‘The nastiness refined me’

Michael Coren on his separation from the Catholic Church: "It was rather like a ball of theological wool unraveling." Photo: André Forget
Michael Coren on his separation from the Catholic Church: "It was rather like a ball of theological wool unraveling." Photo: André Forget
Published September 15, 2015

Did I swim the Tiber or was it a walk to Canterbury? Not sure. It felt at the time more like some sort of ersatz inferno. I suppose I have a certain media profile and was until relatively recently known as a very public Roman Catholic. My 2012 book on Catholicism (Heresy, McClelland & Stewart) had been on the Canadian bestseller list for 10 weeks; I was named columnist of the year for my work in The Catholic Register and had been given numerous awards by Catholic groups. I was one of Canada’s most high-profile champions of Catholicism.

The separation was gradual, of course. While I never swayed from Catholic theology—and continue in my adherence—I began to question, then doubt, then reject Roman Catholic teaching on papal supremacy, authority, contraception and especially homosexuality and equal marriage. On the latter, I simply could no longer glue myself to a church that described gay relationships as sinful and disordered and caused so much pain to so many good, innocent people.

It was rather like a ball of theological wool unravelling. As soon as it began, it was difficult to stop it. The glorious irony of all this is that as my questioning of Roman Catholic teaching developed, so did my faith and my love of God. It wasn’t lack of belief that drove me from Rome but the very opposite. Partly out of respect for the Catholic church, I could no longer receive its sacraments and call myself a Roman Catholic while rejecting so many of its values and views. I know many Catholics remain in their church while doubting or even denying, but that wasn’t for me.

Around 18 months ago, I began to quietly worship at St. James’ Anglican Cathedral, to meet with various Anglicans and to read Anglican theology. Then I started to regularly attend my local Anglican parish, then I was formally received—a photo of the event was posted online, and the inferno I mentioned began to ignite.

It was a noble infamy, but it still stung. In the space of one week, I lost three regular columns and 13 speeches. No matter. What did matter were the attacks on my children, the fact that people trolled their Facebook pages and alleged that they were gay—irrelevant to me and to them, but the attacks were intended to hurt. It was written that I was a thief, an adulterer, a liar and was mentally ill. Such fun!

But what I found was so much greater than any suburban persecution. Within Anglican Catholic orthodoxy, I could pursue socially liberal ideas; within a church of mingling theologies, I could be respected as a Catholic and respect those with different ideas and call them brothers and sisters; within Anglicanism, I could reach out in Christ’s beauty to all people, irrespective of sexuality or religion, and love everything about them.

I have never been happier or felt more motivated as a Christian than now. The nastiness refined me; my new faith defines me. Regrets? Oh yes. That I didn’t do this a long time ago.


Toronto-based author and columnist Michael Coren’s email address is [email protected].


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