Cuban President Fidel Castro gestures to Pope John Paul II in Havana in 1998. It was the first visit to Cuba by a pope, and the Polish pontiff used it to appeal for greater religious rights. CNS photo/Reuters

Cold days in hell

  • May 14, 2015

For all the talk about global warming what we’re now seeing is a freezing trend that’s producing an ice sheet over Satan’s lake of fire. We know this is happening because events long thought possible only when the underworld’s climate turned entirely upside down — when hell froze over — have become the order of the day.

Michael Coren, author of Why Catholics are Right, is abruptly an Anglican. The Alberta NDP has just swept aside 44 years of Conservative dynastic rule to form a massive majority government. And one of global communism’s Castro boys has declared himself a Catholic once again.

From the local to the worldwide, that is a trifecta that must make Lucifer reach for his long johns and Toronto Maple Leaf toque. Intriguingly, what connects them all, apart from the Mephistophelean meteorology, is their testament to the endurance of deep faith — personal, political, religious.

Coren has taken a great deal of heat for his recent decision to leave Holy Mother Church. Normally in our secular age a media celebrity choosing to change churches would warrant as much attention as, say, Peter Mansbridge deciding to give up playing bridge to take up crazy eights instead. But Coren has made assertive apologetics a cornerstone of his professional and personal life. His voice has been one of the few within the media that could be relied on to insist, as his book defiantly proclaimed, not just on the right to be Catholic but on Catholicism being right.

As a result, his decision to trade Rome for Canterbury has been denounced, especially on social media, as everything from hypocritical to traitorous and, perhaps most unkindly of all if entirely predictable, a betrayal by someone who was never a real Catholic anyway.

What his critics either fail to see, or refuse to accept, is the validity of his statement that the decision was a Christ-centred choice: that he had to move away from the political distractions in which he was enmeshed in the Catholic Church in order to stay in the presence of Christ personally.

Seen in the light of rooted faith in Christ, Coren was right to leave the Catholic Church if staying meant attending at Mass with his heart and mind full of the buzz of worldly argument rather than the peace of Our Lord. It is devoutly to be hoped that the peripatetic pilgrim will find his way home to Rome again. In the interim, it’s better that his focus is fixed where it should be.

It is one of those freak storms of journalistic coincidence that Coren’s embrace of Anglicanism came mere days before the NDP sweep of Alberta. The first time I saw the fridge-magnet phrase “the Anglican Church is the NDP at prayer” was in the presence of Sandra Notley, mother of Premier Rachel Notley and wife of the late Grant Notley, leader of the NDP during the Peter Lougheed era.

I’ve written elsewhere of the new premier’s embodiment of her father’s inherent decency as a politician. It’s important to acknowledge as well the effect of her mother’s life-long social activism nurtured by her Anglican faith. The family environment wrought by both Grant and Sandra Notley was clearly one of standing up for what you believed but, even more, continuing to sustain that belief when expediency called for taking the easier (read: winning) course. They kept their faith in an ideal rooted more deeply than mere ideology could ever be.

The recent statement of Cuban President Raul Castro that he has been drawn back to the Church by the witness of Pope Francis repeats that example on the geopolitical scale. It is also, on the flip side, an example of the Church’s great wisdom in moving imperturbably forward in Her mission to (re)gain souls for Christ.

I was in Rome in the late 1990s when John Paul II first met with Fidel Castro. At the time, the world mocked the meeting as feckless, and the Pope’s subsequent visit to Cuba as a fruitless failure. From the deep roots of faith, however, the Church pressed implacably on regardless of the world’s short attention span. Now, Fidel’s brother Raul calls himself a Catholic once again.

No wonder the Other Place must be feeling as if it has been flash frozen and turned entirely upside down.

(Stockland is publisher of Convivium magazine and a senior fellow with Cardus.)

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