Yesterday, Michael Voris, the founder of the right-wing Catholic website Church Militant, told his followers that violence “must always be an option” in the political arena. He added that any suggestion that violence should be avoided went against Catholic doctrine: “Remember the Crusades?”
Now we are in a pitched battle in the political arena—the last remaining line before all-out civil war. If you love peace and you don’t want to see violence, then you better get involved on the political front.
And let’s be clear about this for all the phony or delusional pacifists out there: Violence in and of itself is not immoral. It depends on the circumstances, and sometimes, even, it’s necessary: self defense, the subduing of an aggressor threatening the life of your family, the Son of God in the temple violently whipping the money changers.
The idea that violence must always, at all times, always be avoided is not Catholic. Remember the Crusades? Sometimes violence must be unleashed to protect the innocent. But lethal violence—because of its drastic, you-can-never-come-back-from-it consequences—must never be the first resort. In fact, it must always be the last resort, and then not be allowed to turn into an orgy of dominance over the foe.
Nonetheless, violence does—must—always be an option. Welcome to a fallen world.
The statement that it “must be the last resort” doesn’t quite make things better when we’re talking about right-wing extremists who aren’t known for their ability to think through ideas with any kind of nuance. The “last resort” doesn’t mean a lot coming from people who stop counting after 3.
It’s also disturbing because Voris justifies violence as a way to “protect the innocent.” But he never defines “innocent.” Voris could be painting a target on abortion doctors, women who take abortion pills, teachers who are accused of being “groomers” by Republicans who believe any mention of LGBTQ anything is an attempt to “convert” their children, or non-Christians speaking to their children about faith.
When your entire identity is wrapped up in conservative religious fragility, anything and everything you disagree with is seen as an existential threat.
That commentary, by the way, came just after Voris complained about Republicans who accept marriage equality. They’re a threat to innocence, too.
Church Militant is known for these extremist takes. Writing for Salon, Kathryn Joyce explained:
Amid the bitter 2020 election campaign, Church Militant began to describe itself as the home of “the red-pilled laity” and warned that Catholics who failed to vote for Donald Trump because he was too vulgar couldn’t complain when they were “herded onto the trains headed for the camps” or “gun[ned] down in the streets.”
In 2021, Church Militant welcomed disgraced “alt-lite” commentator Milo Yiannopoulos into the organization, and this April, the outlet scored a long, sit-down interview with far-right Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, in which the congresswoman suggested that Satan was controlling the church, as evidenced by the existence of Catholic charities that help immigrants and refugees…
Joyce also notes that they have ties to White Nationalist groups.
It’s no wonder that, earlier this year, the site provided a platform for Jacky Eubanks, a Michigan Republican who ran for State House, who said that, given the option, she would vote to ban all birth control because it violates her Catholic faith. (Eubanks lost in the GOP primary.)
These people have no ability to convince people their ideas are good because their ideas aren’t based on reason. It’s based entirely on a warped interpretation of the Bible, impervious to evidence or logic. Even with an issue like abortion, there’s no convincing them that pro-choice policies (like teaching comprehensive sex education and making contraception free and available) would decrease the number of abortions, because they demand complete adherence to their doctrine.
And people like Michael Voris are telling their supporters that when politics doesn’t offer a path forward, violence ought to be an option. They’re priming their base to take measures into their own hands. If someone ever follows through, you can fully expect Voris to wipe his hands clean of the consequences, acting like his own words had nothing to do with it.
It’s utterly irresponsible and it’s perfectly on brand for his site.