At first I thought I might write a post based on the points from this video, but then realised I could never dream of putting the argument as eloquently and succinctly as Stephen Fry makes it. For that reason, I've simply re-posted the video here, to watch at your own leisure, it really is sensational, and I agree with every single word of it.
The first thing he goes into, and is important to him and me, is that he is not criticising members of the church. It would be condescending in the extreme for me to lecture believers as much as it is for Jehovah's witnesses to ram their religion down the throats of people relaxing at home. But that doesn't mean I'm unintitled to my own opinions, and that is to say that the catholic church as an organisation causes more harm in the world than it does good.
It's in the second half of the clip that he really gets into the modern problems with the church, and the longer he goes on the more passionate (and more persuasive) he gets. But I certainly wouldn't recommend skipping any of the video to get to the heart of the argument, because the introduction is brilliantly delivered.
Here's a few sound bites to look for:
- From 7.25: "The idea that the catholic church exists to disseminate the word of the Lord is nonsense, it is the only owner of the truth... because those billions are uneducated and poor, they are the ones they can tell, and bully, and domineer."
- From 9.20: "What it (Vatican City in union with major Islamic states) did was to hobble and veto any possibility of women's sexual freedom in the world, because as we know the Islamic religion and the catholic church have never been anything other than implacably opposed to women's choice in their own bodies and their own destinies."
- From 10.20: "His (Current Pope, Ratzinger) first act was to write to the bishops ordering them, on pain of excommunication, not to talk to the police or anyone else (about priests accused of child rape), and to handle investigations 'in the most secretive way, restrained by perpetual silence'."
- From 11.45: "It's a little hard for me (Stephen, as a gay man) to know that I am disordered, or to quote Ratzinger, 'guilty of a moral evil', simply by fulfilling my sexual destiny as I see it, because I see myself as someone who is filled only with love."
- From 13.05: "The celibacy, the nuns, the monks, the priesthood, this is not natural and normal, for me to be called a pervert by these extraordinarily sexually dysfunctional people."
- From 14.50: "I am not denying that abstinence is a very good way of not getting AIDS, it really works, so does being faithful. But so do condoms, and do not deny it! And this Pope... he spreads the lie that condoms actually increase the incidence of AIDS."
- From 15.55: "It (the church) is obsessed with sex. They will say we with our permissive society and our rude jokes are obsessed with sex. 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, but only 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."
- From 17.30: "Do you know who the last person ever would be to be accepted as a Prince of the church? The Gallilean carpenter, that Jew. (Jesus, obviously) They would kick him out before he tried to cross the threshold. He would be so ill at ease in the church, that simple and remarkable man. 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? He would be horrified."
And finally, the most powerful part:
"The Pope could decide that all this power, all this wealth, and this hierarchy of princes, and bishops, and archbishops, priests, and monks and nuns, should be sent out in the world with money and art treasures and put them back in the countries they once raped and violated... They could give that money away... And then I could stand here and say the Catholic church may well be a force for good in the world, but until that day it is not."