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Vol. 10, No. 6, 2011
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Robert J. Lewis
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michael coren's

reviewed by


Farzana Hassan is the author of Prophecy and the Fundamentalist Quest. Please visit her website at:

Catholics are right on just about everything asserts Michael Coren, in his persuasively written book Why Catholics are Right (McClelland & Stewart, 2011). His vindication of Catholic belief and practice is touching, though not without occasional bias and dogmatism. In his defense of Catholicism’s role in history, Coren attempts to refute some of the common charges leveled at the Catholic church as well as ordinary Catholics. Some of these charges involve the church’s role in the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition and more recently, the Holocaust.

Coren acknowledges the fact of the Crusades and the Inquisition. However, he also provides a Catholic rationale for these historical events. He begins by challenging the unjust opinion that “Catholics are somehow nastier than anyone else” -- a notion that underpins all criticism of Catholics according to the author. Coren asserts that Catholicism in fact functioned as a moderating influence on the tyranny of many secular institutions of the time. He effectively dismantles myths around the Spanish Inquisition. Although he admits that the Spanish Inquisition was initially sanctioned by the church, it was “secular” greed and motives that betrayed its original objectives. As for the Crusades, they were a response to Muslim conquest of Christian lands.

Protestant ethics is usually credited with spurring the scientific revolution of the West, an idea postulated by Max Weber in the early part of the twentieth century. Rarely is one introduced to the idea that “Catholic priests as well as Catholic laypeople have contributed to science with staggering success.” Coren cites Edouard Lemaitre as an example of a Catholic cosmologist who proposed the idea of the Big Bang. The author states that Catholics engaged in scientific inquiry, theorized about tidal waves, the wave-like nature of light and blood circulation.

But it is in defending the church’s role during the Holocaust that Coren’s arguments are the most compelling. Contrary to popular opinion, the church “did almost all that it could” to minimize the suffering of the European Jews. The author cites the World Jewish Congress’ donation to the Vatican as proof of the validity of his above contention. Coren also provides other documentation to support the view that the church publically denounced the Nazi death camps. When the Pope failed to denounce Nazi anti-Semitism -- a criticism often leveled at him -- it was for the greater good and to avoid a larger catastrophe. Such denunciations had previously provoked a backlash against the Jews. The author writes:

“Actually the Pope did make numerous condemnations of Nazi racism, both before and during the war. A public statement was, however, not without consequences and was not at all guaranteed to achieve the desired outcome. One clear case of the tragedy of this act and something that influenced the papal position was what occurred in Holland when the Archbishop of Utrecht preached against the treatment of Dutch Jews. He had been ordered not to do so but decided he had no option. In direct response, the Nazi rounded up not only Jews, but Jewish converts to Catholicism . . . ”

Later in the book, Coren clarifies the role of the church on one of the most controversial issues of our time: Abortion. The author carefully explains the church’s rationale in opposing abortion and upholding the sanctity of life even in its embryonic form. He regards the church’s stand as highly moral. Coren explains that among other things, the uniqueness of every human life at conception is at once established, which is why the church is adamant on its stand against abortion. At the same time that the author endorses the church’s pro-life stance; he also condemns the West’s profligate use of the world’s resources as an “obscene gap” between the rich and the destitute. Coren also explains and defends the church’s position on euthanasia.

The author discusses a mix of issues toward the end of the book including the historicity of Jesus Christ. To authenticate Jesus existence, he cites the historian Josephus as having spoken of one Cristus who was crucified by Pontius Pilate. Coren also claims that Jesus indeed proclaimed himself the Son of God which is why he was crucified. None of his earliest followers, he asserts, doubted this.

Why Catholics Are Right is an interesting read. It contains informed opinions and well-documented historical accounts. But readers might be left with the impression that the author is out to justify every Catholic doctrine and practice, including its refusal to ordain women priests, its stance on homosexuality and its treatment of the sex abuse scandal.



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"Catholics are somehow nastier than anyone else." Paper tigers are also somehow more dangerous than other animals in the jungle.
It would have been helpful had you actually cited some of his arguments, so we could see them, instead of merely describing them as "careful." And you completely dodged the real issues of the RCChurch's stand on homosexuality and the abusive priests.
Also, citing Josephus as a proof of Christ's historicity is like citing David Solway's well publicized views of Area 51 as proof that flying saucers exist. (Josephus was writing about 80 years after Christ's death, and was born 37 years after . . . .).
The Nazi vote actually fell in the 1933 elections. There was a lot of Catholic opposition to Hitler and the Catholic Center Party was its political voice. The concord between the Vatican and the new Hitler led government that dissolved the Center Party helped consolidate Nazi power by vitiating an established resistant institution. That action alone calls into question many a pious statement uttered thereafter.
Josephus was a historian, not a conspiracy theorist. It would be more accurate to say, for example, "citing Josephus . . . is like citing David Mccullough's biography of John Adams as evidence about things that happened to John Adams." Adams lived 200 years before Mccullough wrote about him, too.

reviews by Farzana Hassan:
Winnng the War Against Jihad
Islam & Democracy
Intellectual Curiosity and the Scientific Revolution
The Islamist
The Grand Design
The Jew Is Not My Enemy
To Ban the Hijab?


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