Monday, November 3, 2008

Real Catholic TV featured in the Detroit Free Press

Ferndale-based, Real Catholic TV - a new Catholic internet "station" is seen globally. It has daily items that are free, such as the weekday Catholic news segment hosted by Vic Faust, and the daily commentary by Michael Voris. There is also a video short of the "Saint o the Day" and a brief historical note about the date.

It doesn't stop there, Real Catholic TV has unique programming for just $10 monthly. Real TV has, "The View". Real Catholic TV has, "The Other View".

Balling his right hand into a fist, producer Michael Voris leans into a TV camera inside a Ferndale studio to slam home his point:

Why do young adults stay from mass in droves?" Voris asked while delivering a taped commentary. "What's missing is bold preaching that challenges young adults. ... The beauty and truth of the Catholic faith has been denied this generation by an older generation ... of hedonistic, immoral egomaniacs with no moral compass."

Strong words, but ones that the producers of a new Catholic TV station -- billed as the first one to air solely online -- hope will connect with an audience they say is starved for fresh religious programming with an edge. Called Real Catholic TV, the new station is based in Ferndale and aims to reach a global audience with news, features and commentary that pushes a decidedly traditional viewpoint.

There already are religious media outlets aimed at southeastern Michigan's 1.5 million Catholics -- a couple of radio stations and a TV station produced with the cooperation of the Archdiocese of Detroit -- but Real Catholic TV says it will fill a void because of its independence.

Launched last month, the station comes at a time of intense debate within the Catholic church about how to stem the growing numbers leaving the faith. A major survey by the Pew Forum released earlier this year found that one of every three Americans who were raised Catholic have left the church.

That has concerned many Catholics, but there are disagreements about how to best stem that loss and attract newcomers to the faith. To some, the problem is that the church may be too rigid on certain issues: contraception, divorce, abortion, male-only priests.

But Voris -- a veteran TV reporter who's the main producer behind Real Catholic TV -- believes the opposite is true. To conservatives like him, the church has been watered down over the past 40 years by liberal reforms that started with Vatican II. And it lacks, he says, dynamic teachers who preach the faith with passion.

"People respond to the truth, not pablum," Voris said, banging his pencil on the desk. "And for decades, that's all young adults have been given.

"They've been fed gallons of innocuous, ethereal, kumbaya, arts-and-craft making, God is a rainbow, let's-hold-hands spiritually vacuous nonsense. "Don't believe me? Start counting young adults at mass the next time you're there."

Another point of contention is presentation: compared to the showmanship of some Protestant TV preachers and megachurches -- which have soared in popularity in recent years -- Catholic services and clerics can come off to some as too dowdy or reserved. In a media-saturated world of video games and YouTube clips, Sunday mass just doesn't cut it anymore.

"Why on earth are they going to listen to Father-Bore-You-to-Death prattle on?" Voris said.

And so the 47-year-old Ferndale man is trying to attract those looking for vigor in their message.

But some local Catholics view Voris as a renegade unwilling to work within the system: The archdiocese has not endorsed his new station, nor a TV program Voris started in 2006, "The One True Faith."

Usually, there's a protocol that media outlets calling themselves Catholic go through to make sure their teachings are accurate, said Ned McGrath, a spokesman for the diocese. Voris and Real Catholic TV have not done that.

Still, Real Catholic TV has its fans.

"Finally, something that excites me," said Kevin Karwowicz, 38, of Macomb Township. "People want that firmness. ... It's good to hear positive people talking with leadership qualities."

Karwowicz grew up in the Catholic church and went to a Catholic high school, "but I felt like the archdiocese just kind of lost touch."

A couple of years ago, Karwowicz attended Kensington Community Church, an evangelical nondenominational megachurch in Troy known for its multimedia presentations on large video screens, coffee bar and athletic swagger that has drawn ethnic Catholics from across the region looking for a change.

He said he was bored by the routine of the Catholic liturgy.

"It's come in, stand up, sit down, receive communion, put money in the basket and come home," Karwowicz said. In the end, he came back to the Catholic Church, bouncing between parishes to hear priests he feels "get it."

Career change for Voris
A graduate of Notre Dame, Voris was a TV reporter for two decades, working as a national political correspondent during the 1984 presidential race.

He moved in 1990 to Detroit, where he worked for the local CBS and Fox affiliates, earning a few Emmys for his work. But over the years, Voris says he became increasingly disenchanted with what he saw as the mainstream media's immoral values.

The breaking point came when he was once asked to do a story about Madonna's bra.

"To do a meaningful story that spoke to the soul became more and more difficult," he said.

And Voris was fed up with his own un-Catholic behavior.

"I had essentially led an empty life," said the never-married man.

A couple of deaths in the family -- his brother suddenly of heart failure in 2003 and his mother of stomach cancer in 2004 -- added to his spiritual turmoil.

And so in 2006, he established St. Michael's Media and established the Ferndale studio, where a sword of St. Michael sits in a holder as a prop.

He produced some TV programs for cable stations, but seeing the future was on the Internet, started work on Real Catholic TV earlier this year. Financial help came from Marc Brammer of South Bend, Ind., a director at Moody's Corp.

Daily devotional
Every morning, the producers and editors at Real Catholic TV gather for Catholic prayers in a makeshift chapel tucked in a corner of the studio.

Putting in long hours, they shoot and produce several programs, including a daily Catholic news report by WXYZ-TV (Channel 7) sports reporter Vic Faust, a short daily clip dubbed "Today's Saint," and a women's show called "The Other View" that's loosely based on the morning talk show, "The View."

"I never hear my Catholic viewpoint coming across, especially in the area of abortion," said the women show's producer, Susan Vance. "All I ever hear is pro-choice this, pro-choice that, especially with the stars and the TV show people, and the gay agenda.

"We want to show our Catholic view."

On the first show, the five women railed against Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, liberals and media bias.

Voris has his share of critics -- he said he's been called a "Catholic jihadist" -- but argues his show is needed more than ever.

"There's some timeless, ageless truths" in Catholicism, Voris says. "But the church has done a pretty poor job ... of making people understand why religion is relevant to them."

The archdiocese disagrees, saying that it and other parts of the church have long understood "the influence and power of television, radio and Internet-based media outlets in spreading the gospel," spokesman McGrath said.

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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!