Is Desperation kicking in?
Michael Voris slams True Popes to Excuse Francis
Desperation is the word that comes to mind when watching Michael Voris’ latest Vortex episode. You can watch it or read its script here:
In a nutshell, the host of The Vortex and senior executive producer of ChurchMilitant is telling his viewers that, sure, Francis may be saying all sorts of nutty, false, even heretical things, but hey, this has probably been the case many times before in Church history, we just never heard about it because back then they didn’t have all the fancy media and communications tools we have today.
Wow! What a gratuitous and insulting thing to say! What a horrific picture to paint of the Popes and the Papacy! What could possibly make him hurl such a frightening blanket accusation against Popes of the past? Surely it is nothing short of the clearest and strongest of evidence, you may think? Well… think again.
As the first basis for his laughable case, Voris makes the whole issue under discussion into a matter of papal infallibility, and quite gratuitously so. He argues:
Too many Catholics, as well as enemies of the Church, have in their minds that whatever issues from the mouth of the Pope enjoys an air of infallibility, or near infallibility. The fact that a Pope could say something wrong or be misinformed simply doesn’t occur to them.
Well, Mr. Voris, not to worry! Francis’ antics will guarantee for centuries to come that no one will ever make that mistake again! See, Francis is merely doing his part to root out error about the Papacy — you should be grateful!
Next, Voris begins to adduce “evidence” to support his assertion that before modern means of communication, Popes were practically no different from Francis, we just didn’t hear about it because the technology wasn’t there to make it known. What is the evidence for such a rash and damning judgment? Well… there is none, really. Of course, Voris rolls out some of the publicly immoral Popes of the past, specifically Benedict IX and John XII. But he himself admits that he has no proof that they ever spoke or wrote against the Faith. He says:
Another trip down history is helpful here. In 1032, teenager Benedict IX was elected to the papacy. This was during the height of one of the most scandalous times in the Church, when Roman families were buying and selling the papacy, selecting friends as political payoff, etc. Now, Benedict is never accused of altering doctrine or making heretical statements — that’s true. But he was called “a disgrace to the chair of Peter” in the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia.
He was suspected of being the first homosexual Pope, and 50 years after his reign, a successor Pope wrote of his “rapes and murders.” A hundred years earlier, during this same long-lasting period of scandal, an 18-year-old was elected to the papacy: John XII. Again, no official heresy, but an extremely dissolute life.
So, Voris concedes that the examples he gives of bad Popes in the past do not include Popes uttering heresy or doctrinal errors — nevertheless he sees no problem using these rather misleading examples anyway to establish his point. Apparently, Francis must be defended at all costs, and if the argument doesn’t fit, he’ll just pretend that it does. We have nicknamed Voris’ organization ChurchDisneyland for a reason, folks.
Then, Voris adds insult to injury: After implicitly admitting that the examples he is introducing are not analogous to the case of Francis, he nevertheless uses these improper examples and, conceding that there is no real evidence at all to be found in them, simply conjectures as to what the evidence would be if they contained any:
Before John XII, there was 20-year-old John XI, who may have been fathered by a previous Pope. These popes, who were practically children, have never been accused of heresy, but then again, from their extremely slim number of writings, decrees and promulgations, it’s difficult to know what they were saying in their non-official capacities. Can you imagine what the headlines would have been if there was conventional and social media in the 10th century?
Brilliant strategy! Imagine the prosecution in a courtroom addressing the judge thus: “Your Honor, there is no evidence that the defendant has said anything wrong or false, but considering how he lived his life, we can all imagine what he would have said if someone had asked him! And based on this speculation, I demand a conviction!” Do you think a judge would go for that desperate and disgraceful line of reasoning?
Having virtually dazzled his viewers by such creative argumentation, Voris triumphantly draws his desired conclusion:
But this problem of what a man (or boy) who also happens to be Pope thinks[,] has only become a problem in the past 50 years, for the simple reason that there was no real opportunity in centuries past for his private ruminations to be aired.
That’s it: Popes have always entertained or verbalized the most unorthodox, most immoral, and most impious of ideas, it’s just that now we finally have the technological capability to hear about it! And what, again, is the evidence for this blanket calumny against past Popes? There is none — it’s pure conjecture on Voris’ part, based on the fact that some Popes in the past led grossly immoral lives. In a way, Voris uses the fact that he has no evidence as part of the “proof” for his position: We didn’t hear about it! So there, that proves his point, doesn’t it? After all, his argument is precisely that we had no way of knowing about it!
But wait a minute, isn’t there another possible reason why we didn’t hear about it? For example… because it didn’t happen, maybe? That would explain it too, you know. Just an idea… And that’s certainly an idea we should prefer in the absence of concrete evidence to the contrary. Rash judgment and rash suspicion are, we recall, a sin. And in this case, we’re talking about something truly rash, based on no real evidence at all, and we’re talking about true Popes to boot.
So, this is all very interesting. Michael Voris, the man who once told us that we had a duty not to report on Francis’ heresies — he likened it to covering Noe’s nakedness (cf. Gen 9:18-27) —, is now running off at his mouth against true Popes for hypothetically saying things we have no evidence they ever said. So much for “covering Noe’s nakedness”. In the case of past Popes, Voris does not only not cover them, he actually rips their full clothing off so he can put them next to the Naked Emperor Francis and say, “See, they’re not wearing anything either!”
Didn’t we tell you it was Church Disneyland?
Alright, time for a reality check. Have a look at how one Church historian described the reign of Pope John XII:
Nothing in his life marked him for this office, and everything should have kept him from it. He was rarely seen in church. His days and nights were spent in the company of young men and of disreputable women, in the pleasures of the table and of amusements and of the hunt, or in even more sinful sensual enjoyments. It is related that sometimes, in the midst of dissolute revelry, the prince had been seen to drink to the health of the devil. Raised to the papal office, Octavian changed his name and took the name of John XII. He was the first pope thus to assume a new name. But his new dignity brought about no change in his morals, and merely added the guilt of sacrilege.
Divine providence, watching over the Church, miraculously preserved the deposit of faith, of which this young voluptuary was the guardian. This Pope’s life was a monstrous scandal, but his bullarium is faultless. We cannot sufficiently admire this prodigy. There is not a heretic or a schismatic who has not endeavored to legitimate his own conduct dogmatically: Photius tried to justify his pride, Luther his sensual passions, Calvin his cold cruelty. Neither Sergius III nor John XII nor Benedict IX nor Alexander VI, supreme pontiffs, definers of the faith, certain of being heard and obeyed by the whole Church, uttered, from the height of their apostolic pulpit, a single word that could be an approval of their disorders.
At times John XII even became the defender of the threatened social order, of offended canon law, and of the religious life exposed to danger.
(Rev. Fernand Mourret, A History of the Catholic Church, Vol. 2 [St. Louis, MO: Herder Book Co., 1946], pp. 510-511; underlining added.)
The Popes themselves, obviously aware of the fact that all Popes are human and some are greater sinners than others, at times addressed the question of the humanity of the Popes and how this relates to their office. Have a good look at the following quotes, and notice how infallibility does not even come up because, infallible or not, all Catholics have a duty to submit to the Pope and listen to him when he speaks on Faith and morals:
The Church, as St. Leo the Great teaches, in well-ordered love accepts Peter in the See of Peter, and sees and honors Peter in the person of his successor the Roman pontiff. Peter still maintains the concern of all pastors in guarding their flocks, and his high rank does not fail even in an unworthy heir. In Peter then, as is aptly remarked by the same holy Doctor, the courage of all is strengthened and the help of divine grace is so ordered that the constancy conferred on Peter through Christ is conferred on the apostles through Peter. It is clear that contempt of the Church’s authority is opposed to the command of Christ and consequently opposes the apostles and their successors, the Church’s ministers who speak as their representatives. He who hears you, hears me; and he who despises you, despises me [Lk 10:16]; and the Church is the pillar and firmament of truth, as the apostle Paul teaches [1 Tim 3:15]. In reference to these words St. Augustine says: “Whoever is without the Church will not be reckoned among the sons, and whoever does not want to have the Church as mother will not have God as father.”
Therefore, venerable brothers, keep all these words in mind and often reflect on them. Teach your people great reverence for the Church’s authority which has been directly established by God. Do not lose heart. With St. Augustine We say that “all around us the waters of the flood are roaring, that is, the multiplicity of conflicting teaching. We are not in the flood but it surrounds us. We are hard pressed but not overwhelmed, buffeted but not submerged.”
(Pope Leo XII, Encyclical Ubi Primum, nn. 22-23; underlining added.)
All who defend the faith should aim to implant deeply in your faithful people the virtues of piety, veneration, and respect for this supreme See of Peter. Let the faithful recall the fact that Peter, Prince of Apostles is alive here and rules in his successors, and that his office does not fail even in an unworthy heir.
…So it has been a common characteristic both of the ancient heretics and of the more recent Protestants — whose disunity in all their other tenets is so great — to attack the authority of the Apostolic See. But never at any time were they able by any artifice or exertion to make this See tolerate even a single one of their errors.
(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Nostis et Nobiscum, nn. 16-17; underlining added.)
…the Church has received from on high a promise which guarantees her against every human weakness. What does it matter that the helm of the symbolic barque has been entrusted to feeble hands, when the Divine Pilot stands on the bridge, where, though invisible, He is watching and ruling? Blessed be the strength of his arm and the multitude of his mercies!
(Pope Leo XIII, Allocution to Cardinals, March 20, 1900; excerpted in Papal Teachings: The Church, p. 349; underlining added.)
Throughout his Vortex episode, Voris keeps distorting the issue, making it about infallibility and then clarifying that Popes can be wrong. But of course it’s not about a Pope “being wrong”, it’s about a supposed Pope being in no wise a Catholic, or even a Protestant! Bergoglio is a full-blown Modernist, an apostate! This isn’t about being wrong about something. This isn’t about infallibility. This is about being Catholic.
The following words were uttered by Pope Saint Pius X. They are as “official” as they get — they are published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis even, the official collection of authoritative papal documents and statements. Read them and see if this sounds like Michael Voris to you:
When one loves the pope one does not stop to debate about what he advises or demands, to ask how far the rigorous duty of obedience extends and to mark the limit of this obligation. When one loves the pope, one does not object that he has not spoken clearly enough, as if he were obliged to repeat into the ear of each individual his will, so often clearly expressed, not only viva voce, but also by letters and other public documents; one does not call his orders into doubt on the pretext – easily advanced by whoever does not wish to obey – that they emanate not directly from him, but from his entourage; one does not limit the field in which he can and should exercise his will; one does not oppose to the authority of the pope that of other persons, however learned, who differ in opinion from the pope. Besides, however great their knowledge, their holiness is wanting, for there can be no holiness where there is disagreement with the pope.
(Pope St. Pius X, Address to the Priests of the Apostolic Union, Nov. 18, 1912; in Acta Apostolicae Sedis 4 , p. 695)
These words are bad news for Michael Voris. Notice that Pope Pius X did not imply infallibility anywhere, either. But the Pope is the Teacher of All Christians, and the more he is heard, the better it is. (Of course this goes for true Popes only, not false ones, like Francis.) That’s how things work in the Catholic Church. Contrary to this, the senior executive producer of ChurchMilitant asserts:
Now it’s non-stop. Catholics have gone from never hearing from their popes to hearing too much.
Who is Michael Voris to tell the Vicar of Christ when he can and ought to speak, or how to exercise his Magisterium? Voris claims it is not good to hear too much from the Pope, but then what should we say about hearing too much from Michael Voris? Why is it that we are being told that papal instruction is a bad thing unless it is extremely well-tempered, vetted, and infrequent, and yet Voris bombards his viewers with daily commentary ad nauseam? If the Pope himself ought not to be heard all the time, is the same not true a fortiori for everyone else? Or does Mr. Voris’ iron rule not apply to himself?
A distinction needs to be made between Joseph Ratzinger and Pope Benedict. A distinction has to be made between Jorge Bergoglio and Pope Francis.
Yes, this is very true, but it is only half of the story. Of course a distinction needs to be made between the Pope quaPope and the Pope qua private person, but it’s not as if Francis made all his scandalous and heretical utterances as a private person and were faultless as Pope. That’s simply not the case. In fact, Francis himself has stated that his homilies, his interviews, his off-the-cuff statements, etc., are very much to be considered as part of his official “papal” Magisterium. He said so in an interview with Elisabetta Pique in 2014: “I’m constantly making statements, giving homilies. That’s magisterium. That’s what I think, not what the media say that I think. Check it out; it’s very clear” (source). What — you didn’t hear about this from ChurchMilitant? Maybe it’s time to change the channel…
But even if Voris’ distinction were relevant in the case of Francis, there is a line a Pope cannot cross even as a private person, and that is, among other things, the line of heresy. He who does not profess the true Faith cannot be a member of the Church — not as Pope, and not as a private person either (cf. Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis, n. 22). The Pope is only one single individual: The distinction between his private and official capacity does not make him into two different people, one a Catholic and the other anything-else. The papacy is not a mask a Pope can put on and take off at whim, where it doesn’t even matter whether the person behind that mask is a Catholic, an Animist, a Jew, or a Jehovah’s Witness.
What Michael Voris did in this Vortex episode is shameful, simply shameful. Obviously, he saw the need to break his silence and finally address in some way the perduring heretical and impious chaos that is the Francis “pontificate” in Rome. But instead of exposing Francis for the blathering apostate that he is, he chose to attack true Popes of the past, and, based on no real evidence, forcibly dragged them down to Francis’ level so that he could say, “See, it’s always been like this… So, keep moving, there’s nothing to see here!”
This, then, is Michael Voris’ fearless “defense” of the Papacy against those disgraceful occupants. But just who is the disgrace here?
Pope Leo XIII once wrote an apostolic letter in which he clarified the distinction between the shepherd and the sheep, the teacher and the taught. Guess into which category Michael Voris falls:
To the shepherds alone was given all power to teach, to judge, to direct; on the faithful was imposed the duty of following their teaching, of submitting with docility to their judgment, and of allowing themselves to be governed, corrected, and guided by them in the way of salvation. Thus, it is an absolute necessity for the simple faithful to submit in mind and heart to their own pastors, and for the latter to submit with them to the Head and Supreme Pastor.
(Pope Leo XIII, Apostolic Letter Epistola Tua, 1885)
Game over, Mr. Voris. You lose.