“Episcopal Sodomy: Communist Homosexual Infiltrators” — that headline blared across the homepage of ChurchMilitant.com on July 31.
A click led to an article expounding a conspiracy theory that Joseph Stalin planted more than a thousand homosexuals in Catholic seminaries in the 1920s and ‘30s, a subversive action that directly led to “the massive, near-sudden acceptance of homosexuality among the [Catholic] clergy over the past 20 or so years.”
It continues, addressing today’s Catholic clergy, “In fact, would any of you like to explain why the lay faithful should not think that some of you are the second generation of those original homosexual Communist infiltrators bent on the Church’s destruction?”
The piece was penned by former Detroit television reporter Michael Voris, who has admitted to previously living “a life of live-in relationships with homosexual men” through much of his 20s and 30s. Voris founded St. Michael’s Media, a digital television studio, in 2006, and in 2008 became a partner in Church Militant’s forerunner, Real Catholic TV, an online Catholic “news” outlet bent on attacking the Catholic Church for its perceived liberalism, spreading anti-LGBT falsehoods and hate, and, in recent years, supporting the agenda of President Donald Trump.
Church Militant focuses on homosexuality with an intensity and frequency bordering on obsessive. On Monday of this week its homepage featured multiple headlines related to the topic: “Cdl. O’Malley Launches Inquiry Into Gay Misconduct at Seminary,” “Milwaukee Archbishop Condemns LGBT Retreat,” “DOWNPLAYING THE CRISIS: Homo-apologists come out in force,” “Episcopal Sodomy: Exposing the Enablers,” “Missouri Bishop: Homosexuality at Root of Abuse Crisis.”
Church Militant also endorses so-called reparative therapy, or gay conversion therapy, the thoroughly debunked practice that seeks to “cure” homosexuals, and perpetuates the lie connecting homosexuality with pedophilia.
Though Church Militant’s target audience is ultra-orthodox Catholics who believe the modern Catholic Church has lost its way (particularly since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, which traditionalists believe liberalized the church).
This was on view at Church Militant’s recent men’s conference, titled “Strength and Honor,” in an Embassy Suites in a northern Detroit suburb surrounded by office parks the first weekend of August. In the opening talk by Voris, titled “Hate is a Family Value,” he spoke of how true Catholic men must “hate the lie and the consequences of the lie,” (one lie being “sodomy is marriage,” according to Voris), declaring “the biggest place you have to confront it is within the church, with other Catholics, because they’ve been lied to for generations. Since 1960, you’ve been lied to.”
Later that afternoon, Simon Rafe, an executive producer for Church Militant, proclaimed, “I’m the point of the spear in the battle for the soul of the church!”
Despite the seemingly narrow demographic Church Militant’s content — multiple videos and articles daily — targets, its popularity has soared, particularly in the age of Donald Trump, whom Church Militant unabashedly supports. It has claimed an audience in excess of 1.5 million views a month, has nearly 200,000 followers on Facebook and over 50,000 subscribers on its YouTube channel.
Church Militant’s hard-right political focus and cheerleading for Donald Trump is no doubt responsible for a portion of the site’s traffic. During the 2016 presidential campaign, it called Hillary Clinton (often referred to as “Killary”) “a tool of Satan. … She has no fear of God. She has no love for the supernatural. Like her whole rotten, stinking Democratic Party of sodomy-loving, baby-slaughtering, child-perverting, communism-embracing, anti-God fellow travelers, the devil is her father.”
Meanwhile, Church Militant compared Donald Trump with Constantine, who “ended the persecution against the Church, and a year later elevated the Church to the level of preferred religion of the empire.” Voris muses, “Heaven has certainly used other earthly rulers in the past for Heaven’s end — good and bad rulers.”
Church Militant’s vitriol towards the modern Catholic Church and penchant for no-holds-barred attacks has earned it criticism from church members and Catholic institutions alike. In 2017, a blogger at the National Catholic Reporter wrote a post titled “Church Militant’s nonsense not authentically Catholic,” saying, “They invert Lincoln’s call: ‘With malice toward none, with charity for all.’ They dish out malice to all and offer charity to none. … Voris makes lots of assertions, but he doesn’t have two theological pennies to rub together to save his life. There is none of the subtlety that must attend all forms of human knowing, and still less any humility of the kind that is appropriate when discussing the mysteries of God.”
An anonymous blogger using a pseudonym who says he interned at Church Militant wrote that he believed “They were revolutionaries who were going to save the Church from the jaws of the wolves in cardinal’s [sic] clothing…” but after a few months working for Voris, he concluded, “They have literally made businesses out of bashing the clergy, and when no controversy can be found, they simply invent it to cause intrigue, even going so far as to accuse a holy and faithful man [referring to Pope Benedict] of faking illness to abandon us.”
“They appeal to a very small group of ultra-right-wing Catholics, but they also make a lot of noise,” says Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest, author, and editor at large for the Jesuit magazine America. “They traffic in hatred. They’re so Catholic they barely seem Christian.”
Becoming Church Militant
“The only way to prevent a democracy from committing suicide is to limit the vote to faithful Catholics,” Voris asserted on Real Catholic TV in 2010. “The only way to run a country is by benevolent dictatorship, a Catholic monarch who protects his people from themselves and bestows on them what they need, not necessarily what they want.”
Voris subsequently issued a vague apology for that declaration, but it’s illustrative of the extremes he and his organization espouse, positions which caused his local Archdiocese of Detroit to distance itself from Voris’s organization nearly since its inception.
In 2008, not long after Voris’s St. Michael’s Media began providing the content for Real Catholic TV, the Archdiocese of Detroit issued a press release noting that Voris had “requested approval of its media enterprise and programming,” but “the matter with St. Michael’s Media remains unresolved; it is not an approved apostolate” and “RealCatholicTV.com has yet to present itself or receive approval of its media enterprise from the Detroit archdiocese,” therefore “the catechetical presentations and the interpretations of Catholic teachings or positions presented by St. Michael’s Media and/or RealCatholicTV … cannot be approved or endorsed by the archdiocese at this time.”
In December 2011, the archdiocese escalated its criticism, noting, “The Church encourages the Christian faithful to promote or sustain a variety of apostolic undertakings but, nevertheless, prohibits any such undertaking from claiming the name Catholic without the consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority,” and saying Voris had been informed that the archdiocese “does not regard them as being authorized to use the word ‘Catholic’ to identify or promote their public activities.”
After another statement from the Archdiocese of Detroit in January 2012 reiterating its objection to Voris’s organization using the word “Catholic,” Real Catholic TV changed its name in June to ChurchMilitant.TV in conjunction with a move into a new television studio.
The phrase “Church Militant,” while sounding militaristic, is part of an early Catholic construct, wherein those in heaven are the Church Triumphant, those in purgatory the Church Penitent, with the Church Militant being those on earth waging spiritual warfare within themselves. Still, Voris’s organization seems particularly focused on the name’s militancy, as when he stated at the recent men’s conference, “It’s perfectly okay to hate, if you’re hating the right way, because it’s motivated for a love of truth — Jesus Christ’s truth.”
“They’re not an official church group, but they certainly portray themselves as if they are,” says Father Martin, “and that was one of the reasons behind the removal of the name ‘Catholic.’”
Church Militant and homosexuality
In a Church Militant video on April 21, 2016 titled “Limiting God,” Voris told viewers, “a situation has developed that I must fill you in on. It involves the sins of my past life all committed prior to my reversion to the Catholic faith.”
The motivation for his announcement? “We have it on very good authority from various sources that the New York archdiocese is collecting and preparing to quietly filter out details of my past life with the aim of publicly discrediting me, this apostolate and the work here.”
Voris continues, “I will now reveal that for most of my years in my thirties, confused about my own sexuality, I lived a life of live-in relationship with homosexual men. … In a large portion of my twenties, I also had frequent sexual liaisons with both adult men and adult women. … I abhor all these sins.”
The Archdiocese of New York denied Voris’s allegation that it was seeking to out his past, a spokesman telling the Catholic Herald, “It is absolutely, 100 percent untrue that the archdiocese was collecting and preparing to release anything concerning him personally or his website.”
The content of Voris’s admission would seem to have colored his perspective on homosexuality and had an influence on the immense amount of anti-LGBT propaganda and untruths Church Militant publishes.
“They’re obsessed with it,” says Father Martin. “Michael Voris has said publicly that he is a former gay person, so you don’t have to be Sigmund Freud to understand all that.”
In a 2015 article on Church Militant titled, “Is Homosexuality an Addiction?” the author states, “The homosexual addict is usually cross-addicted. This means that he does not limit himself to compulsive sexual activity, but often becomes involved in pedophilia, transvestitism, sadomasochism (S&M), hard-core pornography and other horrors.”
Another article from 2015, “Priest Sex Abuse is All About Homosexuality,” asserts, “The homosexual subculture has always involved sexual attraction to youths … [a]nd evidence shows homosexuals abuse children at far higher rates than heterosexuals.”
Church Militant has also advocated for so-called reparative therapy, better known as gay conversion therapy, which seeks to “cure” homosexuals of their gayness. After the Southern Poverty Law Center sued a New Jersey-based conversion therapy organization and won, the court ruling that Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing (JONAH) must cease its operations, Church Militant decried the ruling, calling the plaintiffs “guilty of dishonesty.”
A 2017 article titled “Gay Lobby Demonizes Reparative Therapy” took the controversy to a new level, quoting “a psychologist and Christian marriage counselor” who noted: “The political agenda for gay rights will crumble if it is proven that reparative therapy works and homosexuality is not an inborn trait. ‘If people benefit from therapy, then it implies they were sick. If they can change, then they don’t need civil rights,’ she says.”
Church Militant is similarly vile when discussing transgender people. A 2017 article titled “Top Pediatrician: Transgender Ideology is Child Abuse” refers to Michelle Cretella as the “top pediatrician” in the headline — Cretella is the president of the American College of Pediatricians, an anti-LGBT hate group which opposes adoption for LGBT couples, endorses conversion therapy for LGBT youth and calls transgender health care for youth child abuse.
Church Militant vs Father Martin
After the 2016 massacre at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, in which 49 people were killed by a gunman, Father James Martin found himself “disappointed that more Catholic leaders did not offer support to the LGBT community,” he wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post.
That disappointment led Father Martin to write the book Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity, published in June 2017.
The book, Father Martin tells Hatewatch, is “based on the gospel, where Jesus asks us to reach out to people who feel the most marginalized — and there’s no one more marginalized in the church than the LGBT Catholic. [The book] goes against no church teaching, it has the approval of my Jesuit superiors, it’s been endorsed by cardinals and archbishops and bishops, and it’s a very mild call for dialogue and prayer. It has nothing to do with same-sex marriage or same-sex relations.”
Nonetheless, he says, “That was too much for Church Militant. Within a week or two of the book coming out — you can see the videos they have of me as heretic and homosexualist and sodomite and the other words they use. It’s hateful stuff.”
Church Militant launched a crusade against Father Martin which continues to today (a search of the site over the past week reveals six articles where Father Martin is mentioned, all disparagingly).
Three scheduled speaking appearances by Father Martin at Catholic institutions were canceled after the institutions were deluged with objections subsequent to Church Militant campaigning against Martin.
“Father James Martin is lying to the Catholic world,” begins a video on Church Militant. “[H]e is also lying about the whole gay scene. He lies in presenting it as just ‘different’ from the normal life of heterosexuality and marriage and so forth. … He also advances the rotten lie that someone who struggles with this Cross has no hope that it will ever end — that they were born this way, and they just have to embrace it and live a holy gay life. What a filthy liar!”
“It’s hatred, that’s what it is,” says Father Martin. “They’re trying to make people frightened. There’s a line in the New Testament that says ‘perfect love drives out fear;’ what they’re doing is perfect fear drives out love. What they’re trying to do, consciously or unconsciously, is make people afraid of LGBT people, afraid of sodomites, afraid of me, afraid of ‘homosexualists,’ and just afraid. They’ve poisoned the well — people say, ‘there must be something to what they’re saying. If they’re raising these questions, there must be something wrong with it.’ They do it in such an artful way that it seems reasonable to people.”
Photo by AP Images/Paul Sancya.