On Claims of ‘Disobedience’

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St. Michael’s Media / ChurchMilitant.com is a Catholic lay apostolate in good standing in the Church, lawfully established through the right granted laity to freely form independent associations under Canon 299. President Michael Voris and all staff are Catholics in good standing in the archdiocese.

Other Catholic institutions, including University of Detroit Mercy, which calls itself a “Catholic university” and whose faculty have promoted abortion and LGBT “rights” on campus, has never been issued any directive from the Detroit archdiocese asking it to distance itself from the “Catholic” designation.

Precept

But on July 16, 2010, the Detroit archdiocese, through then-Vicar General Msgr. Robert McClory, issued a precept against St. Michael’s Media ordering that it remove the word “Catholic” from its title, even though our content is 100% faithful to the teachings of the Magisterium.

The precept offered no reasons for the order. Even so, in a show of good will, Michael Voris promptly complied with the order regarding the website he owned, catholictelevision.org. In a letter dated August 11, 2010, Voris confirmed:

[We] have already begun the process of changing the name of the website for St. Michael’s Media to one that does not include the title “Catholic.” We are also redesigning and reprinting business cards and stationery. As if this writing, we should be able to have adequately addressed all your concerns within the 30-day limit you established.

Voris went on to explain that he had no control or ownership over partnering company RealCatholicTV.com, an issue made clear to Msgr. McClory when he had been over to Voris’ home for dinner earlier that year.

At that time, I told you that the website www.realcatholictv.com site was owned by an individual who lived out of state. He, in fact, has 100 percent ownership and thus, I have no control over the website or its name. Moreover, when you and I met in your office more than 10 months ago to discuss a business proposal I made to have St. Michael’s Media administer the Archdiocese of Detroit’s television operation (CTND), I again stated that neither I nor St. Michael’s Media have any ownership control or ownernship interest in www.realcatholictv.com.

The judicial vicar wrote back on October 15 requesting the name and address of the owner of RealCatholicTV.com, and demanding that Voris be “precise” in detailing his business relationship and decisionmaking process involving his business partner.

Voris responded in a three-page letter providing proof of name change of catholictelevision.org requested by Msgr. McClory. He also explained:

With regard to your second request for details about the private business relationship between my private company and one of our clients (also a private, for-profit company), this does not lay within the scope of the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Voris went on to remark:

It has not been evident to us that you have our best interests at heart, something one has a right to expect from a pastor of souls. Without warning or explanation, you have changed the nature of our relationship from fraternal respect and charity — willing what is good for the other — to adversarial authoritarianism.

Demand Letter to Marc Brammer

On June 20, 2011, in an unlawful overreach of archdiocesan authority, Msgr. McClory sent a demand letter to Marc Brammer in Indiana ordering him to stop broadcasting content into the archdiocese of Detroit.

The demand letter to Brammer is de facto acknowledgment on the part of the Detroit archdiocese that Brammer owned and controlled RealCatholicTV.com.

Violation of Canon Law

On the same day, Msgr. McClory issued a letter to Michael Voris once again demanding that he remove the name “Catholic” from RealCatholicTV.org — in spite of already acknowledging that Brammer in Indiana owned and controlled the site. Monsignor McClory also re-issued the precept against St. Michael’s Media the next day on June 21, 2011.

Voris issued a three-page response on July 3, 2011.

After consultation with an eminent expert in Canon Law, I regret to inform you that it appears that you have fallen into substantial factual and legal error in issuing your “precept” of July 16, 2010. This has certain consequences, according to the norm of 1983 CIC 126.

[A]s the principal and direct object of your “precept” is that I, the undersigned qua physical person, “cease using the title Catholic in any initiative in social communications,” it appears that before you may do so, according to the norm of Canon Law, the Archdiocese of Detroit is required to demonstrate either that I am not a baptized Roman Catholic, or notify me of whatever evidence it possesses that I have committed a delict at Canon Law against the Faith, hold a penal process in my respect according to the norms of 1983 CIC 1717-1728, and notify me according to the norms of 1983 CIC 1509 of any Sentence or Decree issued by the Ordinary having reached such a determination. To the best of my knowledge, none of the above has occurred. Is the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Detroit asserting that I am not a baptized Catholic, or that I have a committed a delict against the Faith?

The archdiocese never responded to this letter. Instead, six months later, it issued a public statement falsely insinuating disobedience on the part of St. Michael’s Media.

Archdiocesan Press Release

On December 15, 2011, Director of Communications Ned McGrath of the archdiocese of Detroit released the following statement:

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 (see canon 216 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law). For some time, the Archdiocese of Detroit has been in communication with Mr. Michael Voris and his media partner at Real Catholic TV regarding their prominent use of the word “Catholic” in identifying and promoting their public activities disseminated from the enterprise’s production facility in Ferndale, Michigan. 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. Questions about this matter may be directed to the Archdiocese of Detroit, Department of Communications.

As LifeSiteNews reported at the time:

Brammer told LifeSiteNews, “I own RealCatholicTV.com. I contracted with Michael Voris to produce video content for that website and I pay him for it.  It is a business relationship between me and Michael. If all of a sudden now there’s this tussle over the use of the word ‘Catholic’ I’ll deal with it through competent ecclesial authority.”

Brammer noted that he had received a letter from the Archdiocese of Detroit acknowledging him as the owner of the website.  He responded to that letter with a request for a meeting with the Archdiocese.  He received no response. Brammer has not been asked by his bishop, Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop Kevin Rhoades to cease using the word Catholic.

The judicial vicar of Fort Wayne-South Bend agreed that Detroit did not have jurisdiction over the website. As LifeSite reported:

Fr. Mark Gurtner, Judicial Vicar of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in Indiana, spoke with LifeSiteNews, acknowledging that the diocese did know of Mr. Brammer’s enterprise of RealCatholicTV.com. When asked if the diocese had any complaints about RealCatholicTV.com, Gurner replied, “No, as far as I know there’s nothing.”

Speaking as a canon lawyer and not an official of the diocese, Gurtner also said he believes the jurisdiction of the case resides with the Indiana diocese. “It certainly seems to me that canonically Michael Voris would not be the one that this would be imposed on,” he said. “Even though he is the one that regularly appears on (the show) he, in a sense, is really just an employee of (RealCatholicTV.com).”

“It seems like if the Archdiocese of Detroit is trying to go after (Voris), that’s the wrong person to address this with, that would have to be with the owner of the website or blog,” he added.

“I suppose if this Marc Brammer is paying for and running, constructing his blog from our diocese in his home I suppose you could make the argument that we have jurisdiction canonically.”

To this day, the archdiocese of Detroit has never specified any programming or content produced by St. Michael’s Media that it has found heterodox or problematic. It has issued no censure or delict against this apostolate, which remains in good standing in the Church.

Encounter With Abp. Allen Vigneron

On September 29, 2011, on the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel, Michael Voris ran into Detroit Abp. Allen Vigneron at the Amsterdam airport. Voris was returning from a trip to France, where he had met with a bishop supportive of St. Michael's Media. At the airport, Abp. Vigneron and Voris had a cordial conversation, where Voris explained the apostolate’s position regarding RealCatholicTV.com. Voris handed him his business card and requested a personal meeting with the archbishop, to which Abp. Vigneron replied, "I'll consider it." It was the seventh or eighth request submitted by Voris to meet personally with the archbishop. Each of the previous requests had gone ignored.

Voris never received a response from Abp. Vigneron. Instead, two months after their meeting, the Detroit archdiocese issued its December 15, 2011 press release.

Although this apostolate stopped being identified with RealCatholicTV.com in 2012 and is now formally ChurchMilitant.com, the press release remains up on the archdiocese’s website to this day — in spite of repeated requests that it be taken down, leaving the false impression of disobedience or heterodoxy.

Archbishop Vigneron has been willing to meet with a group of dissident clergy (Elephants in the Living Room), who promote married clergy and women priests, but he has never responded to at least eight requests from Voris to meet with him.