CALGARY — Jesus was not a pacifist. Celibacy does not produce men who abuse boys. The existence of "Pope Joan" in the ninth century is an urban myth.
The Crusades were not an attempt by the Church to force conversion on Muslims.
Journalist Michael Coren's latest book is peppered with such comments. In Why Catholics are Right, Coren, an adult convert to Catholicism, seeks to debunk myths and correct the many falsehoods and errors that plague popular criticisms of the Catholic Church.
The host and producer of a nightly program, Michael Coren Show, on CTS television and a weekly columnist with several newspapers across Canada, including the Edmonton Sun and Calgary Sun, Coren said in a May 8 interview the Church has been under unfair and intense criticism that is, in some cases, unfounded and in others, downright inaccurate.
"People say horrible and untrue things about the Catholic Church that they wouldn't say about any other religion. It is fine to criticize the Church when it is valid, but scurrilous attacks on the Church are uncalled for."
Coren maintains that most of the objections and criticisms of the Catholic Church come from those with an obsession with sex who view the Church's teachings on things like a celibate priesthood as the source of the problem. He says celibacy, however, is not the issue."Men who are not permitted to have sex with women do not turn into homosexual abusers. They don't say, 'OK, I'll abuse a boy.'"
He suggests those priests who became abusers were inclined that way, and may even have gone into the seminary to act out those inclinations. He maintains they could have decided to act differently.
"We all face temptations, but we have to make the decision not to act on them, no matter who we are. If we are sincere in the practice of our faith, we want to avoid sin because it distances us from God."
Coren points out that the rates of sexual abuse in other Christian denominations, or in educational settings or sports organizations, are similar, or higher, than the rates of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.
And, while the ways of handling sexual abuse decades ago were woefully inadequate and inappropriate at the time, the same advice was being given by counsellors to anyone in authority dealing with the issue of sexual abuse.
The standard counsel was to move the offender and give them counselling, which is the expert advice most bishops followed.
In the end, he says it is the abuse of power, rather than sexual acting out, which makes it such a horrendous act.
Coren notes that the sexual revolution of the '60s and mass contraception did not lead to happier marriages or greater stability in relationships. Instead, it contributed to the increase in sexually transmitted diseases, greater depression, and young girls going on the pill, not for their benefit, but for the benefit of young men to have sexual access to them without fear of consequences.
"The dignity of a young woman is not furthered by putting chemicals into her body and having sex with all kinds of guys. Dignity is the young woman who says, I am Catholic, and I am going to protect my body and wait until marriage."
Coren describes his book as an intellectualized and instructional response to the criticisms levelled against the Catholic faith. It is for ordinary Catholics who have to listen to the arguments proposed by family, friends, co-workers or neighbours who decry their belief stance.
"I am an historian by training, and this is a handbook for Catholics who want to express themselves to their critics."
In some ways, it is also addressed to non-Catholics, Coren says, so they will know what Catholics really believe, rather than base their assumptions on popular criticisms that have been promoted as truth.
While conversion of everyone to the Catholic faith should be the desire for every Catholic, Coren says it would be illusory to think that is possible. On the other hand, if a person truly believes, as a Catholic, they would sincerely desire to share that with others.
"It is illogical for sincere Catholics to not want everyone to be Catholic, if we are serious that we have the most guaranteed way to find salvation. I don't want others to miss out on that."
Coren says the Church does not need to change to accommodate the individual preferences of anyone. There are other places to go if a person does not agree with the Church and all its teachings. The Church is not in the business of pleasing its critics.
"Nobody is forced to be a Catholic, but if you want to be a Catholic, you have to live like a Catholic."
While many have interesting and valuable ideas and deserve to be heard, Coren maintains Catholics particularly need to be listened to today, primarily, he says, because Catholics are right.