Claud (believe-nothing-until-it has-been-officially-denied) Coburn is something of a hero of mine. He came immediately to mind when it was announced that Michael Coren, a Canadian broadcaster and Catholic apologist (‘Why Catholics are Right’; ‘Heresy’; ‘The Future of Catholicism’) had become an Anglican. Coburn, you will remember, claimed to have penned the underwhelming headline: ‘Small Earthquake in Chile, Not Many Dead’.
Naturalists will always be interested in rare phenomena – and rats entering sinking ships is certainly one of them. But why should the rest of us be interested?
The answer, in this case, is that Coren’s defection is strangely encouraging for traditional Catholics. He converted to Anglicanism on the gay issue: ‘I felt a hypocrite…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’. But he is no member of the Tablettendenze. He does not believe that a few words from Pope Francis on an aeroplane are a seismic event for Catholic moral theology. On the contrary: ‘The Catholic Church is not going to change its teaching. Believe me, the Catholic Church cannot’.
Coren has become an Anglican out of respect for robustness of the Magisterium, and perhaps out of despair at changing it. We cannot rejoice in, but we are bound to honour, what is, after all, the quintessential Protestant position.
[The Anglican Church of Canada has 545,957 members – Ed.]