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The Future of Catholicism Print E-mail
By Michael Coren   
Saturday, 09 November 2013

Epiphanies aren’t supposed to occur in Chicago hotel rooms. Desert roads, foxholes, emergency wards, yes, but not Chicago hotel rooms. But it was in the Windy City that a different wind blew three years ago, in the form of a telephone call from a senior editor at Random House. I was on a publicity tour for my book Why Catholics Are Right. “Some news about your book,” explained the vehemently non-Catholic publisher, “We’ve had to reprint immediately, it’s on the best-seller list, and could you write another book on the same subject?”

Of course I agreed, but the epiphany was the realization that if a book about the Church is approachable and not too pompous, legions of people will be eager to read it. 50,000 so far with the last book, and I can only hope and pray – I’ve four hungry kids! – that the new one does as well.

The Future of Catholicism was commissioned specifically to respond to the hysteria that greeted the election of Pope Francis. The moment the conclave ended, numerous journalists approached me for interviews – desperately so, since there are so few Catholics in media in Canada. The questions repeated themselves with a dulling predictability: will the new pope change Church teaching on same-sex marriage; will he ordain women; will he allow abortion and birth control? After the fourth or fifth such interview I responded with, “Yes, and he’s going to become a Muslim too!”

A bit of advice: Don’t use satire or sarcasm on a journalist.

The premise of the new book is simple: to explain to Catholics and non-Catholics alike where the Church may and perhaps should change, and where it cannot and will not do so. After an introductory essay outlining absolute truth, permanent things, the deposit of faith, and fundamental beliefs and teachings, I devote the first full chapter to same-sex marriage. The reason, of course, is that this is so frequently the subject that is used to attack the Church.

Frankly, we’ve done an awful job explaining why we hold traditional marriage so dear, but then we’re seldom given a chance beyond a hurried sound bite. Marriage is a child-centered institution, the procreative norm is at the core of marriage, natural law informs all of Catholic moral thought, and sexuality has to be linked to creation for it to be Godly.

In many ways the issue is actually not about homosexuality at all, but about the defense of marriage. The majority community opened the door to decay when it cheapened marriage via easy divorce and casual sex. And it’s hardly surprising that gay activists took advantage of the situation. The Church may change its outreach to the gay community, may refresh the communication of the truth, but the truth itself is rock.


The book continues with chapters concerning abortion, contraception, female ordination, papal authority and other crucial aspects of belief where the tradition, from ancient Scripture to contemporary belief, is uninterrupted and uninterruptable.

Which brings us to where the future of Catholicism may be different. We have to develop a new form of evangelization. The term “New Evangelization” is partly misleading. There is good and bad evangelization, but not really new evangelization. Nothing exemplifies this better than when Rome invited a collection of safe, mainstream Catholic bloggers with small on-line audiences to a media conference, deliberately ignoring the more robustly conservative – and potentially challenging – bloggers with massive followings.

            The future may well be more ecumenical, but let’s qualify that. It’s easy to play nice with Jewish leaders, Orthodox patriarchs, and even some liberal Protestants with moribund churches. Much more challenging, however, is to hold out the hand to Islam, knowing that it might be cut off rather than grasped in friendship. Islam is becoming less and not more tolerant and pluralistic. And it’s imperative that we insist the persecution and slaughter of Christians stop before we can build genuine relationships.

There is also a chapter on Pope Francis himself. This was a difficult one, because the Holy Father makes a fascinating statement every second week. If I have a criticism it is that he says too much, enabling those who wish to exploit his statements. This has been especially unfortunate when it has been used to cause acute pain to courageous (especially pro-life) Catholics who have sacrificed and suffered ignominy – often at the hands of liberal coreligionists.

True, Francis has spoken of evil, Satan, and sin more than any Catholic leader I can recall; he has fiercely criticized ostensibly Catholic politicians who promote abortion; and he stood firmly and bravely against same-sex marriage and abortion in Argentina. Yet he has also made statements that seem to lack subtlety and sensitivity, and have confused rather than provoked.

He is a lion in his defense of the poor, the abused, the marginalized, and the Church. There is no contradiction in that list, but if the truly faithful feel ostracized (and some certainly do), their angst must not be ignored. I also predict, by the way, that his honeymoon with the media will not last.     

We are Catholics not to be loved but to love. That love is not always one that the world understands, and is certainly not a spasm-like approval of everything and anything that the culture demands. As any parent will tell you, love sometimes means saying no. The Future of Catholicism says yes, but it also says no. As such, I doubt it will ever get me an invitation to appear on the Stephen Colbert Show.

 
Michael Coren is a TV and radio host based in Toronto, Canada. His syndicated column runs each week in many newspapers. He is the author of thirteen books, including Heresy and Why Catholics Are Right.
 
 
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

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Comments (9)Add Comment
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written by Tom Worth, November 09, 2013
Thank you for writing books about Catholicism. We need more authors like you!
Pope Francis does not strike me as the type to be too concerned about the angst of the faithful or media honeymoons. He's far too busy with things that matter in the world, exactly as he should be.
Taking part in my first pro life prayer demonstration, it never occurred to me to wonder what Pope Francis would have thought. But if it had, I would have concluded that he would have loved to have spent the day right there among us, leading us in peaceful prayer and song and loving all who were present, even those with their megaphones and signs across the street from us.
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written by Julie Culshaw, November 09, 2013
Brilliant analysis, will definitely be getting the book.
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written by Ben, November 09, 2013
There is no honeymoon between Pope Francis and the media. They will simply report on him whenever he does something acceptable and ignore him when he fails to promote their agenda. The overall effect of the one-sided coverage is to portray the Church has softening hard positions and changing to meet the times. It may not be accurate and may not lead to the Church marrying gays, but it will give cover to public catholics who need it.

In short, the media doesn't approve of Francis' message, it seeks to control it.
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written by Rich in MN, November 09, 2013
Thank you so very much for your work! I am deeply concerned that we in the western world are only on the cusp of the State mandating positive law at the expense of empirical reality -- particularly regarding the sanctity of human life and the understanding of marriage. I think of George Orwell’s novel “1984” in which it was required to believe that 2+2=5, and I find it poignantly ironic that the “equals” sign was one of the first symbols co-opted by the gay rights movement. And their powerful current of symbols and messages and allies (some of them unwittingly so) can overwhelm even the strongest of swimmers who are not securely anchored in natural law (e.g. Archbishop Desmond Tutu comes to mind). It is vital to keep speaking the truth to power. Should we see a worst-case scenario in which a spiritual winter of totalitarianism does, in fact, descend upon our civilization, you will have at least planted acorns that not only feed, but also remind us of what the true food is. But let us continue to pray that God protect us from that fate. Thank you!
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written by David Naas, November 09, 2013
Well, not having a dog in this fight, perhaps I should refrain. It is, however, with dismay that I see all over the internet, raging conflicts between the Traddies and the Trendies in the Catholic Church.
"Skandalon", I believe this is called, when one says, 'I am of Apollo', and another 'I of Peter', and another 'I of Paul', and another 'I of Christ'.
It would be good for all concerned to look into The Screwtape Letters, wherein Lewis excoriates those who are into Christianity PLUS, with the PLUS taking on greater importance than the Christianity (which is, in the end, a devil's ploy literally stated.)
"If I have a criticism it is that he says too much, enabling those who wish to exploit his statements." -- seriously?? So he should clear all his statements with the "right" people? I suppose Jesus should have cleared all his statements with the Apostolic PR Department before driving away the crowds, "Will you leave me also?"
Whatever happened to just going to Mass, Confession, praying, and reading the Bible, and not getting into an internet dogfight to promote "hits" and increase revenue?
Sorry for my irritable tone, but haven't we had enough of this backhanded complimenting of the Holy Father?
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written by Jen, November 11, 2013
Bravo, sounds like a fabulous book, thank you for writing it. I also hope and pray that it is widely read. David, (commenter above), I totally agree. I am pro-life and love those who courageously follow their call to this ministry, but these designations of "conservative" and "liberal" within the Church are an abberation and so sad considering how Our Lord prayed fervently the night before He died that we would be One. I know, too, another controversial man who didn't speak much about abortion and homosexual unions - it was Jesus. But we know and follow and love what our Church teaches regarding these issues, and we simply say, "Neither do I condemn you. Go and do not sin any more." Let us not have sour-faced saints! Blessings to all, Jennifer
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written by TeaPot562, November 11, 2013
The comment of Ben (November 9) is an accurate analysis of what is in the USA called "the MainStream Media" (hereafter MSM), i.e. the NYTimes, the Washington Post, the major commercial networks. Note that the vast majority of the employees of these organizations do not attend any church or synagogue on a regular basis, and are closer to a Thomas Jefferson belief in God (Deist, created the universe and then left it to do its own thing) rather than someone who provides rules for human beings that maximize long term happiness, and cares deeply about each individual human soul.
Further, the MSM has its own agenda that it calls "tolerance", but is quite intolerant of Right-To-Lifers and others who believe in Christian biblically-based values.
TeaPot563
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written by Shan Gill, November 12, 2013
The One, Living God is a fruitful God. He admonishes men and women to 'go forth, be fruitful and multiply'. Which, in the natural order, is impossible in homosexual (gay or lesbian) relationships without the introduction of a third physical party into the relationship. It is simple, but not easy, to maintain the natural order and the love that is inherent in it. So what is redefining the natural order but a work of loveless nonsense?
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written by Ronld Siminski, March 05, 2014
Ancient history and records from catholic resources gives modern day people a wealth of information we can look to for wisdom.Changing may not be in peoples best interest.Some people want attention and go out of their way to go against what is good for many.

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