What about Paul Sims’s question? Should atheists be talking to believers? Well sure. But should atheists be talking to Catholic Voices? That’s a different question.
Around the time of the Pope’s visit to the UK, I wrote a couple of posts on here (notably this and this) in which I questioned the tone of the Protest the Pope campaign and the debate around Catholicism and the Pope…An unexpected outcome of my posts was an invitation from the Central London Humanist Group to take part in a small round table discussion with representatives of Catholic Voices, an organisation set up to argue the Catholic case during the Papal Visit.
I had a look at Catholic Voices. Until I looked, I was thinking it was just another friendly woolly group o’ believers and reacher-outers, and thus quite a reasonable outfit to have a nice chat with. But it’s not.
CATHOLIC VOICES is a bureau of Catholic speakers able to articulate with conviction the Church’s positions on major contentious issues in the media.
It’s a self-appointed PR outfit for the Vatican. Its mission is to defend existing positions. That means it’s pretty much exactly the kind of group or grouplet it is entirely pointless to have a nice chat with if what you want from a nice chat is some kind of rapprochement or ecumenical understanding or outreach or can’t we all get alonging. That’s a group that’s in the business of peddling dogma, so it’s hardly going to sit down with the editor of the New Humanist for the sake of genuine dialogue.
Paul Sims thought there might be some common ground.
There is agreement among secularists that change in the Catholic Church must come from within, and there can be no doubt that many moderate Catholics share secularist concerns on condoms, gay rights and child abuse (see the contributions of liberal Catholics Conor Gearty and Tina Beattie to our “An audience with the Pope” feature). If the Pope’s recent pronouncement on condom use was prompted by any kind of pressure, it seems more likely that it was from his own flock rather than his secular opponents. Is it not, therefore, useful to cultivate any common ground we might share with believers?
Yes, probably, but Catholic Voices isn’t “believers”; Catholic Voices is dogma-defenders, which is quite a different thing. I also don’t really think we should let people get away with claiming to be liberal Catholics. The term is an oxymoron. The Catholicism diminishes the liberalism, necessarily. The Catholic church is an emphatic, energetic, active enemy of liberalism, so liberals who stick with it are thereby compromising their liberalism. The Catholic church is an active enemy of secularism, of women’s rights, of gay rights, of non-theocratic morality, so liberals have no business supporting it.