One would have thought that writing, as I did in my last column here and in my weekly column for the Sun newspaper chain, that a Catholic should employ love, empathy and kindness instead of hatred, literalism and cruelty was self-evident. But apparently I was wrong.
The reason, it appears, was because I argued this in the context of the gay issue, apologized for any harsh language I had used in the past and demanded a new approach from Christians towards gay people based on Jesus rather than judgment. I said that growth was vital, that ugly words resulted in ugly situations and insisted that many gay people I know lead far more moral lives than do I. I am not aware of contradicting Church teaching at any point, but then I discovered long ago that angry people react to their own insecurities rather than read actual words.
Let me emphasize that of the almost 2,000 notes I received since those columns appeared the vast majority were charming, moving and supportive. But the rest! My wife and children have been insulted and attacked on Facebook and Twitter, letters have been sent to various Catholic newspaper editors and television producers — including the editor of this newspaper — insisting that I be fired, churches have been pressured to stop me speaking, I have been personally abused and my column was posted on a far right Catholic blog next to a piece about the rape and murder of a shoeshine boy more than 30 years ago. I was also condemned for being a “half-Jew.”
Never in my years of standing against same-sex marriage and being regarded as an opponent of the gay community did I face such vile and repugnant behaviour from gay activists. Never did my opponents slide so low and act in such a devilish manner. I saw a face of the evangelical and in particular Catholic right that disgusted me. Such ordure from those who claim such gentleness was, as I say, shocking.
I know some of the attackers, and a more broken and dysfunctional group one could not meet. Some in particular I have felt sorry for and tried to befriend over the years, and their response is thus. I do have some pity because several have come from difficult backgrounds, but that does not justify such venom. Strangely enough the son of one of my new critics wrote to me shortly after my column was published, telling of his difficult childhood. I suppose I should not be surprised.
There was also an obsession with one particular sexual act, one that is actually fairly rare among gay men and impossible among gay women. But these people wrote at length about it with a scatological and morbid relish. Who, I had to wonder, were the extremists?
I will say again: I was wrong in much that I said about gay people in the past and I am sorry and ask for their forgiveness; I believe that Jesus made the world anew and pleaded for us to love, forgive, embrace and refrain from judging; I believe this issue is far more about love than sex; I believe that there are far too many people who are chained by legalism rather than liberated by the Gospel; I know that I have learned much about morality and decency from gay men and women; I also hold to the virgin birth, that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God, that He is to be met in the Eucharist, and I would die for my faith.
It is the latter that obliges me to live for it too, and live in love. Hate away, hate away my friends, but you only push me further into the hands of my Saviour and His teachings. Not so long ago a priest with whom I have had many differences referred to “Taliban Catholics.” I disagreed with him then, and I still believe the term is unfair and not helpful. But my goodness I now understand what he meant and why he said it.
(Coren’s latest book is The Future of Catholicism. His web site is www.michaelcoren.com.)