Love him or hate him – and opinion is strikingly divided on that point – Raymond Arroyo (pictured) is the king of the Catholic airwaves. Lay people who usually have no interest in dedicated Catholic television channels switch to EWTN at 8pm on Thursdays to watch Arroyo’s programme, The World Over. Like mainstream cable news shows, it’s geared more towards commentary than reporting, and Arroyo has built up his dedicated fanbase by delivering conservative Catholic talking points with the charisma of a Fox News host. (In fact, he’s a regular guest on Fox’s The Ingraham Angle, and occasionally guest hosts when Laura Ingraham is away.)
Except for Archbishop Fulton Sheen and EWTN’s founder Mother Angelica, no specialist in Catholic media has achieved such a mainstream audience. Yet his high profile has made him the target of criticism, especially for his coverage of Pope Francis and his allies.
For instance, on November 11, Arroyo interviewed Bishop Martin Holley, who’s engaged in a high-profile tiff with the Vatican over his removal from the Diocese of Memphis. Bishop Holley claims he was removed as an act of “revenge” by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, while the Vatican’s spokesman said it was “about management of the diocese”.
During the interview, Arroyo appeared to take Bishop Holley’s side. “Near as I can figure it out, you were trying to right a ship that was a little off-course in Memphis,” Arroyo said. “Just the bit I know about this case, it offends me as a Catholic and as a man” that Holley was asked to step down without “due process”.
Bishop Rick Stika of Knoxville tweeted his disapproval of the interview and Arroyo’s style of journalism. On November 14, he called Arroyo’s coverage of papal news “biased” and “deplorable”, adding that he “offers what some may term fake news”. When accused by other Twitter users of attacking EWTN – by far the largest Catholic media company in America – Bishop Stika said: “I have no problems with EWTN at all. Just one show that I cannot recommend”.
At least one member of Pope Francis’s inner circle also seems to be fed up with the broadcaster. In February, Arrroyo and his “Papal Posse” – Robert Royal and Fr Gerald Murray, who make regular appearance to discuss the latest Vatican news – criticised a speech made by papal adviser Fr Antonio Spadaro. An academic tweeted Arroyo’s comments constitute “total war” on Francis, adding: “Time to interdict EWTN until they get rid of Raymond Arroyo.” (After excommunication, interdiction is the second-gravest canonical punishment at the Vatican’s disposal.) Fr Spadaro retweeted the remark.
Bishop Stika’s public criticism of the show is unusual. Bishops generally ignore hostile commentators. While they might occasionally condemn individual stories, they seldom condemn the journalist’s body of work. Yet calls to deny the sacraments to Arroyo’s employers until they give him the sack are in keeping with the general tone of American media in 2018. As with secular media, simply tuning out never seems to be sufficient.