“Courtyard of the Gentiles” Initiative from Vatican Opens Dialogue With Atheists

Good.  Though I am a firm believer that such nuanced labels like ‘atheist’ should go away, it’s an unexpected and hopefully fruitful turn for everyone involved.  I suppose the Vatican could learn to use a little more doubt, and I’m sure that certain atheist organizations could learn something from the Vatican.  (Queue the dozens of ignorant and hateful comments about the destruction and devastation the church has caused, while conveniently ignoring the good it has done)

VATICAN CITY (RNS) A new Vatican initiative to promote dialogue between believers and atheists debuted with a two-day event on Thursday and Friday (March 24-25) in Paris.

“Religion, Light and Common Reason” was the theme of seminars sponsored by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture at various locations in the French capital, including Paris-Sorbonne University and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

“The church does not see itself as an island cut off from the world … Dialogue is thus a question of principle for her,” Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi told the French newspaper La Croix. “We are aware that the great challenge is not atheism but indifference, which is much more dangerous.”

The events were scheduled to conclude with a party for youth in the courtyard of the Cathedral of Notre Dame on Friday evening (March 25), featuring an appearance via video by Pope Benedict XVI, followed by prayer and meditation inside the cathedral.

The initiative, called “Courtyard of the Gentiles,” takes its name from a section of the ancient Temple of Jerusalem accessible to non-Jews, which Benedict has used as a metaphor for dialogue between Catholics and non-believers.

via Vatican Opens Dialogue With Atheists.


11 Responses

  1. I’m curious about the stated purpose of these sorts of things. I think it’s a noble idea to propose a dialogue, but what have these sorts of things actually accomplished?

    I know there have been these sorts of dialogues in the past between Jews and Catholics, Muslims and Catholics, etc. but I’ve never actually seen the fruits of these sorts of labors. Is it just lip service? Do the players in these sorts of dialogues come away with something like “I didn’t know why you were wrong before this dialogue, but now I know exactly why you’re wrong”?

    Maybe I’m just being jaded and cynical, having been a former “accomodationist” and all.

  2. The fruits are the dialogue; keep in mind, this is a rather large step. An official acceptance like this is an invitation for people who might have otherwise felt uncomfortable about it.

  3. “(Queue the dozens of ignorant and hateful comments about the destruction and devastation the church has caused, while conveniently ignoring the good it has done)”

    This seems to imply that the good things it has done in some way forgive the bad things. This is not the case.

    Yes, the Catholic Church has done some good things. And continues to do them. It has also done bad things. And continues to do them.

    Judging or commenting on the fact that they do bad things is completely fair.

    That being said, based on the things it has done, I know of very few atheists who want to speak with the Vatican, regardless of their intent.

  4. Please don’t put words in my mouth. I said exactly what I meant to say. Any inferences you draw from my short comment is just that, and nothing more.

  5. I presume the need for this arises from European atheism and not its knock off in the English speaking world, since atheist are a much bigger part of the Continental European religious spectrum, and at least as far as I’m aware, not locked up in weird debates about being called brights (I think there they would prefer “socialist”) or convincing people Christmas is a myth.

    Since most of these states emerged from heavily Catholic monarchies, the Church means a bit more to them than a pedophile factory or purveyor of Classical non-sense. Without the Catholics, there is no guarantee the Germans would have picked up Aristotle and Plato, they may have just stuck with Odin and Thor.

  6. “Please don’t put words in my mouth”

    I didn’t. My exact words were ‘this seems to imply’. And I think it still implies that. Unless you agree that any organization should answer for its crimes regardless of any good it may do.

  7. Yes, you’re inferring. I would imply (which I am not), you can only infer. Get it? Second, your ad hoc notwithstanding, the church is a human organization, based in human endeavors, with humans at the helm. So is there bad? Yes, and had you bothered to read, you’d notice I didn’t say otherwise. But your comment mimicks precisely the ignorance I’m talking about. The organization has been around for thousands of years and is a staple of life for most European countries. It has done wonders for many of them, and while many poke fun at its dated rituals and have grown past the boundaries of the pews, it has a different position there than it does here for most. So whatever childish grudge you’re holding against it, or whomever these other atheists are that would not think of talking to the church, you fail to recognize its humanity; good and bad. And in no way does that mean that the good outweighs the bad, but that also means the bad should not outweigh the good. You also need to recognize that people are not the organization; they are not one an the same. There are more good Catholics than bad, and drudging up mistakes by those hundreds of years ago, or even months ago, and holding them up to umbrella the church–like some bad insurance company commercial–is not only ignorant, it’s unrealistic and uncritical. If you want to criticize those individuals, by all means. Expose them. Criticize, fine. Discuss, fine. But be fair about it and not simply hate for hatred’s sake.

  8. “So whatever childish grudge you’re holding against it”

    There is a great deal of irony in you using that particular term when my ‘grudge’ is actually my disgust in their systematic protection of pedophiles.

    And that is an issue with the organization, not the people. It is a policy of the organization to protect these criminals. I’m certain that the vast majority of people associated with Catholicism are good people who wouldn’t hurt others. But the fact that they don’t leave an organization that is doing something like this is a huge strike against them

  9. The Catholic church wants to open a dialogue with atheists?

    Why not? After all, their dialogues with Franco and Mussolini went well, and they were able to do a lot of good in Spain and Italy.

    If the Catholic church can have useful dialogues with Franco and Mussolini, they can certainly have useful dialogues with Richard Dawkins.

  10. The Pope sent a pre-recorded message to this dialogue.

    Isn’t that called a monologue?

    How exactly do you pre-record a dialogue? And what part of ‘dialogue’ means listening to somebody who cannot be bothered to come and speak to you?

  11. Steven, The U.S. had dialogue with Franco, and the Allies had dialogue with Stalin, who presided over the worlds worst genocide, and let us not forget the positive relations the U.S. eventually had with Mao, who competed with Stalin for the above title. None of these were bright spots in world history, but it establishes that the Roman church is as evil as every other authoritative body in the world, so the problem might not be with the Catholic Church, but humanity in genral.

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