A few years ago, when I was still studying to become a priest, I went to hear Michael Coren speak about his book Why Catholics Are Right. We talked afterwards, and he said some very kind things to me about my intelligence and my ability to express myself. He recommended I get into blogging.
Michael Coren, in other words, is, in part, why I am writing for the Rebel Media.
So when I heard that he had become an Anglican a few weeks ago, it was sadder news to me than the realization that my home province of Alberta had defected to the NDP.
That said, I kind of get why he did it.
Coren says that he left because he couldn’t stand the bigotry against homosexual persons that he experienced in the Roman Catholic communion. (We have to specify Roman Catholic, since he still identifies as an Anglo-Catholic - look up the Oxford Movement if you find that confusing.)
Truthfully, I sort of saw this coming. When I talked to him in 2013, he was working on a book called Man and Wife: A Defense of Traditional Marriage. The moment its promotional material disappeared from his website, I felt a dim intuition flicker in me that the news of last April confirmed.
It’s tempting to react the way other Catholics have reacted. Call him out for his poor reasoning; insist that the teachings of the Church are affirming of gay people; remind him that you can’t judge the Church by the idiocy of its members, etc. etc.—stuff he almost certainly knows already.
But, the thing is, I get it. Go watch his debate with Charles McVety on the Ontario sex ed. curriculum; watch what an uncomprehending ass McVety makes of himself. If that’s your major exposure to the defense of traditional marriage, if that’s the fruit of the Church’s teachings, then I get why a person like Coren might stop caring how theological persuasive the arguments against the gay lifestyle are and decide that, true or not, if it breeds attitudes like this, he wants no part of it.
And here’s the thing: I can’t pretend I’ve always liked Coren’s style over the years, but I’ve always appreciated him for being real. He lets you know where he’s at. And this is where he’s at right now. This isn’t the first time he’s left the RC fold, either: He had a phase as an Evangelical before his return to Rome a few years ago.
And, the fact is, a Catholic has to respect that. No less than Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, the highest-profile convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism you could ask for, called the conscience “the aboriginal Vicar of Christ”, prior even to the Pope, and maintained that a person would be justified in not being a Catholic if their conscience prevented them.
That doesn’t mean that, to use his own phrase, Catholics are no longer “right”; it just means that a person - and persons are made up of passions as well as reason - isn’t in the spiritual place yet to make the full commitment that the Church calls for.
And this should not frustrate us. Some, like Michael Voris (who was told by his archdiocese to stop calling his ministry “Catholic” after some of his more egregious comments), have uncharitably compared Coren to King Henry VIII, who also wrote a book about how Catholics were right, but left the Church because of its teachings on sexual ethics.
But I think a better comparison is to Malcolm Muggeridge, another witty British journalist who delighted in demolishing the delusions of the left, and who also remained an Anglican for many years because of his simple inability to bring himself to take the plunge, despite his deep reverence for Mother Theresa.
I don’t know if Coren will remain an Anglican. He presumably still maintains many of his more “right-leaning” views about, for example, the Middle East, and he may not find the warmest reception to this in his new congregation.
Moreover, given that it was the bad examples of Catholics which drove him out of the Church, perhaps, like Muggeridge, the example of a living saint will end up drawing him back. (This is a challenge to all the Catholics reading this to set a better example of charity and holiness in your lives.)
Until then, we should continue to show Michael Coren respect, dignity, and love as a Christian who still sacramentally belongs to Mother Church. Remember, Muggeridge didn’t end up becoming Catholic until he was 79 years old. At the sprightly young age of 56, that gives Coren loads of time. Surely we can spare some prayerful patience for another such brother in Christ.
Follow The Megaphone on Twitter.
JOIN TheRebel.media for more news and commentary you won’t find anywhere else.