Michael Voris, John-Henry Westen, Taylor Marshall and Patrick Coffin

One runs Church Militant, one is the co-founder of Lifesite News, the other two don’t run their own media, but do have websites and a decent sized audience on Youtube.

What do these four men have in common? They are all traditionalist and all very critical of many aspects of the Catholic Church, in particular the clergy and even the Pope.

What else do those men have in common? They are converts or reverts to the Catholic faith.

I was thinking recently, that it does often seem to be people who converted or reverted to the Catholic Church who are the most critical of it. I don’t think I have seen a Catholic media organisation run by a cradle Catholic who has been a Catholic their entire life and never at any point left the faith, that is constantly criticising the Pope and the Catholic church. I’m not saying there are no cradle Catholics who are very critical of the Pope and Catholic Church, but I certainly can’t think of any prominent ones.

Does anyone else see the same connection?

Yes, it’s a phenomenon that also occurs within Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestantism. Oftentimes converts and reverts can assist in theological revitalisation by contributing their own charisms and/or by highlighting fruit-bearing areas that can be improved.

Sometimes, unfortunately, they also demonstrate what is termed by EO as ‘hyperdoxy’ or by Protestants as ‘cage stage’ wherein the convert or revert believes that he or she alone has rediscovered the true faith and that the beliefs, practices or faith of pre-existing members is, some way or another, grossly deficient.

Some of my EO friends have pointed out David Bentley Hart (a philosopher) as an example of an EO convert who seemingly believes that he is ‘More Orthodox’ and ‘More Canonical’ to the extent that he reserves the right to publicly challenge bishops and metropolitans.

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I think the National Catholic Reporter was founded by cradle Catholics. So was Commonweal, Call to Action, Catholics for Choice websites.
They criticize some popes, some bishops more than others. That’s true of the ones you mentioned, too.

Of course we have no way of knowing if someone else has left “the Faith” we can only observe if they left the Church.

Whether a website criticizes leaders is less important than whether they are refusing to affiliate with their local bishop. None of the ministries listed to my knowledge are affiliated with the Church, none is a Catholic ministry. (I don’t know about Mr. Coffin). I’m not referring to individuals but to incorporated programs or agencies.

An affiliated Catholic website may criticize leaders sometimes. I wouldn’t support an unaffiliated site even if they never criticized leaders.

Certainly in the case of Protestantism (for example Taylor Marshall converted to Catholicism from Protestantism) it almost makes some sense to me that they question so much about the Catholic Church, as that’s pretty much what Protestantism was founded on.

The ironic thing is when somebody like Marshall was a Protestant he probably questioned the Catholic Church and believed it was wrong in many areas, and now as a Catholic he does the same. I dare say it’s almost like a Protestant trait he has taken over with him, even after his conversion. I dare even more say there is a certain arrogance about it.

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I think Michael Voris doesn’t have much in common with anyone!

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Mr Marshall underwent a very interesting (if somewhat convoluted) spiritual discernment. He first attended Westminster Theological Seminary, which is a very conservative Reformed (i.e. “Calvinist”) institution. It was historically associated with the North American Fundamentalist theological movement, as many of its founding theologians had left Princeton Theological School which they felt had become too marked by theological liberalism (very similar to the sort of modernism against which the Catholic Church was combating at the time).

Mr Marshall was then ordained an Episcopal priest and his formation was at Nashotah House, a conservative Anglican seminary in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. The institution tends to embrace a peculiar sort of myopic Anglo-Catholicism which, at times, has the self-perception of being ‘More Catholic’ than (Roman) Catholics to the extent of celebrating Solemn High Mass and integrating many EF practices into their liturgy. It essentially becomes a game of one-upmanship. Mr Marshall even related a very odd story that, as an Episcopal priest, when he heard that Pope JP II had passed away, he broke the news to his wife (in Latin no less, papa mortuus est) and they both broke down crying.

With all that in mind, I know that Mr Marshall is quite a polarising figure, but I don’t consume much of his content (if any at all) to have much of committed opinion. His earlier writings tended to have a wonderfully thoughtful, broad and reflective perspective, and he was dispassionate in his analysis. But a lot of his later literature tends to be more combative and focussed upon domestic US political issues, which isn’t very relevant to me as a non-American.

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Converts or reverts are more likely to be very interested in issues regarding the Church, because they likely spent a lot of time struggling with some doubt or “seeking the truth” which ultimately led to their converting or reverting. A lot of cradles who never leave the Church also don’t think that hard about their faith or don’t have major issues with it. It’s sort of like how someone who has had marital problems to overcome often gets very “into” discussing or examining what makes a good marriage, whereas those people lucky to just have good marriages that worked pretty well without requiring a lot of thought or behavioral change don’t think so much about marriage because they don’t have to.

Also, a lot of these guys are so into the whole apologetics/ religion discussion thing that they want to build businesses, like media outlets, devoted to just that and do it all day for a living and make good money doing it. Controversy sells. If they were just writing about how much they loved everything the Church does, their blogs would be boring and they wouldn’t have much of an audience. They’ve all realized there’s a vein of dissatisfied Catholics out there who will buy what they’re selling if they tap into it. Like Voris realizes that a lot of Catholics have a problem with gays or with priests who act scandalously, so he focuses on that. Other subjects, like Pope Francis, Catholic masculinity etc also attract an audience of disgruntled Catholics. I’m too much of a cynic to believe that all these guys just wrote about what was most important to them personally and it just happened to draw an audience. They’re playing to the crowds, quite a bit.

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Yeah, I’ve noticed a lot of Catholic thought leaders going this way. I’ve joined a couple of online prayer groups that, when I joined, seemed focused primarily on prayer and maybe a little bit on traditional Catholicism (as opposed to modern, progressive etc). Now, with the election approaching, they’ve gone very political. I still stick around for the prayers, but I don’t care for the emphasis on politics even when I’m not having a huge disagreement with the positions taken. From time to time other people post that they don’t really like all the politics creeping in, but it’s like talking to a wall.

It’s almost becoming a set pattern that a priest or apologist starts out with a very general and well-accepted topic, like deepening one’s relationship with Jesus or developing a stronger prayer life, and draws an initial following, and then the bigger his following gets and the longer it goes on you start seeing other emphases coming more to the fore, whether it’s pro-gay, anti-gay, promoting TLM, promoting some model of how a Catholic man/ husband/ wife should act, criticizing the Pope, etc. There’s no graceful way to stand up and say, “Hey, I think it’s awesome that you’re promoting devotion to Mother Mary, but I don’t like all this ‘male headship’ stuff you push” or whatever.

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And the phenomenon of “hyperdoxia” ( what a great term) isn’t limited to laypeople — I’m looking at you, Fr. Z (formerly a Lutheran) who seems increasingly given to conspiracy theories, recently used material sourced from a contributor to Alex Jones, just published a letter - without comment - that called the COVID situation a “scamdemic,” is increasingly militant against the Ordinary Form, and in his blog on March 6 called Communion in the hand “appalling” even in the face of the viral spread. His most recent comment is that people who go to church but are seated in an auxiliary space because of social distancing and see Mass on a screen aren’t “morally present “ at Mass - which may be true in a technical sense but seems pretty insulting to those who have made the effort to actually go when so many are staying home, and who are separately seated through no fault of their own.

I find it very odd that you would group Patrick Coffin in with Voris and Marshall. I follow each of them, Patrick Coffin because I like his work, the other two in part out of curiosity and in part because they occasionally make very good points; and Coffin does not seem anywhere near as rad-trad, anti-pope as the other two. Most everything I’ve seen of his that criticizes Pope Francis has been well reasoned, and never extended into open denouncement like you see with Voris.

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A priest recently posted after a Michael Voris tweet that we shouldn’t take “Traditionist bloggers and grifters seriously”.

These types are a cancer on the Church. You can look up the Form 990 forms of these organizations and see there is a lot of money in playing these roles.

Controversy sells, plain and simple. Docility is not very interesting for our busy minds.

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While I am no fan of Voris, a priest who just graduated in 2018 is not an expert on all the past rot that has happened at seminaries, nor should he be making a blanket statement about all “traditionalist bloggers” or calling them “grifters” because it’s a gross overgeneralization, as well as uncharitable. Nor does he likely have knowledge of the experiences of 95 percent of all the new young priests in the world.

There are dozens of traditionalist bloggers out there who don’t begin to approach Voris level. Father “2-Years-a-Priest” would have done better to simply limit his criticism to Voris’ specific post, and hopefully when he has served as a priest for longer he will develop some better judgment in dealing with these things or maybe just not be posting on Twitter because he’ll be too busy.

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Converts and reverts (I’m a revert) are usually more dedicated to the faith than cradle Catholics. Not always true (Patrick Madrid is a great cradle Catholic), but the point is that converts and reverts RESEARCH the teachings of the Church and typically her history FAR MORE than cradle Catholics.

Most converts and reverts know more about the dogma, doctrine & history of the faith than cradle Catholics. And SOME OF THEM who have Masters Degrees or higher even know more Scripture, dogma, doctrine & history than the average priest (yes, this is scary). I don’t know how many times I’ve heard priests on a radio show or speaking event defer to a layman regarding a verse of Scripture.

Point is: converts & reverts are VERY IMPORTANT to our faith. Many of our best priests are converts / reverts too.

NOW: with that said, your idea of what the three of them have in common is really not the reason they do what they do. While I’m sure Dr. Scott Hahn & other famous converts shares many of their views, we don’t see him taking the same path.

  • Patrick Coffin (for example) used for to work for Catholic Answers, he was GREAT FOR THEM! He was an awesome radio host and great professional apologist. Dr. Taylor Marshall was a great apologist too.

  • Michael Voris is dedicated to exposing corruption inside the Catholic Church. He wasn’t always dedicated to this. He started his mission with evangelization & apologetics. But when the sex abuse scandals started to explode & he asked tough questions, he noticed that clergy members who used to promote him were shuning him. So over time, he became more jaded.

  • Dr. Taylor Marshall gave up his career to become Catholic. He was an Episcopal priest. He had to start all over again. In order to do that, you really have to have conviction.

  • John-Henry Westen is primarily a culture-warrior dedicated to making abortion illegal. If I’m not mistaken, his critiques of the Church started with the fact that many bishops are willing to publicly ignore pro-abortion Catholic politicians, but are quick to point out the flaws of pro-life politicians. After the sex scandal, it appears that corruption that lead to the sex scandals is related to pro-life inconsistent messaging (or at least Westen sees that connection)

(continued)

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(continue)

HOWEVER, both Patrick Coffin (more deliberately in public with his resignation from Catholic Answers) & Dr. Taylor Marshall (with his shift in video content) gave up professional apologetics to become culture warriors. Patrick Coffin specifically left Catholic Answers to create “a show that was not necessarily Catholic, but a show with a Catholic worldview” (his paraphrased words, not mine).

Many other converts & reverts (who share the views of these 4) are often quieter because they are focused on evangelization and/or apologetics. However, the 4 you listed have chosen to be culture warriors.

To me, the 2 things all 4 of these men have in common (besides being Culture Warriors) is that they (1) used to be very tight with a number of bishops and (2) they still have TONS of priests who speak to them in confidence. If you have tons of priests from all over the country telling you XYZ, you are most likely going to believe them.

BTW - you mentioned “traditionalist,” I don’t think Patrick Coffin regularly attends the Latin Mass. Unless he’s recently changed, I believe it often attend Ordinary Form Masses too.

God Bless

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There are actually plenty who constantly criticized Pope John Paul II & Pope Benedict.

  • America Magazine
  • National Catholic Reporter
  • Commonwheel
  • etc.

They like Pope Francis, so they are generally cheerleaders for him. However, they were constantly roasting JP2 and Benedict. All three of them always accused (and still do) JP2 and Benedict of corruption, etc.

You also had people like Sister Joan Chittister, etc constantly attacking the official teachings of the Church back when JP2 and Benedict were both Pope. She still publicly disagrees with several Church teachings, but is less publicly critical of the current Pope.

In all honesty, the reason why you don’t have as many devout cradle Catholics participating in the Culture Wars is because they often join the priesthood, diaconate, religious life, and/or work & volunteer for the Church. Church employees are often less publically vocal about dirty laundry.

Converts & reverts typically have financial commitments when they enter the Church, so they often cannot afford to work for the Church. And the vast majority of Catholic Speakers are not clergy because they need the independence to travel on the weekends. Clergy are expect to be at their assigned parishes each weekend, so it makes public appearances more difficult (not impossible, but more difficult).

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It seems disingenuous to generalize their criticisms as being against the whole Church. In actuality much of what they say are leveled at specific individuals and/or a certain ideology.

If we’re going to criticize this group you mentioned, then let’s be honest about what they are rallying against. Since many people have commented on their status as converts, nearly every problem and crisis that is plaguing the Church today, existed long before these individuals even converted.

In many areas of concern, their beliefs are merely one side of the same coin. The clergy aren’t that different from the laity, in that, they have their own views and preferences as to which direction they’d like to see the Church continue in.

As members of the laity, we gravitate to men like James Martin, Bp, Barron, Cdl Sarah, Bp. Schneider, Fr. Z, Father Mike, etc etc. And it all depends on which members of the clergy we feel best support our own views.

Some have already commented that these individuals you mentioned are like a cancer and their views are harmful to the Church. Are they really? Is what they are saying more harmful than some of the radical ideals of James Martin?

Is telling people that Jesus is the privileged way of salvation, less problematic then advocating that Jesus is the only way to salvation?

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Well I’ve certainly heard him say some very critical things about Vatican II and Pope Francis. He’s also interviewed Michael Voris a couple of times and agreed with him on most issues. If he isn’t as rad-trad or anti-pope as Voris and Marshall, he certainly seems to be heading in that direction.

America Magazine and the National Catholic Reporter are both very leftist publications, so I’m not surprised they would criticise JPII, given that he was very clear on certain issues and very pro traditional family.

There have been a number of times that I’ve agreed with Voris about issues with Pope Francis. That doesn’t mean I’m leaping on the rad-trad bandwagon, it just means that I’m not particularly fond of the way our Holy Father likes to conduct things, and that I disagree with some of his prudential judgments or where he chooses to place his focus.

As for VII, I’ve heard Coffin take issue with how the documents of VII have been misapplied / largely ignored, but never with the counsel itself. Do you have an example?

:+1:

I didn’t set this topic up in order to criticise the four men I mentioned. I just noticed a pattern that those who seems to criticise the Catholic Church (or much about the Catholic Church) the most, often seem to be converts or reverts.

I actually appreciate a lot of the work Voris and others do at Church Militant. Yes, he uses harsh language sometimes, but so does Jesus in the Bible on occasion, as do other apostles (St Paul anyone?). If people find his opinionated views too much however, they should just pay attention to the factual stuff he says, rather than his more generalised opinions. He’s giving some good info a lot of the time.

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