Michael Coren’s Welcome Evolution On Gay Rights Can’t Erase His Less Progressive Views On Other Issues

For years, I couldn’t stand him.  His obnoxious personality, his odious opinions.  I never heard his radio show but I did watch him quite a lot on CTS (now Yes TV).  I read his weekly Toronto Sun columns.  I even checked out one of his books from the public library.

As time went on, I couldn’t stay silent any longer.  I started writing and submitting numerous angry letters to The Toronto Sun, one of which actually got published.  I found myself yelling at him on my TV.  It’s usually healthy to expose yourself to views that are the complete opposite of your own but when I found myself constantly getting red-faced and my forehead often screaming in agony just from seeing his annoying, clueless words in The Sun and hearing them uttered on CTS, I eventually realized I had to move on.  I’ve not regretted that decision.  Experiencing Michael Coren full-time became a endless headache.

Despite no longer watching his show (which he left to join the now-defunct Sun News Network in 2011) or being a regular reader of his Sun pieces (he just left Sun Media this past February), every once in a while I would still catch wind of something offensive he had written and post a highly critical response in this space.

It’s been nearly a year since the last time I did that.  Last June, Coren had written a somewhat surprising Sun column headlined ‘I Was Wrong’.  At the time, I was decidedly unimpressed.  Put simply, I just didn’t believe he had changed his views on the gay community, gay marriage and homosexuality at all.  He also didn’t apologize.  “I Was Wrong” didn’t include “I Am Sorry”.

In a recent Toronto Star column, however, Coren has made me partially reconsider my view.  Reading him openly declare his support for gay marriage stunned me.  He had spent so much time condemning the idea it’s a bit jarring to see him fully reverse himself like this.  (A decade ago, he firmly held the opposite view in The National Post.)

He has also evolved on homosexuality itself no longer believing it’s a sin or disordered.  Last year, I opined that he simply wouldn’t use those specific words any more and that based on critical columns he had written just months earlier, he hadn’t actually changed his mind about gay sex.  That has turned out to be a thankfully bad assumption.

So, what happened?  Where did the angry, obtuse, sex-negative Michael Coren go?  Was he kidnapped and replaced with a gentler, kinder, liberal clone?  Is this a Invasion Of The Body Snatchers situation?

Hardly.  As he notes in The Star, he quietly left the Catholic Church for the second and final time in 2014 in order to join the Anglican Church.  It was only discovered just a couple of weeks ago and has apparently caused quite the firestorm online.

Why did he switch congregations?

“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.”

But, as he continues, there’s was more to it than that:

“I refused to base my entire world view and theology, as so many active Catholics do, around abortion, contraception and sex rather than love, justice and forgiveness. Frankly, it was tearing me apart. I wanted to extend the circle of love rather than stand at the corners of a square and repel outsiders. So I quietly and privately drifted over to an Anglican Church that while still working out its own position on many social issues, is far more progressive, open, relevant and willing to admit reality.”

Two weeks before The Star published his essay, Coren was interviewed by The National Post.  When asked why he “could no longer worship with integrity as a Catholic,”, he responded:

“I could not remain in a church that effectively excluded gay people. That’s only one of the reasons, but for someone who had taken the Catholic position on same-sex marriage for so long, I’d never been comfortable with that even though I suppose I was regarded as being a stalwart in that position. But I’d moved on, and I felt a hypocrite. I felt a hypocrite being part of a church that described homosexual relations as being disordered and sinful. I just couldn’t be part of it anymore. I could not do that. I couldn’t look people in the eye and make the argument that is still so central to the Catholic Church, that same-sex attraction is acceptable but to act on it is sinful. I felt that the circle of love had to be broadened, not reduced.”

If only he had come to this welcome conclusion a lot sooner.  For as refreshing as it is that Michael Coren is no longer an anti-gay bigot, he nonetheless deeply hurt a marginalized community needlessly and dishonestly for decades while getting paid for it.  Quite frankly, he still has a lot of amends to make for that.  He doesn’t deserve a free pass for his horrific past misjudgments.  Forgiveness is earned over time, not flippantly given in an instant.

I am also puzzled by why he didn’t publicly announce his departure from the Catholic Church immediately, rather than wait a full year to do so in that Post interview.  Considering how long and how much of his Catholic faith has been a part of his writing and TV identity, it’s a rather dishonest omission.

Either you’re completely unguarded with your readers about your internal struggles, your inner philosophical wrestling matches and your political reversals or you’re hiding your true self.  In fact, to conceal important, relevant truths, even the ones you’re still making sense of, is to be fraudulent.

So, let’s not get nuts and throw him a ticker tape parade for being pro-gay now.  Besides, Coren hasn’t at all reversed himself on every awful thing he’s said in the past.  He still supports Israel laughably asserting that it’s “intensely democratic”.  He stubbornly supports the long discredited “two-state solution” instead of a “one-state solution” that ends Apartheid, a word he never uses, against Palestinians & African immigrants.  Critics of Apartheid are succinctly dismissed as “Israel-hating leftists” and not praised as champions of freedom.

And he’s not exactly pro-Muslim, either, no matter how many supportive tweets he posts about the long persecuted Omar Khadr.  While evolving on gay issues last year, he shamelessly plugged his anti-Islam book on Twitter following the murder of a soldier outside Parliament Hill.  And after the recent shooting at a “Draw Mohammed” contest in Texas, he wrote this tone-deaf piece that completely avoided the connection between anti-Western violence and America’s constant bombing & drone campaigns against Muslims in the Middle East.

He might support vaccinations, evolution and Ontario’s new sex education curriculum, but he’s awful on transgender issues.  He may condemn the CIA’s torture program, climate change deniers and Jian Ghomeshi’s atrocious behaviour, but he’s not exactly a feminist.

As a result, it’s understandable that some of those directly affected by his past anti-gay views are probably going to have a hard time forgiving Coren or even accepting his sincerity after his belated admissions to the Post.  Like I said, he has lot of fence mending to do.  He hurt a lot of innocent people for no good reason for far too long.

Even so, he deserves praise for finally coming clean.  It is never easy to admit hypocrisy, to finally accept out loud that you were wrong and need to change.

But it’s not the only issue he needs to evolve on.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, May 18, 2015
9:55 p.m.

Published in: on May 18, 2015 at 9:56 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] When one of Margaret Atwood’s National Post columns was suddenly removed from the web then reposted with noticeable edits, I asked why.  (I wasn’t the only one.)  And when Toronto Star columnist Michael Coren suddenly announced he was no longer Catholic nor anti-gay, I noted how he hasn’t reversed all of his awful political positions. […]

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