Monday, May 18, 2015

Braxton's Lear : Saint Bawlbaby, Pray For Us

I had intended to retire Braxton's Lear, but the trials and tribulations of Canada's own Michael Coren obliged me to resurrect it, at least for now.

Non-Canadians may not know Coren, but he is a well-known opinion writer here in the Great White North, until recently writing for the Sun newspapers, and hosting a program on the now-defunct Sun News Network. He wrote mostly on religious and moral issues, from the point of view of a conservative Catholic. I read him regularly for several years in the Ottawa Sun, and while I was not a great fan, I always considered him a reliably conservative voice, both in matters of faith and politics. I never got around to reading any of his books, but I always figured that eventually I would.

I began to feel something odd was going on with him as soon as Pope Jar-Jar was elected in 2013. I'd had an instantly dire sense of foreboding about this nobody from South America, a place of notoriously sloppy and half-assed thinking, as witness the Liberation Theology fad which easily sunk its poisonous roots into the soil. But a day or two after the election, there was Coren giddily cheering for Bergoglio, and calling him "a brilliant theologian and an orthodox but forward-thinking man, with a touch of saintliness but a will of steel." Yeah, right, I thought. He's so brilliant, nobody has ever heard of him before.

I went looking for books by this "brilliant theologian", and found the same sort of collected sermons and jottings that were the literary legacy of that equally brilliant theologian, the Madwoman of Second Avenue, Mrs. Schori. Obviously Coren knew nothing at all about Bergoglio, and was just spinning his own fantasies and passing them off as real.

From that day, his articles became increasingly bizarre, and it soon became evident that matters of sex, particularly homosexuality, were occupying an unusually large place in his mind. A year later, he published an essay on his "changing view" of homosexuality, entitled "I Was Wrong". (Same title as Jim Bakker's apologia, I couldn't help noticing.)

The obsession with homosexual stuff continued to pop up with grating frequency, so I began skipping Coren's columns, but sometime after the New Year, it struck me that I hadn't seen him published in the Sun for awhile.

Then on May 1 came the bombshell: Dean showed me a big article in the National Post announcing that Coren had converted to Anglicanism! I certainly wasn't expecting that, but a lot of pieces certainly fell into place afterwards. If you want a church that cossets homosexuals, the Anglican Church certainly is the right one to go to.

Unfortunately, this wasn't the end of the story, and since the beginning of May Coren has been tireless in his "woe-is-me" complaints about those beastly, awful, nasty, ugly conservative Catholics who just insist upon making a big deal of the fact that he treats changing his religion like changing a soiled T-shirt.

His self-pitying blubbering is on full display on his Facebook page, but now he's proudly parading it for everyone to see in Sunday's Toronto Star.
It’s been an interesting two weeks. I was fired from three regular columns in Catholic magazines, had a dozen speeches cancelled and was then subjected to a repugnant storm of tweets, Facebook comments, emails, newspaper articles and radio broadcasts where it was alleged that I am unfaithful to my wife, am willing to do anything for money, am a liar and a fraud, a “secret Jew,” that my eldest daughter is gay and I am going directly to hell. As I say, an interesting two weeks.

Imagine that! A writer who billed himself as a conservative Catholic and on that basis obtained employment with Catholic and conservative publications to write articles from a Catholic and conservative perspective reveals that he's nothing of the kind, and those hidebound grouches have the nerve to tell him they're no longer interested in publishing his opinion in their pages! And they don't want to hear his speeches either! Why on earth wouldn't Catholics want to listen to the author of "Why Catholics Are Right Nasty, Dirty, Judgmental, Homophobic Bigots"
The reason for all this probably seems disarmingly banal and for many people absurdly irrelevant. At the beginning of May it was made public that a year ago I left the Roman Catholic Church and began to worship as an Anglican. More specifically, from being a public and media champion of social conservatism I gradually came to embrace the cause of same-sex marriage, more liberal politics and a rejection of the conservative Christianity that had characterized my opinions and persona for more than a decade.

Oh, yes, totally banal and absurdly irrelevant. No different from an NDP MP quietly beginning to attend Tory caucus meetings, and failing to turn up for votes in the House of Commons. Really, who could possibly see anything to complain about there? Even though Coren himself states that this change of allegiance occurred a year ago, i.e., when he was writing in his "I Was Wrong" apology,
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. Goodness, I am even trying to forgive those “Christians” who are trying to have my speeches cancelled and have devoted pages on their websites and blogs to my apparent disgrace.
In other words, he was using his "Catholic" bona fides to add more weight to the hammer with which he was nailing up his 95 Theses. And some people have the nerve to be total soreheads about it! What people in particular, he's not slow to tell us:
But social media being what it is I was “outed” by some far-right bloggers
Hey, don't look at me! I never heard a word of this until I read it in that notoriously far-right rag the National Post, where Coren amiably assisted in outing himself to an obliging reporter.

More to the point, though, is Coren's sense of grievance at this exposure. What, was he intending to keep it a secret? Why? If indeed it's such a disarmingly banal and absurdly irrelevant matter, then why didn't he tell the world? He suggests that it's no more serious than an Ottawa Senators fan transferring his allegiance to the Montreal Canadiens once his home team has been knocked out of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and yet he was in effect leading a double life for a full year until May of 2015.
The change 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.
Of course, this is only half the story. The natural question to follow is "What made you change your mind?" and here he engages in some decidedly shifty evasions. He never does offer a real explanation of how he came to this decision. Last year, he said
In the past six months I have been parachuted into clouds of new realization and empathy regarding gay issues, largely and ironically because of the angry and hateful responses of some people to my defence of persecuted gay men and women in Africa and Russia

He also refers to "evolving" and in the Star he claims to have "gradually" changed his opinion, but with no precise explanation of what the process was, and what evidence prevailed upon him to turn against his former, very strenuously argued position. This is what led to the clouds of speculation he now complains of. In the absence of any real explanation, people speculate that he himself or some family member is homosexual (something that's turned out to be correct in other cases) and instead of telling the truth, he carries on a coy game of "I've Got A Secret" gleefully responding, "Wrong! Guess again!" His strategy seems to be to ignore any requests for an explanation, and then pretend that there's just nothing to discuss.

But on a serious note, why? Why would the religious and political change of what is at best a mid-level Canadian journalist and broadcaster cause such visceral anger and aggression in so many people?
But the shifty evasiveness and bitter resentment would look too bald if not set off by a leafy green background of bewildered innocence. So here Coren strikes a new attitude, of startled bewilderment at the wave of criticism he's encountered.
Over the years I have been attacked by various people in various camps, but I have never witnessed such an organized, personal and unkind campaign
And now that you've joined the homo lobby, you never will again, because you're safe from criticism by the totalitarian left which is bankrupting and beggaring nonconformist Christians who refuse to bend the knee to the current fascist pieties.
What has developed within the church, however, is a syndrome where people who are frightened of and angry with the world, who reject change and progress and look to a fantasy and apocryphal past age based on drunken nostalgia and personal insecurity, see a home in the conservative corridors of the house that is Roman Catholic. The Church of Nasty is thriving inside Catholicism, made all the more aggressive by a Pope who terrifies and disappoints them because he has broken through the intransigency of his two predecessors. I actually don’t believe he is quite as liberal as some people claim but the perception, at least, is that he is a reformer and to those who see change as heresy that is a terrifying prospect.

Gee, for a guy who claims to be baffled and in the dark about other people's motivations, he certainly has a lot of explanations handy. Maybe he should try taking them seriously when they tell him that they think he's an accomplished liar and probably something of a con artist.