The Mike Church Interview: A Remarkable Conversion to Tradition Changes the Face of Political Talk Radio FeaturedBy: Christopher A. Ferrara
I put the word “conservative” in scare quotes as to Hannity, Levin and Beck, but the remarkable thing about Mike Church is that he is an authentic conservative, by which I mean a conservative who views political, social and moral questions from a traditional Catholic perspective as reflected in the papal and conciliar Magisterium before the late unpleasantness of the imaginary “renewal” of Vatican II.
Indeed, over the past year or so Mike Church has emerged as the only traditionally Catholic conservative in talk radio today, anywhere in the world. And I mean traditional. Not only during my appearances on the show, but now thematically, Mike has turned the longest running political talk show on Sirius Radio into an unabashed presentation of the Social Kingship of Christ, traditional Catholic moral teaching, and even the traditional Latin liturgy as the solution to what is evidently otherwise a terminal civilizational crisis. I have been invited on the show numerous times to defend all of these things explicitly, to speak of the one true Church, and even to call upon conservative Protestants to enter the Church if they are serious about saving our nation and our civilization.
But, happy to say, Mike has been going even farther than I have during my appearances, including the on-air presentation of traditional Catholic sermons on faith and morals, the works of Michael Davies—that’s right, the works of Michael Davies on mainstream talk radio!—the encyclicals of Leo XIII, Thomistic philosophy, and other sources of Tradition. The result has been nothing short of phenomenal. While Mike has alienated some of his viewers in a largely Protestant audience, who wonder if his show should move from the Patriot Channel to the Catholic Channel, he has converted many others, and he hears from these converts almost weekly.
Mike Church puts the lie to “conservative” Catholics who say it is “imprudent” in our pluralist society to promote an explicitly Catholic approach to social and political issues such as abortion, “gay marriage” and the nature of true liberty, which does not consist of the “capitalist social order” promoted by what even the radical libertarian gadfly Kevin Carson has called “vulgar libertarians.” As I have said on Mike’s show again and again, the face of this nation could be transformed almost overnight if all the opinion-makers who profess to be Catholic followed Mike’s courageous example in proclaiming the truth that makes us free, rather than invoking the Constitution or the Spirit of 1776.
But Mike has also made it clear, as I have in my many appearances on his show, that the form of government created by the Founders and the Framers could serve the aims of social and moral regeneration in this country if only the correct principles on the origin and limitations of political power, and the dictates of the divine and natural law beginning with the Decalogue, were applied to human law, public policy and Constitutional interpretation. To be an advocate of the Social Kingship of Christ, which embraces all men and all nations, is not to be a monarchist per se or to call for a “theocracy,” as liberals and neo-Catholics alike describe the organic relationship between Church and State in their ignorant caricature of what the Church really prescribes for the sociopolitical order. All that is necessary is that men and nations look to the Church and accept her guidance as the conscience of the State. This means, of course, a call to conversion and social metanoia, without which society cannot be saved from self-destruction because without Christ, as Pius XI warned, “human society is tottering to its fall.”
Mike—and he alone in the desert of talk radio—has been courageous enough to declare this truth openly as the theme of a unique and potentially revolutionary use of the mass media. I urge Catholics everywhere to become listeners and supporters of the Mike Church Show as a shining example of how social change can be accomplished the Catholic way by means of the truth that makes us free.
Ferrara: I have commented many times on something very unique that’s happening with your show in terms of its religious dimensions. Why don’t you tell me about how you arrived at the decision to go in that direction on the show?
Church: I don’t think I ever actually arrived at the decision. I just think it kind of organically happened or spiritually happened. It just unfolded that way. It just didn’t make logical sense anymore to continue believing in and promoting the idea, or I should say the fallacy, that there’s a man-based, human, secular solution to any of this, especially to our political problems.
When you consider… the modern conservative movement, which began with Barry Goldwater in the 1960’s, here we are 50 years later. Those issues have still never been resolved. The welfare state is still here. All the atrocities of the welfare state have been magnified and compounded. The regulatory state is still here. The interventionism, the warfare state is still here.
There’s no secular solution to what people claim they want to do politically. I think I just was fortunate, or blessed rather, to have been reading things and talking to people like you and others that were telling me: No, there is another way. The other way is that we need to restore, as Michael Davies put it, the Reign of Christ the King.
Ferrara: That’s the most remarkable aspect of this whole thing. Not only are you taking a religious approach, on Sirius Radio of all places, Channel 125, the Patriot Channel, but you’re taking a traditionally Catholic approach. How did you come to Tradition?
Church: I was baptized at St. Augustine Church on Governor Nicholls Street in New Orleans in 1962, like you’re supposed to be, days after I was born. I was raised Catholic when I was a little boy. I even went to Catholic school, Christ The King School in Norfolk, Virginia for first and second grade.
And then my mother… revolted against the Church, as so many Catholics did. They took the opportunity to become Evangelicals. She joined this church that’s still in Virginia Beach today called The Rock Church. It’s still there. She took us away from the Faith totally.
It wasn’t until the 1990’s when… I wanted to get married and wanted to marry my wife in the Church, that I had a decision to make. I was told that I could do the marriage in the Church, but didn’t actually have to get confirmed, or that I could do it the right way and go through RCIA. I went through RCIA. Long story short, I remained a Novus Ordo Catholic off and on.
It wasn’t until 2008 when I met David Simpson ... He introduced me in 2011 to what he had been able to get the Bishop of New Orleans to grant to him and his family and several other families, which was a traditional Latin Mass. At first I went sporadically. Over time, it started to rub off on me.
I think there’s just something with the Tridentine Mass. When I started going faithfully and religiously about a year ago, that was probably about the time you started coming on the show. That’s when the mindset started to change. That’s when I started to talk about the things you asked me about. It just seemed to me natural that… if you’re going to promote a God-based solution… your story is going to go through the Vatican. You can’t go around it. You can’t do Western history, Western civilization without going through the Vatican. That’s just undeniable. That’s why the Catholic part of it has to be part of it.
Ferrara: How do you think the traditional Mass relates to a religious solution for the political crisis?
Church: It’s not a coincidence that it’s called the traditional Mass, is it? You’re trying to restore tradition. Obviously if you’re going to restore tradition, and if God, if our Lord and His Church that He established is the Church, then you would have to restore some universality or unity in people’s belief system and how they execute it. That’s what the Mass does…. The New Mass is what all the rest of this disaster that we call our culture is today. It is a perversion of the tradition….
Ferrara: Give us some indication of your experience with the new liturgy in comparison with the traditional liturgy, and why you ended up abandoning it.
Church: The new liturgy has as its center – this is one man’s point of view – has at its center man, the people that are there. That is, to me, the fundamental error of the entire process. You start from an error and you cannot correct the error. If you start with an error, then you’re going to compound the error—the error that it’s all centered on the attendees and not He who arrives in the Real Presence. That’s the error.
When those bells ring and Our Lord appears, I am not turning my back. Don’t tap me on the shoulder to shake my hand. I’m not high-fiving you. I’m not kissing you. I hear people kissing behind me from time to time.
I think this is the Church’s fault. It’s the priests’ and the bishops’ fault. When that bell rings, that’s the arrival of Our Lord. He’s there. That’s the Real Presence. You can’t turn away from that, and you must be as reverent as is humanly possible.
My knees hurt. I’m glad my knees hurt. People say: How can you kneel that long? When I first started going to the Latin Mass, that’s the first thing I thought: My goodness, how do you kneel for so long? Now I’m going: I can’t wait to kneel. I want my knees to hurt. My knees hurting are not going to hurt like a nail going through my palm or a thorn through my skull. To me, the New Mass is missing that element.
When you’re on your knees, you are submissive. You are submitting to a higher authority. It’s the same thing with the distribution of the Sacrament. You should be on your knees in front of that Tabernacle, in front of that altar, Every knee shall bend. If you restore that reverence, I think… we’d have a much better culture and world to live in.
Ferrara: You’ve recently been delving into the works of Michael Davies. What influence did Davies have on you?
Church: He’s huge. He’s a titan, first of all, in the movement. The man dedicated the latter part of his existence to restoring the Tridentine Mass. I mean, the work that he did on Vatican II defies any honorific description that I could possibly give it.
I’m a historian of American history, now trying to become a historian like Michael was, of Western civilization and of the Church. The stories of our saints are just great stories. I don’t know how you can resist telling some of them. I like to tell them.
First of all, Michael was a great storyteller. That’s number one. He had a charming sense of humor. That’s number two. And, number three, he was an impeccable historian. He was presenting things in a manner that was so concise, so clear, so well researched and documented that the opponents of it have nowhere to go…. I think that’s what a good historian does anyway.
What is history? It’s a chronicle of events that have already transpired, a man trying to recreate a ledger or chronicle of events that have already transpired. He just did it flawlessly, but he did it with love and humor. You can tell there must have been some paraclete pushing Michael along and helping him and directing him. He did a lot of it without the Internet.
Ferrara: That’s the amazing thing. He did it in the age of cut-and-paste with paper.
Church: He did. I think that makes the accomplishment... that much more worthy of our attention and listening and worthy of our acknowledgement that these are good works.
Ferrara: You’ve introduced a traditional Catholic element into the Patriot Channel.
Ferrara: We have what, Sean Hannity, correct? Isn’t Mark Levin on the same channel?
Church: He’s not a Catholic, though.
Ferrara: I know. But you have all the talking heads of American conservatism on this channel, and here you are introducing traditional Catholicism into the mix. You’ve told me in conversations that you’re now regularly receiving emails from people who have converted to the faith. Tell me about that.
Church: First of all, I’d just like to say that I had nothing to do with any of those conversions. If any of those conversions did indeed happen that have been relayed to me, they happened thanks to the Holy Spirit. That was the Holy Spirit….
The conversions that have been reported to me. I’ll tell you the process. If I get one via email, I will read it. I’ll start to tear up a little bit. I will bless myself and I will say: Thank you, Lord. That’s you, not me. I don’t want any credit for it. I know it’s difficult to state that you’re trying to be humble without actually having someone say: That wasn’t very humble for you to state that. I’ll just leave it at that. It’s my weak, human attempt at humility in the face of that.
If a layperson like me can be influenced by someone like Michael Davies, who is a layperson— I was heavily influenced by my dear friend David Simpson. I was influenced by you, by Chris Ferrara, all laypeople—folks, let’s make the connection here. Where’s the clergy? Why wasn’t I influenced by the clergy?
I was influenced by the clergy later on in the process when I started listening to some sermons from the Fraternity of Saint Peter, wonderful men of Christ. They just give a great message, kind of like Michael does, but they’re delivering the word of God as men of God.
I’d say that about the conversions. I’d say people like—of course Michael is not with us any longer—but you and David and other laypeople should also share in that. We’re in a crusade. It’s the Church Militant. I’ve just humbled myself and accepted that if that’s what our Lord has placed me in a position to do, who am I to say no?
Ferrara: You’re showing the power of the medium. How often have you been hearing from people saying: “I’m converting”?
Church: I can’t put an exact number on it because some days I’ll get some, some days I won’t receive any. I might go a week without receiving any. I would say there’s – I’d put the number at several per week. That’s just the ones that have contacted me.
I’d also say that, if we’re talking about our brothers in broadcasting that maybe aren’t doing what traditional Catholics wish for them to do— you mentioned Sean Hannity and I mentioned Glenn Beck—I hope and pray that if I have any affect in broadcasting whatsoever, it would be to show… them that you can do this. You can be in radio, in broadcasting. You can honor the highest authority that we are here and commanded to honor. You can be entertaining about it. You can still entertain your audience. You can still do politics and you can do Catholicism.
I think Catholicism should be… the first part of our broadcast, not the last. It shouldn’t be: Well, I kind of do the Catholic stuff. No, I do everything Catholic. I try to do everything Catholic. I don’t always have to say it’s Catholic because we have a lot of Protestants that listen… It’s our job and our duty here to do everything Catholic, politics second. That way, we get the order right. We can’t restore the order of the Reign of Christ the King if we get the order wrong.
Ferrara: This is what’s so impressive about what you’re doing. A lot of Catholics in secular media take the approach that: “I’ve got to be prudent. I can’t bring these issues up. I’ll alienate the audience.” You’ve done exactly the opposite. You’re bringing these issues up and you’re doing it week in and week out. You’re practically evangelizing people even when you’re not explicitly saying “You must become Catholic.” You’re pulling it off, aren’t you, by the grace of God?
Church: By the grace of God I’m pulling it off. If He wishes for it to end, it will end. If He doesn’t wish for it to end, then I’m not going to end it.
I’m ecstatic. You find real joy, actually, in evangelizing. I don’t know about other people but it’s not toil. Evangelizing, to me, is just one of the greatest things you could do. It’s just a—the proper word is joy that you get out of it, happiness.
The evangelizing part, I heard it put best by this philosopher who I’ve been listening to: Brother Francis. He’s of the St. Augustine Institute. I think he died in 2004 or 2006. He’s of Lebanese descent. Father Feeney told him, when he met him back in the 1940’s: You are going to convert to Catholicism. You are going to become a monk. You’re going to come with me. You’re going to stop teaching physics and teach philosophia perennis the rest of your life. And he did it. I started listening to Brother Francis and I’m learning Thomistic philosophy. I share that with the audience, too.
I started listening to this philosophy course…. As I got deeper into it and I started sharing it, people started asking me: Where do I get this? I want to do this, too, Mike. So I reached out to the St. Augustine Center, and they offered to people that wanted to take the course… a group discount if I could get enough people together.
Do you know that in a span of ten days, 63 people signed up to take that four-year-long course with me? We’re all taking it together now. We’re all studying Thomistic philosophy together in a chat room every Tuesday night. We ask questions. The brothers from the St. Augustine Institute that have taken the course, they show up and answer people’s questions.
Ferrara: This is the outcome of your discussion of Thomistic philosophy on a secular radio show on the Patriot Channel!
Church: How do you like that? So for anyone that denies that there is a supernatural presence, that God’s presence isn’t real, I offer that as Exhibit A.
Ferrara: You’re a living example of what Catholics could be doing but aren’t doing. Yet you’re doing it. Congratulations! I know you’ll give credit to God for this. Congratulations for being a lone voice crying out in the wilderness of secular radio. That’s what you are.
Church: Pray for me that I can continue to be. Pray for me, number one, that I can continue to do that if that’s God’s will. Number two, pray for our other brothers and sisters in Christ that also have a voice. There are Catholics out there that have microphones far bigger than the one I have. It’s my prayer… that they, too, will use their microphones, or their video monitors or whatever the case may be, and will join or rejoin the Church Militant. This is what we’re commanded to do. The apostles were given orders and told to go give the orders to everyone else. I don’t know what the question is.
Christopher A. Ferrara: President and lead counsel for the American Catholic Lawyers Inc., Mr. Ferrara has been at the forefront of the legal defense of pro-lifers for the better part of a quarter century. Having served with the legal team for high profile victims of the culture of death such as Terri Schiavo, he has long since distinguished him a premier civil rights Catholic lawyer. Mr. Ferrara has been a lead columnist for The Remnant since 2000 and has authored several books published by The Remnant Press, including the bestseller The Great Façade. Together with his children and wife, Wendy, he lives in Richmond, Virginia.