“Liberals are kind of like herpes. Just when you think you have it beat, they come back again. There’s no cure. You can only keep it at bay.”
– Laura Ingraham, 2018 CPAC Address
Note: This is the first post in a series on longtime EWTN host Raymond Arroyo. Part One, “Policy over Fidelity,” explores how Arroyo uses his program, The World Over Live, to promote a political agenda that is often at odds with Church teaching. Part Two explores how the program has been used to undermine Pope Francis and his mission, to condescend and misrepresent faithful Catholics, and to sow confusion and dissent among the faithful.
Longtime EWTN news anchor Raymond Arroyo has been in the public eye quite a bit lately. Whether he’s hawking his latest book, appearing on Fox News as a regularly scheduled guest, on EWTN critiquing the latest news from the Vatican with his “papal posse,” or talking politics with a prominent right-wing figure, he’s possibly the most visible U.S. spokesman for a particular brand of Catholicism, one that holds the pope in open contempt and promotes Francis’s most severe critics.
This report provides just a small sample of the voices to whom he’s given a platform on national television, on a program that purports to be faithful the the Magisterium and in communion with the pope.
Arroyo’s connection to conservative radio and Fox News television host Laura Ingraham is well documented. From their appearances on each other’s television and radio programs to 2012’s Of Thee I Zing: America’s Cultural Decline from Muffin Tops to Body Shots, a book they co-wrote, these two DC-based national media personalities have a close friendship that goes beyond affinity but also to a seemingly shared worldview.
Arroyo introduced Ingraham prior to her 2018 CPAC speech, during which she described liberals as “kind of like herpes. Just when you think you have it beat, they come back again. There’s no cure. You can only keep it at bay.” Both reject the position of the Catholic hierarchy on immigration, the environment, and the economy. Both she and Arroyo were early supporters of Donald Trump’s candidacy, even when other pro-life candidates were still in the running for the Republican nomination.
Ingraham was recently in the news for mocking Parkland High School shooting survivor David Hogg on Twitter, a move which has cost her television program at least 15 sponsors. But Hogg has not been the only target of her derision. Ingraham has taken a few swipes at the Pope Francis as well, and even teaming up with Arroyo in recent weeks to mock the Holy Father on her Fox News show.
On that program, she voiced her frustration over having both an active pope and a retired pope in the Vatican, complaining, “You have two Popes. OK? You can’t have two Popes. … That was always going to cause a problem. I mean, you’re dealing with two Popes, okay?”
Other examples of her criticism of Pope Francis include:
- On August 23, 2015, she had Acton Institute president Fr. Robert Sirico on her radio program. Speaking about Pope Francis, she said:
“What is at times very difficult for folks to get their minds wrapped around is the policy that the pope wades into. It does stray from Church doctrine… When the pope goes on about climate change or capitalism … I’m not comfortable with all that. …It’s the policy stuff that’s annoying. It’s annoying to a lot of people, we need spiritual nourishment, we don’t need global warming dictates from Rome.”
- On the November 14, 2016 episode of her radio show, she criticized Pope Francis’s environmentalist views, saying, “Aren’t they supposed to be saving souls, not saving trees?”
Now, while Raymond Arroyo can’t be faulted for everything his friend says or does, I am unaware of anything that suggests he disagrees with her, and he did join in her mockery of the Holy Father on at least that one recent occasion.
Laura Ingraham’s dismissive attitude towards the pope is nothing compared to the anger and vitriol directed at him by radio host Michael Savage.
One wonders what motivated Arroyo to invite Savage on the November 23, 2017 episode of The World Over Live program. Savage, who is not and has never been Catholic, was promoting his latest book. Early in the upbeat, sympathetic interview, Arroyo told Savage, “I’ve read so many of your books, I’ve been listening to you for years.”
Now, we can’t expect a television host to be aware of all of the views of all of his guests. But one imagines it would be impossible listen to Michael Savage for years and not be aware of his anti-Catholic (and oftentimes repugnant) views on immigration, gun control, war, the death penalty, Islam, the economy, the environment, and a host of other issues.
And surely Arroyo can’t be unaware of Savage’s opinion of Pope Francis. Savage has ranted about the Holy Father on the air many times. A quick search on YouTube yields numerous videos of his radio diatribes against Francis. A small sampling:
- On his broadcast of September 21, 2015, he said, “The pope is a moron. He is one of the stupidest people I have ever encountered in the history of the intellectual world. He is perhaps the dumbest man on Earth.”
- The following day, he upped the ante, calling Francis a “double-talking liar,” a “hypocrite,” and a “political operative.”
- On his program on March 25, 2016, which was also Good Friday, Savage said, “I think the pope is insane, I think he’s a deranged socialist fool.”
And yet, Savage’s EWTN interview was warm and friendly. Arroyo’s admiration for Savage and his work was obvious. Arroyo pitched one softball question after another, and the two discussed Savage’s view of the role of faith in society. At no point did Arroyo challenge Savage’s position; rather he emphasized the common ground between them. A courtesy he rarely extends to the Holy Father.
The brashness of inviting such a brazen enemy of the Church on an ostensibly Catholic program is difficult to fathom. And yet Arroyo did just that, without repercussion and without apology.
Another frequent guest on The World Over is Sebastian Gorka, a former national security aide in the Trump administration with alleged ties to a white nationalist militia group in Hungary.
Most of the time, his conversation with Gorka focuses on issues surrounding US defense policy, nuclear policy, and military strategy. (What place this has on a network ostensibly created for the purpose of evangelization is a good question.) But one moment stands out for its brazen rejection of Church teaching on the slaughter of civilians.
On the January 4, 2018 episode, Arroyo closed the program by asking for Gorka’s reaction to a card distributed by the Vatican for the World Day of Peace, which featured the image of a small Japanese boy from Nagasaki with the dead body of his younger brother strapped to his back. On the back, above Francis’s signature, the card reads, “The fruit of war.”
Gorka replied, “As a cradle Catholic, I am quite stunned. That is not the fruits of war, but the fruits of peace!” Arroyo did not challenge this sentiment, and indeed joined Gorka in listing atrocities which they felt would have been more appropriate for the card.
I reiterate: Arroyo did not challenge Sebastian Gorka when the latter spoke favorably of an intrinsically evil act (targeting civilians in war) and justified it with the principle of consequentialism, which was explicitly condemned by St. John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor.
I focused on these three figures, but could have chosen from many, many guests who espouse a right-wing ideology that is often in defiance of Church teaching or sound moral principles. This list includes but is not limited to: Mark Theissen and his defense of waterboarding, Newt Gingrich, Pat Buchanan, climate change skeptic Mark Morano, Senator Rand Paul, Mel Gibson, and of course Donald Trump.
It should scandalize Catholics that the flagship program of the only national Catholic television station in the United States places such great emphasis on right-wing politics. As someone who (in alignment with Catholic teaching) holds conservative views on issues including abortion and marriage, I understand the desire to promote public figures who support these values. But it cannot come at the cost of ignoring the wisdom of the Church on care for the environment, immigrants, and the poor. It certainly doesn’t excuse inviting guests who describe the mass slaughter of civilians as “the fruits of peace.”
Furthermore, why has this gone unchecked?
Where are the bishops?
When the most well-known Catholic television host in the country is advocating for a political agenda that contradicts the social teaching of the Church, you’d like to think that at some point one of them would speak out.
Image: The Fruit of War.
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Mike Lewis is the founding managing editor of Where Peter Is. He and Jeannie Gaffigan co-host Field Hospital, a U.S. Catholic podcast.