Michael Coren: The RD Interview
Former conservative Roman Catholic Michael Coren talks gay equality, facing bullies and saying sorry.
Q&A WITH MICHAEL COREN
Reader’s Digest: Your new book, Epiphany, outlines your position on same-sex marriage: you used to be against it, now you’re a supporter. The dedication reads “To my daughter Lucy. So wise.” What’s the story?
Michael Coren: My wife and I have four children. None of them are political, but Lucy, who’s 26, comes closest. She’s never tried to influence me, but when I changed my view on marriage equality, she simply said, “Dad, I’m so pleased.”
Your father was a secular Jew; you became a Roman Catholic in your 20s. For the past two years, you’ve worshipped in the Anglican Church. Are you fickle, as your detractors imply?
Ah, the “He keeps changing his religion” thing. That is said to belittle me. I was received into the Catholic Church in 1984, and my theology remains Anglo-Catholic.
In Epiphany, you identify yourself as a “middle-aged, very white, very straight, very Christian man.” Not exactly the traditional profile of an ally to the gay community.
For years, I was a prominent social conservative, one who supported the Roman Catholic position against gay marriage. In late 2012, when Uganda was considering the death penalty for gay sex, John Baird, Canada’s foreign minister at the time, chastised the country’s parliament. The Christian right went crazy here. In 2013, I went to bat for Baird, saying that even if people opposed same-sex marriage, they would surely condemn Uganda’s proposed law.
Instead you were attacked.
People said that I was having a breakdown, that I was doing it for money. People trolled my kids on Facebook. I was stunned and hurt. In the summer of 2014, I wrote a column in the Toronto Sun apologizing for any harm I had caused gay people. I received thousands of hateful messages and I thought, Good Lord, if this is what it’s like when you’ve asked for a Christian approach, what is it like being gay?
You’ve since said that some of the finest Christians you’ve met are gay.
They love Christ, and some are prepared to overlook the nastiness of those who claim to follow Him. One of the most moving moments in my life happened last year, when I gave a sermon at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, where most worshippers are gay. I got a standing ovation. Everyone was so forgiving.
Did you consider remaining within the Roman Catholic Church as an agent of change? Some people stay despite disagreeing with tenets.
They do, but they’re not supposed to. I could’ve remained a Roman Catholic while disagreeing with Catholic teaching on homosexuality, but I wanted to be open about my beliefs.
Do you regret writing other books, like 2011’s Why Catholics Are Right?
Am I embarrassed by some of what’s in them? Yes. But I’m different now. We base faith on scripture, rational thought and prayer, but also on experience. Understanding can evolve.
Apologizing can be difficult, but you did it with aplomb.
No one enjoys saying “I was wrong,” but the alternative means you are never wrong. And it’s impossible to be human and not be wrong.
Epiphany: A Christian’s Change of Heart & Mind Over Same-Sex Marriage is available April 26, 2016.