This article was published in the St.Catharines Standard.
“Eternal life is found in a relationship with the Roman Catholic church”. That was talk show host Michael Coren’s message on a recent Oakley show on 6:40 AM. A shocking statement, not only for evangelical Christians, who have given Coren a platform, but also to many Roman Catholics, who believe salvation is in Jesus Christ, not in an institution. I kept listening as Coren promoted his book, Why Catholics are right? After reading it from cover to cover, it is crystal clear; Coren propagates salvation through Roman Catholicism, and Roman Catholicism alone.
Because I know many Catholics, who sincerely trust in Jesus Christ, and who wouldn’t agree with Coren’s assertions, I hesitate to say anything that could be misconstrued as bashing Catholics, but frankly Coren has crossed a line that demands a response.
Coren’s book covers everything from sexual abuse of young boys, to the pope’s infallibility, the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary declared as church dogma in 1854 by Pope Pius IX, and the Assumption of Mary to heaven, decreed by Pope Pius XII in 1950. Coren uses a mix of well-packaged explanations, punctuated by catchy illustrations, with frequent bouts of blustering demagoguery, while often disregarding historical and Biblical facts. Suggestions that a number of Roman Catholic dogmas lack basis in Scripture is dismissed as “weak thinking and flabby scholarship”.
On the issue of pedophilia, according to Coren, the church is no better or worse than any other institution, be it of bankers, lawyers, educators, politicians or Protestant ministers; Roman Catholic priest are about as guilty as the general public. Of course, none of these other institutions or churches claim to be God’s sole instrument of salvation. Nor does any other organization show any indication of a systematic cover up.
Coren’s idea is that Jesus gave us the Roman Catholic church, the first pope, Simon Peter, and then the church and subsequent popes gave us the Bible, which shouldn’t be read by common folks without supervision from a Vatican approved teacher. Since the church and the pope supposedly came first, the Bible is to be “guided and guarded through the ages”, by the pope, who while not impeccable, is infallible in matters of “faith and morals”.
Here is an interesting observation. The “first pope”, Simon Peter, was publicly rebuked, because he was “not straight forward about the truth of the Gospel”, as recorded in the book of Galatians. So much for infallibility in matters of faith.
While claiming that the church encourages prayer with the saints, not to the saints, even Coren acknowledges that, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of death”, sounds an often lot like prayer to Mary, Coren explains this contradiction by stating that prayer to Mary is completely in line with the beliefs from the church’s “ealiest days”. Then in typical fashion he substantiates this outrageous claim by quoting an 11th century prayer, Salve Regina. 11th century prayer and the earliest days of the Gospel, I don’t see the connection, but such is Coren’s logic.
An article is insufficient to rebuff a book point by point. Let me focus on just two areas, pedophilia in the church and the way to eternal life.
To know more about pedophilia in Roman Catholicism, I recommend Sex, Priests and Secret Codes; The Catholic Church’s 2000 Year Paper Trail of Sexual Abuse. No, the authors, Thomas P Doyle, A.W.R. Snipe and Patrick J Wall are hardly catholic-bashing Protestants. Father Doyle received an official commendation from the Dominican Fathers for his “prophetic work in drawing attention to clergy sexual abuse and for advocating the rights of victims and abusers’. Sipe spent 18 years as a Benedictine monk and has served for years as a lecturer at major Catholic seminaries. Wall has a Masters’s degree from St. John’s University and served as a catholic priest for 10 years.
To study eternal life in Jesus Christ, not in an institution, I recommend a thorough reading of the New Testament. Jesus told the religious elite of the first century, “you search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life, but you will not come to Me”. Coren and I agree on one thing, eternal life is not in a book, but I submit, neither is it in a church. Jesus didn’t give the world a Baptist, a Presbyterian, an Anglican, a Pentecostal or a Roman Catholic church – he gave Himself. Jesus is too big for one church or one religion; He is for the world. I think a lot of Roman Catholics agree.