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Thursday November 4, 2010

Alternative Catholic Media Holding Hierarchy’s Feet to the Fire of Orthodoxy: Michael Voris of RealCatholicTV

By Hilary White

November 3, 2010 ( – The internet has provided a means for orthodox Catholics to skirt or otherwise defeat the blockading of an orthodox voice in Western media, said Michael Voris, creator and public face of RealCatholicTV, an internet-based apologetics organization, in an interview with the Associated Press this week.

AP’s Rachel Zoll quoted John Allen, the Vatican correspondent for the liberal National Catholic Reporter, who has coined the term “Taliban Catholic” to describe orthodox Catholics who insist that the Catholic Church’s hierarchy and administration toe the line of authentic Catholic teaching, especially on life and family issues. Liberal critics such as Allen suggest that these lay pioneers of internet-based alternative media are stepping out of line, attempting to “purge dissenters” from the Church.

But Michael Voris told today that he and his colleagues, as well as a handful of other groups like Austria’s Gloria TV, are only doing what they are called to do by virtue of their baptism.

He told Rachel Zoll, “We’re no more engaged in a witch hunt than a doctor excising a cancer is engaged in a witch hunt. We’re just shining a spotlight on people who are Catholics who do not live the faith.”

Michael Voris started his career in mainstream television, and after a conversion, started St. Michael’s Media, and then RealCatholicTV as a means of spreading Catholic teaching in a Church that he says has given up doing so at the official level.

He told LSN, “We move on the assumption that the vast majority of adult Catholics simply don’t know their faith because it never been presented to them. They might have got a piece of it here or there, but for the most part they don’t understand 90 per cent. They haven’t been taught.

Voris spoke about the growth of his work, from its start just two years ago. “We have a circulation that would make any diocesan newspaper envious. When a video has finished its run on Youtube, it’s been seen maybe 15,000 times.

“My hope is that this large group is able to tune in and say ‘I never heard that before’.”

The project is starting to bear fruit in conversions and reversions to the faith. Voris says that his office constantly receives emails, phone calls and letters from viewers who say they have learned more about the Catholic faith from his work than they ever did from the often very liberal official Church in especially most English speaking nations and Europe.

But his intention has never been to exclude or “purge” anyone. “A bunch of people who want to be dissenters aren’t going to like it,” he said. “But it’s not our goal to squeeze anyone out.”

Voris was not so gentle about the Catholic hierarchy, however: “Bishops are a different story from the laity who aren’t catechized.” (See example of Voris video – Burke Smackdown)

“The current disaster in the Church is the fault of the bishops and the priests who have failed to teach the faith. Lay Catholics must realize that in many cases they’re not hearing the fullness of the truth. And that’s the bishops’ fault. They need to be called out.”

Bishops in many nations, he said, have “refused” to say “uncomfortable” things about birth control or homosexuality. He pointed to the current move in several parts of the Catholic world to reduce the number of days outside of Sundays that Catholics are under a serious obligation to attend Mass.

“The constant stream, the constant message, is that being Catholic is fourth or fifth on the list of importance in life.”

The work of groups like RealCatholicTV garnered criticism from Terrence C. Donilon, the spokesman for the archdiocese of Boston, who told AP, “The lack of civility is very disturbing.”

This accusation of a “lack of civility” or “a lack of charity” is becoming a common one for Catholic officialdom to level at Catholic internet activists. It was reiterated in 2009 by a member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

During a Vatican-sponsored conference in Rome last year, Fr. Thomas Rosica, the head of Canada’s Salt and Light Television, suggested the creation of “some sort of framework or guidelines” for bloggers and other internet sites that are pressing for a greater emphasis on doctrinal orthodoxy from Church leaders and institutions. There has to be “some form of oversight provided by the Church,” Rosica said.

A similar suggestion of authoritarian, top-down control was also made in the UK by the Catholic bishops where a small group of bloggers, made up mainly of ordinary diocesan priests, lay students and housewives, has been a thorn in the side of a hierarchy heavily dominated by the left.

Last June Bishop Gabino Zavala, the head of the U.S. bishops’ conference communications committee, said that there is “consistent agreement” between bishops that the orthodox Catholic blogs and websites are “most alarming.”

“We are particularly concerned about blogs that engage in attacks and hurtful, judgmental language. We are very troubled by blogs and other elements of media that assume the role of Magisterium and judge others in the Church. Such actions shatter the communion of the Church that we hold so precious.”

Those involved in the alternative Catholic media projects say they expect opposition to grow the more they increase their influence in the Church and secular politics through savvy use of the internet.

The “Taliban Catholic” term was leveled recently by the UK’s Austen Ivereigh against the head of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, John Smeaton, who is considered one of the most effective pro-life leaders in the world.

Ivereigh, in the lead-up to the visit of Benedict XVI to Britain, launched a media liaison project that he said would present a more reasoned, measured Catholic voice to media commentators. In an interview, Ivereigh said he had received applications from “Taliban Catholics” but had weeded them out.

Voris, however, noted the irony of the liberals accusing orthodox Catholics of a lack of charity by calling them members of the murderous Islamic Taliban.

“When we say that a person, a public figure, is not living the faith, we’re saying something accurate about what he is doing. But calling faithful Catholics the ‘Taliban’ because they want the bishops to be more faithful is a straightforward slur.

“We’re not blowing up buildings, we’re not murdering women or cutting people’s heads off. It’s just an insult,” said Voris.

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