Here is an event Melbourne Catholics might like to get along to:
Intelligence Squared Debate: Is the Catholic Church a Force for Good in the World
Melbourne Town Hall, 6:30PM – 8:30PM, Tuesday 15 November 2011
For almost two millennia, the Catholic Church has been the author and repository of some of the highest ideals of humanity. Yet, as humanity is flawed, so is the Church. Few would deny that the Catholic Church has dark chapters in its history. So much is expected of an institution that claims to bridge the sacred and the secular. Do these darker moments unfairly obscure the light? Or is the Catholic Church simply the most ancient of wolves in sheep’s clothing?
Speaking for the proposition will be Helen Coonan, Julian McMahon and Sister Libby Rogerson. Speaking against the proposition will be Father Peter Kennedy, Anne Summers and David Marr.
Senator Helen Coonan was a Liberal member of the Australian Senate representing New South Wales from July 1996 to August 2011.
Julian McMahon is a barrister and member of the Melbourne Catholic Lawyers Association.
Sister Libby Rogerson IBVM is a Loreto sister currently working with Mary Ward International Australia, the Loreto Sisters’ aid, development and volunteer organisation.
Father Peter Kennedy is a former Catholic priest who was forced to stand down from his position as parish priest in the South Brisbane diocese of St Mary’s in 2009.
Dr Anne Summers AO is a best-selling author, journalist and thought-leader with a long career in politics, the media, business and the non-government sector in Australia, Europe and the United States.
David Marr is the multi-award-winning author of Patrick White: a Life and The High Price of Heaven, and co-author with Marian Wilkinson of Dark Victory.
Of course, this was done before, disasterously, in the UK, when the Catholic speakers just were not up to the eloquence of the opposition (notably Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens). I think that debate was lost simply on the grounds of oratorical skill and entertainment. Hopefully that will not be the case this time around, as at least two of the speakers on behalf of the Church are professionals orators. Nevertheless, David Marr and Anne Summers are also very skilled debators, and it won’t be easy. I have also noted that the Catholic side has not been weighted with experts in either history or theology, but social justice (in particular Sr Rogerson and Julian McMahon). Perhaps that makes sense in this context, where the question is about the “good” the Church has done. Still, the Church has been a “force for good” in our culture in ways far beyond its charitable and social justice actions.
Just what “Father” Peter Kennedy will bring to the debate, we will have to wait and see.