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Defender of the faith

Conservative Catholic toes Church line on the full panoply of hot-button issues

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It's often the case that no one is more Roman Catholic than a convert to Catholicism, and Michael Coren fits the bill.

The Toronto-based author of Why Catholics Are Right, who joined the faith as an adult, is out with his latest defence of the Church of Rome, and as usual, he takes no prisoners.

Do you like hot-button issues? You won't be disappointed. Coren covers most of them, including same-sex marriage, abortion, birth control and euthanasia -- all with a strongly conservative Catholic take.

Followers of the Canadian media will be familiar with Coren. Born and raised in England, he is a bestselling author of 15 books, including several biographies, hosts The Arena on the Sun News Network and is a longtime Sun Media columnist.

Coren's latest book, timely given Pope Francis being named Time magazine's person of the year, is a must-read for anyone from the most ardent conservative Catholic to the out-and-out critic of the Roman Catholic Church.

If you are devout, you will find his orthodoxy and devotion to the faith reassuring and refreshing; if you are convinced the church is holding the human race back -- well -- you will certainly get to know your enemy.

Either way, it helps to have more than a passing interest in religion and Catholic Christian theology, even if you are not a believer, because Coren doesn't shy away from scriptural references and the writings of church fathers and theologians.

Most of Coren's conclusions are predictable considering his devout faith. The Catholic Church will never change its belief in marriage as an institution only for heterosexual couples; abortion and artificial birth control will always be wrong; euthanasia will remain a sin; only men will ever be priests; and the celibacy rules are permanent.

Pope Francis I is, despite the hopes of many liberal Catholics and non-Catholics alike, never going to water down basic Catholic theology and dogma. As a believer in the infallibility of the papacy on matters of faith and morals (which the author explains), Coren writes that even the most sinful of popes (and there have been a few bad apples, he admits) cannot change God's natural law and morality, even if they want to.

Coren is convinced that troubles lie ahead for the Roman Catholic Church in terms of co-existing with a western civilization in which practices such as gay marriage and abortion are considered untouchable. He predicts future persecutions and violations of the rights and dignity of believers.

Where he is optimistic is in the continued growth of the Catholic Church, especially in Africa and Asia, where the Church's numbers are skyrocketing. And for those who think the Roman church is withering away in North America, he provides information that the number of men training to become priests is up significantly compared to what it has been in recent decades.

Thankfully, Coren's book is not heavy reading in the sense it is not a complicated theological tome. Coren is an experienced newspaper writer and knows how to reach for a wider audience. It's highly readable, interesting, eye-opening and even entertaining.

But if you're looking for an inoffensive, "I'm OK, you're OK," kind of a book full of apologies and self-loathing Catholicism, you won't find it here.

Coren takes no prisoners. He is Catholic and proud.

Depending upon your religious beliefs (or non-beliefs), prepare to take either a great deal of satisfaction from his book, or be annoyed and even offended.

Not many will have a lukewarm reaction. No doubt that's exactly what Coren intends.

 

Greg Lockert is a Free Press assistant city editor, Faith Page editor and a lifelong Roman Catholic.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 21, 2013 A1

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