Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Forces of Good?

In this televised debate on the BBC, Stephen Fry probably best captures how I feel about the church.

The kicker is this bit: "It’s the strange thing about this church, it is obsessed with sex, absolutely obsessed. Now, they will say we with our permissive society and our rude jokes, we are obsessed. No, we have a healthy attitude, we like it, it’s fun, it’s jolly, because it’s a primary impulse it can be dangerous and dark and difficult, it’s a bit like food in that respect only even more exciting. The only people who are obsessed with food are anorexics and the morbidly obese, and that in erotic terms is the Catholic Church in a nutshell."

An excerpt of Fry's speech has been reproduced below. You can either search Youtube for the whole debate or read the full transcript here.

I genuinely believe that the Catholic Church is not, to put it at its mildest, a force for good in the world, and therefore it is important for me to try and martial my facts as well I can to explain why I think that.

But I want first of all to say that I have no quarrel and no argument and I wish to express no contempt for individual devout and pious members of that church. It would be impertinent and wrong of me to express any antagonism towards any individual who wishes to find salvation in whatever form they wish to express it. That to me is sacrosanct as much as any article of faith is sacrosanct to anyone of any church or any faith in the world. It’s very important.

It’s also very important to me, as it happens, that I have my own beliefs. They are a belief in the Enlightenment, a belief in the eternal adventure of trying to discover moral truth in the world, and there is nothing, sadly, that the Catholic Church and its hierarchs likes to do more than to attack the Enlightenment. It did so at the time: reference was made to Galileo and the fact that he was tortured, for trying to explain the Copernican theory of the Universe. Just imagine in this square mile how many people were burned for reading the Bible in English. And one of the principle burners and torturers of those who tried to read the Bible in English, here in London, was Thomas More.

Now, that’s a long time ago, it’s not relevant, except that it was only last century that Thomas More was made a saint, and it was only in the year 2000, that the last pope, the Pole, he made Thomas More the Patron Saint of Politicians. This is a man who put people on the wrack for daring to own a Bible in English: he tortured them for owning a Bible in their own language.

The idea that the Catholic Church exists to disseminate the word of the Lord is nonsense. It is the only owner of the Truth for the billions that it likes to boast about, because those billions are uneducated and poor, as again it likes to boast about. It’s perhaps unfair of me, as a gay man, to moan at this enormous institution, which is the largest and most powerful church on Earth, has over a billion, as they like to tell us, members, each one of whom is under strict instructions to believe the dogmas of the church, but may wrestle with them personally of course.

Do you know who would be the last person ever to be accepted as a prince of the Church? The Galileean carpenter. That Jew. They would kick him out before he tried to cross the threshold. He would be so ill-at-ease in the Church. What would he think, what would he think of St. Peter’s? What would he think of the wealth, and the power, and the self-justification, and the wheedling apologies? The Pope could decide that all this power, all this wealth, this hierarchy of princes and bishops and archbishops and priests and monks and nuns could be sent out in the world with money and art treasures, to put them back in the countries that they once raped and violated, they could give that money away, and they could concentrate on the apparent essence of their belief, and then, I would stand here and say the Catholic Church may well be a force for good in the world, but until that day, it is not. Thank you.


GabbyD said...

mr fry doth protest much.

1) his examples here stressing the differences between his position on aids and the church's are greatly exaggerated (esp when he calls it part of his "force of evil in the world" meme).

in the pope's remarks, he was talking about the use of money to solve the aids problem in africa. money alone cant truly solve it -- there must be a change in how we view sex, which in practice is reflected in abstinence and faithfulness. Mr. Fry totally agrees, but stresses the difference to score debate points.

2) his characterization of the church's view on sex is also wrong. first he misdefines obsessed. if he means, obsessed in the same way anorexics are obsessed with food, he is sorely mistaken. catholics' view of sex is: its important, but it doesnt define u. you control ur urges, and its not a good idea to succumb to your urges.

herein lies the real difference between the secular and RCC view of sex and man. secular view has it that man SHOULD indulge, while the RCC says mans SHOULD NOT.

if this is fry's real argument, then he should have argued this directly.

more importantly, this argument makes the difference between him and the church clearer, but it also makes the church's position less of a straw man; i'm sure he prefers debating straw men arguments.

Jego said...

Thanks for this, sparks. Ive seen the debate on youtube. I can only say that the panelists on the other side of the Fry-Hitchens team were lightweights who were no match for these two very entertaining individuals. It would have been better if those on the pro side were better. Im not asking for anyone in the category of Alvin Plantinga or William Lane Craig (who even atheist bloggers admit demolished Hitch when they met a couple of years ago). Maybe authors like them would do. Someone like Thomas Cahill for instance, and Dinesh D'Souza.