Leo Brian Schafer
Catholic Values Columnist
In the past 10-15 years, Catholic “news media” has grown exponentially. The call to the New Evangelization has certainly taken root in universally acclaimed outlets like Matt Fradd’s “Pints with Aquinas” podcast, Catholic Answers with their CALive and Counsel of Trent radio shows and media conglomerate “Blessed is She” and all of its associated acts.
Among these celebrated vessels lies a more controversial instrument of evangelization: St. Michael’s Media, and its news arm Church Militant .
Founded in 2006 by Catholic revert Michael Voris, a four-time Emmy winner for TV Production, Church Militant – per its own mission statement – “aim(s) to convert non-Catholics to the faith founded personally by Jesus Christ and strengthen the faith of existing Catholics.”
Admittedly, they have had some success doing this. I myself was brought to the faith through some of their content. All this in mind, however, most of the work that they do is, in a word, problematic for the stated desired effect.
Tune in to “The Vortex,” Voris’ own program on the platform, and much of what you will hear is bishops characterized as “traitors,” “greedy intellectuals” and “fake Catholics” propping up the “gay cabal.” Scroll back only a couple of days in their YouTube library and you will find what is reminiscent of what secular media calls “alt-right propaganda.”
It is undeniable that some, if not most, of what they are seeking to do is noble. Many of the things that they bring to light about our bishops are legitimate criticisms that need to be discussed.
They were one of the only organizations to give a voice to the sexual abuse victims of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, for example, and they were instrumental in uncovering a culture of abuse coverup in the SSPX, a canonically irregular traditional Catholic organization.
It is clear, however, that much of their work does not exactly line up with their mission statement.
Who would want to join an organization that calls its own leadership “cowards” and “traitors,” as Church Militant does? What non-Catholic would want to join a church that questions the patriotism of an esteemed civil rights leader, the late congressman John Lewis, as Church Militant does? What person would want to join a church when the organization that professes to be its leading news outlet openly supports baseless conspiracy theories, like the “plandemic” conspiracy, as Church Militant does?
This whole debacle brings us to the concept of “charitable dialogue.” If Church Militant was simply an outlet “by Catholics, for Catholics,” its abrasive style and harsh criticisms of bishops would be perfectly acceptable, welcome even, in order to purge the undeniable poisons within the Church.
The fact that they peddle themselves as an evangelization organization, however, is rather problematic. Anyone who has tried to convert someone realizes that you need to use nuance, to “meet them where they’re at,” to truly engage in charitable dialogue. And to this end, Church Militant fails horribly.
Yes, I came to the faith partly because of Church Militant. Yes, the style of Church Militant resonated, and to a certain extent, still resonates with me. Yes, potential converts fundamentally must be exposed to the fullness of the church in all of its bureaucratic ugliness at some time or another. Yes, Sts. Paul and John the Baptist preached in a similar fashion.
But we have to ask ourselves, is it truly prudent today to show people the absolute worst side of our church? Is it truly prudent for a potential convert’s first experience with the Church to be an expose on the financial corruption of the Chicago diocese, or an accusation of heresy against Detroit Archbishop Allan Vigneron?
What Church Militant is doing is a net positive. We should be aware of the flaws in our own church. Our bishops must be held accountable for their shortcomings. But, for the good of the future of the church, Church Militant’s standing as an evangelization organization should be questioned.