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Why am I interviewing Milo Yiannopoulos?

Yiannopoulos may never be your cuppa. I get it. I’m not his PR rep and he doesn’t need my defense anyway. But there is much more to the story.

Milo Yiannopoulos (Photo courtesy of author)

The correct answer comes down to, “because I feel like it.” But given the off-the-chart angry reaction in some corners of the Catholic-o-sphere to the announcement that I’d secured an interview on The Patrick Coffin Show with polemicist and provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, that answer is worth exploring (though not defending) further.

In all my years hosting Catholic Answers Live, and as a speaker communicating the truths of the Catholic Church, I’ve had my share of ticked off (or otherwise disappointed, disillusioned, or dismayed) listeners. But I have never encountered quite this level of animus, chiefly from Catholics. Mercifully few in number, they compensate in intensity.

Predictably, the stalwarts of the Catholic left were agog that someone—anyone—would give a platform to such a rah-rah supporter of the orange-headed monster who has the gall to still be the President of the United States. From the trad side, the outrage focused on things like why an unrepentant sodomite should get anything but sanction. Why bring on a queer who now wants to moralize about the sexual abuse crisis? (Milo has a new book critical of Pope Francis and the gaying of the Vatican.)

One kind soul accused me of wanting to be a Catholic Maury Povich (which is nutty, since I’m a Morten Downey, Jr. guy); another regretted that he ever supported me financially (I looked in vain for proof that he had); still another was mortified that the same guy who hosted Catholic Answers Live would “give a platform to an extremist.”

In case you’ve been in hibernation with no internet access for the last few years, Milo Yiannopoulos is a British-born, Openly Gay[tm], traditional-minded Catholic conservative bomb-thrower (rhetorically speaking, that is—you watch, someone will claim this as an endorsement of terrorist tactics!). The reclusive Milo, once known as the world’s biggest internet troll, staged a college lecture tour under the tender moniker, “The Dangerous Faggot Tour,” and rose to fame/infamy through his knack for inducing his uber-liberal enemies to torch cars and smash windows in token of their lack of amusement. Now matter how crazy it got, Milo himself seemed impervious to being mau-maued.

Then came the fall: a long one from a high place, at least by internet celebrity standards.

Last year, two separate podcast interviews (from 2015 and 2016) surfaced in which Milo said some deeply problematic things about his own sexual abuse by a priest at 14. He had already been banned by Twitter (space forbids giving the full context), and, within days, he was quit-fired from Breitbart, shunned by Simon & Schuster (his then-publisher), and sacked from his CPAC speaking slot.

Virtually overnight, provocateur became pariah.

To set one aspect of the record straight, despite wild-eyed claims on social media, the man never endorsed pedophilia. Not once. I take offense at the accusation that I would share my mike with anyone who did. He did cop to some very icky behaviors that are, as he admitted, commonplace in homosexual subculture, but pedophilia is not one of them. I realize that this doesn’t mean he should get a cookie or a medal, but words have meanings.

As a journalist who is also a mediocre Catholic (I laud the medicine that I don’t take regularly enough), my duty is to engage influencers and to discover the points of commonality, and disagreement. If my standard for guest selection is that I have to agree 100% with his or her whole corpus of writing and speaking, I wouldn’t even qualify since I disagree with much of my own behavior and past beliefs.

This ossified Us vs. Them mentality characterizes public discourse today. Within the Church, orthodox conservative wing is the picture of disunity. If the other guy isn’t sufficiently True Blue Actually and Fully Devoutly Seriously Catholic, they’re struck from the approved list. The liberal left don’t do this. They fight like they’re at war. Conservative Catholics, by and large (there are rule-proving exceptions) fight like they’re at a wine tasting reception, sniffing at the heretics over there by the brie and crackers.

Back to my “grifter,” “faux Catholic,” “alt-right white supremacist,” “Nazi,” “racist,” “pedophilia cheerleader “ guest (these are adjectives used as evidence that I shouldn’t go through with the interview). Is Milo vulgar? Check. Does he say and do puerile things to provoke and to annoy? Roger that. Is he proud to have “married” his black boyfriend in Hawaii, while claiming adherence to all the teachings of Catholicism? Looks that way. Is he a walking contradiction? Solid copy that.

And yet.

Milo Yiannopoulos also has a track record of putting himself in highly uncomfortable, not to mention dangerous, situations to get his point across. In a world ruled by mobs and group-think, most pundits run at the first sign of serious opposition and boycott, Milo punches back twice as hard. I mean this as an encouragement: what would happen to seminary enrollment if a bishop adopted his contra mundum fighting spirit?

As an explainer and defender of Catholicism, especially its hard sayings, Milo seamlessly weaves together Aquinas, the Catechism, the Bible, Chesterton, and a wide array of literary, scientific, and historical sources. It must, however, be admitted—and this is what offends pious ears—that he punctuates his patter with potty words, as this tart-tongued 2016 Christmas talk demonstrates.

Take or leave the style, but the substance is hard to ignore.

While I thought Catholics were supposed to root for the lost sheep and the leper, according to some of my critics Milo’s job is to wear a pink leper badge and call out “unclean, unclean.” What happened to “every saint has a past, every sinner has a future”? Doesn’t Pope Francis constantly preach going to the peripheries and accompanying people non-judgmentally? It turns out, not all periphery dwellers are created equal. No, you have to be the right kind of pariah.

The current polarization of the culture will only get worse unless we talk to those who hold contrary opinions. We may never convert them, but at least we’ll understand. It’s hard to shun someone you understand. This helps explain why I launched the Coffin Nation membership site last summer to provide a forum and source of inspiration for culture builders. Our tagline is “We Go There.” And going there means venturing from time to time into uncomfortable territory: where the real growth is.

Milo Yiannopoulos may never be your cuppa. I get it. I’m not his PR rep and he doesn’t need my defense anyway. But there is much more to the story.

And that story will told Tuesday, November 13 in his first interview since last year.

(Editor’s note: The opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of CWR or Ignatius Press.)


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About Patrick Coffin 12 Articles
Patrick Coffin is a host, author, and speaker at patrickcoffin.mediaand the creator of www.coffinnation.com.

40 Comments

  1. Bravo to Patrick Coffin for pointing out the big, nasty elephant in the middle of the “conservative”/”traditional” Catholic living room. Yes, the Left knows how to “network,” even with those they despise; the Right is constitutionally incapable of this (which is why, for instance, we have dozens of pro-life organizations, rather than one). I regret to say that in all my years in the public forum, I have endured more bile from the Catholic Right than from the Left. The Left has simply concluded that “Stravinskas is a nut,” and they leave me alone. The Right (many, not all, of course) has concluded that I do not have enough check marks in their acceptability chart and am thus a “vitandus” (one to be avoided).
    An intelligent conservative would conclude that Milo is a nut (in many ways, albeit a brilliant one), but he is OUR nut. That’s what the liberals would say, but not too often those on the other side of the aisle.

    • Wow. Great comment, Father! I love Milo and can’t bear to see him shunned. (Have to admit I am sunned that Milo is Catholic; I’ve always thought he was Jewish.) Regarding intolerance among our orthodox Catholic world: I’ve experienced it, having just been banned from posting comments on LifeSite’s website. I had commented that women who are determined to abort every pregnancy should have hysterectomies, which a moderator deemed “an insensitive and poor comment”. Give me a break! Anyway, rock on, Father.

  2. So cool…I can’t wait to hear it. I love Milo! He is a sinner like everyone else and one day…he will come back fully to the Church. Meanwhile he does a better job at explaining some Catholic teachings than so many liberal priest. I’m one of his biggest fans.

  3. I like Milo a lot. He is smart & reasonable with the typical English sense of humor. He engages young people to look at traditional conservative values & policies. Yet he is a flawed man with a lot of childhood baggage. After listening to various interviews and speeches, I get the impression Milo very much likes and respects the Catholic Church. I pray that 1 day he fixes his life to ways that God would approve.

  4. Didnt know Milo was a Catholic. I find him perhaps the most interesting and courageous people in the US.
    I am (was) orthodox while i was relearning the faith that was not past onto me.i no longer carry a measuring stick. If I have one how many others have one that I fail.

  5. I do support Patrick, with actual money in the form of a Coffin Nation Membership. Once again, he demonstrates that doing so has been a really good decision.

  6. The left has utter double standards when it comes to supposed sexual misconduct.

    Harry Hay, Godfather of the LGBT movement (is that Fairy Godmother?) genuinely did support legalizing pedophilia (unlike Milo Yiannopolous) and spoke in defence of NAMBLA (a group whose embers have been convicted of child rape and murder) to his dying day. And yet he is lionized instead of demonized by the political far left. Same applies to other “heroes” of the left (Jean Paul Sartre and Alan Ginsberg).

    The left loves to point fingers at the abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, but condones and protects sexual predation in Hollywood (Woody Allen, Harvey Weinstein, Roman Polanski, Michael Jackson) and in the UK does everything in it’s power to cover up and defend Muslim rape gangs in the name of diversity.

    The hypocrisy is stifling.

  7. I confess…guilty as charged. I’m on the Conservative Right and think Milo has a lot to say that is true. It doesn’t mean that I endorse his homosexual lifestyle. But compare him to some of our bishops who pretend to be normal and yet utter all sorts of nonsense we know is anything but true. Which would I prefer? Hmmmm…

    My fervent wish is that both Milo and Jordan Peterson find their way into the fullness of Truth – The Catholic Church.

  8. Why ask why? Why do cats meow at people? “Young children are full of questions like these. They’ve learned from us that people ask why. As philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein would say, they’ve learned to play a language game, and through playing this particular language game over and over and over, they come to see and experience things and events causally and to expect that everything they encounter in the world is either the cause or the effect of something else” (Psych Dr Fred Newman). Neither Coffin nor respondents answer the question of the Yiannopoulos anomaly, except perhaps Fr Sravinskas who offers some light that being a “nut job” is not such a bad thing. Although far from being a simple nut job. Like Wittgenstein is Patrick Coffin searching? Aimlessly? Or is something suggested? The article touches on the anomaly of clergy particularly Hierarchy some who fit into the Yiannopoulos category, apparently sincere otherwise orthodox except they seek to advance homosexuality as a good. Is the question begged here whether it is “not such a bad thing”? That is true if the corpus of Christ can be dissected and we’re free to choose whatever portions we like.

    • Sounds innerlecksul enough, Father, but why not listen to the interview before waxing philosophic with objections re: whether I, or anyone with a brain, can see the anomaly—not to mention whether it will come up in the interview? Thanks.

      • Well said. Seems like you’re one of the few with access to a wide audience who has the courage to step out boldly where Truth can work miracles. Stay the course, Patrick.

      • Your response to Matthew Cullinan Hoffman leaves the distinct impression Patrick that the question posed in my original comment was correct. I hope you prove me wrong.

  9. I’m sure Patrick Coffin will have a nice and rewarding conversation with, according to Sharon , “the only voice telling the world that the Holy Catholic Faith is the Way the Truth and the Light.”

  10. I’m quite sure that the devil himself would do a better job of explaining Catholic teaching than many priests, both liberal and conservative. That’s what the devil does—presents himself as an angel of light. Does anyone else see any similarities here between old scratch and Milo?

    • Grew up strict Baptist in a large family. Got mmarried, divorced (Oh No!) An moved back to family an my roots. While finding myself, I become friends with a very friendly neighbor who is also handsome, gay, my very best friend as it ends up an still is today!! Ohhh the whispers of my family and knew for certain I now had lost my status of sound mind! Long story short, I’m no longer Baptist or sin free, but practice my walk with the ferverent prayer I can be better an wiser. God is good an my friendship, now 20 years later, with my awesome gay friend . My family an all it’s members love him as I do. None of us are perfect, but we continue in our daily walk with the Lord and in prayer for those we love.

  11. I have no personal animus against Milo Yiannopoulos, and in fact I can say that my writings are approvingly cited three times in his new book, including my commentary on my translation of the Book of Gomorrah. Yiannopoulos’ book makes many good and true statements about the sex abuse crisis and other scandals currently racking the Church. Nonetheless I have to say that I am one of those who expressed concerns to Patrick Coffin about this interview, particularly because of the promo text that was being used to advertise it, which struck me at the time as a form of rather uncritical PR for Yiannopoulos.

    In this context, I’m disturbed that Coffin would write the following in defense of his interview: “To set one aspect of the record straight, despite wild-eyed claims on social media, the man never endorsed pedophilia. Not once. I take offense at the accusation that I would share my mike with anyone who did. He did cop to some very icky behaviors that are, as he admitted, commonplace in homosexual subculture, but pedophilia is not one of them. I realize that this doesn’t mean he should get a cookie or a medal, but words have meanings.”

    This statement is very misleading. Yiannopoulos openly spoke positively of sexual relationships between an adult and a minor as young as thirteen years of age (perhaps even 12 — there was some ambiguity), listing several supposed benefits to the victim. He claimed not to be justifying “pedophilia” because he defined such acts as those which are performed on a child that has hit puberty. So, if a 13 year old has hit puberty, it’s not “pedophilia” according to this definition (which is the more narrow definition of “pedophilia,” although broader definitions include adolescents as well) but in any case it certainly is child sex abuse! Does Patrick Coffin really think that sexual abuse of a minor, that is, homosexual sodomy performed on a thirteen year old child, is merely “icky behavior”? I can’t believe that he does — he must not have researched this aspect of Yiannopoulos past very well. This is the very crisis we are facing in the Church today, and such abuse is a savage form of violence that scars people for life.

    Here is one of the interviews, in which Yiannopoulos expresses gratitude that a Catholic priest, who abused him sexually (which he appears very much to endorse in the interview), taught him how to engage in oral sex, and in which he speaks positively about sexual relationships between adults and minors as young as 13 as long as they “give consent.” If that’s not defending sex abuse, what is? That’s why he not only lost his book deal, but was fired by Breitbart, which is not exactly a politically correct publication.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RY6iDrdeqTo

    In his new book, Yiannopoulos makes apparent progress in admitting that the sexual abuse committed against him was just that. However, he continues to defend his remarks endorsing pederasty in a way that comes across as disingenuous. He claims he was never serious, was just joking (he clearly wasn’t) and that the totally reasonable criticisms leveled against him were the product of a “hit job” designed to ruin him, and were somehow constitute a greater offense than the sexual abuse committed against him. He claims that it was obvious he was just kidding when he called abuse victims “whining little brats” in another interview – some joke! Also, he continues to defend what he stated originally by repeating his qualification of endorsing pederasty that it must be “consensual” and above the legal age.

    On top of all of this, Yiannopoulos continues to flaunt and justify his homosexual behavior, while somehow placing himself in the position of critiquing a sitting pope who is enmeshed in “gay mafia” scandals. As anyone knows who has read my coverage and commentaries on Francis for many years, I am no fan of this papacy. However, the notion that Yiannopoulos can be a useful ally in critiquing it is, at the very least, a big stretch. I would also argue that he shouldn’t be able to win the support of orthodox Catholics just because he goes after a pope they don’t like.

    I don’t claim that it is wrong in and of itself to do an interview with Yiannopoulos — his book contains encouraging hints that he’s on his way to a personal conversion and a rejection of homosexual behavior, and that is good material in itself for an interview. Perhaps he will also abandon his sometimes truly gratuitously cruel and ugly remarks that seek only to cause offense, and that certainly seem to offend Christian charity. I hope and pray that this does occur, and if it does, Yiannopoulos ultimately may be in a good position to help in the battle for restoring the Church — he’s certainly an immensely talented person and an excellent writer. I pray for his success in this regard.

    Until then, though, I hope that very talented Catholic interviewers like Patrick Coffin (for whom I also have no ill will) will approach Yiannopoulos in a properly critical way. The first step to doing that is recognizing what Yiannopoulos has in fact said and done in the past, not whitewashing it.

    • I don’t understand why you are picking on the victim here. Milo was the victim of a pedophile priest. As such, he has the right to say whatever he wants regarding how he feels without being attacked and accused of “endorsing pedophilia” himself as a victim!

      It is a dangerous precedent to start attacking victims for saying “the wrong thing.” In fact, Milo should be applauded for the fact that he had the courage to talk honestly about what happened to him. Even if what he said probably sounds weird to a lot of non-victims.

      As a victim myself, I didn’t see anything wrong or unusual when I watched the entirety of the interview that cost him everything. On the contrary, I admire his courage. Most men can’t talk about childhood sexual abuse. Even to their own wives. So image how hard it is for a gay man to talk about this in front of a bunch of heterosexual men. So of course he is going to downplay it and maybe even try to make what appear to be “inappropriate” jokes about it. Nothing unusual about that at all.

      There is a reason so few victims ever report these crimes. After all, who wants to tell his story and then be attacked like this? Better to just keep it a secret. Even if that means aiding the pedophiles.

    • What you seem not to understand about Milo is that his primary fight is one of FREE SPEECH – FREEDOM OF SPEECH! His style is to mock the radical PC Left and fight against them with outrageous and provocative speech. He uses labels such as “Dangerous Faggot” as a way to show that if he own the label, no one can use it to insult him! To suggest that if all gays would do this, they too would not have to go around perpetually offended or outraged by such labels! The gay “community” is in general is VERY hostile toward religion, religious people and conservative people! Milo has helped a lot with getting conservative people to be more tolerant of gay people. I’m not saying that all conservatives approve, just that they are tolerant when they realize that intelligent, politically conservative people can also be gay. I don’t view Milo as an extremist at all. I think he has mostly mainstream conservative political views, once you get past the sarcasm, humor and mocking tone that he uses to get his message across! Mostly, Milo is a FREE SPEECH WARRIOR.

  12. Matthew, I’m not going to the mat with you. I don’t have time and I don’t care enough to. You have not heard the interview. You have no idea what Milo Yiannopoulos thinks and feels about his past behavior and statements. If you want to nitpick about the “broader definition of pedophilia,” then have at it—with someone more knowledgeable than I. I accept the standard common definition to be sexual attraction to, or behavior with, pre-pubescent children. If you find evidence Milo supports this, I will apologize to my community members and to my the broader audience, and take the interview down. I’m sure you’re a good guy; you sure know how to write. So I’m not sure if it’s a result of you marinating for so long in the hyper-judgmental, high-octane moralizing, zone that LifeSiteNews has become or whether you’re simply a purist, but you might think twice about assuming that what someone has said or done in the past precisely reflects his present views. Milo Yiannopoulos (whom I’ve never met in person) is on a journey. His formulations of public Catholicism I find not only theologically astute, but IMHO, brave and even prophetic. Yes, he “married” his boyfriend. Yes, he can be potty mouthed. I doubt he meets the sky high standard of The Righteous, but I’d rather going into battle with him before I would with any of his offended critics who will *not* look closer.

    • Patrick: Of course I have an idea of what Milo Yiannopoulos thinks about his past behavior and statements — he talks about it at length in his book, and he has commented on it several times in the press. Anyone can find that material online. I cited it in my statement above. Do you not know this?

      If it is “hyper-judgmental, high-octane moralizing” to express concern about the endorsement of the pederastic sex abuse of minors as young as 13 (by priests even!), I have to say that I and LifeSite in general are “guilty” as charged. That’s what our coverage of the sex abuse crisis in the Church is all about.

      You wrote in your article that if Yiannopoulos had endorsed pedophilia, you wouldn’t be interviewing him, but you will interview him because he only admitted to “icky behaviors that are, as he admitted, commonplace in homosexual subculture.” That’s how you characterize the endorsement of the pederastic sex abuse of 13 year old boys? As anyone can see, that was the content of his comments.

      I hope you’ll clarify that statement, something you distinctly failed to do in your response above. As for the interview, I wish you and him well.

    • Y’know, I’d quite like to see an interview with Milo Yiannopoulous, but I find the posts you’ve made so unpleasant that I really don’t want to see you interviewing anybody.

  13. Conservative friends often use the metaphor of a boiling frog to illustrate the perils of our modern media society. The parable of a frog in gradually heated water eventually boiling to death is a powerful one, but it’s one that applies across the political spectrum. Many people who three or four years ago would have rejected outright the sort of rhetoric that men like Milo Yiannopoulos espouse now drink it in as a result of prolonged exposure to a coarsening political scene.

    Many liberal friends also like to use the phrase “this is not normal” when describing the sort of angry, often bigoted, misogynistic, and racist rhetoric that has risen alongside the rise of Trump. This, of course, is nonsense. As Catholics we know that we are all affected by sin. Sin begets sin, rage begets rage, bigotry begets bigotry. It’s all too human for all of us to get trapped by this sort of thing, especially once our inclinations to one side or the other begin to influence how we choose our media sources.

    As Henri de Lubac once said, “Everybody has his filter, which he takes about with him, through which, from the indefinite mass of facts, he gathers in those suited to confirm his prejudices. And the same fact again, passing through different filters, is revealed in different aspects, so as to confirm the most diverse opinions. It has always been so, it always will be so in this world.

    “Rare, very rare are those who check their filter.”

    I’d ask people who are supporting Milo Yiannopoulos to check their filter. When at Breitbart, Milo tried repeatedly to get white nationalists from sites such as the Daily Stormer onto podcasts as guests. He tried to recruit anti-Semites as contributors. He only failed because his bosses swatted these down. He used passwords related to Kristallnacht and the date Jews were expelled from England. His public persona has always relied on toying with racism, misogyny, and white supremacy.

    It’s appalling but unsurprising that some Catholics like Mr. Coffin have fallen into the trap of supporting this sort of thing. It makes enemies fume, so it has to have some value, right? But it’s unnecessary, sinful, and counter to the Gospel. It’s returning evil for evil. I am very disappointed and angry to see this happening.

    Catholics should be avoiding giving this man the sort of attention he craves. By all means, seek out the lost sheep. But don’t give the lost sheep a platform to lure more astray.

    John Herreid
    Ignatius Press

  14. Well, I was willing to give Mr. Coffin the benefit of the doubt, regarding his motives for and the general utility of providing Mr. Yiannopoulos yet another platform for his “complicated” thoughts and his “incendiary” speaking style. However, Mr. Coffin is awfully defensive about his decision, both in the original article and the comments section. This makes me wonder if there will be anything of true value to come out of it. I also think he reveals more about his motives than perhaps he meant to when, in his comment to Matthew Cullinan Hoffman, he argues that puberty mitigates what would otherwise be indefensible and inexcusable: an adult indulging in sexual relations with a minor. Could it all be about benefiting from controversy?

    • Could your comment be all about trolling? You certainly excel in twisting my words. The self-righteous posturing from people who will not listen to the interview is…interesting. “Awfully defensive.” Right.

  15. I strongly recommend you correct his misunderstanding of the Catholic sacrament of marriage which he says only began in the 12 century. He spreads misleading information like this in his talks: (Watch this video)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5q4u1nE6tI

    I would start evangelising him there. Treat him to a history lesson in the sacrament of marriage, starting from the Gospels/Church Fathers. He needs it!

  16. PATRICK!!!! I had never heard of you or Milo until yesterday and then the HS guided me in your direction. I’m enthralled. Especially when you said Bishop Sheen is a heavy influence to you. Started reading Diabolical last night after listening to your interview. God bless you. I’m so invigorated by this conversation!

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