Opinion With Michael Coren

Summer 2011 CSANews Issue 79  |  Posted date : Jul 08, 2011.Back to list

In April, my new book, "Why Catholics Are Right" (McClelland & Stewart) was published. I knew that it would be provocative, but I did not realize just how intolerant our allegedly pluralistic, liberal society had become. Jim from Calgary e-mailed me even before the publication date that, "to claim that your religion is right is not only ridiculous, but also you are a fascist."

I wrote back that he was obviously confusing me with the author of Why Fascists Are Right - advice: never joke with a madman - but suggested that what he was really saying was that I was wrong, and that he was right. Which was fair enough, but surely rather exploded his argument. If I believe something, I thus believe it to be right. You don't have to agree with me, but you cannot deny me the freedom to believe.

He wrote again. "There is no such thing as right or wrong, you moron." I replied: "So what you are saying, I suppose, is that when I speak of right and wrong, I am wrong." No more responses from the Albertan philosopher. But at least he was not particularly rude. As I write this column, I have already received more than 100 unpleasant e-mails containing swearing, threats and general abuse.

Which makes me incredibly happy. Indifference hurts; anger from enemies is proof of triumph. Having said this, there have been just as many generous letters, many of them containing stories of discrimination against Catholics, even against Catholic children.

The book is at heart a defence and explanation of Roman Catholicism, and many of you reading this column will be non-Catholic, even anti-Catholic. Point is, while we can agree to disagree, we must emphasize the ideas of free speech, open debate and respect for discussion. Frankly, there's not much of this left in modern Canada.

The book consists of an introductory chapter about the nature of truth, followed by Catholics and the Abuse Crisis, Catholics and History, Catholics and Theology, Catholics and Life, and Catholics and Other Stuff. 

Abuse? Vile and tragic. The numbers, though, were almost identical to any institution with a power relationship between adult and youth, such as sports teams, schools and so on. It involved approximately 2% of clergy and was sometimes dealt with badly, but seldom maliciously. Just as abuse was dealt with badly, but not maliciously, in other religious and secular bodies at the time.

History? You know the usual litany of tired and ill-informed attacks. Crusades, Inquisition, Galileo, Holocaust. None of these criticisms stand up to scrutiny and they are generally anachronistic and ill-informed. Theology? What Catholics believe and why they believe it. Papal infallibility, celibate priests, transubstantiation, to name just three. 

Life? No, we're not obsessed with abortion, we are passionate about the sanctity of life. The arguments for the unborn and against euthanasia are more scientific and logical than they are religious. Other stuff? All sorts. There was not a female pope, the Da Vinci Code is silly, animals do not have rights in Catholic teaching, and so on.

It's a book of ideas, at a time in history when people often prefer feelings to facts. I can't change them all, but I can force some of them to think a little. And it seems that I have been able to do so. Back to the responses to the book. 

After the initial shouts and screams of abuse, most of the reviews and reactions have been disarmingly positive, even emotionally so. From journalists working for public broadcasting who take me aside to explain that the book has brought them back to the church, to television hosts on traditionally anti-Catholic networks who have thanked me for finally "saying what had to be said," to ordinary members of the public who have bought five and six copies at a time, for themselves and to give to their friends.

It seems that the hunger is out there. I'm not a theologian - thank God - and not a priest, but merely a Catholic journalist and writer who has spent many years dealing with the same attacks and condemnations. I've waited for others to defend us, to write such a book I suppose, but the time for waiting has long gone. If you need read it, whatever your reaction, I'd love to know. Then I'm off to begin writing, Why Snowbirds Are Right. With that one, though, I may need some help! 

"Why Catholics Are Right" is available at most bookstores, and through Amazon.com or Amazon.ca