Why Catholics Are Right Print
By Michael Coren   
Thursday, 19 May 2011

Editor-in-Chief’s Note: Michael Coren is a new writer for The Catholic Thing, but an old friend to several of us here. He’s had a remarkable career as a journalist in England and Canada (where he now lives), a writer of arresting books on Chesterton, Lewis, Tolkien, H.G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, and as a television and radio personality   – and he is still a relatively young man. He’s just one of several new and distinguished contributors we will be bringing you as The Catholic Thing expands. We need your support, not only for the expansion, but just to keep doing what keeps you coming back to this site every day. Please don’t make me beg. Do your part to keep this vital stream of Catholic thought and action flowing. Make your contribution to The Catholic Thing today.

When I first told friends and colleagues about my new book Why Catholics Are Right, they were intrigued by the proposed content but disturbed by the title: “Sounds a little proud”; “Is that sufficiently conciliatory for these progressive and pluralistic days?”; and “You ought to be careful because it might offend people.”

Which is odd. When I suggested to them titles for other books by other people such as Why Liberals Are Right, Why Conservatives Are Right, even Why Muslims Are Right, and especially Why Atheists Are Right, they thought them entirely reasonable and unlikely to cause any problems at all.

To believe something is, self-evidently, not to believe something that is its contrary. So obvious is this that it is not questioned and seems a taken-for-granted truth about most subjects. It is, after all, just common sense. But to claim that being an authentic Roman Catholic necessitates believing that Roman Catholicism is correct positively terrifies many modern men and women, as though a Catholic claiming to be right was some terrible sin. Not that many of these people believe in sin of course.

The implication – that being Catholic means, well, being Catholic and leads to the persecution or killing of others who are not Catholic – is naturally insulting. But as we know – and I think the critics really do as well – being Catholic means nothing of the sort. Still, it usually takes only a few moments during a disagreement for someone to bring up the days when Catholics did indeed give their opponents a hard time, as though in all of history only Catholics have ever got that wrong or even just acted like most people in earlier ages.

So I kept the title for a specific reason: to oblige and demand a certain clarity from readers. I’m a Catholic and believe in Catholicism. And thus I believe that people who disagree with my beliefs are wrong. I do not dislike them – or at least don’t dislike all of them – nor do I wish to hurt them, even those who wish to hurt me and will probably wish to hurt me even more after they read this book, pretend to read it, or read nasty reviews of it.

I do, however, want these readers to consider what I have to say and not to abuse my beliefs in a manner and with a harshness that they would not dream of using against almost any other creed or religion. It might be a romantic hope, but hope is a theological virtue, one of those Catholic qualities we like to think of as important and helpful.

Having said this, there are degrees of wrongness. Some people are only slightly wrong, others wrong most of the time and to a shocking degree. Non-Catholic Christians and in particular serious Evangelicals and Eastern Orthodox believers are examples of the former. Many of them could teach Catholics a great deal about love, charity, and devotion to God.

Alleged Christians who want to edit rather than follow Christ, professional atheists who flood the Internet with their obsessions, and part-time Catholic-bashers are in the latter camp.

Which brings me to the anti-Catholicism that has become the last acceptable prejudice in what passes for polite society and has become so obvious and so pronounced that even to point out the fact seems almost banal. We have all heard comments about Catholics that, applied to almost any other group, would simply not be tolerated. It’s bad enough when this is street conversation and pointless gossip, far worse when it passes for informed comment in allegedly serious newspapers.

British historian and biographer Christopher Hibbert put it well when he said that historically the pope had been thought of as, “an unseen, ghost-like enemy, lurking behind clouds of wicked incense in a Satanic southern city called Rome.” In much of contemporary Anglo-Saxon culture, as well as the greater modern world, this perverse caricature has found a second wind.

As you can see, my book was written out of experience as well as research. My experience has taught me that attacks usually begin with the history, then with a misunderstanding of what the Church believes and teaches, then with angry comments about why the Church is so “obsessed” with the life issues and then a whole bunch of criticisms. These days, tragically, the Catholic clergy abuse scandal is thrown in somewhere. It has to be discussed – but honestly and accurately.

The rest of the punches thrown at the Catholic body? The Church was nasty to Galileo; the Church tried to convert Muslims, and the Crusades were horrible; Hitler was a Catholic and the pope was a Nazi; the Inquisition slaughtered millions of people; the Church is rich and does nothing for the poor; children were abused and the Vatican knew about it all and did nothing; celibacy leads to perversion; Catholics worship statues; Catholics believe the pope is infallible and can never do anything wrong; and so on and so on and so on.

It’s all nonsense. Yet nonsense that is given a veneer of credibility by thinking people who shape opinion. All this makes the Church unique in the twenty-first century as a victim institution. In almost every other area, we’ve matured as a people and a culture to the point where such crass generalizations and fundamentally flawed opinions would not make it past the alehouse door.

I am often driven to say to the mass of uninformed critics: think and agree, think and disagree, think whatever you like. But in the name of God and the Church He left us, please think!

Michael Coren
is a television and radio host and journalist based in Toronto, Canada. His syndicated columns run each week in a dozen national newspapers, and his TV show is watched by almost a quarter of a million people each night. He is the author of thirteen books, and has received numerous awards for his broadcasting and writing. He is also a noted public speaker. His website is www.michaelcoren.com.

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