Michael Voris: grave errors on salvation theology

This post reviews three videos offered by Michael Voris at ChurchMilitant.com on the topic of salvation. In 2011, Voris was publicly rebuked by the Bishop of the diocese of Scranton, PA for “his extreme positions on other faiths”. His scheduled talk in that diocese was cancelled as a result. [Full Statement Here] As of this date, he stands uncorrected; he has not modified his teaching on other faiths. In fact, his most recent videos on this topic are as extreme as ever.

I commented previously on one of these three videos, titled “The Jews”, in my post: The Errors of Michael Voris: anti-Judaism. In that video, Voris claims that, since the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in the first century AD, the Jewish faith has been a “man-made religion” and no longer a religion based on the Covenant between God and the Jews. This claim is contrary to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Church has NEVER taught that Judaism ceased to be a true religion at any time. And the Catechism teaches that “the Old Covenant has never been revoked.” [CCC 121] The Magisterium has clearly and repeatedly spoken of Judaism as a true religion, even to the present day:

“Those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways.” The relationship of the Church with the Jewish People. When she delves into her own mystery, the Church, the People of God in the New Covenant, discovers her link with the Jewish People, “the first to hear the Word of God.” The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God’s revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews “belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ”, “for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.” [CCC 839]

The Catechism of the Catholic Church repeated quotes Vatican II in the passage above. The Second Vatican Council clearly speaks of Judaism as a true religion:

“In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh. On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues” [Lumen Gentium 16]

Michael Voris claims that Judaism today is a false man-made religion. But there is no such teaching in Catholicism. This claim is incompatible with the teaching of Vatican II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In addition, this address by Pope Benedict XVI, on the occasion of his visit to the synagogue of Rome, plainly shows that Judaism is not a false religion.

In a more recent video, titled Muslims and Jews, Voris repeats and expands his false claim about the Jewish faith and adds an attack on the Muslim faith as well. In that video, Voris correctly states that by reason alone the human person can know that God exists, God is One, and God is the Creator. Yes, a human person can know these things by reason, without the supernatural virtue of faith. However, the reason of fallen human persons attains to these truths, by reason alone, only with difficulty, if at all. And further truths about God must be divinely-revealed, such as that God is a Trinity of Persons, that God became a man in Jesus Christ, and many other religious truths.

But then Voris draws a false conclusion: that the Jews, by the very fact that they do not believe in the Trinity, “have no faith” and “their worship is natural, not supernatural” [3:20 mark in the video]. About the Muslims, Voris claims “they have no supernatural faith,” again because they do not believe in the Trinity [3:03 mark].

To the contrary, the Church teaches that non-Christians can enter the state of grace — which always includes the three supernatural virtues of love, faith, and hope — by an implicit baptism of desire. The Jews of Old Testament times entered the state of grace in this way, without belief in the Trinity. And all Jews today who truly love God and neighbor, a love found only in those in the state of grace, necessarily also possess the other two supernatural virtues, faith and hope. The same can be said of Muslims. All Muslims who love God and neighbor are necessarily in a state of grace, and therefore necessarily possess all three supernatural virtues: love, faith, hope. In fact, all human persons, regardless of belief system or the lack thereof, who truly love their neighbor selflessly are certainly in the state of grace. For only by the state of grace can we possess true spiritual love of neighbor (which always includes, at least implicitly, the love of God).

It is unfortunate when any believer rejects or ignores belief in the Trinity; it is unfortunate when any human person, who knows about Christianity or Catholicism, declines to enter the Church by baptism. But only if such a decision is an actual mortal sin, is the human person thereby excluded from the state of grace. Voris fails to distinguish between actual mortal sin and objective mortal sin (a sin that is objectively gravely immoral, but perhaps was committed without full knowledge of its grave immorality and full deliberation).

Ironically, Michael Voris himself rejects the teaching of the Roman Catholic Faith on the Trinity. See my post: Michael Voris teaches heresy on the Trinity. And then he claims that rejecting belief in the Trinity means that your religion is false. By his own judgment, he would be condemned.

However, I believe that a human person can err in many ways in their beliefs on religion, and still possess the state of grace. The Jews and Muslims can be in the state of grace by an implicit baptism of desire. As long as their rejection of Christianity and its teachings is not an actual mortal sin, they are not necessarily deprived of the state of grace. Similarly, Michael Voris might be in a state of grace, despite his rejection of Church teaching on the Trinity and on other topics. Perhaps his failure to believe is only an objective mortal sin, and not also an actual mortal sin.

As for Catholic teaching on the Islamic faith, the Church teaches that Islam is a true religion. See my post: Roman Catholic teaching on the Islamic Faith. The recent Popes have repeatedly referred to “the three great monotheistic religions”, which are Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. And the Second Vatican Council clearly taught that Muslims love God and have true faith. For all who adore God, love Him.

Vatican II: “the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Mohammedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God” (LG 16)

Vatican II: “The Church regards with esteem also the Muslims. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.” (NA 3)

The claim that Jews and Muslims have no supernatural faith necessarily implies a claim that all Jews and Muslims lack the state of grace. For though a person who commits an actual mortal sin loses love and hope (as supernatural virtues), he might retain true faith [Trent, On Justification, Canon XXVIII]. But if anyone lacks the supernatural virtue of faith, he also lacks the other two infused virtues: love and hope. So this claim by Voris is a sweeping condemnation of Jews and Muslims, as if they could not be saved by God unless they convert to Christianity. For Voris says that by rejecting or ignoring belief in the Trinity, they necessarily lack the supernatural virtue of faith, which is always present in those who are in a state of grace.

In my understanding of Catholic teaching: Jews, Muslims, other non-Christian believers, and even atheists and agnostics can be saved without converting to Christianity or even to belief in God. See my posts:

Salvation for Jews
Salvation for Muslims
Salvation for Atheists and Agnostics

The salvation theology of Michael Voris is born of fundamentalism, ignorance of magisterial teaching, a merciless and Pharisaical interpretation of Scripture, and profound theological incompetence. His views on salvation are incompatible with the teaching of Jesus Christ, who stated that the Centurion and the woman of Canaan each had “great faith” (Mt 8:10; 15:28). Those two persons were not Jews and were not disciples of Christ — they did not believe in the Trinity, nor even in the Old Testament teachings. Yet each was saved by the state of grace, including the supernatural virtue of faith.

In his video Do non-Catholics go to Hell?, Voris adds further doctrinal errors to his teachings on salvation theology. I’ve posted previously on his errors about Hell. In this more recent video, Voris repeats the false claim that each soul in Hell “suffers the tortures of his demonic masters”.

To the contrary, Hell is a place of just and merciful punishment from God. Hell is analogous to a prison, and the devils there are prisoners, not its guards or wardens. Certainly, one of the sufferings of Hell is the company of devils as fellow prisoners, just as one of the joys of Heaven is the company of holy angels. But the devils and Satan himself are not in charge of Hell; they have no authority there. They are not dispensing punishments to damned souls on behalf of Divine Justice. For Hell is “the eternal fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Mt 25:41). Hell is a place of just punishment, and the devils are incapable of justice. Hell is a place of a punishment that might even be called merciful, and the devils are incapable of mercy. Therefore, Voris errs gravely in speaking of Hell as if the devils were in charge of torturing souls there.

Now Voris begins his video by stating correctly: “The Church teaches that one must be in a state of grace upon death to achieve salvation.” But then his teaching immediately veers off-course: “And a person can only be in either a state of grace or a state of mortal sin.” False. For example, an infant, prior to baptism, is not in a state of grace, but also not in a state of mortal sin. And two Ecumenical Councils have infallibly taught that some souls die in a state of “original sin alone”, while some others die in a state of “actual mortal sin” [Lyons II, Florence]. So again we see that Voris has badly misunderstood Catholic teaching.

And as I’ve said, he fails to distinguish between actual mortal sin and objective mortal sin. So a person who is unrepentant from a sin that is objectively a mortal sin might still die in a state of grace, if that objectively grave sin was not committed with full knowledge of its grave immorality and full deliberation.

His video on non-Catholics and Hell also fails to mention entering the state of grace by an implicit baptism of desire. He correctly states that a non-Catholic Christian, who has entered the state of grace by formal baptism, and who commits a mortal sin (actual mortal sin) thereby losing the state of grace, can return to it by an act of perfect contrition. But then he subsequently speaks as if such contrition were necessarily rare or difficult. It is more difficult to be saved if one is a non-Catholic Christian or a non-Christian. But the great mercy of God preached by Jesus in the Gospels is incompatible with the claim that salvation outside of Catholicism or Christianity is rare or non-existent.

Michael Voris teaches via videos online. He repeatedly criticizes Bishops and Cardinals, as if he has a better understanding of the Catholic Faith than they do. Yet he has published no written works of theology. Zero. Nada. I can understand why he declines to publish written theology. Voris has a simplistic, superficial, and distorted understanding of Roman Catholic theology. Publishing this understanding would open his many over-simplifications and misunderstandings to public criticism. And so he keeps much of his theology behind a pay-wall on his website.

His understanding of the faith is over-simplified, distorted, and filled with one error after another. Faithful Catholics would do well to avoid this false teacher, who has been harming souls worldwide for many years now.

by
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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