11 January 2012

A few thoughts...

On the latest Voris controversy.  I know, I know- after saying I had no interest in this matter, I am now going to post on it.  What has piqued my interest is Voris' response to the Archdiocese of Detroit.  My interest is not in the content so much as his rhetoric, as rhetoric was my old field.  I am not going to address the question of whether he is right or wrong as much as I am going to look at how he constructs his position as the right one.  I have transcribed his statement. or, more accurately, the statement he read, for purpose of examination.

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. 


The Ranter said...

I definitely enjoyed your fisking! Thanks for taking the time & effort to do so.

Vox Cantoris said...

So, let us assume he is in violation of Canon Law and that at some point, the owner of the name which is not Michael Voris addresses the issue, why the constant attack on Voris?

What are they afraid of?

Anonymous said...

Since when does one "assume" from the get go that Voris is guilty of anything? Whatever happened to the "burden of proof" and the " presumption of innocence"? The level of discourse is abysmal out there...especially on Ed Peters' part: 3 parts "narrative" to 1 part argumentation deserves a name to describe a new bad cocktail!

Bear-i-tone said...


That's easy enough. Voris is the most visible face of the institution, its voice and its president. He has become very popular in some circles, and much reviled in others. If he was not popular, no one would have cared about the archdiocese's statement.

francesca said...

Does Michael concern himself with the presumption of innocence of his targets?

Today he went after Cardinal George using a partial quote from the Chicago Tribune. Did he bother to note the three dots that shows the original source he was quoting omitted something that could have given it context? He doesn't bother to contact the Archdiocese of Chicago with his concern, he just lets it rip and paints George as questioning whether Church teaching should be changed on homosexuality. Could he have called the Chicago Tribune to ask if the reporter still had his notes, and find out what the Cardinal said that would have given it context?

Here's the video. Look at the quoted text in one of his frames. Note the controversial part he pulls out. Look it up in the Chicago Tribune and it's the same.


I'm so glad that Michael Voris is concerned with "burden of proof" and "innocent until proven guilty".

Shoot. Ready. Aim.

Barona said...

My understanding is that the "curia" is the local diocesan entity. The issue revolves ultimately around who can teach the Catholic Faith. The laity certainly can - but only under guidance from the local bishop - Pius XII is clear on this; as is Tradition etc.

That being said (and as a result the bishop always comes up winner in the discipline of the Sacraments etc.) the Archdiocese is obviously picking and choosing how to apply Church Law. Hence, the whole difficulty.

Should RealCatholic be under a bishop? Absolutely. Is it? .....???

However this issue does raise questions as to why the Bishops are not applying the laws justly, fairly. All of this being said - RealCatholic cannot circumvent the authority of the bishop. RealCatholic makes no statement about obedience to the local Ordinary.

Vox Cantoris said...

Dear Barona,

RealCatholicTV should not be under any bishop any more than any priest should dictate to Una Voce what it does (this is currently happening somewhere). The laity have every right to teach.

Michael Voris has every right, no duty to teach and say "this is what the Catholic Church teaches and believes" but he cannot do it in the "name" of the Church.

Therefore, the best solution is for the owner of the name to change the name...not to succumb to an obvious witch-hunt, but to remove the "issue" and get on with it.

I wonder really though on the matter, it is RealCatholicTV, this is no word, it is a "cyber" moniker...it is not Real Catholic TV.

Mark Shea gets to rant because he uses "Catholic, and Enjoying It" thus he refers to himself, not the Church.

The bottom-line is this:

If the Bishops were doing there job, Michael Voris' work would not be necessary.

Let them teach with the clarity of him.

Vox Cantoris said...

Oh, congratulations on the link form Shea! It really was a well-written fisk.

Bear-i-tone said...

Thanks, Vox, that means a lot. Knowing that you would be reading this helped me to make every effort to be as fair as I could.

Freyr said...

What Mr. Voris has done is essentially set up a parallel magisterium which follows church teaching. The point is a subtle one, I know but worth making. The idea that setting up a parallel magisterium is acceptable so long as it teaches correct doctrine misses the point entirely. Doing the right thing the wrong way is never justified. He has no organic connection to his bishop. What is so distressing about this is that he is insinuating himself into a power vacuum in the Church. In an age when bishops are afraid to speak out decisively Michael Voris looks quite appealing.

Barona said...

The laity are under the authority of the hierarchy. The Church has the right and duty to guide lay groups as we are not congregationalists. Mr. Voris' organization must be under some sort of ecclesiastical guidance. Obviously lay groups can form, but as they take on more formal structures, they attain to private lay associations. Such groups, though allowed considerable flexibility come under the leadership in faith and morals by the clergy.

Vox Cantoris said...

The Archbishop of Detroit and Chancery officials have consistently refused his requests to meet to discuss this matter.

What about that?

Puff the Magic Dragon said...

If they are teaching what it mean's to be a "REAL CATHOLIC," and that is what is implied by their name, and canon law requires they are to have the proper authority to use the word, then they should comply with canon law?

Just change the name.

Or does being a "Real Catholic" mean that one can break canon law and still be a catholic?

Gee, where have I heard that position before?

Anonymous said...

This is a big problem with internet stuff.

I loved your post, Bear. It would be good to know more about rhetoric, so I learned something.

I haven't read many blogs in recent times, so it was good to visit here again.

Anonymous said...

I's probably a big temptation for orthodox Catholics to take the attitude that "if you disagree with me, you disagree with the Church." I know one guy who seems to say that if you disagree with him, you disagree with the Church AND the wise men of history!

Puff the Magic Dragon said...

Foe everyone's edification on exactly what the Archdiocese of Detroit did and did not say about St. Michael's media, and Real Catholic.

On who requested and refused to meet etc etc I give you this link to the Archdiocese of Detroit's statements.\\The initial link takes you to the October 2008 statement, at the bottom of which are links to the last two statements.

Christine said...

"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."

No. That isn't what he meant by that at all.

What he meant is how easily fellow Catholics fall into warfare against each other through idle and ignorant speculation.

Voris has no obligation to explain himself to you or to anyone. He has canon lawyers working behind the scenes trying to sort this out with the archdiocese. We should let them sort this out, and PRAY.

Bear-i-tone said...


Sorry, that is exactly what he is saying. Here are his own words, speaking of those who oppose him:

Neither (St Michael's meadia nor Michael Voris) 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.

He isn't speaking of Cathlics fighting each other, only those that fight him. Finally, his invitation that we all become 'real Catholics' is an invitation to join with him, and not oppose him.

Christine said...

His invitation for people to become "real Catholics" is to join with the Pope and the Magisterium in following the Catholic faith. He couldn't care less whether you follow HIM or not.

And you are wrong on your interpretation about the "internecine bloodshed." But since you're convinced you're right, there's no use arguing over it.

Bear-i-tone said...

"But since you're convinced you're right, there's no use arguing over it."

There is a point in arguing, but arrguments to be constructed, and points to be made. That is a borderline ad hominem, and speaks nothing to the point.

Secondly, I made no interpretation of the words "internecine bloodshed". My interpretation was of the words surrounding those.

Thirdly, Voris chose to invoke the name of his company, the name which has caused this kerfuffle, either deliberately, or mistakenly. Voris has, in this statement, under the aegis of "Overcoming the Darkness" carefully created oppositions: the curia vs the bishop, but Voris is on the side of the bishop (hence he is not disobeying the bishop, but the Curia which is in rebellion against him, a rebellion which is because, we later learn, they serve The Enemy. Voris is on the side of the Pope and the magesterium: all who oppose him are therefore on the side of The Enemy, whether through ignorance or malice. At the end of this piece he invites all Catholics to end the strife and become Real Catholics, which he has carefully identified as himself and his company.

Vox Cantoris said...

Okay, let us all agree that Mr. Voris should at least change the name; I've provided that advice previously through a third party. Get rid of the obstacle.

Now, assuming he does (and I think that he should), to whom does he need to submit?

He is a Catholic layman. He has the right to stand on the cyber street-corner and preach what the Church teaches as long as he does not do it in the "name" of the Catholic Church.

That is the same responsibility that you and I have and we don't have to submit to anyone other than the Ordinary Magisterial teaching under the Holy Father.

I really think you're all being a little hard on the man and of any of you hear, I've at least spent some time with him.

Vox Cantoris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vox Cantoris said...

And as for meeting, they have tried to meet for the last two years and have been continually rebuffed.

Is any of thisfrom Our LORD and Saviour?

Thank about it and cut the Catholic brother some slack.

This is about drying up his speaking engagements and shutting him down.

When did we all become episcopalators? We are not to worship everything that comes from the Chancery especially from bureaucrats. That is not Catholic. Blind obedience is a problem with a lot of Catholics.

A Canadian bishop has chlld porn on his computer. He travelled to Bangkok, what the heck do you think that was for? Not the Hot and Sour Soup.

LA Auxiliary has two secret love children.

Mass attendance in the Diocese of London is 14%, the lowest in Canada outside of Quebec and it has the largest number of sexually deviant priests and legal settlements in Canada. Do you see how they redirect the attention.

Quick look over there, it's that Voris again. He's the problem.

Give me a break.

That is exactly what is behind this whole matter.

And I include in that certain clerical media personalities who leaked nefarious stories and during World Youth Day after their attempt to vainly declare him "unauthorized" failed.

Some are doing the work of the LORD and some of him who is without skin; I have seen both this week on the Voris matter and on another which I'm not prepared to blog about, yet; and it is not pretty.

The devil wants Voris broken.

The devil wants the success of Una Voce crushed.

The devil wants the EF eliminated.

Stop doing his work and let's start doing His!

Christine said...

I do NOT agree that RCTV should change its name. If RCTV has not acted wrongly, and if the archdiocese of Detroit has no jurisdiction, then why on earth should RCTV change its name?

If it turns out that canon law determines that the AoD has jurisdiction, then ok.

But as a matter of justice, there should be no name-changing until that determination is made.

Bear-i-tone said...

A commenter over at Shea's blog said that the word they had problems with the name was not "Catholic" but "real". It comes out here, I believe, as he slides, or seems to slide, between "Oppose the Church and you oppose me" and "Oppose me and you oppose the Church."

I have stated before- and I even once defended him here, when Fr. Rosica called him and others "Taliban Catholics"- that there are times I agree with him, and times I do not. I do not consider myself his enemy, nor he mine. When I saw his video "Prayers for Detroit" I believed it raised some issues worthy of exploring.

I know you have met the man, Vox. I wonder what he is like in person. Perhaps my opinion would change- for better or for worse- were we to meet.

Santa said...

As I commented on the Witness blog, I enjoy listening to Voris's commentaries and don't really care if the Archdiocese of Detroit approves or not. Assuming the AoD has jurisdiction in ths case, Voris's activities are not to be regarded as having the official approbation of the Catholic Church. OK, disclaimer duly noted, I'm going to enjoy his comments anyway.

If you think my attitude places my soul in mortal jepardy, just let me worry about that OK?

jonparrvijinski said...

The AOD claims St. Michael's Media is violating their protocols. As I have reviewed at the Witness blog (please visit us), the AOD fails to provide any information on "media protocols". They do claim, however, that their guidelines parallel the USCCB's guidelines (of which, apparently St. Micahel's Media violates). I have linked to the USCCB's media protocols and cannot fathom how Mr. Voris has violated the protocols.

Granted, lay apostolates must be under the guidance of the bishops - but, the bishop must apply the Canon Law EVENLY and CHARITABLY to ALL. It is this glaring discrepancy which is feeding the internet frenzy...

Anonymous said...

The american bishops council did a terrible job of raining in Bishop Gumbleton. And Detroit was the seed bed of dissention through the group Call to Action. We should not be surprised if Detroit is a mess.That is the trouble with many dioceses, they have had lots of dissenters and problems and there is widespread corruption, stupidity and just bad catechisis. I am following this blog with interest. We do have to follow our bishops, God help us and save us from them.