Bridget & I had the pleasure of attending the Intelligent Squared Debate last night. at the Central Methodist Hall in London.
The Motion: The Catholic Church is a Force For Good in The World.
For: Anne Widdecombe & Archbishop Onaiyekan.
Against: Stephen Fry & Christopher Hitchens.
Chair: Zeinab Badawi
Oh what a night, a packed audience were treated to the highs & lows of debate, truly enjoyable.
Fry was impassioned, earnest, charming & powerful. Hitch was annihilating. The Archbishop or ‘Grace’ as he likes to be called floundered badly, and didn’t seem to have access to any pertinent knowledge (such as the Catholic Church’s wealth, charitable donations, basic science & the current UN issues) nor any experience making a point in front of a non-sheepish flock. Widdie had some fight in her, but was surprisingly clueless,and often misrepresented the questions posed to her. For example Hitch presented a ‘summary’ of crimes for which he argued the RCC needed to apologise unreservedly; starting at the crusades & culminating with the present popes actions. Widdecombe said something to the effect of “How telling that he had to go all the way back to the Crusades” completely disregarding all later crimes.She also rolled her eyes in mock boredom at any mention of condoms.
Other low points included the archbishops suggestion that condom use would increase AIDS by promoting promiscuity, (together with Widde’s cherry-picked quotes supporting this stance) My point is this: Given condoms offer at least 99% protection against AIDS infection, this would mean that the provision of condoms must lead to over 100 times more sexual activity for their argument to hold water. I’m not sure the brand of condoms they are referring to, but get me some of those.
The swing in the vote was staggering, particular given the presence of some vocal & devoted catholics.
But the real coffin-nail was Widdie arguing that the RCC shouldn’t be judged for crimes in its past, as it was no worse than the prevailing morals of the day. Fine, maybe, but she then tried to argue that the Catholic faith had access to an immutable eternal absolute moral law. Can’t have it both ways. When called on such matters neither defender had any answer, nor it seemed any appreciation of the problem.
If I had the misfortune of debating Fry & Hitchens on this topic (maybe in a terrible dream) the only lifeline would be to apologise unreservedly, but plea that with reform, the power & loyal following of many (I guess) well intentioned minions, is a POTENTIAL force for good in the world. But they didn’t do that at all, and they lost badly, it must have hurt. To drop over half of your supporters in 90 mins of debate is no mean feat, but some source of hope. Just goes to show that a little reason can go a long way, and maybe faith is a little more shakable than I’m led to believe.
So what were the scores, Thomas Moores?
For the motion: 678. Against: 1102. Undecided: 346.
Post Debate: For: 268. Against: 1876. Don’t know: 34
The debate will be aired on Nov 7/8 on BBC World. I don’t think I make an appearance despite my best ‘Hmmm’ face.