But first, a few observations. The debate, such as it is, (and I believe that it really isn't a debate at all, but I'll get to that in a moment,) turns on a few points: first, whether or not Detroit has jurisdiction in this matter; second, whether or not RealCatholic is in violation of Canon 216; third, a curious argument over why the Diocese has or has not gone after other groups which also have seemingly run afoul of Canon 216. This is either the crux of the entire matter, or irrelevant. Voris' supporters say that the diocese has not gone after the others, the supporters of the Diocese point out that the bishop has gone after some of them. More on this later.
My focus will not be on his arguments, such as they are, but rather on the way he forms and the terms into which he puts them: how he goes about constructing his position, and how he attempts to persuade the reader or listener that he is right. At its heart, rhetoric, the art of persuasion, is about power, and the ability to persuade and even control one's audience.
Now, on to the statement, with my observations.
The board of St Michael's media has requested that the following statement be issued by me in response to the recent spat of press releases from the Archdiocese of Detroit.His first step is to distance himself from the actual statement. He is reading at the request of the board. Also, notice the clear view of the letterhead at the start of the statement: "St Michael's Media: Overcoming the Darkness." Though not read out loud, it is prominently displayed, and may be considered part of what is to follow. They are fighting the darkness. Also notice he is not using the name "RealCatholic", the name which has started the whole affair. Watch how that name pops up later. Also notice how he has minimized what has started this affair: mere press releases. Documents with no real power whatsoever.
St Michael's media and its President, Michael Voris, request all of the faithful of the Archdiocese of Detroit to pray for Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron.
Well and good. Pray for the Archbishop.
Elements within the Curia, as well as forces outside, continue to impede the Archbishop from effectively dispelling grave doctrinal dissent and deep seated moral depravity. (cf Catechism of the Catholic Church section 2357)
Here he has set up an opposition: The Archbishop is opposed, not by RealCatholic or St Michael's Media (who ask that everybody pray for him), but by 'forces' within the Curia and without. These forces are not named yet, and are left vague. Voris is here setting up an opposition: Bishop vs forces within the Curia and without.
St Michael's Media and Michael Voris have been, and remain, the repeated targets of those same hostile elements as the former strive to see realized the reformation of the Archdiocese of Detroit and be of service to the Universal Church and her Supreme Pastor, Pope Benedict XVI.
Here the statement returns to its support of the Archbishop, and now claims to be fighting the same fight as the Archbishop. The use of the word 'former' in this sentence is curious: the verb 'strive'- rather than 'strives' indicates that former refers to St Michael's media, rather than the bishop. He and St Michael's Media have been striving to reform the Archdiocese. He is subtly equating his efforts with those of the bishop. The opposition between the archbishop and the Curia and forces without is now expanded: Archbishop and Voris et al along with the Church and the Pope vs. forces within the Curia and without. This theme is going to be worked on and expanded by Voris. But first, a statement to the point.
Neither St Michael's Media nor Michael Voris are in violation of can. 216 of the Code of Canon Law.
If this were a debate, then here is the heart of the matter. This is the only sentence in this statement which addresses the issue which started this affair: Is Voris and Company in violation of Canon Law? Voris baldly states the answer is "no". He does not expand at all on this, merely states it as a fact. The reason?
They underline that the "burden of proof falls upon he who makes the allegation" against them. (cf. can. 1526, 1 CIC)
He doesn't have to.
Whether or not this is the correct interpretation, and whether or not the burden of proof has or has not been met is not a question I am qualified to discuss. I am not a canonist. Voris' defence, the only words to speak to the point, is to claim he and the group of which he is the president is not in violation of the law, and he doesn't have to say anything more about that. He does, however, have more to say on other things, like the forces that oppose him.
Neither plan on providing fodder or canonical arguments to self-serving or simply misguided bloggers who fail to see how easily they are being manipulated into giving aid to the enemies of Jesus Christ and Holy Mother Church, who rejoice at seeing internecine bloodshed among the fold.
Having allied himself with the Archbishop, the Pope, and the Church as a whole, Voris now draws the natural conclusion: Opposition to me is opposition to the Church. Oppose me, whether it is for self-serving reasons or simple mistake, and you are being manipulated and allying yourself with The Enemy.
It is for this reason that I don't call this a debate. This is a conflict of competing narratives, filled with what would be non-sequitors and irrelevancies in a formal debate. Take, for example, the most common themes that come up in other blogs. Voris' supporters ask why the diocese hasn't condemned other groups which have also used the word Catholic in their name? Diocesan supporters point out that the Bishop has condemned several such groups, only it has not gotten as much press as this dust up with Voris. For a debate, this is irrelevant to the question. Let me use an extreme analogy as an example to illustrate this point: the police arrest a man on a charge of petty theft. The man says "Why are you picking on me? Shouldn't you be arresting murderers?" to which the officer replies: "What do you mean? We arrested a murderer just last week." Both the original question and the response are irrelevant to the case at hand. But they are relevant to a narrative, and what Voris is pushing here is a narrative.
St Michael's Media and its President call upon all the faithful of Detroit to be real Catholics (emphasis mine) by adhering entirely to the Deposit of Faith as taught authoritatively only through the Magisterium of the Popes and the Bishops of the Catholic Church in Union with him.
Voris here finally invokes the name that sparked this little dust-up in the most surprising- even shocking- way, and it cannot possibly have been accidental. Voris has carefully constructed a narrative in which the Curia, which issued the original release, is on the side of Satan, and he is allied with the Bishop, the Pope, and the Church. He has now invoked the name of his company as the true name of the Church. Oppose me, and you oppose the bishop the Pope and the Church itself. After all, if you accept his narrative, he is not disobeying the ordinary of the archdiocese which issued the first statement, but with the forces of Satan within the curia who are the real forces which oppose him and who, presumably, actually issued the statement.
So Voris offers no logic and no debate, and instead offers a narrative that may be accepted or rejected on faith, and has to be, as he offers no proof. I have nothing more to say on the matter, really. I leave it to the readers to agree or disagree with Voris as they please. I have my own thoughts about what will happen, eventually, but which I will keep to myself at this time. I will say that, as my old interest was rhetoric, I will conclude by saying a few more words about Voris' rhetoric.
As I said earlier, rhetoric is about power, an exercise in power and control. It has many tools. One possible tool of rhetoric is logic. However, as C.S.Lewis stated in his Screwtape Letters, where three hundred yerars ago, people knew when a point was proven and when it wsan't, and an educated man was ready to change his life baed on a chain of reasoning, now people barely know the first thing about logic at all. Jargon, slogans and cant are more effective tools of rhetoric than logic. Another common tools these days is narrative. People may know nothing about logic, but they still like a good story, and Voris tells a good one.
Voris's narrative is a narrative of power. He is claiming a great amount of power to himself, and you must accept his claim if you are to accept his narrative.The claim to power is the very assumption that underpins his statement. The assumption that Voris has the power to say who is to be obeyed and who is not; who has the power to speak, and who has not; who is right, and who is not; and who is Catholic, and who is not; and who has the right to say who is Catholic, and who does not. This all began when the Archdiocese of Detroit, in response to question, issued a statement which said, in short, that Voris and RealCatholic television does not speak for the Church. Voris' response is "Yes, I do. In fact, mine is the only group that speaks for the Church."
As a last note, here is Voris' statement as he read it, with his own intonation and emphases.