Archdiocesan canon lawyers differ on asking RealCatholicTV.com to drop ‘Catholic’ name
January 9, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Canon lawyers at two American dioceses disagree over the question of jurisdiction in the case of Michael Voris and RealCatholicTV, who were recently asked by the Archdiocese of Detroit to stop using the name “Catholic” in their work.
The decision by the Detroit diocese to demand that RealCatholicTV stop calling itself “Catholic” came as a shock to fans of the website, which has become relatively well known in the pro-life and pro-family world due to Voris’ straight-talking defense of the right to life and sanctity of the family. However, some of his broadcasts bluntly holding Catholic Church leaders, including bishops, to account for failures in defending Catholic principles in these areas have also raised the ire of various clergy and diocesan staffers.
Following the announcement of its decision, the Detroit archdiocese received numerous complaints and questions from RealCatholicTV fans, prompting the diocese to issue another press release January 3rd.
Responding to the inquiries, Archdiocesan Director of Communications Ned McGrath noted that concerns about Voris had been public since 2008; however, the release did not say anything about the nature of those concerns. To date the diocese has not made any specific allegations against RealCatholicTV or its programming.
While the questions asked by most pertain to why the action was taken, the issue being discussed by canon lawyers is where jurisdiction over RealCatholicTV.com lies – with the Archdiocese of Detroit, where Michael Voris, the star of the show, lives and works, or in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, where the owner and financier of RealCatholicTV.com, Marc Brammer, resides.
Fr. Mark Gurtner, Judicial Vicar of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in Indiana spoke with LifeSiteNews, acknowledging that the diocese did know of Mr. Brammer’s enterprise of RealCatholicTV.com. When asked if the diocese had any complaints about RealCatholicTV.com, Gurner replied, “No, as far as I know there’s nothing.”
Speaking as a canon lawyer and not an official of the diocese, Gurtner also said he believes the jurisdiction of the case resides with the Indiana diocese. “It certainly seems to me that canonically Michael Voris would not be the one that this would be imposed on,” he said. “Even though he is the one that regularly appears on (the show) he, in a sense, is really just an employee of (RealCatholicTV.com).”
“It seems like if the Archdiocese of Detroit is trying to go after (Voris), that’s the wrong person to address this with, that would have to be with the owner of the website or blog,” he added.
“I suppose if this Marc Brammer is paying for and running, constructing his blog from our diocese in his home I suppose you could make the argument that we have jurisdiction canonically.”
When asked by LifeSiteNews what concerns the Detroit Archdiocese had about Voris and RealCatholicTV.com, Detroit Archdiocesan Director of Communications McGrath would not specify any concern other than the use of the word ‘Catholic’.
Asked if the archdiocese has asked any other group or individual in the archdiocese not to use the name Catholic, McGrath said he couldn’t remember any other cases during his 20 years with the diocese. “I don’t know. I’ve been here 20 years I can’t say that we’ve never done that in the history of the Archdiocese,” he said.
Pressed on the point, he said, “I wouldn’t want to say that definitively. But not any that I can recall recently, no.”
Fans of RealCatholicTV have noted that there are entities in the archdiocese, such as the Jesuit University of Detroit Mercy (UDM), which bills itself as “a Catholic university,” that regularly violate Catholic teaching but have been permitted to retain their “Catholic” designation without interference from the diocese. UDM has proposed abortion agencies as career opportunities for students; had links to pro-abortion groups on its website; retained a renowned pro-abortion, pro-same-sex “marriage” nun on its Board of Trustees; held an annual event called ‘sexapalooza’ with activities such as ‘safe sex games’, sex-tac-toe; and has professors that put stickers on their office doors indicating their support for abortion.
Regarding the question of jurisdiction, McGrath directed LifeSiteNews to a blog post by canon lawyer Ed Peters, a professor at the AOD seminary, who has supported the archdiocese’s claims of having jurisdiction in the case.
In an initial blog post Peters, wrote, in his capacity as a canon lawyer and not as a representative of the diocese, about canon law 216, noting that the bishop has authority over the name Catholic. In a subsequent post, Peters took up the matter of jurisdiction, suggesting that Detroit is on “firm ground” in pursuing Voris.
“I have yet to see the ‘lack of jurisdiction’ claim being made by anyone who knows how canon law actually determines jurisdiction over persons and projects,” Peters wrote. “As a blog is not the place for me to attempt a pre-emptive tutorial on canonical jurisdiction, I’ll just say that, to the extent that jurisdiction is or might be an issue in this matter, I believe the [Archdiocese of Detroit] to be on firm ground.”