by Antonio Ghislieri
Special Correspondent for FromRome.Info
Voris: Warrior against Schism?
As many readers of FromRome.Info may already know, Mr. Michael Voris, STB, founder of the Church Militant journalism enterprise, devoted a special, post-newshour broadcast last Friday dedicated to examining four propositions concerning who may or may not currently hold the Chair of Peter. https://www.churchmilitant.com/video/episode/live-is-bergoglio-the-pope. Without claiming to be a comprehensive analysis of that production, my report offers a number of critical observations about what transpired during it.
Mr. Voris was most transparent about his motivation for his special production: the convert from Anglicanism, Taylor Marshall, PhD had, on his own YouTube channel, shared publicly his belief that Pope Bergoglio had forfeited the Chair by his recent claim that heretics and apostates yet abide in the Communion of Saints. Dr. Taylor Marshall’s opinion, declared Mr. Voris, was scandalous: leading souls out of the true Church and into the embrace of the schismatic SSPX was something he, Voris, could not let to stand without challenge. Though he claimed to be reluctant to do so, Mr. Voris ended his presentation with what amounted to an invitation to public debate between himself and Dr. Marshall on the matter, a debate for which Church Militant would pick up the entire tab.
Despite the — at moments, heated — zeal for “truth,” Mr. Voris demonstrated repeatedly his own inability to maintain both theological and canonical standards for the arguments he rejects and the ones he accepts.
He dismissed the argument that Benedict XVI remains pope with a condemnation of the distinction between “munus” and “ministerium” as “the stuff that rises to full-fledged conspiracy theory” — without ever examining the canons which demonstrate this argument. Rather, he claims that Pope Benedict has himself dismissed these canonical arguments, so the matter ends there.
Moreover, Voris averred, any claim that Benedict has tacitly allowed a conclave and new papacy to arise whilst knowing himself yet to be true Pontiff, would make Benedict complicit in making the Church to collapse as his death would bring it to the brink of having no legitimate cardinals to elect a replacement.
Let’s stop there for a moment.
It would appear that Mr. Voris contends that a future consequence contradicts a present circumstance as impossible. Hmm. It is understandable that one would want to follow an argument to a conclusion, but doing so does create a number of temptations — including that of denying present reality: a great many folk — perhaps even Pope Benedict himself — may never have anticipated him to arrive upon his 95th birthday; indeed, such is an extremely rare phenomenon amongst the successors of Peter. However, Mr. Voris does not even consider the possibility that Benedict could outlive Bergoglio, nor what may attend such a sequence. This is a grave oversight, for it fails to take into account that — to quote a notorious prelate — “the Lord of surprises” might just spring one on us all.
By Voris’ judgment, that should Benedict be sitting as “secret Pope,” he would be the most wicked — wicked — wicked of men, for causing such grave confusion, he implies is that a) Benedict couldn’t possibly lead everyone into such confusion, b) therefore his “resignation” [sic] must have been valid.
There are no few curiosities about this “evaluation,” if it be apt to call it such. In first place, it dismisses what Benedict did not do nine years ago as standing in for the opposite. This is particularly ironic, given how very much Voris will stand on Canon Law to condemn the judgment of Taylor Marshall on heresy. Secondly, is it accurate to say that the only validly-appointed Cardinal-Elector would be dead or past 80 when God should gather Benedict to Himself? — Benedict isn’t dead, yet! — so such remains to be seen. Let’s not say the sky is falling until it actually is. Thirdly, have we not received any mystical insight regarding a future conclave in the midst of chaos and that Sts. Peter and Paul themselves will have a role in settling the solution? Why not trust that Christ will provide for such an eventuality? Is not the Church being purified by the manifestation of so much error?
As regards relying on Benedict’s assertions that the abdication was intentional and valid: Voris did not say that he personally witnessed these; how reliable are the claims that such assertions have been made?
Moving on to the other possibilities concerning who is pope: Voris quite validly observes that none of the Cardinals going into the “conclave” in 2013 publicly objected to either the legitimacy of the abdication, nor the liceity of the Conclave. What that observation does not take into account is the characteristic which attends any wedding later found to have been null. The marriage — especially to protect the rights of any children it may have produced — is referred to as “putative.”
Voris does not for a moment consider the possibility that the Cardinals — the many of whom are not, it would seem, Latin scholars — did not question that Benedict effected what he seemed to do in consistory. Now it is entirely understandable that one would be scandalized by such an act; to deceive not only the Church, but even the world as to who is truly Peter does, indeed, seem to be gravely wicked — and especially when our Lord had given us explicit instruction on the Eighth Commandment (Mt 5:37). What needs to be examined — and Voris does not concede either the need, nor possibility of the need to do so — is whether Benedict’s “abdication” was, in fact valid. If he intended it to be such, then he did not execute it; if he did not have this intention, might we be re-visiting the scenario of 1 Kings 22?
As to Voris’ “Burke-is-my-buddy” assurance that the “greatest living canonist” would surely have intervened had something been askew with the actual decree: let us not forget that that man of many silk yards promised years ago that a papal correction would be forthcoming were the dubia in wake of Amoris Laetitia ignored for too long. Mercifully, the Church hasn’t been holding its breath for that outcome. Nor has the former Prefect of the Segnatura Apostolica been willing to engage in any public explanation as to why those who recognize the difference between “munus” and “ministerium” as being at once relevant and substantial are incorrect in their thinking.
Voris also claims that not one bishop — i.e., no member of the hierarchy — has disputed the validity of either the “abdication,” or the Conclave. This claim is false and that Voris has enjoyed a personal interview with one of two who have quite public about their strong reservations in this regard makes one question just how selective is his memory: for the Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, TX, Msgr. René Garcia, a Canon lawyer in his own right, has made no secret of his finding wanting the 11 February 2013 decree on his personal website. Voris may not be fluent in Polish, but has not retired Ardhbishop Bishop Jan Pawel Lenga likewise given voice to the same concern?
With respect to the remainder of the Voris presentation, there ought be attention drawn to his extraordinarily shoddy discussion of “divine and Catholic Faith.” In this section, Voris confuses the act of Supernatural Faith itself with doctrine that is de fide and de fide definita. His handle on these concepts is so wildly incompetent as to make one shudder that Voris enjoys possession of a pontifical degree and a signal of just how much trust anyone ought place in his judgment of matters ecclesiastical. Such is enhanced when he demonstrates an inability to articulate the difference between invalid and illicit ordinations — as though apostolic succession were merely a matter of law and not of sacramental ontology.
For those with a memory serving, it wasn’t that many years ago that Voris condemned another layman’s criticisms of Bergoglio as “spiritual pornography,” leading souls astray from unity with Peter. Of course, that was then, this is now: whether he ever produced an apology to the fellow Catholic whom he slighted (now deceased) is by no means clear, but Voris’ makes no bones about his latter-day credentials as Bergoglian critic.
There is something disturbingly haughty about Voris’ brand of zeal: that he would have everyone believe that his way is not simply the way, but the Catholic way to go when defending the Faith, confronting error or resisting injustice. No one, he claims, will be held accountable for being mistaken about who is or is not pope when the hierarchy hasn’t ruled on the matter. Was the same true back in long-ago Constantinople when it took the laity to denounce that bishop who denied the divinity of Christ? Is it true when a priest who decides that while “signing” Mass for the deaf has a laywoman say all his words — including those of Consecration — that the Faithful don’t need to recognize that their Sunday Mass obligation has been compromised? To whom much is given, much is expected and Mr Voris is in no position to vouch for universal inculpability on a matter of truth.
While avoiding the presumption of counting one’s self amongst the Elect, one must concede that false prophets deceive many (Mt 24:24). How can Voris defend the proposition that the man who tampers with the Catechism to suit his own purposes, is not giving the impression of invoking infallibility if — as Voris wants to claim — Bergolio is “just” (note: this is the English adverb, not the adjective) a “bad” pope?
It is interesting that yet another Catholic layman with an online apostolate has moved in the direction of recognizing that the Petrine munus was not renounced in 2013. Patrick Coffin, though recognizing he may well be greatly ostracized by doing so, has laid out evidence on his webpage’s video to the proposition that the Bergoglian “papacy” is a fraud (https://www.patrickcoffin.media/seven-pieces-of-evidence-that-francis-is-an-antipope/).
The feast of the Chair of Peter grows nigh. May it please our Lord that its celebration may occasion holy wisdom within and for His Mystical Body.