Sunday, April 06, 2008

I Give Michael Coren the Benefit of the Doubt

My last posting was an attempt to defend the notion that those who do not adhere to and espouse (all) the moral precepts advanced by the Roman Catholic Church and historic Christendom may rightfully be labeled as moral relativists.

The more controversial issues of our day which fall in this category I would conclude to be contraception, abortion, divorce and homosexuality. As I noted in an earlier critique on the progression of conservative thought, conservatives appear to be the night watchmen at the liberal (de)construction site insofar as these moral precepts are suffering increasing compromise under their watchful and silent eyes.

My critique tagged Michael Coren with the same label but I was subsequently challenged to produce some evidence for my claim. All I really had at the time to support my opinion was a hodgepodge of impressions from several years of reading Coren or viewing him on his TV show.

No doubt the man is growing in his faith as a Catholic—as I am—and so there was little point in going back in ancient history simply to retrieve ammunition for my claim.

Conclusion: I’ve waded through a significant amount of online articles and records but I have not found anything of substance which definitively places him in the camp of the moral relativists. On the point of contraception, which is the normal tell tale issue and the big giveaway, I note that Coren has been very careful indeed, if not somewhat ambiguous, in his language. No doubt he realizes the hazards of speaking forthrightly to his readers on this subject.

Perhaps this fact alone does bring him one very big step closer to deserving the label, but at this point it would be premature as far as I can see. Coren did make an important appearance at the Humanae Vitae 2006 Conference as a conference speaker on abortion, although the context of the conference was “Why the Church is right and why the culture is wrong about contraception.”

I think the most helpful collection of Coren’s thoughts on these various moral issues appeared about a year ago in the Toronto Sun in a column entitled Hey bishop, follow don't edit. See what you think.

Not the funny bishop though. "We must challenge the church's condemnations throughout the centuries of such things as masturbation, birth control, abortion, and homosexuality." When I was a boy we had a word for people who approved of masturbation. Mind you, I think we also had a word for people who couldn't think straight.

Perhaps we should also challenge the church's condemnation throughout the centuries of such things as poverty, cruelty, injustice and hatred. After all, those condemnations come from the same Bible, the same God, the same Jesus that necessitates the condemnation of sexual immorality.

Issues of sexuality are complex and demand compassion. But we can declare some absolutes. We are given sexuality both for pleasure and for procreation. To abuse it is little different from abusing strength or money. So just as we reject the bully or the loan shark we reject the person who uses sex only for selfish purposes.

To misunderstand this is to misunderstand human nature and divine love. Sex wouldn't be pleasurable unless God had wanted it to be and it seems to me that those who know this best are genuine Christians with their large families and their obvious joy in life.

Abortion is about power. The power of an adult over the least powerful being on Earth, the unborn child. To take innocent life is fundamentally anti-Christian and is, again, an abuse of that power. The ultimate abuse. Not sure how anybody who claims to believe in social justice cannot understand this.

Homosexuality? Constant understanding for the individual but unwavering commitment to historic and unchanging Christian teaching. It's so easy to appear fashionable but so meaningless. If we compromise on truth we might as well compromise on goodness as well.

This certainly constituted a most rare assault on the culture and mentality of our day and Coren is to be commended. I suppose I am still feeling a little stung by some of my past impressions of Coren and particularly by one of his very recent columns in February past on Archbishop Rowan Williams.

Coren was, as usual, insightful and witty in his remarks. However, when he said, “Roman Catholicism and the evangelical church stand firm and, no surprise at all, Islamic and Jewish orthodoxy are growing steadily,” I think he really muddied the waters badly.

The fact is that what we see as the “normal” Canadian practice of "Roman Catholicism” is largely a charade and counterfeit. Some reference by Coren to official teachings or the Magisterium would have been essential because his ordinary readers live amongst pseudo-Catholics and have little or no understanding of official Catholicism.

Secondly, it simply isn't true that the evangelical church (ecclesial communities) is standing firm. I speak from experience. They are actually disintegrating along with their more liberal and dead Protestant brethren and all the while encouraging a more pervasive culture of personal moral relativism. There are really only a small number of "evangelicals" standing firm and I suspect those might prefer the term "fundamentalists." The evangelical "church" is only one or two steps from the coffin itself. I was disappointed that Coren wasn’t clearer on that.

But in the meanwhile, until new evidence comes to light, I apologize to Michael Coren for lumping him indiscriminately with conservative type moral relativists. In fact, as I said in my previous posting “It would be a very pleasant outcome indeed to discover that I was wrong about Michael Coren.”

Keep the (objective & absolute) good stuff coming Michael!

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