Pro-lifers across Canada have been dismayed by the decision of Michael Coren to endorse same-sex “marriage” and leave the Catholic Church. What could have led this erstwhile champion of the Catholic Church and the traditional principles of Judeo-Christian morality so sadly astray?
When Coren first disclosed that he had “moved on” in his thinking on same-sex “marriage” in a column last year in the Toronto Sun, he explained: “Thing is, I have evolved my position on this issue not in spite of but precisely because of my Catholicism. My belief in God, Christ, the Eucharist, and Christian moral teaching are stronger than ever.”
Meanwhile, having come to understand that no one who publicly advocates same-sex “marriage” can remain a member in good standing of the Catholic Church, Coren has joined the Anglican Church of Canada. In a column published in the Toronto Star on May 16, he explained that this radical change in his religious affiliation “was to a large extent triggered by the gay issue. I couldn’t accept that homosexual relationships were, as the Roman Catholic Church insists on proclaiming, disordered and sinful. Once a single brick in the wall was removed the entire structure began to fall.”
True enough. Unlike liberal Catholics who cling to the hope that Pope Francis will lead the Catholic Church to change its teaching on same-sex “marriage,” Coren understands that such a revolution in the Catholic conception of marriage will not happen. In his words: “The Catholic Church is not going to change its teaching. Believe me, the Catholic Church cannot.”
Why, then, has Coren changed his thinking? In a posting on his Facebook page on June 28, 2014, he argued that neither Jesus nor the Bible condemned homosexual intercourse between consenting adults. According to Coren, “nobody believes the story of Sodom refers to consensual homosexuality any more and Jesus never even mentions the subject. Paul’s writing (on homosexuality) may well refer to the use of young boys by adult, heterosexual men and not adult, gay partnerships. Thing is, we need to discuss all this and not just smugly point fingers.”
Quite so. Let us begin with a discussion of Coren’s contention: “nobody believes the story of Sodom refers to consensual homosexuality.”
To say the least, this statement is misleading. Many eminent Biblical scholars are firmly convinced that the authors of the Hebrew Bible held all consensual homosexual sex in abhorrence. Thus, in a policy statement on the pastoral care of homosexual persons that was issued in 1986 by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) and approved by Pope John Paul II, Ratzinger maintains that the Bible regards all homosexual acts as sinful. Referring to the story of Sodom, Ratzinger wrote: “There can be no doubt of the moral judgment made there against homosexual relations. In Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, in the course of describing the conditions necessary for belonging to the Chosen People, the author excludes from the People of God those who behave in a homosexual fashion.”
As for Coren’s contention that “Paul’s writing may well refer to the use of young boys by adult, heterosexual men and not adult, gay partnerships,” this argument is difficult to square with the plain words of Romans 1:26-27. Speaking of people who had rejected the wisdom of God, Paul wrote: “their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.”
In a book acclaimed by many eminent Biblical scholars, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics, Robert Gagnon, associate professor of New Testament at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary has presented an exhaustive, scholarly analysis of every Biblical passage bearing on homosexuality in the original Hebrew and Greek texts. His conclusions are straightforward: “First, there is clear, strong, and credible evidence that the Bible unequivocally defines same-sex intercourse as sin. Second, there exist no valid hermeneutical arguments, derived from either general principles of biblical interpretation or contemporary scientific knowledge and experience, for overriding the Bible’s authority on this matter.”
In March, Evangelicals and Catholics Together, an association of 17 eminent Christian theologians in North America, issued a position paper entitled “The Two Shall Become One Flesh: Reclaiming Marriage.” In this statement which has also been signed by more than 30 other prominent North American Catholics and Evangelicals, the authors reaffirm: “As Christians, it is our responsibility to bear witness to the truth about marriage as taught by both revelation and reason – by the Holy Scriptures and by the truths inscribed on the human heart. These age-old truths explain why Christians celebrate marriage – the coming-together of a man and woman in a binding union of mutual support – as one of the glories of the human race.”
The Evangelical and Catholic authors candidly confided “we are acutely aware of many ways in which our broken lives need the healing and reconciling power of God’s grace. Moreover, we share the widespread and proper desire of Christians today to repent of injustices against those who experience same-sex attraction, and to discern more effective ways for all single people to participate in the life of the Church.
“However,” the authors emphasized, “faithful Christian witness cannot accommodate itself to same-sex marriage. It disregards the created order, threatens the common good, and distorts the Gospel.”
Furthermore, it is not just theologically orthodox scholars like John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and the members of Evangelicals and Catholics Together who believe that the Bible forbids all homosexual acts. Some eminent liberal academics such as the Reverend Doctor Diarmaid MacCulloch, professor of the history of the Church at Oxford University, take the same view.
In his award-winning book Reformation: Europe’s House Divided 1490-1700, MacCulloch contends: “Despite much well-intentioned theological fancy footwork to the contrary, it is difficult to see the Bible as expressing anything else but disapproval of homosexual activity. The only alternatives are either to try to cleave to patterns of life and assumptions set out in the Bible, or to say that in this, as in much else, the Bible is simply wrong.”
MacCulloch has adopted the latter alternative. He is an ordained deacon in the Church of England and a former honorary secretary of the Gay Christian Movement in England. Having concluded that both the Bible and Jesus are wrong about homosexuality, he has abandoned the faith, left the church and now describes himself as a “candid friend of Christianity.”
What will Coren do now? As an honest and inquiring intellectual, he is bound sooner or later also to realize that no amount of theological fancy footwork can twist the plain words of the Bible into suggesting that Jesus condoned homosexual acts. Once Coren comes to this realization, will he, like MacCulloch, also abandon the Anglican Church and the Christian faith?
God forbid. Let all of us among the host of Coren’s pro-life friends earnestly pray that he, like everyone confused over the issue of same-sex “marriage,” will eventually come to grasp the truth revealed in the Bible, affirmed by Jesus and knowable on the basis of reason alone that sexual intercourse should be confined within marriage between a man and a woman.