London: first 'Catholic-Humanist dialogue' held

The first of a series of 'Catholic-Humanist dialogues' took place last night between the Central London Humanist Group, part of the Protest the Pope coalition, and Catholic Voices, which was created to put the Church’s case during the papal visit. Some 14 Humanists and eight members of the Catholic Voices speakers’ team met in a room in Commonwealth Hall in Bloomsbury for two hours of discussions on contentious issues.

Catholic Voices patron Fr Christopher Jamison and its coordinators, Austen Ivereigh and Jack Valero, put the Church’s case on Aids/condoms, faith schools, and same-sex adoption. A frank exchange of views then took place, aiming at clarifying areas of disagreement.

Among the humanists present was Alan Palmer, chair of the Central London Humanist Group; Josh Kutchinsky, a British Humanist Association trustee; and Paul Sims, news editor of New Humanist magazine.

One member of the humanist team and one member of the Catholic team were delegated to summarise the views of the other side, in order to ensure that both sides listened carefully to each other’s views. The group then enjoyed further discussions in a pub.

The meeting was agreed following the raucous Conway Hall debate on 1 September, organised by the British Humanist Association. Both the Central London Humanists and Catholic Voices were keen to organise a smaller, more respectful meeting.

Further meetings are now being planned.

Jack Valero said: “This has been an unexpected fruit of the papal visit – sitting round the table with people who were protesting the Pope to clarify where we agree and disagree. The atmosphere was respecful and attentive, but there was no attempt to suppress real differences. Everyone felt afterwards that they had learned from the experience.”

Austen Ivereigh said: “We are currently making plans to extend and expand the Catholic Voices project. After Tuesday night we think that this kind of exchange should be part of what we do in the future.”

Tags: Aids2Fcondoms, Alan Palmer, Austen Ivereigh, Catholic Voices, Catholic Humanist dialogues, Central London Humanist Group, Central London Humanist Group, Josh Kutchinsky, Fr Christopher Jamison, Jack Valero, New Humanist magazine, Paul Sims, Protest the Pope coalition

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