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The Michael Voris Affair

The Catholic blogosphere has been in a whirl since Michael Voris outed himself on Church Militant a few days back. Voris claimed to have gotten wind of a noxious plot by the New York Archdiocese to leak stories of his sinful homosexual past in a move to discredit him:

We have on very good authority from various sources that the New York archdiocese is collecting and preparing to quietly filter out details of my past life with the aim of publicly discrediting me, this apostolate and the work here.

In what appeared a pre-emptive move, Voris made a public confession of a kind that, on the face of it, deserved the expressions of sympathy it received:

I will now reveal that for most of my years in my thirties, confused about my own sexuality, I lived a life of live-in relationships with homosexual men.  .  .  .

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Anonymous. Public Penitent (undated).

The Archdiocese protested its innocence by stating it is “absolutely 100 percent untrue” that any smear against Voris was in the pipeline. Who to believe? Conservative bloggers, fueled with hostility toward the Archdiocese and anxious to display their high compassion quotient, rallied behind Voris. Suddenly, this self-ordained, one-man Magisterium became a mascot for the Year of Mercy, besieged with prayers, and patted every which way from Sunday. Offering himself as a prodigal son, he placed himself on track for the fatted calf, digital-style.

Again, on the face of it, the gush of sympathy was warranted. But things are often not what they seem. Surfaces can be deceptive. On the one hand, the Archdiocese is quite capable of dirty tricks. On the other hand, Voris himself has built a reputation on accusations, half-truths, innuendoes, and a lust for gossip that equals, if it does not surpass, anything Archdiocesan operatives might conjure up.

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Eugenio Lucas. Condemned by the Inquisition (19th C).

 

Is it likely that the Archdiocese would risk making a martyr of an entrepreneurial, self-promoting gadfly? Possibly. But unless Voris provides something in the way of evidence—names, correspondence—there is no reason to believe Voris’ assertion. On the contrary, given his characteristic antagonism toward the Archdiocese, plus his nastiness toward all and sundry he deems insufficiently orthodox, it is possible to take this supplementary allegation with a grain of salt.  All are slouching toward hell; disgrace and betrayal are everywhere. Yet lights are still on in the chancery. No need to go rogue over the Second Coming of Savonarola.

I do not know Michael Voris personally. I knew nothing about his life until his own recent disclosure. But I do know his public persona, the crafted TV image of a smug, self-righteous Inquisitor. I have watched just enough of  The Vortex, “where lies and falsehoods are trapped and exposed” to find both the man and his schtick repellant. Were he less reminiscent of Jim Baker, who also made much of having been redeemed, Voris would be a more salutary whistle-blower. But as it is, the virulence of his obsession with homosexuality is itself repugnant. And toxic.

It is also diversionary. There are other grave reasons to hold Archdiocesan feet to the fire. A critical one is hierarchical assent to erosion of the rule of law by means of New York’s adopted status as a sanctuary city, in defiance of federal laws still on the books. Another is the discretionary adoption of Common Core in Catholic schools throughout the system. Then there is Archdiocesan complicity in this pontificate’s descent into left wing ideology under cover of the Gospel.  No Vortex censures take aim in that direction. Instead, sex sells in the grandstand.

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Imitator of Bosch. Eternal Damnation (15th C).

Voris’ online persona might be attractive to some Catholics. But the theatricality of it—the chronic self-display—has limited appeal. And none at all to non-Catholics. I have a hard time applying the word evangelist to him.  Where are the good tidings that might draw a secular audience to the Church? And why would the fallen away want back in to an institution so riddled with heresy, ignorance, and perversion? Even when I find myself on his side on some issue, I cannot shake a sense that, overall, he is detrimental to the Church that he would serve.

The most offensive aspect of Voris’ pompous disapprovals and anathemas is that not-so-subtle hint of relish that the jaws of hell are wide open for those he targets. And for you too, my brothers and sisters, should your foot stray from the straight path as Voris has mapped it. Your best hope is to pay up for his luxury Lenten cruise (“at the foot of the Cross” on the Ruby Princess), daiquiri in hand, and seagulls overhead.

But you ask: So why would Voris concoct an allegation against the Archdiocese that cannot be proved? The short answer is: for attention. It is a sure-fire move to gain sympathetic publicity, and to bolster the cult of personality that already surrounds him. The same lessons we learn from election season apply to sorties and contests of ego in other arenas. And keep in mind that if, indeed, some vengeful exposé is in the works, it might as easily originate in the gay scene Voris admits to having been part of. But the Archdiocese is a more advantageous scapegoat, one that Voris’ fans are delighted to whip.

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Francisco de Goya. For Having Moved His Tongue Differently (c. 1804-24).

Please understand: I have no more idea than you do whether Voris’ allegations against the Archdiocese are true or not. If they are, I admire his courage and applaud his canniness in heading off any assault on him over his past. Not one of us can claim freedom from remorse and regret.  I am simply explaining why I resist the rush to garland Michael Voris. Whether his claim of intended victimhood is valid or not, there is a good chance we will never know. If no sordid stories emerge, will it be because Voris short-circuited them? Or because there never was any planned campaign to begin with? Either way, Voris stands to win; the advantage belongs to him. No one, not even the Archdiocese, can prove a negative.

That, plus my own distaste for his modus operandi, leaves me outside the chorus of pray-ers, well-wishers, and enthusiasts who raced to their keyboards to bless the Prodigal Returned. My mind’s eye sees only the ghost of Aimee Semple McPherson, celebrity evangelist in the 1920s and ’30s. She is thought to have faked her own death to cover up an extramarital affair.

Mea culpa.