Frank Andrews: A couple of weeks ago when the Fr. James Martin firestorm hit the local media because he is the winter commencement speaker at Misericordia University, I called him, and we interviewed him. We had non-stop calls for an hour and a half. One of our listeners suggested that based on that conversation that I look up the website of a group called Church Militant, which I did. He suggested that I watch a video, which I did. And then I contacted them and asked if their director would mind doing an interview with us, and Michael Voris is on the line with us right now He is the founder and president of Saint Michael's Media and the senior executive producer of Church Militant. Michael, thank you for taking time out of your busy day.
Michael Voris: I appreciate the chance to speak Frank, thank you.
FA: And I understand that at one time you were a TV reporter, so that was your penance for a time, huh? [laughter]
MV: About twenty years — reporting, producing, anchoring — you know the drill.
FA: Me too! [laughs]. Now, before we get into any controversy, tell us, what is Church Militant and why.
MV: Church Militant is the web presence, internet presence of the apostolate St. Michael's Media. So St. Michael's Media does a number of different things to advance the Catholic faith. Church Militant is that presence on the web. And what we specifically do at Church Militant or on Church Militant is talk about various issues that we think Catholics need to know. And that covers a pretty broad spectrum of things going on in the culture in general, things going on in the world of politics — all of this obviously touching on matters Catholic. We don't just cover politics for the sake of politics. Things going on within the Church, good and bad, and then many things very devotional, spirituality, you know, directly theological things like that. So there's a broad spectrum of things for Catholics.
FA: Now, correct me if any of what I say is wrong, but I understand you're a graduate of Notre Dame, and then studied in Rome, and you have a bachelor's degree in Sacred Theology as well.
MV: Largely that's correct. I graduated from Notre Dame. It's an ecclesiastical degree, so to say it's a bachelor's degree. It's called a baccalaureate, but it's not an academic degree like from a secular institution. On the ecclesiastical side, it's essentially the equivalent of a double Masters.
FA: Michael, here in northeastern Pennsylvania, I believe there was a poll one time that was done, and I believe in several of the counties here the Roman Catholic and Orthodox population is about 78 percent of the people here. So, that's why, you know, anything that happens here, we get so many calls. Would you give us of your opinion of what the status of the Catholic Church is right now because our listeners said that Church Militant is trying to protect the Church from attacks.
MV: That's correct. For about roughly the past 50 years — and this is not evenly true across the board obviously, evenly distributed, it depends where you might be at a specific time, and all of that — but in an overall trend for the past 50 years, the commitment of the Church, Church leaders and consequently many of the laity to the fundamental teachings of the Church have changed. They've either been sacrificed, abandoned, ignored, downplayed, substituted for, you know, sort of take your pick.
And again that depends on where you are, who the personalities are involved. For example, you have some bishops today who are coming out for things that are quite frankly heretical. Other bishops just don't say anything one way or the other. Other bishops will offer a very weak, passing kind of remark that doesn't really get any publicity, defense, of something of the Church. So again, this isn't evenly distributed, but the net effect over the course of the past 50 years is a great diminution of the Faith.
And I think the major indicator of that, and we've been sort of trumpeting this at Church Militant and Saint Michael’s Media for approximately 10 years, and we've been saying, there's going to come sort of the crest of the raw number of Catholics, which has been increasing steadily for decades and decades and decades. But the rate of that increase has been getting smaller and smaller and just looking at it and of course as you know, same sort of background, same profession as I had, you hang in reporting long enough you get to be a numbers guy and all that, you get to look at trends and graphs and charts and polls and surveys in everything. And I was looking at this stuff a few years ago and said there's going to come the watershed moment somewhere around 2012, 2013, somewhere in that neighborhood, where the raw number of Catholics in the United States is actually going to begin to decline. And we just hit that in, I believe, it was 2015. In 2014, I might be off on my years by one or two cause I'm doing this from memory, but we had 72.4 million Catholics depending on how you count, in the United States. That just means baptized, that doesn't mean they believe anything, that doesn't mean they were raised Catholic, that doesn't mean anything beyond they just were baptized — 72.4 million and in 2016 the number 72 million. So, for the first time since these numbers have been tracked in any significant way, the raw number, and anyone who has familiarity with statistics knows what the raw number means. It's the paramount number, and that has now decreased in the United States, the number of Catholics by half a million.
FA: Of course.
MV: That's astounding!
FA: One of the main reasons that I wanted to talk to you was about the Fr. [James] Martin issue. Father Martin is, of course, speaking at Misericordia University. Michael, I want to just ask you, what is your problem with Fr. Martin speaking at Misericordia University?
MV: Well, it isn't necessarily Misericordia, it's that Fr. Martin be given any public platform anywhere. This one just happens to be Misericordia, where he gets to distort Catholic teaching. Now, if he wants to go speak in some public ground somewhere and say whatever he wants to say, which is not true, this is the point: what he presents in these talks about Catholicism, vis-a-vis the whole homosexual, same-sex attraction thing, is not true, it's incomplete, and it's error-ridden. Now, and as a result, he should not be allowed to speak on Church property, and that's the problem.
FA: OK, now did you read his book Building a Bridge?
MV: No, I don't talk about his book.
FA: Because, I mean ...
MV: It's not his book, you know, I've never said anything about his book. The issue, and that’s another thing with him, whenever I happen to say something his response is, and his supporters' response is well, "You haven't read his book." That's right, because I'm not talking about his book. His book is just a Trojan horse to get up and talk about these other things.
FA: But now, the concept there is the LGBT community, he wants to open a conversation with them, I mean, I know that's very simplistic, but what's wrong with that?
MV: Well, there's nothing wrong except it's not true. There already is the conversation, for example, LGBT is a political phrase, It's a cultural political phrase. People in the Church don't ... that would be like a Catholic bishop going up and talking to somebody and referring to him or her as "pro-choice." That the language itself, before you ever get to a discussion, the definitions are loaded. "LGBT" may a very fine fun term or acceptable term to talk about out in the culture, but within the Church, which is what he does, he's a priest, talking in the context of the Church on Church property, he should be using Church vocabulary, that's the very first problem. Second of all, there already is a dialogue here. The Church has for example, a marvelous group that was started by a Catholic priest in New York, I think, in the 1970s, maybe in the 1980s, the priest, he's dead now, the priest, God rest his soul, but his name is Fr. [John] Harvey, and he started a group called Courage, which was, is, has, many chapters around the country, I think around the world as well, to engage with Catholics who are same-sex attracted, who are trying to live according to the Church's teachings faithfully. There already is a bridge, to use Fr. Martin's title of his book. So for him to go around and pretend as though the Church hates gays, because that's the message you take away from it — the Church hates gays and has been persecuting towards gays. I mean, half the priests who have been ordained in the last 50 years are gay so I'm not sure how you wind up with "the Church hates gays." So, that's the issue here, and the irritation on this is that Fr. Martin simply lies. He lies about Church teaching in these presentations, and this isn't just me sort of listening to it and doing an interpretation. Father Martin is on the record that the Church's teachings regarding chastity — meaning only having sex within the confines of marriage — that those teachings don't apply to same-sex attracted people, homosexual people.
FA: Michael, the people who responded when he was on, you know, they said there's 20,000 signatures on a petition. And then I contacted the bishop, and it appears that the bishop and Fr. Martin and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church don't want to hear what you have to say, they think you're the crazy radicals.
MV: [laughs] Well, of course, they do.
FA: In fact, I asked a theologian, I said I’m going to have the Church Militant on, he said in theological terms they are what we call crazy.
MV: Well, that's very Catholic of him to speak of a fellow Catholic in those terms. You know, if he wants to take umbrage, you know, first of all, I'm a Catholic theologian. I have an S.T.B., I have an ecclesiastical degree in theology. So, there are theologians of various stripes. He's a liberal theologian who doesn't like the message of orthodox, traditional Catholicism. I get it, I mean we've been talking about this for 10 years that there is this gigantic split in the Church. You could kind of, if you were look at it from a political analogous point, you see the same thing in the country. There are just two versions of America that are being fought out, lived out, side-by-side every day in the country. Well, that same thing is happening in the Church right now. It's just come to a head now over a number of issues and one of them, a leading one, is this particular one — the whole question of homosexuality. And I don't think it's surprising that one of the reasons it's coming to a head that there are so many homosexual clergy. And I find it just beyond the pale that Fr. Martin will not answer the question, because it's a relevant question because he's the one out there. He will not answer the question whether he himself is attracted sexually to men. Now, he won't answer that question, he says, "Well, my superiors have forbidden me from answering it." That's what he told the Washington Post, I think, that was in the summer, late summer, early fall. It's like, well why would your superiors forbid you from saying, you know, if you were straight, why would your superiors forbid you from saying that?
FA: Have you contacted the diocese here at all? I mean, have you had any conversation with the diocese of Scranton?
MV: You mean have ... we called and said, "Hey, why are you inviting him?"
FA: Or at least let them know, you know, your objection to this, I mean, one of the things that ...
MV: Oh yeah, we have publicly backed on numerous occasions that petition that is going around. We don't want to start a second petition, that's kind of pointless, let's have everybody get on the same petition. We've publicly supported that I mean they know our position on this. Father Martin knows our position on this.
FA: Michael, Bp. Joseph Bambera, diocese of Scranton, issued a statement. We asked him to come on the air, but he would only give us a statement, said that Fr. Martin went through all the screening, Fr. Martins book was approved by his superiors, and as far as he's concerned, it's OK for Fr. Martin to speak. Now, when I watched your video which I believe is called The Vortex, I was very uncomfortable with, I don't want to say the attack on the bishop, but you were really, really strong in your comments about him.
MV: Well, yeah because souls are at stake. Bishop Bambera is a coward here. For whatever reason he's going along with, I don't know if he agrees with ... it doesn't matter why he's doing it, I don't know what his intentions are. I don't pretend to read his mind, but I don't need to know any of that to know that what he's doing is wrong. Bishop Bambera is responsible for the spiritual welfare of the souls in his charge as bishop in that diocese, and he is wrong to let this priest who speaks heresy loose on his people. And that's the bottom line. I don't care if he went through some screening, they set up the screening! He passed the screening, all that means is, you approved him! There isn't some objective committee of gods on Olympus that hands down the blessing for it. That's Bp. Bambera's people who get paid by him, who said, yes, we want him to speak, and the bishop goes, "OK." There's no screening, and it's disingenuous to present it that way.
FA: It may come from just my upbringing, but when you call Fr. Martin a liar, and when you call the bishop a coward, I get very uncomfortable, like you're not supposed to challenge the hierarchy of the Church.
MV: You're not supposed to challenge the hierarchy of the Church when they are in communion with the Magisterium of the Church, when they are not in communion with them, I don't mean jurisdictional communion, I mean the harmony of the Church's teaching. When they despise that, ignore it, don't enforce it, won't preach it, you absolutely challenge it. They are wrong. That doesn't mean they don't have the authority of the office, I'm not challenging the fact that he's bishop, none of that. I'm talking about in this case, he is wrong. Father Martin preaches heresy, and that's what I said in this Vortex episode. I said bishop, are you going to stand up at this event and say that what Fr. Martin said about men and women who are same-sex attracted that the Church's teaching doesn't apply to them? That is heresy, Frank, and I think your listeners, I hope, will understand that. Now, if someone wants to agree or disagree that the Church should do this, that's a different discussion, whether the Church's teaching is right. But that's not the discussion. The discussion is that we all agree, and we all at least pretend in the sense of Fr. Martin, that the Church's teaching is right. But then he preaches, he gives talks and is supported by various members of the hierarchy who say that, who give him their approval. By the way, there are many other members of the hierarchy who do not give Fr. Martin any kind of approval. He got into a Twitter war with Bp. Paprocki in Springfield Illinois, over this very issue of homosexuality. Cardinal Sarah, a cardinal, I mean, he may have a couple of cardinals in his back pocket but he also has some cardinals opposed to him publicly. Cardinal Robert Sarah at the Vatican, wrote an article which appeared in the Wall Street Journal, saying what he is doing is wrong. Again, what does this all point to? It points to the great split in the Church.
FA: Michael, I have two final points, and I don't want to keep you too much longer, but you apparently have a big following in this area because one of our listeners said please make sure you have him comment on the fact that there's Church Triumphant, Church Militant, Church Suffering, so people don't get the wrong impression. And then everybody wants to know if you're going to the Rosary rally which is 1 p.m. on the day of Fr. Martin's speech.
MV: First, on a theological point, yes, when the Church speaks of Church Militant, that is a centuries, centuries, centuries old term that merely refers to the baptized who are still here on earth fighting evil, they are militating against evil. It doesn't mean anything about violence or picking up guns and weapons, nothing to do with that. And it's part of the Communion of Saints, the Church on earth, the Church in Purgatory and the Church in Heaven. The Church in Heaven is called the Church Triumphant because the souls who are in Heaven are now saints, and their battle is over and they have triumphed. We, here on earth, because we can still lose our salvation, are still fighting for it. That's what it means theologically. I would love to try to come to that Rosary Rally. Much of it depends right now ... my father's health is not doing very well, I think a number of people probably know that, and he's actually in the hospital right now, soon as this interview's over, I have to get back to the hospital. He's been sort of declining since August, so it's kind of a hit and miss thing if I'm able to attend things or not, so I don't like making a commitment about something and backing out of it. If I can make it I will, but my presence at it is not that big of a deal about it one way or the other, what's important is that there be a Catholic witness, a witness to authentic Catholic teaching that what Fr. Martin is saying is wrong and frankly lead souls to Hell.
FA: Okay, Michael I've asked you to stay for a half hour I've kept you much longer, I'm grateful, thank you so much and I hope, I wish well for your father. Thank you and Merry Christmas to you.
MV: Alright, God bless guys.