Article by the Author Published in The Remnant

EWTN: A Network Gone Wrong

Editor’s Note: The most common remark concerning news of Christopher Ferrara’s new book, EWTN: A Network Gone Wrong, is that it is long overdue. In this article the author explains what prompted him to write what could be called Part II of The Great Façade trilogy.  

Michael Matt, The Remnant

- by Christopher A. Ferrara-

     EWTN: A Network Gone Wrong is a book I hadn’t planned to write. In fact, I was in the midst of writing a book on “liberty” as the irrational counter-religion that destroyed Western civilization (Liberty: the God that Failed, to which I will return soon), when this project intervened and quickly consumed all of my available time. What began as a 17-page article somehow blossomed into a 276-page book (actually more than 320 pages before judicious font adjustments to meet the publisher’s limitations).

     As I got deeper and deeper into EWTN’s bizarre mixture of the sacred and the profane, the orthodox and the heterodox, I realized that the network even this newspaper once viewed as a potential ally in the cause of Tradition has, since the departure of Mother Angelica as CEO in 2000, become the perfect embodiment of the conciliar “opening to the world” through which Paul VI bemoaned (far too late) that the smoke of Satan had entered the Church.

     Precisely because television is “the devil’s tabernacle,” what EWTN passes off as authentic Roman Catholicism has achieved a kind of quasi-mystical reality of its own. The medium is indeed the message, to recall the Catholic convert Marshall McLuhan’s lapidary insight. (Oddly enough, there is a Catholic school named after McLuhan.)

     EWTN’s embodiment of this new thing that has been calling itself Catholic since Vatican II has contributed hugely to the Great Façade of novelty erected by the fallible prudential decisions of the postconciliar Popes and the Vatican apparatus. For millions of Catholics living in the postconciliar Wasteland, EWTN is the Faith—a worldwide television diocese whose influence is greater than that of any local bishop or even the Vatican itself.

     As I point out in the book, even EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo notes (in his biography of Mother Angelica) that when Bishop Foley of Alabama was maneuvering to prevent EWTN from televising any Masses ad orientem (he succeeded), the Bishop remarked that he had to do something because “It’s television.” Bishop Foley understood all too well the power of what the science fiction writer Ray Bradbury called “that Medusa which freezes a billion people to stone.”

     The Bishop wanted to be sure that the people who watch EWTN were frozen into an acceptance of the postconciliar status quo. As my book demonstrates, Foley and his confreres got their wish once they had driven Mother Angelica from the network’s board of directors by threatening an episcopal takeover based on her duty of “obedience” to them.

     The feisty and combative nun who blasted “Cardinal” Mahony on the air exited stage left in a corporate maneuver she thought would insulate the network from such a takeover. But the result was that (as Arroyo himself recounts with approval) the network was “transformed” by a program director whose previous experience included a cable network featuring the Playboy Channel.

     The book documents in considerable detail how the “new and improved” post-Mother Angelica EWTN uses the Medusa of TV to mesmerize its vast audience with the very corruptions of the Faith the future Pius XII foresaw with dread in 1931: “I am worried by the Blessed Virgin’s messages to Lucy of Fatima. This persistence of Mary about the dangers which menace the Church is a divine warning against the suicide of altering the faith, in her liturgy, her theology and her soul….” 1

     EWTN has become the television network of New Church, feeding its mass audience programming that combines solid Catholic content with the poison of Modernist innovation: the new liturgy, the new theology, and the new soul of New Church, whose disastrous arrival Pius XII was able to foresee only in the light of Fatima. (EWTN, serving a primary New Church objective, revises the Message of Fatima to mean precisely the opposite of what the Mother of God told the seers. See Chapter 16.)

     But EWTN goes beyond these corruptions to a blasphemous attack on Catholic chastity and decency that would have horrified even the likes of Loisy and Tyrrell. (See Chapters 14-15, which are not to be read by children.) That EWTN issues parental warnings against exposure of children to such elements of its programming is only one sign that EWTN is a network gone wrong—very wrong.

     But what really motivated me to put aside other things to write this book is the fact that EWTN has gone beyond the mere communication of these elements of Modernist corruption to assume a positively magisterial function in its promotion of New Church innovation. EWTN’s “theological committee,” headed by the layman Colin Donovan (who holds the risible title “Vice President for Theology”) determines EWTN’s theological policies, which are followed by the network’s ever-growing roster of New Church “experts” and celebrities.

     The EWTN “Magisterium” presumes to instruct Catholics on how the Faith is to be understood and practiced since the Second Vatican Council, and it routinely anathematizes traditionalists for their refusal to adhere to Post-Conciliar Correctness (PCC). EWTN has become, in fact, the Catholic world’s most effective enforcer of PCC.

     Just after the book came off the presses, yet another piece of evidence confirming this view of the network came across my desk. It was a letter to an EWTN viewer from one Mark Jefferson of EWTN’s Viewer Services Department, which serves as EWTN’s analog to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issuing theological advisories on what EWTN “fans” are expected to think regarding this or that issue in the Church. Jefferson was responding to a complaint EWTN frequently receives: Why don’t you stop condemning “traditionalist” Catholics, including Fr. Nicholas Gruner, who object to the Modernist revolution in the Church? Jefferson’s reply, sent at the request of EWTN’s “Deacon Bill,” encapsulates the entire problem with the Network Gone Wrong:

Regarding the “Traditionalists,” EWTN does not take seriously the scandal mongering of certain schismatic groups. The people who administer The Fatima Center and publish The Fatima Crusader, Catholic Family News, and other print and electronic media hostile to the Church have effected a virtual split from the Catholic Church. In dissenting from the Church regarding the present composition of the Liturgy, Ecumenism, and other issues dating from the Second Vatican Council, they have, in effect, committed the same blunder as a Martin Luther or a John Calvin.

     In other words, if anyone says that the new Mass, the new ecumenism and the other novelties stemming from Vatican II have harmed the Church, let him be anathema. Jefferson added: “The Theology Department of EWTN is completely in line with the rulings of the Church regarding Fr. Gruner and the dissenters of the ‘Traditionalist’ camp.”

     Rulings? What rulings? The Vatican has made no “ruling” concerning Father Gruner but only an “announcement,” the day after 9/11, that he was “suspended” by the Bishop of Avellino for failing to be incardinated—after the Vatican Secretary of State had blocked his incardination by a series of benevolent bishops. But that “ruling” became moot when the Archbishop of Hyderabad, rejecting the Secretary of State’s gambit, incardinated Fr. Gruner anyway, declaring that “Evil forces have conspired to destroy your work of love… Bureaucratic forces cannot stifle God’s work.”

     As for “dissenters of the traditionalist camp,” there have been no “rulings of the Church.” What we have seen, on the contrary, is a major Vatican thaw toward the Society of Saint Pius X, which represents the most “extreme” of the “extreme traditionalists” EWTN finds so loathsome.

     For example, in a recent interview with 30 Days magazine, Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, clearly speaking with papal approval, conceded that the situation of SSPX is “not a formal schism,” that the traditional Latin Mass “has never been abolished,” and that concerning Vatican II and the postconciliar changes in the Church “we are all free to formulate critical observations on what doesn’t concern dogma and the essential discipline of the Church itself.” The Cardinal even went so far as to say that “critical contributions of that sort that can come from the [SSPX] can be a treasure for the Church.” A more explicit Vatican approval of traditionalist “dissent” could hardly be hoped for.

     Here we see how the EWTN “Magisterium,” having taken on a life of its own, is even more firmly attached to the novelties of New Church than the Vatican. Indeed, no less than the currently reigning Pope has the intellectual honesty to recognize that the members of SSPX are nothing other than faithful Catholics exercising the due liberty of sons of the Church.

     As The Latin Mass magazine reports in its Winter 2005 issue, during the meeting with Bishop Fellay of SSPX last August, Pope Benedict referred to the “excommunicated” Archbishop Lefebvre as “the venerable Monsignor Lefebvre” and “a true man of the Church universal.”

     What the kind remarks of Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos and Pope Benedict expose is the ecclesiastical bigotry of EWTN’s self-appointed, puffed-up “authorities.” Completely lost on Jefferson in his nominalist adherence to the latest non-existent “ruling,” is the supreme irony that he and the network that employs him attribute the mentality of Luther and Calvin to Catholics who oppose changes in the Church that Luther and Calvin would have celebrated with hysterical glee—or rather, changes in the Church many of which even Luther and Calvin would have regarded as intolerable breaches of Tradition.

     For example, what would Luther and Calvin think of EWTN’s aggressive promotion of the “Association of Hebrew Catholics,” which seeks to establish a separate canonical community for Jewish converts within the Church in order to rectify the “problem” of the Church having become “sociologically Gentile” over the past 1800 years. (See Chapter 10: Promoting The Return of the Judaizers).

     This, then, is why I wrote the book. EWTN is not just another source of Modernist corruption in the Church. While that would be reason enough to oppose and condemn EWTN, it is much worse than this. EWTN is a veritable network of apostasy that is using the medium of television to give Modernism a power over Catholics that it has never had before. As Ray Bradbury also said of television, it is a “Siren which called and sang and promised so much and gave, after all, so little.”

     Despite the good elements in its programming, what EWTN offers Catholics overall is the killing emptiness of a Modernist counterfeit of Roman Catholicism. Whatever their subjective intentions, which only God can judge, these neo-Pharisees of the airwaves must be seen for what they are.