By Drew Belsky
November 26, 2013
British-Canadian author Michael Coren's book Why Catholics Are Right (Feb. 2012) had a white cover. Heresy (Apr. 2012) had a black one. Now, The Future of Catholicism -- arguably the third installment in a trilogy -- is gold. Reading Coren's latest, one will find some meaning in the color progression.
The Future of Catholicism is no crystal ball (that would be sinful), but rather a reasoned evaluation of where the Church is going based on where she is and where she's been.
"What Catholics need to do and have to do," Coren proposes from the outset in Future, "is to explain where the Church is rooted in permanent truth and why it cannot change, and also -- and just as boldly -- where the Church is indeed in need of reform, why this is the case, and how it can be achieved" (1).
From there, Coren delves into apologetics and history, often to the point of getting mired in them. It's understandable -- a book explaining how the future Church will refuse to compromise on such matters as birth control and female ordination will ring hollow without also explaining why -- but getting into the weeds does weigh down the narrative in places. This may prove especially problematic for readers of Coren's previous books, who will have seen such material at least once before. On the other hand, the "extra" content is fascinating even when it's not new, and its inclusion strengthens Future as a standalone work.
All that said, Coren diligently realigns with Future's thesis in every chapter. From marriage to abortion, from priestly celibacy to evangelization and beyond, Future lays out where the Church can change; where, indeed, she must change; and where change is not only impermissible, but also impossible. The long apologetic and historical passages (often framed in gigantic paragraphs and replete with quintessentially Queen's-English comma splices), though sometimes prolix, beef up Coren's case in every instance.
Of particular interest is the chapter on ecumenism, in which Coren explores how the Catholic Church will interact with the other faiths of the world. He describes the relationship between Catholics and Jews going forward as "lyrical with the of reconciliation and reform" (164): though "Catholic hostility toward the Jewish people in greater or lesser has been documented numerous times," the Catholic Church "has done most things possible to repent for what happened in the past, and there is every indication that the future Church will do the same" (174).
Coren, who himself boasts three Jewish grandparents, sums up this section as follows:
There is such a thing as Jewish anti-Catholic feeling just as there still is anti-Semitism. But the Jewish people's problem ceased to be Christians a long time ago and now comes from a very different religion indeed. It's tragic that there are still people who seem to prefer denial and ancient feuds to making that tough leap of understanding about the genuine culture war that is being fought. (175*)
Wise words, and worthwhile for both Jews and Catholics to ponder carefully.
(Elsewhere in the chapter, Coren is less coy. He does not shrink from exploring the Church's fraught relationship with Islam -- yet he highlights the possibility of reconciliation even there.)
But more important than the Church's interactions with the outside world is how she will conduct herself within. This, Coren makes clear, is not just a matter of bishops and priests re-examining celibacy or holding the line on marriage. Rather, the future Church will avoid limping pitifully through the 21st century only with the concerted cooperation of all the faithful -- especially, it must be stressed, the laity.
There's reason to grumble and to hope here: Coren juxtaposes the disastrous state of mainstream Catholic Georgetown, Notre Dame, Fordham, and Boston College" -- with the inescapable observation that "younger people are attracted to and by orthodoxy. They don't want slightly Catholicized versions of what they encounter on a daily basis, but a glimpse of the beauty and grace of Catholic worship" (187). In a similar vein, he recalls Pope Benedict's prediction of a smaller but more faithful Church, but contrasts it with an almost triumphal declaration of resurgence in the Third World: "the future Church will often be a different colour [sic], from a different culture, speaking a different language. That is worrying to the nostalgic, but not at all to the genuinely Catholic" (229). -- "there is simply no possibility of restoring the institutions such as
But regardless of where the future Church is calumniated, where she is persecuted, and where she is ascendant, Coren smartly sticks to an important basic point. Namely, as he tells it -- and this is a good indicator that the man knows what he's talking about -- the future Catholic Church will be, in its fundamentals, exactly like the present Catholic Church, and the past one. It's in the particulars where we can expect to see some changes.
With Future now on the shelves, one can analyze the white-black-gold progression brought out in the covers of Coren's last three works. Why Catholics Are Right and Heresy laid out a spectrum of facts, from white to black, for Catholics: the Church's positions and why she holds them, the assaults from without, and all the reasons to be proud of the faith and confident in what it imparts. But black and white knowledge goes only so far without action. The Future of Catholicism implores Catholics not only to take pride in their faith, but to actively preserve and defend it -- not only to accrue the knowledge available to them, but to share it.
Non-Catholics can read The Future of Catholicism for a lucidly presented sense of where the Church is going, and why. Catholics, for their part, should look at Coren's latest as a manual, laying out how they do their part to effect a vibrant and indomitable Church for the 21st century.
Most people take the Golden Rule -- Do unto others as you would have others do unto you -- as a truism, a passive way to look at life. But with his gold-covered Future of Catholicism, Coren reminds us that -- for Catholics, at any rate -- the Golden Rule is a command. Do.
Drew Belsky is American Thinker's deputy editor. Contact him at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter. The Future of Catholicism is available for purchase here.
*I have corrected a typo acknowledged by the author in a personal communication. reads, "But the Jewish people's problem ceased to be Christians' a long time ago[.]"
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