Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Vortex of Plagiarism?

Yesterday, Church Militant's Michael Voris produced a Vortex episode entitled Schismatic Before God treating the issue of the canonical status of the SSPX. It's the second installment in a series focused on the SSPX, and Church Militant's coverage of the matter is scheduled to climax with the release of an in-depth, investigative journalism-style exposé this Friday. Why, exactly, Michael Voris has chosen to write "SSPX♥SCHISM" upon Church Militant's banner is anyone's guess. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I suppose he is concerned with exposing what he sees as a real danger to souls. It's a bit like lecturing on the importance of hand-washing while a chainsaw-wielding lunatic is on the loose, but ... whatever.

As a matter of editorial policy, I try to refrain from publicly engaging the thorny issue of the canonical status of the SSPX on this blog, as my work here is focused on presenting orthodox Catholic educational material from before Second Vatican Council and all the ugliness which transpired in its wake. I try to put into practice what Mr. Michael Matt of The Remnant has been pleading in favor of for some time now: bringing together traditionally-minded Catholics of various stripes for the advance of authentic Catholicism. And judging by the diverse backgrounds of the individuals who have reached out to me in private communication to express their support for what I do here, it's an effective policy.

Nonetheless, here I am, talking about Michael Voris and the SSPX. *sigh*

I will not comment in any way upon the factual accuracy of Mr. Voris' presentation. I really don't want to get into any of that. Why bring it up at all, then? For a completely different reason:

Like any Catholic with his wits about him, I really enjoy listening to the sermons hosted by AudioSancto, as well as its inheritors, Romans10Seventeen, Regina Prophetarum and Luke1128. I like them so much, in fact, that I've listened to many of them several times. They're often so dense that they warrant a second or even a third listening. One such sermon is entitled End Times, and was delivered in two installments towards the end of November 2014. I must have listened to that sermon at least four times now. It's a good one.

Michael Voris must have thought so, too.

Roughly six contiguous paragraphs of Mr. Voris' presentation from yesterday appear to have been lifted - nearly verbatim - from the second installment of that sermon, delivered on 30.11.2014. As far as I can see, no mention is made of this rather extensive and direct borrowing; the transcript lists only Michael Voris, S.T.B. as its author, and there is no indication that Mr. Voris is quoting someone else.

The sizable portion of the text in question is presented below. The audio file containing the original sermon can be found here. The lifted portion begins at 25:20 and runs to about 28:22.

Let's look at two sources. First, St. Augustine, then St. Alphonsus, before looking specifically at Canon 751. 
It is a manifest rule that one ought in no wise secede from the Catholic communion, that is from the body of Christians throughout the world, by the establishment of a separate communion, even on the admission of evil and sacrilegious men. 
Saint Augustine makes perfectly clear that even with evil and sacrilegious men present in the Church - and we certainly have an abundance of those now - we cannot and must not under any circumstances separate ourselves from the unity of the Church. Notice that St. Augustine is not citing canon law, and the reason for this is that schism is essentially a question of moral theology, not a legal question. Schism is not something that comes into being by a legal declaration. 
When speaking of heresy, St. Alphonsus speaks of "heretics before God" - in other words, of someone who is a heretic but has not been legally declared so by a solemn judgment of the Church. The idea here is that the sin of heresy precedes the judgment of the Church that the man actually is a heretic. And even if the Church never got around in a particular case of judging some man, he would still be a heretic before God - and how God views it is all that matters at the end of the day. 
The situation with schism is analogous. We could speak of "schismatics before God" - in other words, of people who are schismatic but have not been legally declared so by a solemn judgment of the Church. The sin of schism precedes the judgment of the Church, just as the evil of murder precedes the judgment of a court. 
If a group or even an individual, while keeping the True Faith, nevertheless voluntarily, knowingly and deliberately separated himself from the unity of the Church by refusing to submit to the authority of the Pope and/or to remain in communion with those who are subject to him, he or they would still be schismatic even if the Church never got around to making a solemn declaration; they would be schismatics before God.  
So schism at its heart, principally and essentially, is a question of moral theology, not of canon law. One notable aspect of the particular evil spirit behind the sin of schism is that it gives the adherents of this sin an impression, which is really an illusion, of purity and piety. It helps them feel holy and good about maintaining doctrinal and moral purity, and at the same time to feel justified in separating themselves from obedience to the Pope or communion with other Catholics, as if they might somehow become tainted by these sort of associations. This is exactly how the schismatic churches of the Orthodox community feel about Rome, for example.

Even a cursory comparison of the text of the transcript provided by Michael Voris and the text spoken on the sermon recording reveals that the two are nearly identical. And yet there is nothing in Mr. Voris' text to indicate that he has borrowed - rather extensively - from someone else's work.

I realize that to suggest that a journalist has committed an act of gross plagiarism is serious business. I do not want to unfairly damage the man's reputation. It is certainly possible that this was an honest oversight on the part of Michael Voris. In fact, given his extensive experience in the field of professional journalism, one is almost bound to assume that the plagiarism was inadvertent rather than gross, and that there was no real intent to deceive. And it might not be his work at all; it is conceivable that the script was prepared by one of the other reporters on the Church Militant staff, and Mr. Voris just read it off the teleprompter. It happens.

Regardless of how it happened, however, the situation needs rectifying. It is, after all, only fitting that the good and holy priests behind projects such as AudioSancto get at least some recognition for their hard work.

*** UPDATE ***

I just received notification from Church Militant that the following has now been added to the transcript in question:
Portions of this script were taken with permission from this sermon.
I understand that changing the actual video recording of the transcript to reflect the fact that a sizable chunk of it was taken from another source would represent some technical difficulty, so I suppose a disclaimer is as good a rectification as we can hope to see.


  1. All I know is "Vortex of Plagiarism" is the best post title I've seen in about a million years. :)

  2. Feelings and associations are pretty much Michael Voris and crew's operative point of view. They don't understand schism, but they try to redefine what "holy obedience" means to an obtuse degree. "Holy Obedience" does not mean "spiritually blind obedience".

    Also, the SSPX was formed under the Holy See. It was not formed to go against it. Nice try. Did any readers catch how Michael's fellow Ivy League sister use the phrase "material schism"? Lol. They're reaching, but why now? Why right, smack in the middle between two bizarrer, heretical documents from the Pope and the upcoming Synod? When the Synod Hits the Fan, we know what "side" he'll be on. Ughhh...

  3. Thanks for pointing this out. I've just listened to the good priest's sermon. What a calm, clear, orthodox presentation of this whole issue. And what a contrast to Michael Voris' harsh commentary on the same issue.
    I'm shocked that the treatments are so very different. The priest lays out the truth and backs it up. Voris lays down an uncharitable tirade. From the priest I get teaching, to the point where I am coming to a different understanding of the Society of Pius X. From Voris I get off-putting nastiness which makes me want to take up the Pius X cause!!

  4. Makes one wonder what Voris is hiding under that hair.

  5. I've been listening to CM for almost two years now and really thought he was a solid Catholic and that Church Militant was conservative Catholic. What I'm find out now is that he's afraid to come out and state the obvious. And, when the pope was here, what did he do? Run off to New Zealand??? He stated about a month or two ago that CM was going to be covering the Pope's visit, then he goes into hiding?? I'm glad I found this website!

  6. Dear Anon,

    Church Militant did some very good work in their earlier incarnations, and they continue to deliver some solid reporting on isolated topics. But they have chosen a policy of willful ignorance when it comes to Pope Francis, and intentionally alienated key sectors of the alternative Catholic media, to the detriment of their otherwise respectable apostolate. And their treatment of the issue of the SSPX has been simply embarassing, to put it nicely. It's amazing to me that Michael Voris and Co. can make exceedingly fine distinctions when it comes to the canonical status of the SSPX, but finds the same impossible as far as fair criticism of the Pope is concerned. It's sad, but it would seem that the success of their apostolate coupled with the desire to grow into a fully-blown media outlet has led to their quickly becoming a caricature of the very establishment they first sought to expose.

    I'm pleased to hear that you enjoy the articles on this blog!


  7. I was disgusted by Michael Voris's tirade against Pope Benedict, saying that Benedict is immoral for resigning the papacy and opening up the Church to the chaos that is going on now from the Synod. This is not only a nonsensical assessment of our current situation but also a grave sin on Voris's part against charity. Boris claims he does not want to criticize the Pope because he thinks it is a sin on the part of the faithful to do so, so he proceeds to split hairs and declare that it is perfectly fine to rip to shreds a "former" Pope, since he is not currently on the Chair of Peter. Someone ought to explain to Voris that "once a pope always a pope", and also that there is question as to whether heretical Francis is really a valid pope, based on the canvassing that went on between some cardinals to depose Benedict and put "their man" in to "modernize" the Church, a practice which JP2 condemned with the punishment of excommunication, and the excommunicated cannot vote in the election of a pope.


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