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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry
Today’s guest(s): Michael Coren, columnist, television host, and Catholic author
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Today’s topics: Canadian author Michael Coren and his new book “Why Catholics Are Right”
A summary of today’s show: Michael Coren talks with Scot about the unique claims of the Catholic Church and why the Church is right about every major topic of morality facing our culture today, including contraception, marriage, abortion. Also, why much of what is said about the clergy sex abuse crisis goes beyond what really happened to advance an anti-Catholic agenda.
1st segment: Scot welcomes Michael Coren to the show. He is the host of the “Michael Coren Show” on CTS in Canada and a syndicated columnist in many newspapers and bestselling author of 12 books, including his latest book, “Why Catholics Are Right”. Michael said Random House is the publisher, it’s available in most good bookstores, a few bad ones, and on Amazon.com.
Scot said it’s a provocative book, in which Michael takes on almost every attack that’s leveled against the Church. Why did he decided to write it? Michael said he could have written the book years ago, because the Church has been the main target for public criticism for some years. He has four children and has seen what they’ve had to put up with and what he’s had to put up with, the things said about the Church that would never be said about other denominations, other organizations.
It’s fine to criticize the Church for what it does. It’s when people know nothing about Catholicism, what we believe and teach, and yet go after us on a daily basis. This ranges from what we hear on the street to alleged educated and informed civilized media, from comedy shows to PBS in-depth news shows. It’s unfair.
Rather than just running away and pretending, he decided to give it the title and give substance and explain for ordinary people—he’s not a theologian—what the Church believes and respond to the attacks, which are always the same attacks over and over again. Intellectual and metaphorical information to attack back with.
Scot quoted from the introduction: “I’ve seldom met someone who dislikes me because of my views on the saints and the papacy, but I’ve lost jobs in media because of my Catholic belief that, for example, life begins at conception and that marriage can only be between one man and one woman.” Does that indicate that Catholic defense on those issues, particularly marriage, artificial contraception, abortion, and the life issues, is really what Catholics need to know to defend in the public square and at the dinner table and at the ball game.
Michael said he think so, although one doesn’t have to become boring about this. If you’re watching a baseball game and suddenly bring up abortion, you’re going to lose a lot of friends. What he’s saying is that when it does come up, he doesn’t people to just feel uncomfortable and change the subject. We do need to come back with a ready defense. What he meant in that passage is that because there are those who have no religious belief that think because we believe in the sanctity of unborn life and that marriage is one man and one woman it makes us fascists and unacceptable, so we need to know some of the arguments, which incidentally aren’t really religious. The Catholic Church is the vehicle that represents natural law and logic and rational thought. Arguing for the unborn and that life begins at conception are scientific arguments. We just need to articulate them.
Scot notes that Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver has an endorsement of the book on the cover. Why did Michael choose the title, “Why Catholics Are Right”? Is that tied to his adult conversion to Catholicism or because it’s more provocative? He could have given it a softer title, but we’ve passed that now. It’s not called “Why Catholics Are Right and Everyone Else Should Be Beaten Up.” Michael’s parents were not Catholic and most of his best friends are not Catholic, but if he believes something to be exclusively true, then obviously other alternatives must be wrong. Some of the kindest words said about the book have been from Jewish and Protestant readers.
He had an email from someone who said, “I don’t like you and the title of this book is absolutely wrong.” Michael responded, “Yes, exactly. You think I’m wrong. I think I’m right. But why is it you think you’re entitled to say this and I’m not.” What he says in the book is that believes the Church was founded by Christ 2,000 years ago and is the most guaranteed way of us finding salvation and spending eternity with God. If he doesn’t share that, it’s like a man who’s found a cure for cancer, but keeps it to himself.
It is indeed a provocative title and it will grab people’s attention, but we need to grab people’s attention. We need people to realize that we’re not this dark force that’s always been on the wrong side throughout history. Scot responded that we certainly shouldn’t be shy about the truth. We just launched the Catholics Come Home campaign in the Archdiocese of Boston and they have a tremendous commercial called “Epic”, which talks about the Catholic Church’s contributions to the world over its 2,000 years. Some folks criticized us for being too proud for showing all the things we’ve done and it’s just conveying the facts.
2nd segment: Scot asked Michael why he chose to have his first chapter address the clergy abuse crisis. Michael said because it’s the elephant in the room. If he’d written chapters on history of the Church and other issues, he believes readers would have been waiting the whole time to get to that chapter and while they may have been influenced by other chapters, they could be turned back by this one. So he wanted to get it out of the way right off the bat.
He took it head on. He didn’t sugar coat it. Michael is the father of four children and non-Catholics think that as Catholics we’re trying to hide things. It appalls him and rips away at his very being. But he’s showing what actually happened, not what people like to think happened. He’s not saying that because other people do it that it excuses this, but 2 percent of clergy at most were involved; the average victim was a 14-year-old boy so it’s not really pedophilia (the vast majority of victims were boys from 12 to 16); the Church responded generally by saying we’re going to move the priest, give him counseling and tell him he mustn’t do it again. That seems severely inadequate, but this is what school boards were told at the time, what sports teams were told, what other churches were told. They’re not criticized, but the Church is today. The Church is now the safest place for a young person to be today. The numbers now show there are 7 or 8 new cases per year across millions of people. Just look at school boards, just look at the New York City schools just last year. And often because of union influence, these teachers are keeping their jobs.
It was horrible, but it says nothing about the Church. It says everything about human nature and why we need a Church. It has nothing to do with celibacy. A normal man who is deprived of a sexual relationship with a woman does not suddenly lust after a 14-year-old boy, he lusts after a grown woman. That is common sense and logic. If it was about celibacy in the priesthood, why would the numbers be higher in the Episcopalian church or in education. The family is still the most dangerous place for sexual abuse of children.
Discuss it, criticize, condemn, but at the same time don’t pretend the Church is this oasis. Anywhere there is a power dynamic between an adult and a young person, tragically, abuse will occur.
Scot said we were touched by the abuse crisis particularly in the Archdiocese of Boston and the chapter helped him to understand what the abuse scandal is not about. Michael has already talked about the fact that it is not about pedophilia. It isn’t about celibacy. It’s also not about the all-male priesthood.
Michael said that if a man feels he can no longer be celibate, it’s not very difficult for him to dress in street clothes and go find the services of woman and pay for it. Michael said he’s not trying to rude or crass, but that’s what people do. For a priest to deny everything he ever believed and swore to stand for and abuse a young boy means he already has that perversion in his mind. Nor is he obviously a priest of any sort of standing because even if a man has that perversion as a temptation, to in no way try to resist it. As a married man, Michael is married to a very attractive woman, but it doesn’t mean he doesn’t notice other attractive women. But he’s faithful to his wife because he’s taken a vow to be faithful to one woman for the rest of his life. A priest swears to be celibate. It’s a difference one or none. You don’t have to be a priest, but if you are this is what’s required of you.
Those churches who have married clergy or ordain women have higher abuse rates. What happened here is that anti-Catholics and very liberal Catholics who were using this to try to change Church teaching. They seemed almost more interested in hurting the Church than in helping the victims. Michael met a victim of abuse who almost brought him to tears. He said to Michael: “If I leave the Church over this, I’m allowing this man to abuse me again. I would be leaving the Church because this evil man acted contrary to all that it teaches. I’m not going to let him do that.” He thought it was a beautiful statement.
Scot said he also debunks another myth related to the sex abuse crisis, that saying it’s just because some homosexual men became priests is also a sweeping generalization. He says, “We should appreciate that sexuality and crime have no rigid connection. Those who abuse, lie, and exploit do so because of their immorality and not because of their sexual preference.” Michael said they have gay marriage in Canada and he has taken a lot of shots because marriage is one man and one woman, but he said the vast majority of gay men are appalled at the idea of someone abusing a young boy. We’ve all probably met priests who are gay, but they are celibate.
While the abusers were homosexual, they were homosexual criminals and perverts. It wasn’t just homosexuality. We shouldn’t alienate people unnecessarily. He wants to state the truth, but wants to make sure that we do it carefully because it’s a nuanced position.
3rd segment: Scot said Michael’s book has a quote from former New York Mayor Ed Koch, in which he says the Left is using the abuse crisis to hammer the Church. Michael said fair-minded people outside the Church say the same, particularly in the Jewish community because many Jewish commentators have seen this directed against them. It’s liberal Catholics often who are trying to us this to change Church teaching. Many attacks were against Pope Jon Paul. They weren’t really about what’s going on in the Church, but about bashing the Church and advancing their agenda like ordaining women. The Church can’t ordain women; we’re here to follow Scripture.
In answer to those who say if there were women clergy there would be no abuse, Michael says look at the Episcopalians, look at school, look at the family. It has nothing to do with whether there are women around or not. These horrible abusers looked for the children they were going to abuse, vulnerable kids, unstable families.
What Scot liked about the Koch quote was he said: “The reason, I believe, there are constant assaults is that there are many in the media—some Catholics as well as many in the public who object to and are incensed by positions the Church holds,” including abortion, marriage, retention of celibacy rules, exclusion of women from the clergy, opposition to birth control measures, and opposition to civil divorce. Michael said we are the one institution standing up to these attacks of decadence and materialism.
We’re like a mirror held up for them to see their own reflection and they don’t like so we have to be smashed. They don’t attack some liberal, Protestant denomination. They attack the Roman Catholic Church because we’re the people who don’t change with the times. Why should we? Truth is truth and not mutable. We say some things are wrong and saying things are wrong in contemporary North America is abhorrent to people.
Scot said Michael dedicated an entire chapter to Catholics and life and to the attacks against the Church on abortion. He debunks the myths that outlawing abortion would result in back-alley abortions and the notion that only women can comment on this issue.
Michael said Planned Parenthood was founded by a racists who believed in eugenics and social engineering and racial superiority. He speaks on pro-life issues in Canada very often and he has the same arguments constantly. People say, “I wouldn’t have an abortion myself but I’m not going to stop someone else.” When you push them to answer why they wouldn’t, eventually they say it’s because it’s a life. So then you say, so you won’t kill an unborn child, but you won’t stop someone else from doing it. Then they just scream and walk away. It’s not a religious argument, it’s a moral and scientific one. Life begins at conception with unique DNA. There’s no other viable alternative to when life begins. A child cannot survive outside the womb, but even a fully born child would be dead if left to himself. Someone hit by a car would die if someone didn’t help.
An unborn child doesn’t look completely like an adult, but a 5-year-old doesn’t look like a 30-year-old. It’s an irrelevant argument. It’s a separate life.
A woman has a right to choose all sorts of things, but she doesn’t have the right to take an innocent life.
Scot said the book takes the word “choice” and says that when there’s a choice it’s supposed to be a choice between two positive outcomes. In this case, there’s really only one. When a rape occurs, we don’t say he “chose” to rape. It’s not a choice issue, it’s a crime. We confuse a crime with a choice. To take a life is wrong. It also assumes there’s just the woman involved. There are also three people: the woman, the father, and the unborn child. To choose to kill a child is not a choice at all.
It’s not the semantics that worry Michael so much, but the notion that choice is involved—and choice is everything in North America—is loaded political language.
4th segment: In his chapter on Catholics and life, Michael talks about a lot of the practical decisions that are happening when women and the fathers of these babies choose to abort these children that through the ultrasound and other testing seem to have disabilities. As a Church and proponents of life, we need to stand for those babies and Scot knows of 5 friends of his who were encouraged to abort their kids because of the supposed disabilities that they could identify in the womb, and when the babies were born, they were fine.
Michael said that even if they’re not fine, if they don’t live up to the standards of 21st-century expectations, they have a right to live. We live in a society where if you don’t a hit album by the time you’re 14 you’re a failure and your movie career is finished by the time you’re 16. We have to change the culture, not kill people. The man who discovered the likely gene for Down Syndrome—because we generally find Down Syndrome during pregnancy— was someone who believed in life, who thought this was a good thing to prepare the way for them. Now it’s used to abort Down Syndrome babies. We could have a world in which we could never see a Down Syndrome person ever again. Imagine how that makes people feel who are Down Syndrome people, their parents.
A lot of children are aborted because of gender, race, and disability—black and brown, female, and handicapped. Those people who call themselves left-wing and progressive are obsessed with giving people the ability to kill the handicapped, the black, the brown, the female. That doesn’t sound very progressive to Michael.
Scot said Michael also takes issue with some of the points of view on population control, particularly in places like Africa for similar reasons. Michael said you often hear people say the world is overpopulated, but it’s actually true that entire world’s population could fit into Texas with room to spare. Africa is underpopulated, he said. He added that he lives in Canada where there are 30 million people in a vast country which could hold many more. The reason Africa has a problem of food and so on is because we maintain vicious dictators, we sell them arms, we engineer wars there. Communism has destroyed so much when it has a conquered in Africa.
Asia has a large population, but if we look at India, it’s economic growth rate is 12%. If only North America could have that rate. They have produced the largest middle class in the history of humanity and can feed their population several times over. That isn’t an issue.
In addition, most European countries are underpopulated. This is not a valid argument. It’s a way to give moral substance to abortion. We’re greedy in the West. We over-consume. We could easily feed the world’s population. It amazes Michael that people who will weep over a puppy or kitten, will blithely support the killing of unborn babies.
Scot said he liked how he indicated how the marriage of one man and one woman was deconstructed. Michael said that the four core qualifications for marriage have been:
- Number (between two people)
- Gender (between a man and a woman)
- Age of consent
- Not too close in terms of bloodlines
That’s been completely blurred in recent years. Michael says in the chapter, “Anyone who speaks of uncles, aunts, communities and villages raising children have no real understanding of family life. Single-parent families exist and sometimes it is excellent and obvious that the case that not every mother/father family is a success, but to consciously create unbalanced families in which children never enjoy the profound difference between man and woman, mother and father is dangerous social engineering.”
The social engineering is now underway in Canada and in many places in the United States, including Massachusetts. Michael said that in Canada, if you want to adopt a child and you’re a Christian, your chances are very limited because one of the questions asked of you, generally is what would you teach your children about homosexuality. And if you say, to love everyone equally, but also to be aware of sin, there’s no way you’ll get a child. Michael said there are couples who adopt a child as a fashion statement. He’s heard this from gay friends who condemn it because they know some of the people are adopting as a fashion statement. Meanwhile wonderful Christian people are being told they can’t have a child because their beliefs are hateful.
Catholic adoption agencies in Britain have closed down because they refuse to give children to gay couples. In Canada there are prosecutions under human rights legislation of people who speak out about this. It may not be the former Soviet Union, but it can be very delicate. Last week, they had a commentator on a major sports network in Canada who was fired because he opposed a hockey player who supported same-sex marriage. The company said it wasn’t because of that, but all the evidence says that he was fired because he dared to say he disagreed with an athlete.
It’s not just same-sex marriage, it’s the consequences. Now they say, We’re not going to let you oppose it. We’re going to punish you if you speak out.
Scot said one of the major challenges to Catholics and non-Catholics who believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman is we’re attacked with the label that we’re homophobic and that the Church itself is homophobic.
Michael said the term is meaningless because it literally means “disliking someone because they’re like yourself.” Anyone who hates another person because of their race or gender or sexuality is speaking against Catholic teaching. We do not believe that. There are gay Catholics who are heroes of the Church because they realized that this is not God’s teaching. Though they may have this inclination but they accept that they will have to be celibate. He’s not downplaying this. He’s met those who have left that lifestyle and they can do it. He believes we can be more subtle than the Evangelical approach which is that you can change. Sometimes people can’t change, but they can stop acting in a certain way. The Church is complex on this issue. It says that your loved and made in the image of God, but you’re more than just your sexuality. For someone to have a relationship based on lust and against the natural law is wrong. It goes against the status quo. It’s not about gay people so much. We’re told whatever you want to do, its okay. You’re fulfilled if you have fun.
Go to any university and you’ll find most of the perversity doesn’t involved gay people. It’s hypersexualized kids who because of the use of contraceptives and modern pressures society have turned young women into 19-year-old boys.
5th segment: Contraception was the life issue where the avalanche of all these other life issues really started. Michael talks about that in his chapter on Catholics and life. He wrote: “It’s hardly a surprise that subjects such as contraception and abortion lead to such anger and frustration because they are directly personal and they involve the most intimate and immediate forms of gratification and pleasure. … The sexual fanatics are those who obsess about sex and believe it to be morally neutral and have no inherent value. The Catholic Church believes that sex is so wonderful that it contains values as well as virtues.”
Michael said what we call “The Pill” (which is a misnomer because pills make you better; the contraceptive pill alters the body chemistry with unknown consequences for women who starting taking it at 14 and 15 for their entire lives) has links to cancer and depression. Taking something that will stop the body from behaving naturally and normally, how can that be good for anyone?
Until 1930 every major Protestant church disagreed with contraception as well and when these churches allowed this to happen it really signaled their decline. We do not believe as Catholics that every act of sex has to lead to a child. We believe that to aggressively prevent the possibility of life occurring is anti-Godly. The Catholic Church teaches a form of family planning that is extremely successful and that empowers the woman. Some women talk about women’s liberation, but artificial contraception is really about guys who want something and can use contraception to get it more easily.
Since we’ve had the complete availability of the Pill and the condom, if the argument is that people are happier now, it still wouldn’t be right. But look at the statistics: Every year since the Pill and condoms have been easily available we’ve had increased numbers of STDs, so-called unwanted pregnancies, abortion, sex-linked depression and worse and worse. It was meant to be the dawn of a great new age, a new heaven, but it’s become a new hell.
Near the end of his book, Scot said Michael saved some of his concluding remarks for hypocrites. He wrote: “To give hypocrites their most descriptive titles—politicians, powerful people, and even ordinary men and women who claim to be Roman Catholic, but behave as if they weren’t—being Catholic does have a culture context and while many people struggle and evolve in their Catholic faith, the mere fact of being born of Catholic parents in a Catholic country is not enough. Being Catholic is not the same as being Jewish, for example, in that Judaism has a secular aspect and there are Jewish people who describe themselves as atheists who are still to a large degree accepted within the Jewish community.” It’s very important to distinguish between Catholics who live their faith from those who claim they’re Catholic but they’re willing to run from Catholic values and beliefs when it’s convenient for them.
Michael joked that in Boston we’ve never had any politicians who’ve been hypocrites or anything. Michael said you don’t have to be a Catholic, but if you’re a Catholic, you have to be Catholic. These politicians who claim they are Catholic, but when it comes to politics they have to represent everyone, well they don’t apply that to all sorts of issues. They speak from their own opinion over and over again. They’re being dishonest. They think that if they’re pro-life or speak up in favor of marriage, they careers won’t advance.
It’s so often about sex. They don’t say, “I can’t represent Catholic teaching on the poor,” but when it comes to sexuality they feel they can’t offend people. Particularly on the abortion issue, they sellout. It’s politicians, but it’s other people as well.
It’s even more true in Canada than in the United States. Most of their prime ministers since the Second World War have been Roman Catholic and yet they have such an anti-Catholic political culture in that country. But in the US, when President Obama was asked about abortion, he said it’s above my pay grade and he wasn’t pushed on that. What he said was horrible. What he was really saying was that he didn’t want to address the issue because it might lose him some votes.
When Catholic politicians contradict Catholic teaching on fundamental Catholic issues should be denied the Eucharist, not as a punishment, but because their souls are in danger. If they are receiving the sacraments and they’re not in full standing with the Church, if they’re denying Catholic teaching, they’re in real trouble. There are consequences to this. Any good pastor—a bishop or priest—would say, “I can’t do this. You’re welcome at Mass but it’s something we need to talk about.” But people are frightened, particularly in places with a large Catholic population, like Boston. “If I do that, he’s a very popular figure, and I could be in trouble.” The Roman Catholic hierarchy has some wonderful men in positions of influence, but for some time we’ve had those who want to be comfortable. Catholics haven’t always been accepted in the US, but they want to be comfortable within the American culture.
Well, Catholic truth is far more important than being accepted for a while in any culture.
Scot said it seems like one of the purposes of the book was to start the conversation on a lot of these issues. Michael ends the book: “Catholicism is as important now as it every was and perhaps even more necessary in a world that appears to prefer confusion to clarity, and to long for feelings instead of facts. All sorts of people have interesting and valuable ideas and deserve to be heard. Catholics particularly so, because Catholics are right.”
Scot said he thinks that the Catholic perspective in the public square does need to be heard.
Michael said there’s so little alternative. We face enormous threats outside North America with jihadist Islam and inside with decadence. There is no other institution, no other ideology to save us. Secular humanism won’t save us. Liberal ideology won’t save us. The Roman Catholic Church has always had the answers, but we do need to articulate them in a way that people can understand and appreciate. He hopes he’s done that in this book.