New Articles | Why Catholics Are Wrong

By: Rob Zins

The above title may seem arrogant and out of place in a pluralistic and relativistic society. It is however appropriate in this case because we are reviewing a new book released in 2011 entitled Why Catholics Are Right. The author of the book is Michael Coren. We read this about Mr. Coren off the jacket cover of his book:

"Michael Coren is host of the nightly Michael Coren Show on CTS television, and a weekly columnist, published every Saturday with Sun Media, and in more than a dozen other daily and weekly newspapers across Canada. His twelve books include biographies of G.K. Chesterton, H.G. Wells, J.R.R. Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis. He lives in Toronto."
Mr. Coren has written a 217 page book of which he states the following. "This book is not supposed to be anything like a definitive guide to Roman Catholicism. It is a mere handbook dealing with some of the most common but by no means all of the attacks on the Church and should be useful to Catholics who want to defend their beliefs but need a little help, an intellectualizing of the instinctive or a mild fleshing out of what they already thought to be the case."1

Mr. Coren has divided his book into five chapters: Catholics and the Abuse Scandal, Catholics and History, Catholics and Theology, Catholics and Life, and Catholics and Other Stuff. We are primarily interested in his chapter on Catholic theology. Since Mr. Coren believes that the Roman Catholic religion is absolutely right about Christianity, and that all other attempts at Christianity are more or less mistaken; we wish to examine his boast that Catholics are right.

Mr. Coren Sets Forth His Case

It is common in Roman Catholic apologetic circles to make the claim for Roman Catholicism by first showing how ridiculous Protestantism looks. Coren is no exception. He makes the typical broad sweeping statement, "If the Bible is the final word of God and the only guide to salvation and life, why are there tens of thousands of competing Protestant denominations and why are so many of them mutually exclusive?"2

As we shall see Mr. Coren is fond of making statements without bothering with research. He also likes to draw outlandish conclusions from the data he splatters around. In this case we are not sure where he gets the idea that there are "tens of thousands of competing denominations". While there is a broad spectrum of denominational churches in the confessing Evangelical world there is hardly tens of thousands. Also, to say that they are competing with each other is highly gratuitous and not true. There are many things upon which good Bible expositors may disagree. Hence, there are many denominations who believe in diversity in non-essentials but unity in the essentials. For the record all Christian denominations believe in the sufficiency of the Bible for faith and practice. They also believe that salvation is by faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone. They may differ on ecclesiastical matters that are not essential but at the end of the day they all agree on Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide. Different practices stem from different interpretations of the text. Every Christian understands that the Lord will sort out the kinds of things that keep Christians from all worshipping and believing the exact same things when it comes to non-essentials. Part of the great liberty of reading the Bible is the responsibility to interpret and apply it as correctly as possible. Most of the differences among Evangelicals come from trying very hard to get it right in the interpretation of the hundreds of texts in the Old and New Testament. This does not signal a hopelessly fractured Christianity. Rather it signals the diversity that is inherent in an honest attempt at biblical interpretation.

What about Rome? Mr. Coren would have us believe that all Roman Catholics believe the same thing and are in some kind of perfect harmony about matters of faith and values. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, the Roman Catholic community is more diverse and has more voices competing for allegiance than the alleged dysfunctions of Protestantism. In the first place the Roman Catholic religion has not defined doctrine as carefully as the Christian community. Hence, there are precious few "infallible" biblical interpretations of the text. Roman Catholics are free to wander and roam the hallways of theological disputes without leaving Roman Catholicism. In short, Rome is united in administration and organization but not theologically. If Her various theological positions were to give rise to new denominations then Rome would lead the parade. Then again Rome is adept at expanding the tent of Roman Catholicism to include all stripes as long as they adhere to the rudiments of Roman Catholic teaching. However, even these rudiments are challenged and ignored by those who still call themselves Roman Catholics. Communities outside of Roman Catholicism which claim to be Christian (and many are not Christian at all) tend to simply split and start anew. Factions, splits, splinters, and dissidents within Rome will stay in Rome, and find their own niche in Rome's vast canyons, caves, and crevices.

If Mr. Coren had taken a clear eyed look at his own religion he would not have been so quick to dismiss Sola Scriptura (the Bible alone for faith and practice). He would have seen that the Roman Catholic monolith, with Her Papal decrees and Magisterium pronouncements etc., works practically no better (even worse) than Mr. Coren's imagined nightmare of "tens of thousands of competing Protestant denominations". A well known article written by Ken Samples and produced by Christian Research Institute, and readily available on the inter-net, lists the various factions within Roman Catholicism.3 Among them listed are Ultra Traditionalists, Traditionalists, Liberals, Charismatics, Cultural, and Popular Folk Catholics. We might add to the list American Catholics, Latin Rite only Catholics, along with Sedevacantists Catholics (those who believe the chair of Peter is empty), and post modern Roman Catholics. We might echo the words of Mr. Coren, "If the Vatican is the final word of God and the only guide to salvation and life, why are there so many competing forces within Rome with many being mutually exclusive?"

We might further add that Rome does not try to interpret the entire Bible infallibly. And since there is no infallible list of infallible interpretations most of what Rome has interpreted is subject to the same error that Rome accuses of Christian communities. We need to press home the point that Roman Catholicism is composed of a top down oligarchy that claims to be above the Bible, and fails utterly to convince even faithful Catholics to agree on matters of faith and values. Mr. Coren is wrong. The term "Roman Catholicism" is becoming a catch phrase for those who want to identify with a universal religion but only add to the "tens of thousands of competing ideas" that compose modern Rome.

The Rest of It

The rest of Mr. Coren's chapter on Catholic Theology is a regurgitation of Roman Catholic apologetics. However, Mr. Coren is not very clear. For example he finds himself committed to Rome but not entirely. He tends to go back and forth between Christianity and Roman Catholicism. He seems to be saying that the "very best way" to be Christian is to be a Roman Catholic. But he also seems to acknowledge that one can be a Christian quite apart from Rome, albeit an inferior one. However, we might ask a simple question about this book. If Catholics are entirely right about salvation, and eternal life, and how to get to heaven, etc., then how can others who do not believe at all like Roman Catholics arrive safely home with God? This is Coren's dilemma. Why be a Roman Catholic, and in what sense is Roman Catholicism right, if believing the exact opposite lands one in the same place? Read carefully Mr. Coren's two minds

"To put it bluntly, knowledge of Jesus is available to all people but to know Christ is available only to Christians in communion with the Church. To live in Christ is to live in a Church, to live in the Church, because that is how Christ in His spirit gives Himself to us. Jesus might be one's personal Lord and Savior, but the result tends to be a Jesus who looks suspiciously like oneself."4
What are we to do with this sort of statement that permeates so much of Mr. Coren's writing? He seems to be saying on the one hand that one must live in "the Church" (Roman Catholic) in order to know Christ. Somehow Christ "in His spirit" gives Himself to those who are in communion with Rome. Yet, Jesus can be one's personal Lord and Savior with the result that Jesus looks like oneself. This is, we suppose, a directed slam against "born again Christians". But this kind of foolish statement is very telling. For the Bible teaches us that one must be "born again" in order to see the Kingdom of God (John 3:1-5). What are we to think? Are "born again" Christians outside of knowing Christ? Are they deprived of communion with Christ? Are those who have Jesus as their Lord and Savior missing something? Are those who attend the Roman Catholic religion closer to Christ even though they are not "born again" and do not have Jesus as their Lord and Savior? Mr. Coren seems to fire and fall back. There is no doubt that he thinks Rome has got it right on all things Christian. But his ignorance of the meaning and outcome of being "born again" leaves him no choice but to poke fun at the terminology. This is just the tip of the iceberg of Mr. Coren's failure to understand true Christianity.

As we traverse through his chapter on theology we find many such examples of missing Christianity while trumpeting Rome. For instance, in defense of the Pope Mr. Coren says:

"Catholics of course, know and acknowledge that the Bible is the word of God. They also know and acknowledge, however, that Jesus Christ did not leave us a Bible but left us a Pope and a teaching office, the Magisterium."5
The sheer fact that the Bible nowhere teaches us that Jesus left a Pope and Magisterium does not slow down the "assertion express" of Mr. Coren. Over and again Mr. Coren goes on his merry way making declarations supported by what can only be described as bizarre and in some cases unscrupulous proof texting evidence. He thinks Peter must have been the first Pope because his name is mentioned more times than the other apostles. Aside from the fact that name mention is hardly a criterion for the establishment of a Roman Catholic Pope, Coren forgets to mention that Paul's name is cited over 150 times from Acts 15 to the end of Acts and Peter is barely mentioned. We cannot imagine proving a Roman Catholic Pope from the number times an apostle's name may be mentioned. But if there ever was an argument for a Pope based upon influence and prominence it surely would be Paul and not Peter!

Here is another example of Mr. Coren's "intellectually vigorous force of argument". Speaking of the apostle Peter Coren says, "Throughout the New Testament, he is considered the leader of Christ's followers, and St. Paul later spent fifteen days with him as a preparation for his own journeys of conversion."6

It is just this kind of fast and loose use of the Bible that marks Coren's work. The Bible does not tell us that Paul spent fifteen days with Peter in preparation for Paul's own journeys of conversion. In the first place we have no clue what Coren may mean by Paul's "journeys of conversion". Also the Scriptures tell us specifically that Paul did not immediately consult with anyone after his conversion. It would be three years after his conversion that Paul would visit with Peter. Nothing more is written about their conversation. Here is the text:

"But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus. Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days" Galatians 1:15-18 NASU.
It is pure fanciful speculation to come away from the text with the idea that Paul was prepared by Peter for what Coren calls Paul's "journeys of conversion".

We wish to point out one more example of Coren's penchant to exaggerate the text and add his own meaning to the text of Scripture. In this case Coren is trying to prove a point from Peter's confession that Jesus is the Son of God. The text of Scripture reads as follows:

"When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, 'Who do people say the Son of Man is?' They replied, 'Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.' 'But what about you?' he asked. 'Who do you say I am?' Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' Jesus replied, 'Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven'" Matthew: 16:13-17 NIV. From this text Coren gives us in quotations what he believes to be Jesus' answer to Peter's confession. Here is the Coren rendition of the Bible:

"Then, from Jesus, 'You are greatly blessed, Simon, Jonah's son, for this was not revealed to you through human means. This was revealed to you personally by my father in heaven. You have heard all the human reasons why I am not good enough to be the Messiah, and you have rejected them all. Thus my father has found your soul open to receiving the truth from him, and it is this you have just proclaimed.'"
Incredibly, Coren quotes the above as though this is what Jesus had actually said. But this is not the text of Scripture. It is rather the text of Coren. It is painfully clear that Coren is convinced that God saw the "open soul" of Peter and thus gave him authority over all the church. Both ideas are patently non-biblical. So convinced is Coren that Catholics are right that he actually re-writes the text to prove it!

From this point on Coren will assert that Peter was given the key of David from Isaiah 22:22. Coren asserts that Peter is, so to speak, the new Hilkiah who, as the steward of Jesus, will have "total and complete authority of His kingdom, His Church, and His followers" From John twenty one Coren asserts that Jesus summoned Peter to tend and feed His flock and this must mean to teach and to rule. Coren concludes that John must have thought Peter to be the first Pope because despite the fact that John out raced Peter to the empty tomb Peter was let in first. Coren white washes Peter's hypocrisy at Antioch by asserting that Paul was only correcting Peter's lifestyle and not challenging Peter's authority.7

We marvel at the way Coren zips along making assertion after assertion from assumptions without any biblical interaction other than telling stories based upon his own rendition of the Bible. For Coren it is perfectly fine for a Pope to be a scoundrel as long as he is not speaking from the chair of Peter. When speaking from the chair of Peter the Pope is infallible. Ironically, the Pope is said to be only infallible when he pronounces upon faith and morals. However, it has not dawned on Coren as to how anyone can trust a scoundrel who says that he is speaking from the chair of Peter. After all would not a bad Pope say he was speaking ex cathedra (from the chair) when perhaps he really was not? Who tells the Pope when he is on the chair? And is the one telling the Pope that he is in fact on the chair infallibly certain?

Coren continues his sleight of hand misuse of the Bible and logic as he slips in Apostolic Succession. He simply says without proof or discussion the following:

"As we've seen above, Christ gave Peter and his spiritual successors the keys of the Church and promised him that when he taught and led as the steward of Christ on earth he would not, could not, commit error."8
There is no discussion of Apostolic Succession in the "above" mentioned by Coren. He simply takes it for granted. Also, going back to Paul and Peter at Antioch, what logic can explain how Peter's wretched failure at Antioch can be aligned with what Coren says Jesus promised to Peter in the above quote? Peter was a hypocrite. He led the Gentile Christians astray. Paul told him he was not genuine with the gospel. Peter was in sin. Yet, incredibly for Coren, Peter would not and could not commit error! Is it any wonder why Coren entitles his book Why Catholics are Right? They, like their imagined Peter, can do no wrong!

We close this review with yet one more example of what can only be called "folksy deceit" by this Roman Catholic writer. There is no need to write another book. All of what Coren has written has been ably refuted by any number of authors.9 The remainder of Coren's chapter on Roman Catholic theology is full of the same kinds of assertions, assumptions, and outrageous accusations. According to Coren the Roman Catholic religion gave us the Bible. Also, he thinks the English translations of the Bible were banned because Wycliff and Tyndale, along with others, were deliberately mistranslating, and undermining Christianity. He writes that only the Romish religious authorities can interpret the Bible correctly because they have been given "special rules of hermeneutics". He thinks the late date of the pronouncement of transubstantiation is due to the fact that it was held universally among all Christians from the time of Christ and there was no need to write about it until people began to question it. Hence it is absent from early creeds. Following his own logic Coren declares that 1 Corinthians 11 is a warning to those who do not believe in the Roman Catholic Mass. He condemns those who do not "judge the body" properly. Moving on, Coren defends confession to a priest from the Didache (even though there is nothing in the Didache quoted that would suggest Roman Catholic confession). This is what makes Coren's book so dangerous. He throws around historical incidents and citations to prove his preconceived points. We shudder to think how gullible the common Roman Catholic might be in swallowing this stuff hook, line, and sinker! What Roman Catholic is going to take the time to read the Diache to see if it advances Roman Catholic confession? What Roman Catholic would ever consider that the Bible is the ultimate source, and the Bible does not teach Roman Catholic confession? Coren re-writes the entire Roman Catholic history of Purgatory and turns Purgatory into a lavish waiting room just outside the door of heaven. According to Coren Purgatory is nothing more than a warm bath and soft robe for Christians who land there to be cleaned up a bit before going to heaven. At this point Coren fits the "tens of thousands" of Roman Catholics with their own opinions. 10 But Coren is selling Roman Catholicism (at least his brand) and really needs to sell Purgatory. Coren closes his chapter on theology by splattering around some favorite Roman Catholic ideas about Mary and the Rosary.11

In citing one example (and there are many we could chose from) Mr. Coren's defense of Papal infallibility sums up what is terribly wrong with this book. He claims the following:

"Hardly any bishops objected to the doctrine - because they knew its origins and its historical and Biblical reality; it would have been a contradiction of their faith, and a denial of their position as bishops, for them to have rejected a founding doctrine of Roman Catholicism."12 Like most novice Roman Catholic defenders, Coren takes the party line here. The history of Vatican I consisting of notes, confessions, observations, and dissenting opinions of those who walked out on the proceedings present quite a different picture. Suffice it to say there is no biblical reality to Papal infallibility. There is also no historical hint or foretaste to this horrendous Roman Catholic dogma. 13 There is no faith of any confessing Christian from the first through the 18th century that consists of belief in an infallible Pope. This is not even a founding doctrine of the Roman Catholic religion! It is unheard of, and unprecedented, and not even held to by many Roman Catholic communities to this day. Indeed, the bishops who stood against Pius IX did not risk the denial of their position. Rather they risked having their position denied to them!14

In the final analysis Michael Coren is like a small lieutenant in a totalitarian regime. He walks the party line in a winsome folksy way but is quite unaware of the deep darkness he has put himself into. His is not a Christian position and his religion is still antichrist to the core! rmz
1Page 7 of introduction.

2Page 102

3What Think Ye of Rome? An Evangelical Appraisal of Contemporary Catholicism by Ken Samples. Available through CRI (Christian Research Institute) or the Internet

4Page 102

5Page 103

6Page 103

7Please read our Romanism the Relentless Roman Catholic Assault on the Gospel of Jesus Christ for a complete and thorough analysis and refutation of these commonly held Roman Catholic arguments. We have not the space here to go into such detail.

8Page 110

9We recommend The Roman Catholic Controversy by James White, Preparing Catholics for Eternity by Mike Gendron, The Matthew 16 Controversy by William Webster, Test All Things by Joe Mizzi, and The Gospel According to Rome by Jim McCarthy among many others that have taken great pains to show forth the errors of Roman Catholicism.

10Coren's fanciful description of Purgatory is a far cry from the Roman Catholic doctrine of Purgatorial satisfactions. There is actual suffering involved in the punishments for purification in the real RC Purgatory.

11Keep in mind that it takes one sentence to affirm heresy and sometimes chapters to undo what has been alleged. Keep in mind all that Coren is affirming has been absolutely renounced and defended by Christian theology.

12Page 111.

13We invite the reader to examine the decree of Pope John XXII Quia Quorundam (November 10th 1324) wherein this Pope decreed against those who held that his constitutions were unlawful because they could not undo the constitutions of his predecessors who spoke from the chair of Peter.

14We would ask the reader to read our review of the famous Strossmayer speech and other historical elements of the deliberations of the Vatican I.

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