SUN NEWS NETWORK
December 9, 2013
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
Most journalists are "absurdly naïve" about the Catholic faith, says Michael Coren, a bestselling author of 15 books.
Particularly after Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis in March, Coren was regularly asked by reporters the same questions about Church doctrine. Reporters wanted to know whether the new pope would change Church teachings on abortion, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, divorce and other moral issues where the Church has been labeled outdated.
In his latest book, The Future of Catholicism, Coren brings a lighter touch to the discussion of such issues.
"In the book I was really trying to answer the questions I've answered several times before, but in greater length," he said.
On one hand, the mainstream media recognizes how the Church is changing, with its greater outreach to Africa and Asia, its shifting power base, and more transparency of leadership and finances. But even with these significant changes, there are some areas where the Church remains unflinching.
"Journalists think with the new pope, because he has reached out to the poor in the Third World and the marginalized, that he is going to alter teachings about the unborn, dignity of life and the status of marriage," said Coren, host of the talk show The Arena on the SUN News Network, and a syndicated columnist for 10 daily newspapers.
"I am a faithful Catholic. I am not a theologian. I am an ordinary journalist, but an informed one. I am trying to present the Catholic faith in an approachable, understandable manner." .
In his previous book, Why Catholics Are Right, Coren deconstructed frequent anti-Catholic arguments regarding the Church. Since then, he has seen the potential effectiveness of media communication – books, radio and TV programs, social media and newspaper columns – in bringing the Church's viewpoints to the forefront.
"The Church, quite frankly, has been very bad in terms of media communication. You can't just put a priest in front of a camera and think that is going to change people. You have to use humour and a certain degree of charisma, style and accessibility," said Coren.
Despite his defence of Catholic principles and his book sales, Coren admits he has not received great support from clergy. When his last book was being reprinted every two weeks or so, he barely heard a word about it in his home parish.
"There are ministering people in media who are decidedly Catholic and they don't get enough support, and they are not used well enough," he said.
He insists that the new generation of clergy must use journalists who have the ability to communicate Catholic orthodoxy in a welcoming manner.
Some people are convinced that the Church is wrong, unprogressive, and in need of fundamental transformation. Coren insisted, however, that the Church – while at a crossroads – is not going down the drain by any means.
"To be genuinely counter-cultural is a dangerous place to be, and Catholicism is always counter-cultural," he said.
He is not convinced that his book will change people's minds about the Church. Likewise, the general, non-Catholic population is unlikely to accept the Catholic positions on the teachings of same-sex marriage, women's ordination, celibate clergy and other hot-button issues. Out of hostility or indifference, many people simply have no interest in the Church and don't give religion serious consideration.
"However, what we're seeing with Pope Francis is people who either left the Church or were never interested in the Church, and they are beginning to ask good questions. He is the perfect Holy Father for this time," said Coren.
Even Canada's Catholic school system does an awful job of catechizing, Coren says. Perhaps only 20 per cent of Catholic schoolteachers are practising Catholics, he said, and the typical student leaves school with little knowledge or love for the Church.
"As in most Catholic schools, the vast majority of teachers – while often decent and dedicated – are non-practising and even anti-Church. They are divorced, are gay, abort, and use contraceptives, live together, never attend Mass, reject Catholic teaching, are indifferent or even hostile to the religion they are supposed to be part of," said Coren.
Aside from individual chapters on marriage, church and state, and the papacy, Coren also devotes a chapter to Pope Francis and another to ecumenism and new evangelization.
In the chapter on ecumenism, he deals less with ecumenical issues among Christians and focuses on how the Catholic Church interacts with the other faiths of the world, most notably Judaism and Islam.