Michael's Media, a religious apostolate producing on-demand video programs on the website ChurchMilitant.com.
- 1 Background
- 2 St. Michael's Media
- 3 Relationship with the Catholic hierarchy
- 4 Controversies relating to science
- 5 "Catholic monarchy" comments
- 6 Steve Bannon and "Church Militant Theology"
- 7 Personal life
- 8 Honors
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Education and early career
Voris attended the University of Notre Dame, graduating in 1983 with a degree in communications with a focus on history and politics. He also attended two years of seminary training at St. Joseph's Seminary in New York during the 1980s. Between 1983 and 1986 he was a television anchor, producer and reporter for various CBS affiliates in New York, Albany, Duluth and Cheyenne, Wyoming. In 1989 he became a news reporter and producer for a Fox affiliate in Detroit, where he won four Emmy Awards for production between 1992 and 1996.
In 1997 he began operation of an independent television production company called Concept Communications, LLC. This company was registered by co-owners Gary Michael Voris and John Fitzpatrick Mola with the State of Michigan on July 8, 1997. Shortly thereafter on July 23, 1997, Voris and Mola registered a video with the US Copyright Office titled "Double Trouble".
Voris cites the death of his brother from a heart attack in 2003, followed by his mother dying from stomach cancer in 2004 as the events that moved him to go from being "a lukewarm Catholic, someone who usually just went through the motions at church" to an "aggressive global advocate for conservative Catholics... on a burning mission to save Catholicism and America by trying to warn the public about what he sees as a decline of morality in society." Voris is reported to work "up to 18 hours a day, seven days a week" on creating presentations for St. Michael's Media.
St. Michael's Media
After being a guest speaker at several Roman Catholic parishes in Detroit and serving as a host on the Michigan Catholic Radio network, in 2006 Voris started the digital television studio St. Michael’s Media in Ferndale, Michigan. Voris's move into Roman Catholic video broadcasting was in response to the book and film The Da Vinci Code. Voris had planned to make a one-hour TV program in order to refute the image of the Catholic Church put forward by Dan Brown's work. He came to believe "that the challenges facing the Catholic Church in the United States were much larger and more pernicious than a single blockbuster."
Voris withdrew much of his retirement fund, and with volunteers began St. Michael's Media. With his background in secular broadcasting Voris felt he could provide a level of production that could compete with mainstream talk shows. He began hosting "The One True Faith" in 2006, and began hosting a Catholic talk radio show, "News and Views Weekly," in 2007. Voris's work soon received an endorsement from then-Archbishop Raymond Leo Burke of St. Louis. By early 2008 Voris's programs "expanded into markets from New York to California, from Ontario to the Philippines." On September 1, 2008 he partnered with RealCatholicTV.com, which is owned by Marc Brammer (who has worked as a business developer for Moody's and is a member of Opus Dei). Some of the Catholic video segments/programs Voris has worked on include "The Vortex", "The One True Faith", "Catholic Investigative Agency", "The Armor of God", and "Where Did the Bible Come From?"
Later in 2008 Voris's work was endorsed by Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J., founder of Catholic Views Broadcast Inc., who began televising "The One True Faith" on channel K16HY-D in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area that year.
In mid-2008 Voris' organization ran out of operating funds, what staff they could retain lived on unemployment compensation for between a year and eighteen months. By early 2011, the fiscal crisis ended when subscription revenues to their online services increased.
In 2011 the Archdiocese of Detroit, citing canon 216 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, published notice to Voris and RealCatholicTV that "it [did] not regard them as being authorized to use the word 'Catholic' to identify or promote their public activities." In 2012 the company name RealCatholicTV.com was changed to "ChurchMilitant.tv" and the partnership with Brammer was ended.
In October 2014 as a member of the press corps, Voris raised a question concerning the Midterm Relatio from the Synod on the Family during a question and answer period with cardinals attending the Synod. His question was picked up by National Public Radio as well as other media outlets. In a story concerning the draft's "conciliatory language" on controversial social issues, Voris, whom NPR described as representative of "many reporters ... stunned by the welcoming tone and language" towards homosexuals, was quoted as asking with regard to paragraph 52, which claimed homosexuals have "gifts and qualities" to offer to the Church: "Is the Synod proposing that there is something innate in the homosexual orientation that transcends and uplifts the Catholic Church?" Cardinal Bruno Forte, who himself had included the controversial paragraph in the Midterm Relatio, smiled and replied, "It is not easy to answer such an ontological question. What I want to express is that we must respect the dignity of every person."
In conjunction with his media programs, Voris has traveled extensively, including video-recording and speaking in Nigeria, the Philippines, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, France, Rome, New Zealand, Australia, England, Scotland and The Netherlands. In addition to his media work Voris often speaks at retreats, conferences and parishes on various Catholic topics.
After one of Voris's programs caused controversy when he stated, "The only way to prevent a democracy from committing suicide is to limit the vote to faithful Catholics", he received increased scrutiny from the Archdiocese of Detroit. In December 2011, the archdiocese publicly released two press releases holding that the digital station realcatholictv.com was not permitted to use the word "Catholic" within its name according to their reading of canon law. The press release stated, "The Archdiocese has informed Mr. Voris and Real Catholic TV, RealCatholicTV.com, that it does not regard them as being authorized to use the word 'Catholic' to identify or promote their public activities … The Church encourages the Christian faithful to promote or sustain a variety of apostolic undertakings but, nevertheless, prohibits any such undertaking from claiming the name Catholic without the consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority."
Because Voris is the owner of St. Michael's Media, and had contracted with Marc Brammer's RealCatholicTV run from South Bend, Indiana (which is under the authority of Bishop Kevin Rhoades), a question of jurisdiction under canon law arose. Brammer noted he had received a letter from the Archdiocese of Detroit acknowledging him as the owner of the website and its name. He responded to the letter by requesting a meeting but got no response. Brammer personally met with Bishop Rhoades, who reassured him that he had no problem with the name RealCatholicTV.com. Voris held that he had made seven attempts to set up a meeting with the archbishop on the matter and had been rebuffed or ignored on each occasion. When asked by reporters if the diocese Marc Brammer lives in had any problems with RealCatholicTV, Fr. Mark Gurtner, judicial vicar of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in Indiana, responded, "No, as far as I know there is nothing." Gurtner went on, stating that speaking as a canon lawyer (and not speaking on behalf of the diocese) it was his opinion that as the owner of the website lived in Indiana, they had jurisdiction over the matter rather than Detroit. In response, the Archdiocese of Detroit cited its own canon lawyer, Ed Peters (a professor at the local Sacred Heart Major Seminary), who maintained that Detroit was on "firm ground" in its actions concerning Voris.
When asked by reporters if the archdiocese had ever pursued anyone else for using the term "Catholic" without its permission, Ned McGrath, its director of communications, said that he could not recall any other similar incident in his twenty years working for the Detroit Archdiocese.
Voris stated that he felt that the situation had to do with staffers assisting in running the archdiocese, and not with the Archbishop himself. He said that on many occasions in the past (before teaming with RealCatholicTV.com), talks, television appearances and programs he was to give on local Catholic media had been cancelled due to the efforts of the archdiocese's staff. "They have waged a quiet war since the very first time we set foot into the public realm."
Reporters noted that while neither Voris nor Brammer had succeeded in scheduling a meeting with Archbishop Allen Vigneron, during this same period Vigneron did meet (on February 1, 2011) with a local liberal Catholic group called "Elephants in the Living Room," which advocates expanding the Roman Catholic priesthood to women and challenges Church teaching on contraception. Reporters also noted that supporters of Voris ask why the archdiocese takes no similar action against the Jesuit University of Detroit Mercy which calls itself "a Catholic university" but "has proposed abortion agencies as career opportunities for students; had links to pro-abortion groups on its website; retained a renowned pro-abortion, pro-same-sex 'marriage' nun on its Board of Trustees; held an annual event called 'sexapalooza' with activities such as 'safe sex games', sex-tac-toe; and has professors that put stickers on their office doors indicating their support for abortion," all of which are directly opposed by official Catholic teaching.
In an episode of "The Vortex" coinciding with a June 12, 2012 move to a new studio building, Voris announced that the digital television company would be switching to a new name with a new website: "ChurchMilitant.tv". Voris stated that this name was inspired by Pope Benedict XVI's May 22, 2012 "Papal greeting to Cardinals" in which he said, "Today the word ecclesia militans [Church Militant] is somewhat out of fashion, but in reality we can understand ever better that it is true, that it bears truth in itself. ...Saint Augustine said that the whole of history is a struggle between two loves: love of oneself to contempt of God; love of God to contempt of self, in martyrdom. We are in this struggle...."
Voris stated, "In this current climate in which the Church finds herself...the environment that exists both outside and inside some quarters, many quarters within the Church—there is an environment, an odor of indifference and lukewarmness that is snuffing out the light of faith in so many Catholics; they have succumbed to the cultural religious malaise that sucks the life out of their souls." He went on, saying that Catholics must know the faith in order to "join the battle" engaging in "spiritual combat, immortal warfare". Citing Pope Leo XIII's comment that "[Catholics] are born for combat", Voris said Catholics are an army and "When an army loses its fighting spirit, when it takes its eye off the objective it will lose the war...[this is] a call to arms for Catholics to wake up and fight—for the true, the good, and the beautiful."
Along with the change of name Voris and Marc Brammer's partnership came to an amicable end, motivated in part by the desire of Voris and his staff to avoid the appearance of association with Opus Dei or of any outside influences.
In a January 2, 2013 video Voris announced that the program previously referred to as "CIA: Catholic Investigative Agency", which was mentioned in the controversy over the use of the word "Catholic," was being renamed to "FBI: Faith Based Investigation".
The website's name was changed to "ChurchMilitant.com" in April 2015. In the same year, Voris published his book MILITANT: Restoring Authentic Catholicism through St. Michael's Media Publishing. In 2016, he published his second book "THE WEAPON: Chaining the Gates of Hell With the Holy Rosary"; in a podcast, it was revealed a follow-up to "MILITANT" is scheduled to be released sometime in Fall 2017.
Relationship with the Catholic hierarchy
Some critics of Voris within the Catholic Church ("from Pennsylvania to Spain to Detroit") have said that "his remarks, at times, promote division and extremism". In addressing some of the controversies, Voris released a Mic'd Up episode (one of the programs of ChurchMilitant.com) giving a history of his apostolate, including details about the opposition he has faced from various clergy and Catholic establishment media.
"Rabbinical Judaism" comments
In a video titled "The Jews", Voris explained his interpretation of the Catholic Church's teaching on supersessionism, saying that the Jewish faith in ancient times "had a temple and offered sacrifice; the entire religion was focused on this one singular point. … Once however the Romans were done with their work, the Jews as the religion of the Covenant no longer existed. … No temple, no sacrifices, no priesthood, no Judaism. What replaced it in history is what has come down to us today: Rabbinical Judaism. This is NOT the Judaism of the Covenant. It is a man-made religion. ...the promise of [the Abrahamic] Covenant is fulfilled in the Catholic Church. We are the continuation of Israel. ...[Thanks to the work of Jesus] the worship was now made complete in the sacrifice of the Mass, the Holy Eucharist. This is why nothing was lost in the sense of the Covenant when Jerusalem was destroyed. It's not so much that the Covenant was switched to a new group, it's much more the case that only a few former members of the Covenant stayed faithful. The vast majority rejected the Covenant, as is highlighted [as told in John 19:15] when their leaders scream out, 'We have no king but Caesar!' The Covenant was continued in the few Jews who remained faithful to it by recognizing the Messiah. Then God added to their number a multiplicity of Gentiles. The Covenant was never abandoned by God. It was abandoned by the overwhelming number of people called to it, and it is continued today in the Catholic Church. We have a priesthood, THE sacrifice, THE Temple. And that is because Judaism is built on waiting for a Messiah who will come to institute his reign – that happened two thousand years ago. The Jews who accepted Him became the Church, the Jews who rejected Him – having voted themselves out of the Covenant – went off and started a man-made religion. Rabbinical Judaism, today's Jewish religion, is to authentic Judaism what Protestantism is to Catholicism. Looks a lot like it sometimes but at its core it's very different." Voris went on to equate modern Judaism with Protestantism, labeling both religions originating with man.
Voris's comments questioning the validity of Rabbinical Judaism were later cited when he attempted to give a presentation in the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania. In April 2011, Voris, who had intended to give a talk entitled "Living Catholicism Radically", was banned from speaking at Marywood University or any facilities owned by the Diocese. This action was taken after complaints were made about Voris's statements about other religions. In a letter to the talk's organizers, Paul and Kristen Ciaccia, the Diocese declared that it had "learned from" the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Mr. Voris's home Archdiocese of Detroit that Voris's presentations had caused "'a number of controversies' and that his programs are not endorsed by his home archdiocese."
Using a press release issued by the Archdiocese of Detroit, the Catholic Diocese of Scranton issued this statement in response to a planned speaking engagement of Voris in that diocese: "The Diocese of Scranton has determined that Mr. Voris will not be allowed to speak in a Diocesan or parish facility. After these engagements were scheduled, the Diocese became aware of concerns about this individual’s views regarding other religious groups. In videos posted on the Internet, Mr. Voris makes comments that certainly can be interpreted as being insensitive to people of other faiths. The Catholic Church teaches us to respect all people, regardless of their faith tradition. Although the Diocese shares Mr. Voris’ support of efforts to protect human life, his extreme positions on other faiths are not appropriate and therefore the Diocese cannot host him."
Voris ascribed this decision to "political correctness. Anything somebody takes offense at, whether it's true or not, seems to be out of bounds." The speech was moved to the Best Western Genetti Hotel and Conference Center in Wilkes-Barre, and the talk's organizers invited local bishop Joseph Bambera to attend "to evaluate Mr. Voris' knowledge of the faith, free from opinions formed by others." The bishop did not take up the offer. The Ciaccias said the ban "belies deeper inconsistencies in diocesan policy." Voris spoke about the events in a video segment, noting the diocese allowed Sara Bendoraitis, the director of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Ally Resource Center at American University, to speak at the University of Scranton the previous spring.
Knights of Columbus Leadership
One of Voris's videos was seen as controversial for criticizing the national leadership of the Knights of Columbus. He accused them of inaction towards politicians in their own ranks who supported legalized abortion and same sex marriage. Voris also held that the group was too concerned with fiscal matters to the neglect of Catholic orthodoxy. Voris left membership of the Knights of Columbus after leadership in national headquarters refused to remove pro-abortion members from its ranks.
World Youth Day
On July 26, 2011, the organizers of World Youth Day 2011, being held in Madrid, Spain, announced that they had not approved the independent catechesis sessions being offered by Voris, who was covering the event for his digital television channel. The organizers announced that "[p]articipants in the World Youth Day 2011 Cultural Program must be recognized and endorsed by the bishops and episcopal conferences of their respective countries." Organizations that were selected "promote the authentic teaching and unity" and were required to have received the endorsements.
Voris's sessions were titled "No Bull in Madrid" and focused on addressing "tough issues concerning sexuality and morals facing Catholic youth today." Voris stated that he was puzzled why such a statement was released when "[w]e never said we were part of the official World Youth Day" and noted that official approval was not necessary to present talks or do news reportage at WYD. He also indicated further puzzlement as to why the organization he represented (called RealCatholicTV.com at the time) was singled out when there were many other unapproved apostolates at WYD. Voris also noted that no one was challenging any of the theological content in his catechesis, nor had any church official ever challenged any of the content in any Catholic program he had ever been a part of.
Voris said that the group, with the support of a priest, had attempted to be registered as an official participant, but was told "there was no space for new groups."
Earlier that year, in February 2011, the Detroit archdiocesan director of communications, Ned McGrath, told reporters that "the Real Catholic TV enterprise had yet to present itself or receive approval of its apostolate and programming from the archdiocese." When asked during the Madrid controversy in July what the relationship between his group and his local archbishop was, Voris said he did not know. He stated that he had never been able to reach the archbishop after personally making six attempts to schedule a meeting. Voris wondered if this was interference from the bureaucracy surrounding the archbishop and said he was willing to discuss the issue with organizers, but questioned if there was not "something else at work".
While Voris was in Spain, Catholic News Agency (CNA) reporters discovered that the state of Michigan had dissolved the nonprofit corporation status of St. Michael's Media in 2009 due to a failure to file records with the state for two years. Officials at Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs confirmed the situation but referred questions in regard to whether the company was receiving donations claiming 501(c)3 status to the Michigan Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division.
CNA reporters also discovered that Simon Rafe, the webmaster for St Michael's Media, had created some online fan fiction with sexually explicit themes. Voris stated that he had been unaware of the situation when confronted with the materials. Rafe removed the materials from the internet and apologized for "actions I took as a private individual". St Michael's Media and RealCatholicTv.com curtailed Rafe's duties to only administrative and technical obligations and suspended his involvement in other areas which had included public speaking and hosting productions.
In a video response to CNA's claims, Voris admitted that the paperwork error was entirely his fault. He stated that when St. Michael's Media was established they had a short-term helper who handled all the paperwork in regard to the state. When the worker departed, Voris added those responsibilities to his own. Voris admitted he had been ignorant of the need to file annual reports and was following Michigan’s processes to return to good standing, and would pay the fines (five dollars per year of failing to report). Voris pointed out that while he had failed in regard to the state paperwork, the paperwork for St. Michael's Media to be a 501c organization was with the Internal Revenue Service (part of the federal government) and which had always been up-to-date – assuring viewers that donations had always been tax deductible.
In his response Voris claimed, "During my conversations with the Catholic News Agency it has been revealed to us that they get all kinds of secret anonymous stories about either me personally or our work—all trying to depict me, or our work, in a very bad light. The same is true with this story; it came through an anonymous source. The owners of the website RealCatholicTV.com are aware that because of some of what we talk about in various programs we have developed enemies in the Church, sad as that is, it is the reality. ...We are very aware that there are many people in the Church who have it out for us. We aren't playing victim, merely stating the reality that we confront almost daily and has now been confirmed for us by the Catholic News Agency. …We pray for unity in the Church but unity cannot come at the sacrifice of the truth."
Controversies relating to science
Global warming comments
In a video titled "Global Warming Unmasked: The Hidden Agenda", Voris claimed that "Catholic leaders must recognize global warming for what it is. It is a government power grab via population reduction. It is a pseudoscience and hyper-sensationalism. These things are being used to promote the global warming agenda, just as they were in the early 20th century eugenics movement ... In fact, global warming is the evolution, the natural evolution, of that early eugenics program." Voris said, "Hitler adopted the American eugenic ideals and implemented them throughout his Nazi regime. Hitler did not originate the idea of eugenics and creating a superior Aryan race. It was indeed an American concept. He saw this happening in America, and went 'Ah-ha' and grabbed it and incorporated it into his whole Nazi philosophy." Voris held that governments accepting the concept of global warming might limit availability of energy, cutting off those who "exceed what Washington says is your limit [of carbon emissions:] you can either be charged an exorbitant fine or perhaps have your energy supply limited or even cut off. ... If you think the government interfering in private lives to this extent based on junk science and the hysteria surrounding it just isn't possible ... think back to the tens of thousands of citizens who were sterilized against their will by the government in state after state after state. ... And remember the only thing that brought the eugenics movement to an end was the horror of the Nazi death camps. If that had not happened, sterilization would just be a normal thing. It was so revolting that finally people said, 'this whole theory is wrong.' Government leaders were quite happy to just roll along exercising power without limit over their citizens."
Voris held that those governments accepting global warming are using it as a cover for social engineering, including forcing population control. "What you have to understand is that the elite have now moved on to a sort of new updated version of this, a new technique. It's not eugenics anymore. Now it's called global warming. The elite need global warming in order to pursue their reduction in population goals."
Voris took the Vatican City State to task for appearing to accept global warming by working to become Europe's first carbon neutral state by agreeing to have a forest planted in Hungary in 2007 as a carbon offset.
Voris also criticized the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for launching the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change in 2006 (which sent out teaching materials to all Catholic schools in the US which encouraged school children to reduce their carbon footprints), and the Catholic Climate Covenant in 2009 which encouraged Catholics to take a "St. Francis Pledge". The person taking the pledge promises to "Pray and reflect on the duty to care for God’s Creation and protect the poor and vulnerable. Learn about and educate others on the causes and moral dimensions of climate change. Assess how we—as individuals and in our families, parishes and other affiliations—contribute to climate change by our own energy use, consumption, waste, etc. Act to change our choices and behaviors to reduce the ways we contribute to climate change. Advocate for Catholic principles and priorities in climate change discussions and decisions, especially as they impact those who are poor and vulnerable." Voris declared, "This is total propaganda. It blindly accepts all of the nonsense put out by the Climate Change crowd...it's disingenuous to pass this off as if it's the truth and accepted Catholic teaching." He took umbrage that the Bishops called for Sunday homilies that coincided with Earth Day to be about climate change "during the sacrifice of the Holy Mass", and suggested petitions be given at Mass to call for divine assistance in using "our technological inventiveness to undo the damage we have done to Your creation". Voris declared such moves by the Bishops' groups as "offensive to religious sensibilities...passing off as a truth something which is a lie or at best a mistake. You don't get to do this."
Voris concluded that the effort to advance claims about global warming is "hostile to Christianity and Christian truths" and that "given the intricate decades-long unfolding of this whole movement" it was ultimately not being led by humans who are merely acting as "useful idiots" and "stooges" for "the Enemy ... 'the one who deceives the whole world'."
On January 8, 2014, Voris became involved in the controversy surrounding the film The Principle when he invited its producers onto his show to discuss their project, a defense of geocentrism.
"Catholic monarchy" comments
In a video titled "Catholic Government", now removed from his apostolate's site but still available online, Voris reiterates the statement by St. Thomas Aquinas that monarchy is the highest form of government ("Accordingly, the best form of government is in a state or kingdom, wherein one is given the power to preside over all." Summa Theologica I-11, 105.1). In the video Voris said, "The only way to run a country is by benevolent dictatorship, a Catholic monarch who protects his people from themselves and bestows on them what they need, not necessarily what they want." Voris later clarified his remarks, saying it would have been more accurate if he had called it an "enlightened monarchy," but maintaining that his larger point "that a society needs strong morals in order to survive" remains true. Voris holds that there has been a liberal shift in the Catholic Church, a post-1960s culture that has had a negative influence over Catholics; some of this has been influenced by "Americanism," a heresy that Pope Leo XIII warned about in the 19th century. The Detroit Free Press reported that Voris holds that "Many current church leaders are 'namby-pamby... It's all about, "Love your neighbor."' What's needed instead, he said, is "a muscular Catholicism that isn't afraid to encourage battle and sacrifice."
Steve Bannon and "Church Militant Theology"
After Donald Trump was elected President of the United States in 2016, the media began to focus on his adviser, Steve Bannon, with some news sites turning to Voris and his ChurchMilitant.com organization for more context around Bannon's use of the phrase "church militant" and insight into his theological beliefs.
Buzzfeed and The New York Times
On November 15, 2016, the website Buzzfeed News published the text of Steve Bannon's speech to the Human Dignity Institute given by way of Skype in the summer of 2014 at the Vatican. By the time of Buzzfeed's article, Bannon had risen in notoriety since the speech becoming chief executive of Donald Trump's presidential campaign on August 17, 2016 and then appointed chief strategist and senior counselor to President-elect Trump on November 13, 2016.
Buzzfeed stated that they had attended the conference "as part of its coverage of the rise of Europe's religious right." They presented the text of his speech under the title "This Is How Steve Bannon Sees The Entire World" and stated that the Human Dignity Institute "has ties to some of the most conservative factions inside the Catholic Church" noting that "Cardinal Raymond Burke, one of the most vocal critics of Pope Francis, who was ousted from a senior Vatican position in 2014, is chair of the group's advisory board."
In the speech Bannon invoked the Christian concept of the Church Militant. He claimed that World War I ushered in "a new Dark Age" that continued through World War II and which was only able to be overcome by "the heroism of our people...really the Judeo-Christian West versus atheists" combined with the underlying principle of "an enlightened form of capitalism" that was "eventually [able] to take back continental Europe and to beat back a barbaric [Japanese] empire in the Far East." Bannon went on to say "I believe we've come partly off-track in the years since the fall of the Soviet Union and we're starting now in the 21st century, which I believe, strongly, is a crisis both of our church, a crisis of our faith, a crisis of the West, a crisis of capitalism. And we're at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict, of which if the people in this room, the people in the church, do not bind together and really form what I feel is an aspect of the church militant, to really be able to not just stand with our beliefs, but to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that's starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we've been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years." Bannon maintained that "the West" was successful due to a capitalism based on "the underlying spiritual and moral foundations of Christianity and, really, Judeo-Christian belief." Which was under threat from "state-sponsored capitalism...[which] you see in China and Russia.", from "Ayn Rand or Objectivist School of libertarian capitalism", and from "immense secularization of the West...[where] the overwhelming drive of popular culture is to absolutely secularize this rising iteration [of millennials under 30]." Bannon held that the undermining of "enlightened capitalism", and the loss of "Judeo-Christian belief" he held it was based on, were in dangerous decline right as "we are in an outright war against jihadist Islamic fascism" which includes Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Boko Haram "and other groups that will eventually partner with ISIS in this global war". Bannon called on Christian capitalists to examine the purpose of their wealth and if divine providence was calling on them "to actually be a creator of jobs and a creator of wealth...and make sure that we are reinvesting that back into positive things...[so they can] bind together as partners with others in other countries" which would better prepare the West at these "the very beginning stages of a global conflict".
The New York Times, in a follow-up piece on December 30, 2016 authored by Samuel Freedman, held that Bannon's use of "church militant" had taken the term "out of context," invoking it in a call for cultural and military conflict rather than for spiritual warfare, particularly within one's soul, its longstanding connotation." Freedman stated that the term was being used with "a political resonance" that was indicative of a "Church Militant theology," which was defined at least in part around "right-wing stances against globalism, immigration, social-welfare programs and abortion."
Freedman said, "To fully grasp what 'church militant' means in this highly politicized atmosphere, it helps to examine the broader movement and the role of a traditionalist Catholic website called — to no surprise — ChurchMilitant.com."
Freedman went on to quote approximately 1.8% of the interview with Michael Voris on which his article was based (full transcript available here), accusing Church Militant's alleged "right-wing stances" as "mesh[ing] with many of the positions espoused by Mr. Trump and his inner circle." Freedman summarized Voris' views by claiming that "the website's positions were a righteous defense of patriotism and morality on behalf of people who believe those virtues have been attacked by liberals, secularists and global elites."
Voris told the newspaper that Cardinal Joseph Bernardin's "seamless garment" theology was "a total whitewash of Catholic social teaching." Reflecting on the contemporary situation, Voris stated, "This is breaking down into forces that believe in God and those that don't. Largely, I would say this is a war of religion versus nonreligion."
Freedman relayed that Voris' online audience was cumulatively "about 1.5 million views a month" and characterized the apostolate's position as one that dismisses manmade climate change, thinks the Black Lives Matter movement is akin to "the new fascism," and called Hillary Clinton "Killary," who was acting as "Satan's mop for wiping up the last remaining resistance to him in America." It also quoted Voris's critique of social-welfare programs as a system where "half the people of America" do not pay taxes and "get things handed to them."
Freedman claimed, "For some Catholic scholars and anti-hate advocates, the emergence of Church Militant theology in a politicized and highly partisan way is disturbing." He spoke to John C. Cavadini, Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, who commented that the concept of "the Church militant" originally was "against interior temptations that lead you to greed and all kinds of spiritual pathologies. And it's about engaging in acts of mercy. Part of the victory of the Church Militant is the victory of love. It didn't have the triumphalist and militarized connotation that's been attached to it now."
The transcript of Michael Voris' interview with Freedman (left out in the Times article) shows Voris' thinking about the Church Militant tracks closely with that of Cavadini. Voris said:
"[Church Militant is] a term that has been used theologically for centuries and centuries and centuries. What it really refers to is the war, the spiritual warfare or the spiritual combat that must take place in every individual’s soul to resist evil and to do good. And that’s largely what it is."
Although The Times noted that the 1992 Catechism approved by Pope St. John Paul II replaced "Church Militant" with "pilgrims on earth," it failed to note that Pope Benedict, as recently as 2012, said the phrase Ecclesia militans, or "Church Militant," is an apt phrase to describe members of the Church on earth entering into "battle with evil."
The Times went on to quote Pat Buchanan 2009 essay that they held "embraced Church Militant theology": The Times held that Buchanan's "words could serve as a mission statement for Mr. Voris's ChurchMilitant.com. The Buchanan quote stated: "Catholicism is necessarily an adversary faith and culture in an America where a triumphant secularism has captured the heights, from Hollywood to the media, the arts and the academy, and relishes nothing more than insults to and blasphemous mockery of the Church of Rome."
Church Militant responded to The Times article in a panel discussion, in which the panel called Freedman's article a "hit piece" and "dishonest."
Detroit Free Press, USA Today, Americans United
Following the Times story, other organizations also ran pieces that tried to link Bannon and Voris.
On February 19, 2017, Robert Allen wrote a piece for the Detroit Free Press, which was republished by USA Today about Voris that also invoked Bannon. The article declared that Voris' studio in Ferndale was "the nerve center for a growing, religious group hoping the forces that elected President Donald Trump will tear down the wall between church and state." The article called Voris' apostolate "a fringe group claiming to be Catholic but denounced by the church, [that] broadcasts pro-life, anti-gay, anti-feminist, Islam-fearing content on its website". It noted that Voris had dismissed Trump's past moral problems by making an analogy with Constantine the Great, whom Voris called a "power-hungry egomaniac" but who served as a human vessel by which God ended Christian persecution and protected Christianity. Voris was quoted saying, "The personal proclivities, the personal sins or life of a particular leader is a separate discussion from how that man's view of the world might influence his policies. And if that policy is favorable to the church, well then, very good." The article held that "Many of Church Militant's headlines are similar to those on Breitbart News, the far-right news organization that White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon previously ran." It noted "Many of Breitbart's articles are cited on the Church Militant website. But unlike Breitbart, Church Militant is under a Christian, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization."
The article noted that Voris didn't think that the group's political advocacy violated restrictions on keeping tax free status by avoiding political campaigning - restrictions which the article quoted him as calling "stupid" since "Church and state have long been linked in this country". Voris proclaimed that the election of trump showed that the notion of mainstream media has been altered, "The Entire established order has been thrown up into the air. What we say now has some credence. We're allowed into the discussion." He felt that Trump's presidency "will even the playing field."
On February 23, 2017 Bannon spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference. His remarks included a promise that the Trump campaign would work towards the "deconstruction of the administrative state...the regulation...if you look at these Cabinet appointees, they were selected for a reason and that is the deconstruction, the way the progressive left runs, is if they can't get it passed, they're just gonna put in some sort of regulation in -- in an agency. That's all gonna be deconstructed and I think that that's why this regulatory thing is so important."
The next day Americans United for Separation of Church and State ran a piece by Rob Boston that linked Bannon's thinking with that of Voris, characterizing Bannon's statement as a plan to destroy government that took no account of whether people relied on a government program or agency. The piece continued, saying, "Sadly, Bannon is far from the only one out there bent on nihilistic destruction." It then went on to name Voris and his media site saying that he had once called "to tear down the wall of separation between church and [State, to] replace our democracy with a far-right Catholic king who will decide what’s best for us."
Church Militant's rebuttal to the Americans United piece notes, "Americans United is known for its anti-Christian bigotry, promoting secularist ideals in the public square while shoving religion aside (or at least, those religions with which they disagree; the group's selective outrage is notable — more on this below)."
The article also notes that, although Americans United vigorously fights Christian groups, it often comes to the defense of pagans, Wiccans, and Satanists in the public square. Quoting from Americans United's own website, "Americans United represented a war widow whose husband, a Wiccan, was denied the right to have a Pentagram on his memorial marker. ... After AU filed suit against the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2006, the VA quickly moved to settle the case and approved the Wiccan emblem."
The Church Militant article goes on, "The non-profit also has a page dedicated to its work defending The Satanic Temple, whether it's pushing for after-school Satan clubs or the right to erect satanic displays on state property."
Even after Steve Bannon's role was diminished by Trump in mid-April 2017, Voris' organization was still viewed as notable by national media. On May 9, 2017 The Atlantic released a video of the Church Militant offices and personal which also included pictures of the then recent New York Times and Detroit Free Press articles. Voris told The Atlantic that of all the debates held in America, the question of which is the right religion has never been debated. He complained about "A tyranny, a dictatorship of relativism. [Where it's accepted for people to say] 'If you don't want to have an abortion don't, I'm going to have mine, you don't want to that's fine. If you don't like gay marriage, don't marry someone of the same sex.' Societies can function like that. There is right and wrong, good and evil, truth and lies. ...The world is so mired in misunderstanding today that they need to be pointed to - here's truth." Voris discussed his upbringing and the story of how he returned to Catholicism. He also challenged the label of far-right or hate group. The video ended with him saying "The old Michael Voris was a lustful, prideful, acting on hurt, and sense of victim, and all that business. The new Michael Voris, or the new man, is somebody who is now dedicated to helping other people realize that there is no limit to God. It's impossible to do enough to save souls until you have drawn your last breath."
On April 21, 2016, in an episode of The Vortex, Voris revealed that prior to his return to the Faith he engaged in multiple sexual relationships viewed as gravely sinful by the Catholic Church. During his twenties he was "confused about [his] own sexuality" resulting in "frequent sexual liaisons with both adult men and adult women."
He added that these were all "past sins" which had now been publicly admitted, and that since his reversion, "I abhor all these sins." Voris explained that when he was in Fatima five years before, he had "consecrated specifically my chastity to Our Blessed Mother" and had remained a celibate. "That virtue which I had desecrated, I now asked to be consecrated, protected by her," he said.
He further claimed that the Catholic Archdiocese of New York was collecting and preparing to publish details of his former life in order to discredit him and his work with Church Militant. The New York Archdiocese denied these claims, calling them "100 percent untrue."
In the video Voris admitted it may have been a mistake on his part not to have brought this information to the public earlier, but that he did not feel it necessary to provide all the details in order to proclaim the Gospel. "I did not do it to deceive, but because I did not understand the necessity. Now, I do," he said. At the end of the video, he says, "We will never cease to declare these truths, the glories of the Catholic faith, regardless of what happens. If this is all threatened because of revelations of my past sins, then please pray that the will of God be done. Thank you for your prayers, your support and your understanding, as well as the measure of forgiveness you are ready to extend."
Voris has also rejected LGBT claims that homosexuals are "born that way," stating instead that the Church teaches there is only one rightly ordered sexuality — heterosexuality — and that we are all born heterosexual, but circumstances happen to alter and distort that rightly ordered sexuality. "No one wants to admit that their entire self-perception around which they have built and fashioned their lives, thoughts, opinions, worldview, etc. has been a big lie," he said in a Vortex titled "Not Born That Way." He continued, "But that doesn't alter the objective fact that it is a lie. Conceiving of oneself in terms of being a homosexual isn't the only damage that can emerge from a pained childhood. Pain and its avoidance can manifest in all kinds of ways, not just this one."
In a video exposé by The Atlantic, Voris stated his belief that what had led up to his sexual behavior could be traced to his mother having bipolar disorder. He stated that in his home life with a bipolar parent "Everything in the environment revolves around that mental illness. I wound up believing my parents didn't love me." After his mother had been diagnosed with stage four cancer, about three months before she died she told Voris, "'I never believed that you were homosexual or gay. I believed that you were acting out in response to the fact of how I had created this situation at home that you didn't know how to deal with it.'" Voris said that struck him like a hammer.
Voris further addressed this issue in a Download episode titled "Not Born That Way," in which the panel discusses the case of former homosexuals who had recaptured a heterosexual orientation after counseling, self-examination, and healing from psychological wounds from childhood.
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