National Catholic Register


Canadian Defender

BY Steve Weatherbe

September 25-October 8, 2011 Issue | Posted 9/16/11 at 6:19 PM



By Michael Coren

McLelland and Stewart, 2011

240 pages, $19.99

To order:

M ichael Coren is a Canadian author and journalist who delights in rocking the cultural boat, something which is easy to do in Canada, where not rocking the boat is itself a cherished value.

His latest book, Why Catholics Are Right, blasts through the long and tiresome list of grievances against the Church.

It is thoroughly amusing and mostly very useful, though in trying these arguments out on friends or spouses, one would do best to drop Coren’s tone of constant irritation at the stupidity of most criticisms. Not that they aren’t irritating; it is just that many people subscribing to these views do so assuming they are indisputable.

A great example is the claim that more people have been killed in the name of religion than in all the wars of history. Coren points out, however, the “countless victims of the barbaric and aggressively God-hating regimes” of Hitler, Stalin and Mao.

The best part of his book is spent demolishing such specific anti-Catholic targets as the clergy sex-abuse scandal, which gets its own chapter, the Crusades, the Inquisition and the Galileo affair. He then tackles essential Catholic dogma such as devotion to Mary, papal
infallibility and the Eucharist,
the Church’s defense of the right to life and its sexual

Coren’s defense of the Crusades is typical of his leave-no-attack-unrebutted approach. The Crusades were not imperialistic, since they were a net fiscal drain on Europe. Nor were they attempts to convert Muslims by force, but, rather, to restore to Christian rule lands conquered by Muslims (for which, he notes, “It’s almost unheard of to hear any Islamic leaders offering any form of contrition.”)

On the anti-Semitic excesses of some Crusades, he notes that these were unauthorized and Catholic bishops led efforts to protect Jews from persecutors. On the sack of Christian Constantinople, he details the tangled intrigue (they don’t call it Byzantine for nothing) with the Eastern emperor that led to it and notes that the Pope excommunicated all involved.

As for the Inquisition, Coren notes that its motive was to save heretics’ souls and not to torture or punish. It took place at a time when Spain had very recently been liberated from several centuries of Islamic tyranny. Trials were fairer under the Inquisition and punishments less severe. “The numbers of people hurt or even affected … have been vastly exaggerated,” he writes. “More babies are killed in abortions every two days in North America alone than died in a century of the Inquisition.”

Even the notorious Torquemada gets his defense: He “seldom used torture and went to great lengths to make sure that accuser and accused received justice.”

Coren hasn’t missed much. Entertaining in itself, his book is an entirely useful exercise in elevator apologetics — concise, abrasive argumentative gems putting all foes of Holy Mother Church in their place before the door opens to let them out at their floor (surely the sub-basement).

Steve Weatherbe writes from Victoria, British Columbia.