"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Wednesday 27 November 2013



Michael Voris makes me feel very uneasy, and I want to explore why.    I believe the same dogmas of the same Church as Michael Voris, just as much as he does, but our Catholicism could not be more different.  

 The impression I get from his videos is that people have to accept his brand of Catholicism and his "cowboys and Indians" approach to theology or be accused of being caught up in "lies and falsehoods". Everything is black and white, and there are no greys.  Not only do we have to agree with the Pope, but we need to accept his version of what the Pope says in the context in which he quotes him.   He applies to the Pope his own pre-suppositions which often disort the Pope's meaning.   All other interpretations of our Faith  he views with nothing but contempt: it is Catholicism looked at through the eyes of a sectarian.   

I could have chosen many of his videos to prove my point  but have decided to concentrate on just two, the first on a "personal relationship with our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ", or a "relationship with Jesus", which is an absolutely central theme; at least, it is to me. 
Before criticising what he says, let us look at what he doesn't say.   What have Popes John Paul II, Pope Benedict II, and the present Pope Francis said about the Charismatic Movement?   He requires us to agree with the popes, but, when talking about "a personal relationship with Jesus Christ" which is part of the normal vocabulary of the Charismatic Renewal, no mention is made of the fact that all three popes have expressed agreement on the value of that movement.  It is as though the Charismatic Renewal does not exist. Pope Francis only said recently that the Charismatic Renewal is God's gift to the Church, along with many others as well, of course.

Then there is ecumenism, something of great importance to all three popes, as well as the Vatican Council.   He quotes Pope Francis that we cannot have Jesus without the Catholic Church; but this must be seen in the light of the strong relationship he had with evangelicals in Buenos Aires and his clear commitment to ecumenism as pope, especially with the Orthodox.   When ecumenism is ignored, then these statements from the pope about the necessity of the Church are simply misunderstood.  

 Pope Francis was actually prayed over by Evangelicals at his request before leaving Buenos Aires to be elected pope, certainly the first pope-to-be ever to do this.

One incident in the World Youth Day in Rio that did not get into the papers was told me by some Dominican Sisters who were there.   The Pope was going from one WYD activity to another, and they happened to pass an Evangelical chapel that was in full swing.   He stopped the car and entered.   They must have been surprised to see the Pope enter the chapel.   He spoke a few words to the congregation and asked them to pray for him and then left to continue his journey.  At least, that is what two American Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia told me, as they travelled back to America via Peru.

 Here is a short article from First Things on the relation between Pope Francis and Evangelicals - there are other similar articles by both Catholics and Protestants.

Luis Palau, an Argentine-born evangelist who has in many ways taken up the mantle of Billy Graham, speaks of his friendship with Pope Francis:
One day I said to him, ‘You seem to love the Bible a lot,’ and he said, ‘You know, my financial manager [for the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires] … is an evangelical Christian.’ I said, ‘Why would that be?’ And he said, ‘Well, I can trust him, and we spend hours reading the Bible and praying and drinking maté [an Argentine green tea].’ People do that with their friends, share and pass the mate, and every day when he was in town, which was often, after lunch he and his financial manager would sit together, read the Bible, pray, and drink maté. To me, he was making a point [about his relationship with evangelicals] by telling me that: trust and friendship.
Palau predicts that Pope Francis’ facility with Evangelical-style spontaneous prayer will shape his papacy:

You know he knew God the father personally. The way he prayed, the way he talked to the Lord, was of a man who knows Jesus Christ and was very spiritually intimate with the Lord. It’s not an effort [for him] to pray. He didn’t do reading prayers; he just prayed to the Lord spontaneously. It is a sign that good things will happen worldwide in the years of his papal work.
Francis’ spontaneity—already on display in the first days of his papacy—resonates with Evangelical Protestants but is in its way deeply Catholic. As R.R. Reno observed on Francis’ election, Jesuits “break the rules,” which helps explain why Francis “took the name of the most severe critic of the papacy before Martin Luther [and] bowed to receive the crowd’s blessing.” Protestants see one of their own in the new pope, which might prompt a Catholic to say that much of what we see as Protestant can be found more fully realized and rightly oriented in the heart of the Church.
 Such a statement as that quoted by Michael Voris that it is impossible to have Jesus Christ without the Catholic Church can be interpreted in two ways.   It can be interpreted exclusively, that only in the Catholic Church as an institution is there grace, and outside there is none.   This view was condemned by Pope Pius XII when he excommunicated Fr Feeney, a Jesuit, for saying exactly that.   The other is Catholic teaching, the one held by Pius XII and Vatican II, and is inclusive.   It is that anyone who has a relationship with Christ is also related to the Church, even if he does not realise this, even if he can't stand the Catholic Church, because the Church is Christ's body inseparable from its head. Hence, we are all brothers and sisters and already belong to one another, whether we like it or not: it is the work of the Holy Spirit, not ours.   Pope Francis treats Protestants as brothers and sisters in this way, and he finds it natural to ask them to pray for him as he prays for them.

  Because Michael Voris does not make this distinction, his statement is - to use his own vocabulary -  ambiguous and murky.   We are now ready to comment directly on this video.

He says that we must treat the phrase "a personal relationship with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" with much caution because, in it, there is more emphasis on the human being than on Jesus Christ.

This is not the case if the "personal relationship with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" is genuine, authentic.  I am sure that Michael Voris will recognise that a person talking of this relationship with Jesus can do so authentically.  It is of the very nature of a relationship with Christ that we put Christ first, so that "Christ lives in me".   It is also true that great emphasis on Christian Joy can be authentic too: there was joy in the eyes of the Roman martyrs as they went to their deaths.   There was a wild, "happy clappy" joy at the beginning of Sunday Mass as the congregation greeted the entrance of St Basil and St Augustine in the time of the Fathers, so much so that they had difficulty starting!   Joy is the theme of the first apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium.

 That both the phrase "personal relationship with Jesus" and the emphasis on Christian joy are used authentically has been recognised by Pope Francis and his two predecessors in their approval of the Charismatic Renewal and the World Youth Day, both of which are characterised by expressions of joy.

However, I must admit that there is a relationship with Christ that is too egocentric to be real; and there is a joy that is a mere reaction to being immersed in a crowd, with sentimental music, preachers with great acting skills, a holy atmosphere etc, conversions that don't last; but there are real, stable conversions too, even in evangelical mega-churches.

   Once is is admitted that there are people with a profound Christian joy that arises from a genuine relationship with Christ, whether they be Catholics, Orthodox or Protestant, who is Michael Voris to judge?   In fact, the Desert Fathers were very much afraid of the sin of judging others.   They knew that, in our way to sanctity, each level of Christian life has its own typical sin.   The same God, they said, who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not judge."   We do not have the authority to judge others , but it is the typical sin of those who are seeking holiness without yet loving God  with everything they have and are, and without yet loving their neighbour as Christ loves him, and that means us.   They taught that it is one of the easiest sins to commit, but that it can render our own Christianity inauthentic.   So, watch out, Michael Voris!

Another question I would like to put to Michael Voris is, why pick on those who speak of a personal relationship with Christ for criticism?   What can be said of evangelical campaigns can also be said of Lourdes - though, for me, I love the authenticity of Lourdes; but that does not mean I believe in every pilgrim who goes there; and people can be moved in a superficial way on pilgrimage.  Moreover, conservative, traditionalist Catholics can also live inauthentic Christian lives. We all can!

  It is quite usual for someone who begins his spiritual life with a superficial imitation of other people; but, when the moment of grace arrives, becomes authentic.   It is true, in fact, that all of us are inauthentic to the degree we are not yet saints.  We move from inauthentic to authentic as we grow in holiness, as do "faithful Catholics".   We are not in a position to say we are not like other people: we are, but know God loves us!   That is the only thing we can be sure of, but it is Good News indeed.

In the light of all this, people who talk of "we traditional Catholics" as though they are a cut above the rest are, at best, simply immature and, at worst, pharisees.   When our religion is not shot through with humble love, the fruit of prayer, it becomes, as Pope Francis has said, a mere ideology. St Gregory of Nyssa puts it more strongly, "Orthodoxy without charity is the religion of the devil."   Think about it: the devil KNOWS the whole Catholic faith, but he knows it without love.   This love embraces the whole of the human race, and is completely incompatible with contempt for whole classes and groups of people.

In my next post on "What is wrong with Michael Voris?"   we shall look at his version of Pope Francis as found in a recent video.

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