Temporary Inattention or Willful Blindness: Why Did Michael Coren Leave the Church?

COMMENTARY: Canadian broadcaster/commentator’s decision is incompatible with the Christian worldview.

(photo: YouTube)

Canadian broadcaster and commentator Michael Coren has left the Catholic Church again.

He first became Catholic in 1985 but left for three years in the 1990s before returning. Hopefully, he will return again.

Currently, he is affiliating with the Anglican church, where he says he feels very comfortable.

Why did Coren leave the Catholic Church? In an interview with Canada’s National Post, he says that it was because of the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, stating, “I could not remain in a church that effectively excluded gay people.”

This remark is unfortunate, in several respects. He apparently doesn’t feel it sufficient to simply say that he came to disagree with Catholic teaching.

Instead, he plays the moral-superiority card (“I could not remain in a church ... ”), and he includes the weasel word “effectively,” because he knows that the Catholic Church doesn’t exclude people with same-sex attraction.

There are lots of people in the Catholic Church who deal with SSA, and every other form of temptation, and the Church welcomes them all and wants them to be active, involved members.

The Church’s mission is to bring the love of Christ to every human being, regardless of the challenges they face.

Since reality does not conform to Coren’s preferred narrative, he has to dress up the situation in postmodern psychobabble and talk about the Church “effectively excluding” people it actually embraces.

He also deploys bits of rhetorical fluff like “I felt that the circle of love had to be broadened, not reduced.”


‘Issues Jesus Never Mentioned’

The number of clichés Coren uses, both in the print interview and in its video counterpart, is remarkable.

In the video, he says that although the Church’s teaching on homosexuality was the main reason he left, “there’s more than that — some teachings on contraception and on life. There seemed to be an obsession with issues that Jesus never mentioned.”

Dude, really?

It’s hard to imagine an educated Christian honestly employing a reductionistic criterion like whether Jesus discussed a subject explicitly.

The Gospels are limited documents that record only a few thousand words of Jesus’ teachings. They can’t possibly comment on every issue of moral significance.

Jesus means us to use other resources, including the other books of the New Testament, to flesh out a moral understanding of issues that the Gospels don’t go into.

Every educated Christian should know this, so whenever anyone makes the “Jesus didn’t mention that” claim in a moral discussion, one immediately suspects that the person is either under-educated or being intellectually dishonest.

I won’t presume to judge how Coren falls with respect to those categories. It could be that he has simply never devoted a moment’s thought to the subject.

As soon as one does, though, it immediately becomes clear that you can’t dismiss the moral significance of an issue — or say it’s just up to the individual’s conscience — merely because Jesus didn’t mention it.


Two Things Jesus Never Mentioned

For example, Jesus never mentioned terrorism.

Yet I have a hard time imagining Coren arguing that it’s a matter of individual conscience whether one can kill or threaten to kill innocent people as a way of bringing psychological pressure on others in order to effect social change.

I presume he has the moral clarity needed to say that’s just wrong.

He might say — as have others — that the Church has an obsession with sexual matters that Jesus never mentioned, but, then, Jesus doesn’t offer us a comprehensive catechesis on sexual morality in the Gospels.

For example, Jesus never mentioned rape.

I certainly hope, though, that Coren would recognize that Jesus wishes us to develop our view of the moral status of rape using other information, including what can be learned from other passages in Scripture and what reason itself can teach us.


Extending the Principle

But if Jesus wishes us to do that regarding one sexual matter he didn’t mention, then we should expect to do so with other such sexual issues.

After all, we know the reason that Jesus didn’t address the issue of homosexuality in the Gospels: It’s because its moral status was not in question in his own circles.

It was not until the Christian community began to spread in Greco-Roman circles, where homosexual activity was tolerated, that the subject would need to be addressed — and so it was: in St. Paul’s epistles (Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).


The Obsession Canard

As to the clichéd charge that the Church is obsessed with these issues, it’s worth noting that the Church isn’t doing anything more than maintaining what it has always taught.

What has changed is society, which has become sexually libertine in recent decades.

A simple look at the statistics on Internet porn will demonstrate that it is society, not the Church, that has become obsessed with sex.

Since obsession is irrational by definition, one criterion by which it can be identified is whether a person can provide a rational explanation for holding the position he does.

If Coren has a rational explanation for his change of view on homosexuality, he does not provide it in the National Post interview.

There is, however, a rational explanation for why homosexuality is a misuse of our sexual faculties.


Come, Let Us Reason Together

Ultimately, one must make a choice in how one views man. Either we are meaningless collections of chemicals (“ugly bags of mostly water,” as one Star Trek episode put it) or we are the creatures of a rational God.

The Christian view is the latter. God may have used evolution to produce our bodies, but we are still creatures with meaning and significance.

This view is what makes moral reasoning possible. It also makes it possible to look to the way we are made as an indication of how things are supposed to be.

The purpose of the heart, for example, is clearly to pump blood; the purpose of the lungs is to oxygenate that blood, etc. In the context of the human body, these organs have meaning and purpose.

Since Coren professes to be a Christian, I assume that he shares the Christian view of these matters, which raises an obvious question: What is the purpose of human reproductive anatomy?

We needn’t be graphic, but it’s obvious to everyone that male and female anatomy is meant to go together in a way that other combinations are not. That is, after all, how we get new humans.

If we were just collections of chemicals with no moral significance, then this complementarity would not matter.

But if we are creatures with meaning and significance derived from our Creator, then it has to be taken seriously.

I don’t see how a thoughtful person professing to be a Christian can miss this. Rejecting the biblical, historical and Catholic view of homosexual behavior invariably calls into question fundamental planks of the Christian worldview.

Only temporary inattention or willful blindness can mask this. Let’s hope that in Coren’s case it’s just temporary inattention.

To paraphrase St. Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons, “Now, listen, Michael: Two years ago, you were a passionate Churchman. Now, you’re a passionate Anglican. We must just pray that, when your head’s finished turning, your face is to the front again.”

Jimmy Akin, a Register columnist and blogger, is the senior apologist at Catholic Answers.