Saturday, February 15, 2014

Irish brothers return to Church via ChurchMilitant.TV

Here are the alternatives:

(1) "Business as usual": you see something like this as a bizarre anomaly, a fluke. After all, the Catholic hierarchy is still intact. There are church buildings around with Sunday liturgies. There are bishops, like the bishop of the diocese of Ireland in which these two brothers live. So it's business as usual. Keep on keeping on. Ireland has a rich Catholic heritage, though parish numbers have fallen off a bit. But there are still examples here and there of changed lives, like these guys. So those "minding the store" in the Church must have things under control. They know what they're doing. And we have Christ's promises that the doors of Hell will not prevail against the Church.

(2) "Crisis": you see something like this is the norm. Kids are lucky today if they grow up knowing who Jesus was and is, let alone the most elementary content of the Gospel. The church buildings around, the hierarchy, the priests and bishops, represent signs of a rapidly disappearing world. All of these things represent a world which is ending, as Archibald Macleish says, whose "metaphor has died," a world of "emblems for the soul's consent that speak the meanings men will never know, but man-imagined images can show," a world which "perishes when those images, though seen, no longer mean."

For my part, I make no secret of what I see around me. We have no divine promise that the Church in America will survive, or, for that matter, that the Church in the West will survive, or that geographical Rome as the official headquarters of the Catholic Church will survive. We have entered a new Dark Ages, the darker because Enlightened western man thinks he already knows what the Gospel is, and has seen through its empty promises by the light of reason. The truth, however, as G. K. Chesterton put it, is that "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried." And the more ignorant post-Christian western man becomes of the actual content of the Faith, the more adamantly he sets his face against it.

See to it that every member of your family knows The Faith (not his faith, whatever that may happen to be, but THE Faith). Their spiritual survival in the darkness ahead will depend on it. And if God has given you the gift of faith in Him, always give thanks for this grace with which He has gifted you. This is no small thing. It is everything.


M. Forrest said...

IMO, there is clearly a crisis here. The question is what to do about it. The story of these two young men is wonderful and heartening. And their description of the spiritual conditions in their vicinity is equally disheartening. I don't find much with which to disagree in what they say. And kudos to Michael Voris in this case.

However, I would offer the following cautions:

1) God works in a multiplicity of ways. While being cracked over the head seems to have worked for these two young men, it would be a serious mistake to conclude that such an approach will work for most people. In my experience, it's more likely to backfire. Pre-evangelism is extremely helpful - developing relationship and trust. Then prayerfully discern how to approach each individual. Do some respond to being cracked over the head? Yes. Most? No.

2) Of course, it remains to be seen how sound their reversion was, whether is was in good soil or not.

3) When addressing the crisis in the Church and leveling criticisms, it can be easy to cross the line into undermining and usurping the authority of God's anointed leaders- even effectively setting oneself up in their place. Converts brought in by strong personalities (like Voris) can find their faith too closely tied to that individual and his vision. This mistake goes all the way back to the divisions St. Paul corrected in the Corinthian community (cf 1 Cor 1).

The trick is to address the crisis while not planting the seeds of disrespect of and rebellion against God's anointed leaders of the Church.

Voris walks a fine and dangerous line, IMO. I think he has been crossing it with greater frequency as of late, suggesting that he may not fully understand the nature of it. There's much good he might do, but I also see reason for serious concern as well.

Jeff said...

That Chesterton quote has always made me nervous. It sounds too reminiscent of what Communists used to say, that the Soviet (or Maoist or Cuban) forms of Communist were not "true" Communism. That had never really been attempted...

Pertinacious Papist said...


Thank you for your ever vigilant cautions against the dangers of blindly supporting my fellow parishioner at Assumption Grotto Church in Detroit, "l'autre Michel," Michael Voris.

It's true, you just never know. Any one of us could blow a gasket and flip out, I suppose.

Some worry that M.V. might just slip into sedevacantism or something, though I see little likelihood of that. I go to the Tridentine Mass. He goes to the Novus Ordo Mass, which he prefers. And one of my friends tells me he's coming out with something against the SSPX.

But then, we just never know, do we?

I have sponsored 20 or more converts or reverts who have been confirmed and received into the Church. Of these, one is now a lapsed Catholic, and two have reverted to their Protestantism -- the two that one would call most "doctrinally grounded" in their new faith.

It's hard to say what the main problem is. Sometimes I think we talk people into a kind of "propositional Catholicism," which lacks cultural roots. So they come into the Church and assent to Catholic doctrines, but retain Protestant habits of the heart. They don't become culturally Catholic. They need both. But we no longer live in communities. We live next to people we don't always even know. We go to church with people we don't always even know. There's one problem.

I'm not sure what being "cracked over the head" means here, and it's true that God works in diverse ways, but I find it hard to imagine from what these two Irish brothers said that they would have had many other opportunities available for hearing and responding to the Gospel of Christ.

Pertinacious Papist said...

Jeff, I think I understand what you're saying, but it strikes ME as so distant from anything I could have conceived, that it just slips by.

Maybe the traction comes from the word "tried," as is if you had "tried" the real thing, you would have "liked" it.

Clearly there's a problem with how well people understand what they're "trying," and therefore can be really said to have "tried" it.

Wolfhart Pannenberg used to say that hostility to Christianity mounts in direct proportion to people's ignorance of Christianity. I think there may be something to that.

What makes post-Christian cultures harder to re-evangelize than previously un-evangelized pre-Christian cultures is that there's the presumption: "we've all heard that before." There's the illusion (at least) of familiarity -- the kind of familiarity that breeds contempt.

Once we get far enough beyond that familiarity as we sink into the new paganism of the advancing new Dark Ages, we may reach the point where, as in Tolkien's novels, curiosity will begin to re-awaken about the "old myths," which once began as history.

In the meantime, we've got our work cut out for us.

Sheldon said...

Some individuals, having experienced betrayal by a charismatic leader, like Fr. Caropi, are reluctant to repose any measure of trust in strong leaders ever again. Still others take a delight in positioning themselves to be able to declare: "I told you so," if and when the public figure is discovered to have feet of clay.

It matters not. We are all mere flesh. Even God's anointed are mere fallible mortals. The important thing is to keep faith yourself, to do what's right, to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.

M. Forrest said...

Phil, you write, "I'm not sure what being "cracked over the head" means here."

In the video, these two young men promote the value direct confrontation and having the faith forced on another - even to the point of physical altercation in their case.

My point was that, in my experience, such direct confrontation can certainly work with a few. But for the vast majority it will backfire.

You might also be interested to know that I've been contacted by a credible individual who claims to have friends who have been scandalized by the approach that Voris takes in his criticisms of the hierarchy. For example, two of them reportedly left for Eastern Orthodoxy in significant part because of the negative effect his diatribes had on their faith.

Chris said...

Let's examine something here:

Christ, speaking to the Scribes, the Pharisees and the Chief Priests, calls them "whitewashed sepulchres", and "brood of vipers" and several similar things. He does not do this out of vindictiveness, but because He loves these people. He wants them to come to the knowledge and love of Truth, Who stands before them.

At the same time, He speaks with tenderness (firm tenderness, but tenderness none the less) to Mary Magdalene and Matthew and..... whole hosts of others.

The lesson I draw from this, and I don't speak ex cathedra or anything, is that those who already acknowledge their sinfulness and are already seeking forgiveness and the chance to start anew receive the gentleness, while those who have yet to acknowledge their sinfulness and their blindness receive the verbal equivalent of a two-by-four across the temples.

In our society, which is the greater contingent?

Then again, there's the example of St. Francis de Sales, who converted 70,000 souls through his gentleness. It seems to be a mistake to equate gentleness with obfuscating the truth.

Sheldon said...

Let's be clear about something else: when Jesus ("lovingly") castigated the Pharisees as "a brood of vipers," they didn't feel particularly "loved."

St. Louis de Montfort, when disrespectfully heckled during an outdoor homily (or discourse of some sort), walked up to these two guys and whacked them with his fist.

There's a place and time for righteous indignation, as Chris will agree.

None of this is to suggest that the gentleness and "honey" of St. Francis de Sales isn't the preferred method of evangelization, where people are properly disposed to respond thusly.

Anonymous Bosch said...

This is all very interesting.


You said:

"You might also be interested to know that I've been contacted by a credible individual who claims to have friends who have been scandalized by the approach that Voris takes in his criticisms of the hierarchy. For example, two of them reportedly left for Eastern Orthodoxy in significant part because of the negative effect his diatribes had on their faith."

PP can answer for himself, but your point above doesn't find much traction with me, I'm afraid. I don't know that much about Voris, but I think I know the type: opinionated, spouting Jeremiads, bitterly critical of hypocrisy in the hierarchy, not to mention the lackadaisical and anemic response of the bishops to the crumbling walls of the Church around them. Have I got it about right?

Well here's my problem: while some may be scandalized and walk away from the Church over individuals like this, I think it's a vastly greater scandal that the Church is hemorrhaging members who can't stand the effete banalities of an institution whose appointed representatives can't even seem to articulate the most basic articles of the faith in their homilies. The rubber never hits the road. There is so little "reality" to the happy talk I hear in most parishes that I wonder how the Church can even survive another generation in the west. It's all-but-dead across the Atlantic.

So no, it doesn't strike me as something to wring my hands over that some voices are critical of their church leaders. There's plenty of precedent for such criticism both in biblical and Church history, but that's another discussion.

Pertinacious Papist said...

Hi Michael,

Okay, so if "cracked over the head" means a physical altercation, I agree with you, though I don't think this is what your criticism of Voris was aimed at, as we both know from our previous discussions. It wasn't any physical altercation by Voris that drove away your friends from the Church.

People give all sorts of "reasons" for having left the Church, and I'm not sanguine about how well we can always know what their actual motives are. There's the "text" ("the priest said something mean to me," "Voris was offensive," yada-yada); then there's the "sub-text" (which is only available to you if you're up close and personal and know the situations involved).

In some cases, we probably WISH certain individuals would leave the Catholic Church who are disposed to be pro-choice, pro-SSA, and would fit more comfortably in an Episcopal/Anglican setting where they don't give a damn what you believe. I know an Irish priest at a university in Japan who continues to teach there and celebrate Mass there, but whom I don't regard as even remotely Christian and had to ban from my blog because of his obscene remarks. (I pray for him every day.)

When others leave, it's more disappointing, as when Rod Dreher left for Eastern Orthodoxy. But then, even then, when one reads his remarks about Pope Francis and the Catholic Church, I'm not so sure.

Your last paragraph I don't know what to make of. It almost feels like an ad hominem. Of COURSE I've hear such remarks, and I don't know that I'm particularly "interested" to know them. Should I be. I'm nearly a pariah among my colleagues for telling them I often like what Voris has to say; so yes, I'm acquainted with the fact that he offends people. But quite sincerely, I have to confess that I am personally offended at the sort of hyper-ultramontanist "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" dispositions I find around me.

I have never regretted my decision to become a Catholic. I love the Church. Probably my foremost commitment in life is to help my children get to heaven. But as Josef Pieper says in one of his books, the only people qualified to criticize the Church are those who truly love her, who can do so "from the inside," as it were.

I appreciate your upbeat approach and consistent focus on the positive, especially in your pro-life witness. We also, however, need criticism, as you yourself illustrate by your penchant for criticizing Voris. -- Cheers, PP

Anonymous said...

Hi Phil,

You write, "Your last paragraph I don't know what to make of. It almost feels like an ad hominem. "

It was just intended as a contrast with this video which basically credits Voris for bringing two people into the Church. He has also played a role in turning people away. That's all.

You write, "I have to confess that I am personally offended at the sort of hyper-ultramontanist "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" dispositions I find around me."

As am I. I find both extremes problematic/offensive.

You write, "the only people qualified to criticize the Church are those who truly love her, who can do so "from the inside," as it were."

Agreed. But I don't see evidence of the kind of love expressed by saints like St. Catherine who criticized the Holy Father. She could be strong for sure - but she wrote to him *personally* and also included clear expressions of filial love and fidelity.

Voris too often seems to be clucking his tongue over problems and is quite a bit too quick to jump to unproven conclusions and promote them publicly. That doesn't convey love, at all. For example, I recall a program or two Michael recently did in which he was quick to publicly repeat and give support to unproven allegations about homosexual/pedophile scandals at the Vatican. I thought that was rash and unwise. In one of them, to me, he almost looks excited about it (see here: And see here:

As you know, the role Voris has chosen to assume is a very dangerous one, on multiple levels - for himself and for his fans. Anyone who chooses to assume it needs to be extremely well-grounded and graced in a number of virtues. I see what appear to be significant signs that he is not sufficiently prepared to handle this role. I worry for him and his most devoted fans.

That's about it in a nutshell. And I agree that we need criticism at times - but I'm not sure I would equate the import and frequency of my criticisms of Voris with his criticisms of the hierarchy/the Vatican.

That'll do it for me. :-)

Anon. said...

In a related but slightly different vein, what I find partly amusing about Rod Dreher is that for a professed convert to Eastern Orthodox, you hear practically nothing about Eastern Orthodoxy on his blog and he talks all the time about Catholicism. He may have "left" the Church, but the Church hasn't left his attention.

I think his turning away was motivated in part by his job (journalism). He left around the time that the priestly sex abuse scandals came out, and I honestly think it was a case of him getting too close to the subject. It's hard to maintain a faith in the Church -- or even to objectively, rationally, think through the arguments against leaving -- when you're exposed to that level of evil and perversion in the course of covering the story. I think from his perspective at the time Eastern Orthodoxy presented itself as historically "clean" and a refuge. (Converts to the Catholic faith from Orthodoxy never tire in pointing out that their former church has its share of scandals, which Dreher blithely ignores).

There's nothing more horrific than sexual abuse at the hands of somebody who is supposed to be respected as ministering in persona Christi. When you consider the victims -- and the consequent loss of faith of those victims, as well as their families and offspring -- at the hands of these priests, there's probably no greater victory achieved by Satan in his war against the twentieth century Church.