The BBC recently hosted a debate on the Catholic Church as part of its Intelligence Squared debate series. This installment considered the motion: “The Catholic Church is a force for good in the world.”
Arguing for the motion was Archbishop Onaiyekan of Nigeria and Ann Widdecombe, a British Conservative Party politician. The opposing ticket boasted bigger names: Christopher Hitchens and humorist Stephen Fry.
Both sides traded barbs, but Hitchens and Fry landed the better blows. The debate was a total shut-out, as even this Catholic blogger laments:
The voting gives a good idea of how it went. Before the debate, for the motion: 678. Against: 1102. Don’t know: 346. This is how it changed after the debate. For: 268. Against: 1876. Don’t know: 34. In other words, after hearing the speakers, the number of people in the audience who opposed the motion increased by 774. My friend Simon, who’s a season ticket holder, said it was the most decisive swing against a motion that he could remember.
For the record, I don’t really have a dog in this fight. There are things I admire about the Catholic Church, and other things I abhor. And despite my utilitarian sympathies, I doubt anyone could accurately measure the good and weigh it against the bad.
Anyway, the debate is fiercely fun to watch, so check it out. I provided the video below:
Content advisory: This debate will likely deplete what little respect a certain Catholic professor gained for Hitchens after his more muted performance in Collision.