Deborah Gyapong: Some thoughts on Michael Voris

Some thoughts on Michael Voris

When I listen to Michael Voris videos from time to time, I enjoy the feeling that my hair has been singed. To use another metaphor, listening to him reminds me of what it's like to eat sushi with a nice dollop of wasabi, that potent green horseradish that clears your sinuses and makes your eyes water. Sushi without wasabi would be mighty bland.

I like hearing his "take no prisoners" approach to preaching the Gospel and the hard teachings of the Catholic Church in areas of sexual morality such as contraception. It's bracing. It wakes me up. I can even confess I find him entertaining. Some of his criticisms of the Church hierarchy, however, make me cringe. His criticisms seem way too broad, as if he is taking a machine gun approach that is over-the-top.

On the good side, there is a definite need for his straightforward, never-mind-the-consequences approach in apologetics. The fact that he has attracted a following is a sign of the hunger out there for clear, definitive teaching offering sizzling steak instead of milkshakes.

Maybe I'm wrong about this---I'm no Voris expert and I'm not about to do a definitive study of him---but he seems to criticize everyone who is not taking the exact same blunt teaching approach as he has is missing the mark or worse, being cowards or traitors. He seems to make blanket criticisms of bishops and clergy, of those who work in the mainstream Catholic press or other bloggers who may focus on other aspects of the Church other than his style of apologetics. His criticisms don't upset me---I simply disagree with him. I think there is a need for what he is doing, but there is also a need for what others are doing. Not everyone is called to do the same thing in the Body of Christ. Not everyone is going to be a pointing finger, in other words. Sometimes there is a need for a finger pointing---but let it be specific, let it be accurate, let it be spoken with an intention to encourage correction with care that it does not become blanket condemnation.

It's interesting because many of the Voris critics jump on him because they don't like his tactics or his tone. They find him divisive. They think his manner will drive people away, foment division and create factions. They may agree with his doctrine, just not his method.

Others want to have a more positive, welcoming inviting side of the Catholic faith presented---a Church that says "Yes!" to life, marriage and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, so that, as Cardinal Ouellet once told young people at Salt and Light TV, --I paraphrase---Focus on Jesus and the morality will follow. They might see those who stress the moral strictures of the Catholic faith as talking about the "No"s of the faith.

I tend more towards the latter camp---that would more characterize my style, but I recognize the importance of a more direct Voris type approach, too. It's similar to the debate in pro-life circles about the use of graphic images. I don't like that tactic. I would probably never employ it myself. But I can respect the fact that others are called differently in this area and that these images can be used appropriately to break through the euphemisms and denials that surround abortion. I am glad most people in the pro-life movement do not use them. I am glad that some in the pro-life movement are focusing on providing homes for women in crisis pregnancies. We need a whole array of tactics and tacticians in the many fronts of this battle.

I generally like what Voris says when he's talking about the faith but I don't think he gets it entirely right all the time. I would not look to him as an authority. He's a well-educated Catholic layman. On doctrine, he's worth listening to but I would not take only his word for things. The Church needs people with his brand of courage and outspokenness. But he is not perfect---and I'm sure he would be the first person to admit that he isn't! But some of his followers are just a little too adamant about him and that concerns me.

One of the potential downsides of Voris' ministry is the way followers can parrot his rather black and white assertions as if by citing the correct doctrinal propositions they have the true faith. Some of the way they stick up for him reminds me of the way folks are still sticking up for Fr. Corapi even though there are many indications the man may not have been walking the talk and is actively disobedient to his superiors right now. Another downside is that his criticisms do further undermine the authority of the bishops when in our western society that authority is already rock bottom.

No, I am not ducking into mushy nuance here, but we are called to put on Christ, so that He lives in us, so He is our Truth, our patience, our hope, our life and we love with His love.

Also, I thank God that He provided me with teachers along the way who provided a gentler, more seeker-friendly approach as He drew me to closer to Him. A Voris "you must believe this or you are going to hell" type would have repelled me when I was brand new in the faith. I like what he says now on the teaching front because I have come to see the truth of those hard sayings he stresses. But there was a time when I wasn't ready for that, and thankfully there are those in the Body of Christ who have a different calling and different style of ministry for folks like I was. In other words, I was a bruised reed and I fear a Voris would have tread me into the ground. One thing he might want to consider is that a bishop is the bishop of all, including the bruised reed and the smoking flax people in his diocese.

Voris appeals to a constituency in the Church that feels angry, even betrayed by what they perceive as lukewarm teaching, or worse silence not only in the public square but in the pulpit, and a seeming accommodation with the world. It is tempting to release one's inner Michael Voris when one looks at the Church with critical glasses on. But it is a temptation I urge you to prayerfully resist. I am exhorting myself in this area, too.

I would caution against falling sway to anger. Anger is blinding. It can so easily become self-righteousness. Yes, there is a calling for some to deliver prophetic rebukes and correction. Michael Voris may very well have this calling. Others may have it as well. I don't find him angry though he might come across that way to those who disagree with his approach. But what he says can inflame anger in others who are less mature and inspire disrespect for their bishops and that is not good.

Tears, sorrow, the sacrifice of much prayer, and great humility should precede rebuke and correction of others. It is so easy to just give way to venting---Lord knows I am guilty of that myself. Voris himself may personally be a prayerful man who has great humility. I don't know him. The problem for those of us on the sidelines is this: those who are truly following a prophetic calling often provoke even without intending to a huge negative response in people.

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