Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Intelligence Squared Debate -- Is the Catholic Church a Force for Good in the World?

Speaking for the motion, conservative MP Ann Widdencombe and Archbishop John Onaiyekan. Speaking against the motion, Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry. This debate is what you might call a blood bath. Hitchens and Fry mop the floor with their opponents, so much so that even I blush with embarrassment for Widdencombe and Onaiyekan.

If only Fry and Hitchens would take this show on the road, the whole of the orthodoxy might be deconverted in only a few months!

For those who just want to cut to the chase, here's the public vote on the motion before and after the debate:


Mack Ramer said...

I'm shocked that Archbishop Couldworkonhisenglish and a screechy angry grandma lost a debate in a hostile room to two of the wittiest entertainers in England, especially when all the evils committed by Western society for the first 1500 years A.D. get to be used as evidence.

I've got to say, though, that in addition to their citation of the wrongdoings of medieval Western society, lazy lies (claims of official anti-Semitism until 1964, or official acceptance of slavery without a named date) tarnished Hitch and Fry's otherwise stellar performance in which they made several very valid points.

And against that, the Archbishop offered only one real example of the Church doing good in the world; Widdencombe made some great points but if the audience is anything like me, the emotional reaction to her scowling face and screechy voice canceled out almost everything everything she said (especially when it's countered by Hitch and Fry, who seem like they would be great to go drinking with). I think better orators could have been found for the Church's side, or at least someone who unlike the Archbishop grasps what a debate is.

Jay said...

I can't believe they managed to sway 774 people! I was actually pretty disappointed with Fry's performance. Hitch, on the other hand, has done so many of these things now that he's got it down to a science. The debate itself seemed too short and didn't allow for enough (or any!) direct communication, which was a pity.

I wouldn't be so quick to bury the Church's conduct amidst the collective "wrongdoings of medieval Western society." So long as they claim the moral high ground, they should be doubly chastised when they fail to forecast and meet standards of human decency.

I was trying to pinpoint what was meant by the antisemitism and 1964 comment and found this LA Times article, but otherwise I'm still a bit confused as well.

Mack Ramer said...

The date 1964 baffles me, I don't think anything significant happened that year, but I'm guessing it is in reference to the 1959 changing of the Great Intercessions of Good Friday prayers which until that time read: Oremus et pro perfidiis Judaeis: ut Deus et Dominus noster auferat velamen de cordibus eorum; ut et ipsi abgnoscant Jesum Christum Dominum Nostrum ("And let us pray for the faithless Jews: that our God and Lord would remove the veil from their hearts: that they also may acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ"). The word "perfidiis"/"faithless" was removed in 1959; but one might read that it was changed some time in the 1960's because that is when the Mass was totally revamped (gradually, with the final form, as it still stands today, appearing on the first Sunday of Advent 1969). So he may have heard it's 1964, I don't know.

Now one can easily point to, say, Lateran IV and say that anti-Semitism was an official Church teaching in 1215. But in the 20th Century? Based on the word "faithless" in the Good Friday prayers? With Pope Pius XI publicly denouncing anti-Semitism and declaring that "Spiritually, we are all Semites" in 1938? I think no.

David McCabe said...

This refers to the Nostra Aetate.