is a television host, radio personality, syndicated columnist, author,
and speaker based in Canada. He is the best-selling author of fourteen
books, including biographies of G.K. Chesterton, H.G. Wells, Arthur
Conan Doyle, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. His book, Why Catholics Are Right, was on the Canadian best-seller list for three months. His latest book is Heresy: Ten Lies They Spread About Christianity.
Michael has received several honorary doctorates and awards for his
writing and broadcasting. In 2005 he won The Ed Murrow Award for Radio
Broadcasting, in 2006 The RTNDA Radio Broadcasting Award, in 2007 the
Communicator Award in Hollywood and in 2008 the Omni Award for his
television show. He has received several honorary doctorates and awards
for his writing and broadcasting. In 2005 he won The Ed Murrow Award for
Radio Broadcasting, in 2006 The RTNDA Radio Broadcasting Award, in 2007
the Communicator Award in Hollywood and in 2008 the Omni Award for his
television show. In 2012 The Catholic Civil Rights League gave Coren
the Archbishop Adam Exner Award for Catholic Excellence in Public Life.
He recently spoke with Catholic World Report about his
journey into the Catholic Church, the state of Christianity in Canada
and the West at large, and his most recent books.
Catholic World Report: You
converted to Catholicism as a young man, then spent some time in
Evangelical circles. What brought you back to the Catholic Church? How
has that influenced your recent books, which are apologetic and
controversial (in the old-school sense) in nature?
I was asked to speak at a G.K. Chesterton conference in Toronto back in
1986, met a wonderful Canadian woman, fell in love, married her, and
left Britain to Canada. I’d come into the church a year earlier. The
Canadian Church was in a poor state, and at the height depth of its
After a few years I felt so distant, so rejected. It was my fault,
and better people than me stayed and continued the fight, but I think I
was still vulnerable in my faith and simply drifted away into
Evangelical worship. But as so many others have written and explained,
it was never the full truth, never the entire picture. I longed for
Christ, for His body, for the Church He left us, and that twitch upon
the thread drew me back. That journey, than struggle, certainly
influenced my writing, and turned me into an apologist really. I’d had
to do the work, years of it, and wanted to convey all of that effort to
other people, to give them what I had been given.
Catholic World Report:
You've written several biographies, including of G.K. Chesterton and
C.S. Lewis, two of the finest defenders of Christian orthodoxy of the
past century. What are some of the best insights and strengths of those
two men when it comes to explaining and defending Christian doctrine and
practice? What are your favorite works by Chesterton and Lewis?
The Father Brown stories and the journalism are still Chesterton’s
finest work for me, but it’s like deciding between flavours of
ice-cream. Or, as a Russian friend always says: there are two types of
Vodka: good Vodka and very good Vodka. It’s all so tremendous. The same
applies to Lewis. Mere Christianity remains such a pure, clear, compelling account, but The Screwtape Letters, A Grief Observed, the Narnia chronicles are all superb.
Lewis influences me every day, every single day. Lewis in particular
was able to expunge faith from theology. Let me explain what I mean.
Theology is supposed to the discipline of studying religion, but often
it’s a method to make faith obscure, and an attempt to use esoteric
language to make what should seem fairly simple and certainly
accessible, difficult and distant. Lewis is the direct opposite. He was
an intellectual giant who never looked down on those shorter than him
at that was most people.
I don’t have anything like his abilities, but I do seem able to
explain and depict Christian truths to people who have not heard them,
rejected them, or forgotten them.
Catholic World Report:
You've been active in the public arena for close to thirty years as a
writer, commentator, and journalist. What changes, for good or ill, have
you seen when it comes to Christianity in the public square? Is there
more or less anti-Christian bias? What are the main factors for changes
over the past three or four decades?
Canada, Britain, and much of Western Europe are far worse than the
U.S., but America is catching up. On the one hand Catholic media has
improved enormously, but on the other there is an intensity and a
nastiness about anti-Christianity which is unique in the modern West. In
universities across the world, Christian students are often mocked and
marginalized; not by everyone, but enough to make life difficult. The
context, of course, is an overall dumbing down of the culture, and this
makes it far more difficult to discuss faith. If feelings triumph over
truth, we’re in trouble, and that’s the case today.
Catholic World Report:
The U.S. is often presented or perceived as still being very religious
in many key ways, while Europe has largely embraced secularism and
skepticism. Is it fair to say that Canada is somewhere in between the
two? How would you describe the situation in Canada, especially the
attitude toward Catholicism?
Yes, I’d say that was about right. Canada is almost 50% Catholic, and
most of our post-war Prime Ministers have been Catholic, but Kennedy
Catholics which is an oxymoron, really. A lot of the problems we face
in Canada, and the same is true elsewhere, come down not so much to
Catholic doctrine but to the Church’s position on life and sexuality.
The gay community is triumphal and triumphalist in this country, and
dissent is being increasingly punished. It’s very worrying. My next
book, Man & Wife: A Defence of Traditional Marriage (Random House) should make me a lot of friends here. Yes, I’m joking!
Catholic World Report: What can Catholics in the U.S. learn from the experience of Catholics in Canada? And vice-versa?
Nothing in particular, in that the problems are universal really. Hold
your allegedly Catholic politicians to a high standard, of course. But
most central is orthodoxy. The way to bring people to church, to form
them and save them, is through genuine Catholic teaching. For a
generation, we in the West gave people ecumenical liberalism instead of
Catholic World Report: In Why Catholicism Is Right,
you tackle a number of controversial topics, including the clergy sex
scandal, the Crusades, the Holocaust, papal infallibility, and so forth.
In your experience, what topics are most difficult to explain to
skeptics? What are some mistakes that well-intentioned Catholics make in
trying to defend and explain Church history and teaching?
They’re often too defensive. Yes, Catholics have sometimes gone wrong
and got it wrong. But for the most part the Church has been a light on
the hill, a shining example of truth and love. People must know their
stuff if they’re going to discuss it, let alone argue about it.
Most of our critics are badly read and we can defeat them with solid
points, but we have to know what we’re talking about hey, buy loads of
copies of my books! Most difficult subject? Abuse crisis, by miles.
It’s been used by anti-Catholics, liberal Catholics, and the media to,
frankly, tell lies about the Church. I’m gentle in my approach, but I
have to speak truth. The crisis was appalling, but it said nothing about
the Church but much about modern society and about homosexuality.
Catholic World Report: Your most recent book, Heresy: Ten Lies They Spread About Christianity,
takes on the many pervasive, commonly accepted stereotypes about
traditional Christianity: it is sexist, homophobic, anti-intellectual,
backwards, narrow-minded, and mean-spirited. What, in general, are the
historical and philosophical roots of these charges? Which of these
falsehoods is the most pernicious and damaging?
There is a general ignorance that goes far beyond Christianity. People
spend more time on Twitter or Facebook than in reading and thought. We
live through sound bites.
The most difficult one to deal with is homophobia, which is actually a
meaningless word and one I reject. However, gay people have suffered
and there are still those who hate them shame on them for being so
un-Christian. But while Christianity is simply not racist or anti-women
or narrow-minded, it is does possess a moral code and does not, cannot,
homosexual activity. This alone puts us in opposition to the mainstream.
We say and we do love everybody, but cannot condone certain activities;
this doesn’t convince many people, and is going to be an increasingly
Catholic World Report:
In addition to your books, what other reading recommendations do you
have for Christians seeking to explain their beliefs and defend
Michael Coren: Golly, a
long list. There are the moderns Scott Hahn, Karl Keating, Patrick
Madrid, Steve Ray, Peter Kreeft, and so on. And then Lewis, Cardinal
Newman, Ronald Knox, perhaps Aquinas if you’re up to it. A very positive
thing to remember is that there have never been so many skilled
apologists writing books and articles. This is a new spring for the