A Word on Michael Voris

I don’t know what to make of Michael Voris. However one would classify his “brand” of Catholicism, I’m it, though I find that Catholics who think the way we do tend to be so contrarian that they won’t even admit it. The sedes and SSPxers say he’s a coward because he basically says the same things they do but refuses to say there’s anything wrong with the Vatican.

I have said many times that if there’s any truth to “hermeneutic of continuity,” and if Vatican II was primarily about having a different approach to the world, then there should be nothing wrong with a Catholic choosing to keep looking at the world from a pre-Vatican II angle. This is what Voris does, basically. He takes 1950s, Baltimore Catechism style Catholicism and examines the present situation from that lens. He also condenses a lot of more sophisticated arguments in to talk show style soundbites.

For example, in one of Voris’s most controversial podcasts, he critiques “Amazing Grace” as anti-Catholic. I happen to agree with him, however unpopular that opinion may be. Simply because it is so “beloved,” people viscerally jump to the defense of a hymn that is overtly Protestant. It’s not so much the issue of being saved by “grace”–obviously, that’s Catholic dogma. It’s the “wretch” part–nice hyperbole, but bad theology. It’s Calvinist. The whole point of “Amazing Grace” is to express a Protestant notion that we’re completely passive in our salvation. Catholic teaching is that people are saved by grace because they have good will and choose to accept the invitation God gives everyone. Jesus uses the metaphor of blindness for those who hear the Word but refuse to accept it. No one who accepts the Word could have been blind before it.

Metaphors are important. We use metaphors in hymns for a reason. The popularity of the metaphor doesn’t make it any less dangerous. It doesn’t matter if the metaphor is in “Amazing Grace” or “Let us Sing a New Church”. I’ve never really cared for “Amazing Grace” because it’s so blatantly Protestant, and I don’t understand why Catholics give such honor to “traditional” Protestant hymns when there are so many traditional Catholic hymns we could be singing. I first heard the argument that the theology of “Amazing Grace” is distinctly non-Catholic not from Michael Voris, but from Marcus Grodi, the former Presbyterian minister. I also never understood how all those critiques of “contemporary” hymnody in Adoremus and Crisis, particularly the critiques of Protestant composers like Marty Haugen, don’t apply to “traditional” Protestant hymns, as well.

So, that’s just an example of an area where everyone jumps on Michael Voris but I think he’s right.

That said, I’ve only listened to a few of his podcasts, and only one or two in their entirety. Like a lot of people, there’s something in his style I find off-putting. It started with the original title of his “network,” “Real Catholic TV”, which implies that other Catholic broadcasters, including EWTN and SQPN, are not “real” Catholic networks.

I have a general policy against watching or listening to TV/radio news and talk shows, and Voris falls under that category. That policy derives from Ray Bradbury’s criticism of broadcast media versus text in _Farenheit 451_. Online is a little better than broadcast, since one can pause, rewind, etc., but it is still a more passive way to digest information than text, and it’s very personally agitating. I find, now that my aortic dissection makes me keenly aware of my blood pressure, that even listening to talk show host I agree with raises my blood pressure unnecessarily, so I avoid it.

So, where any debate involving Michael Voris is concerned, I have a certain disadvantage in that I usually do not know what he actually *said*, nor do I particularly care to.

One of the only podcasts I listened to all the way through was his infamous piece on Judaism, where I thought he laid out his arguments pretty well, and I partially agreed with his point, but I found that he made a few errors in his thought process. This is another example of my previous point, since such errors are easier to identify and work with in text than in a spoken, recorded lecture.

It seems poor Voris gets it from all sides, and that’s partly because he comes off as attacking everyone. Maybe he’s a prophet; maybe he’s a jerk. I dunno. One man’s prophet is another man’s jerk, and it’s ultimately up to God and history to sort out which.

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5 responses to “A Word on Michael Voris

  1. That hymn is in the Knights of Columbus hymnal, and I do not mind its Protestant origins IF there is a Catholic understanding of the terms. From a Catholic point of view, the Amazing Grace comes to us from Christ through the Sacraments and Sacramentals (in fact, we play this song while handing out Rosaries to new Knights). And a better, non-Calvinist interpretation of wretchedness is the humility we should all have given the reality of Original Sin.

    And that is what bothers me the most about Voris’s brand of Catholicism, along with those to the right of Voris: a distinct lack of humility and yes, even mere charity, is a mark of Orthodox Extermeism.

    • Not saying people who sing it are bad; just saying I don’t know why they don’t sing something more overtly “Catholic”–like, in the example you give, our national Catholic hymn, “Immaculate Mary.”

  2. Pingback: And Consequentialism Has Come Down to This: Catholic Bloggers Defending Swearing | The Lewis Crusade

  3. I had always assumed a Catholic understanding of the word “wretch”. The song pretty much fits me to a T, so I like it. Heaven knows I’m plenty wretched now, so you can imagine what the ‘before’ picture was like.

    –> In defense of the song, I’m assuming we continue our Catholic reading of it, and thus take the later verses to be referring to Blessed Assurance and not Eternal Security. I’m going to propose that given that the song is used and appreciated by Christians across denominational stripes of every kind, and that the calvinist/lutheran/everything-else divide is not a strictly Catholic-Protestant divide, I think it’s reasonable to charitably interpret ambiguous verses as referring to sound doctrine.

    (On Voris I have no opinion.)

    • That’s feasible for private use, Jen, but in the Liturgy, music has two purposes: prayer and catechesis. We shouldn’t have to “charitably interpret” lyrics in the liturgy. What’s in the liturgy *must* be 100% orthodox, and again why do we feel the need to substitute for our Catholic hymnody? (I was just referring last night in a FB discussion to the one and only time I attended the Thursday night “Holy Hour” at OLH–do they still do that?–when they said a politically correct “translation” of Vespers, in violation of the leading deacon’s obligations since it wasn’t liturgically correct, and they sang “Amazing Grace” instead of “Tantum Ergo” at Benediction. Joe was a bit active, but quiet, and Allie, knowing the basic texts of the Office at the age of 6, recited the correct Magnificat–in loud Allie style–instead of the inclusive language version they were using. Afterwards, the Deacon–whom *I* was inclined to reprimand for liturgical abuse–came up and chewed me out for bringing my children to this “solemn occasion” and disrupting their prayer! He directly referred to Joe, but I was pretty sure what really ticked him off was Allie.
      Back on topic, Amazing Grace isn’t my cup of tea, regardless, but there are a lot of protestant and “contemporary” songs that I like, and find great meaning in the lyrics to, that I just do not feel are appropriate for the Liturgy, even though I listen to them at home.

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