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Two Defenses of Michael Voris [Updated]

August 18, 2010

My co-blogger Sam Rocha offers a “hesitant defense” of Michael Voris’ now deleted (!) video in which the RealCatholicTV host argued for a “benevolent dictatorship” and for granting only virtuous Catholics the right to vote. Sam acknowledges that Voris is “very confused” and “wants an America that never was: a Catholic Nation.” He also rightly considers the frightening possibilities of how Voris might separate “the sheep from the goats” and radically transform our democracy. Sam, however, also wants to acknowledge some legitimacy to Voris’ position: namely, that political freedom divorced from love results in its own kind of dictatorship. “I feel that we can forget that democracy and freedom are empty—and dangerous—without Gospel love,” he writes.

I agree with Sam that freedom without love is empty and dangerous and that love ought to guide our political decisions. I disagree with him, however, when he says “we need a Catholic Government.” At least, on the surface we would seem to disagree, as I suspect our positions may not be as radically divergent as they appear at first glance. A government does not need to be confessional in order to be ordered to something higher than itself. Morality, after all, is knowable through unaided reason. So are the dictates of love. A secular state, therefore, can be ordered toward love just as much as a theocratic state, and perhaps even more so. Rather than say we need a Catholic Government, I would say we need a moral government guided by and directed toward love.

Michael Voris himself acknowledges that he could have been a little more precise in the video he has since deleted. Specifically, he says that it would have been better for him to use the term “Catholic Monarchy” rather than “benevolent dictatorship.” He then says that his previous video was not meant to provide a battle plan for overcoming our secular humanistic government, but to point out that we already live under a “dictatorship of relativism.” He then spends the rest of his defense on a long, distracting rant about all the vile responses he received from what he calls “boo-birds” and “angry atheists.” He doesn’t address their actual arguments, nor does he acknowledge arguments against his video that came from Catholics. Most notably, Voris ignores the fact that he had said this hogwash in his previous video:

The only way to prevent a democracy from committing suicide is to limit the vote to faithful Catholics. Only a true Catholic nation, in fact, will survive — can survive — because only truly Catholic people will be the ones looking at God and not staring in the mirror. When they cast their votes, they cast them with an eye to what God desires, not fallen human nature.

With his silence here, Voris remains a defender of the power necessary to radically and fundamentally restructure our entire political system—and to decide who qualifies as a virtuous Catholic and can therefore possess voting rights. He remains, therefore, despite his clarification, an apologist for dictatorial power.

[Update]

Michael Voris has, since the publishing of this post, apologized and further clarified what he meant to say in his initial video, though his clarification seems more of a nearly complete change of story than a clarifying revision.

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9 Comments
  1. August 18, 2010 12:50 pm

    Kyle, thanks for this timely reply to my own post. I think the rub between us is in this:

    “A secular state, therefore, can be ordered toward love just as much as a theocratic state, and perhaps even more so.”

    I argued that the very dichotomy between “secular” and “theocratic” states is false. Both of them are theocracies, they are both religiously committed to what it is that they believe.

    They can’t both be right, though. Even if the “morality” guiding them may seem from the same cloth of natural law, the structure of a secular state is antithetical to the very notion of a guiding moral, or aesthetic, order.

    In my view of things, we need a theocracy. A postmodern theocracy of love.

  2. August 18, 2010 1:00 pm

    “A postmodern theocracy of love.”

    Good luck with that one. Which is not to say that I don’t think you’re right, just that the dream is eschatological or utopian.

  3. Matt Bowman permalink
    August 18, 2010 1:35 pm

    An even more benign statement could be proposed, one perhaps too far removed from the monarchist but I offer it nonetheless:
    “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people”
    “Religion and morality are necessary to good government, good order, and good laws”
    “it is impossible to govern the universe without the aid of a Supreme Being”
    “The belief in a God All Powerful, wise and good, is so essential to the moral order of the World and to the happiness of man, that arguments which enforce it cannot be drawn from too many sources.”
    “Can the liberties of a nation be sure when we remove their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people, that these liberties are the gift of God?”

  4. Matt Bowman permalink
    August 18, 2010 1:38 pm

    …and of course:
    “[Liberty] considers religion as the safeguard of morality, and morality as the best security of law and the surest pledge of the duration of freedom.”
    “I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her comodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there; in her fertile fields and boundless prairies; and it was not there; in her rich mines and her vast commerce, and it was not there. Not until I visited the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

  5. Blackadder permalink
    August 18, 2010 3:26 pm

    I thought the oddest thing about the Voris video was its lack of any reference to or engagement with the long history of Catholic thought on the subject. There’s a wealth of material from St. Thomas’ On Kingship to Centesimus Annus that deals with precisely the issues Voris discusses, yet there’s no indication in the video that he is even aware such stuff is out there.

  6. brettsalkeld permalink*
    August 18, 2010 4:19 pm

    “vocabulary challenged atheist set”?

    And I thought “vile” was an adjective?

    The defense is almost worse than the original.

  7. shane permalink
    August 18, 2010 7:59 pm

    Agreed with Blackadder. As I said in my previous comment, Voris’ approach is embarrassingly ahistorical. I think his failure here is an instinctive Americocentricism. What about (once) Catholic democracies like Ireland, Quebec, or Malta? There’s also no engagement with the post-war Christian Democracy movement or the thought of neo-Thomist philosophers like Jacques Maritain. It really is pathetic.

    I’m very uneasy about unqualified lay people giving what effectively amounts to public lectures on the Church’s social doctrine. This would never have been tolerated before the Second Vatican Council.

  8. August 19, 2010 12:53 am

    I’m very uneasy about unqualified lay people giving what effectively amounts to public lectures on the Church’s social doctrine.

    Aren’t we subjected to this perpetually on most Catholic blogs, including this one? ;-)

    (Agreed w/ Blackadder as well).

  9. Kurt permalink
    August 19, 2010 8:53 am

    I can join with Matt Bowman in appreciating the words he quotes. Virtue and morality are needed in democracy.

    But the next question then is if it is believed these virtues are lacking, what is to be done? Voris’ answer is to restrict the franchise to those he judges to have those virtues. That is where I part company.

    If virtue is lacking in our self-governing society, then the answer is not to take self-government away from those whom we believe lack virtue but to work to promote virtue in our society.

    Voris has now left the community of Constitutional Conservatives and has moved to a position so far Right, we have not otherwise seen it since we beat George III.

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