Benedict's Intellectual Warriors

You can forgive the pro-Catholic side for losing the debate in Britain on whether the Catholic church is a force for good in the world. Ann Widdecombe and Archbishop John Onaiyekan were up against Hitch and Fry. What you cannot forgive is the sheer intellectual shallowness of the defense. Just listen to the small speech above, I mean: really, this is the best we've got?

In Onaiyekan, you have a classic Benedict/JP II Archbishop: dumb as a post, sheltered from the actual debate in the West, incapable of argument, and pathetic as a spokesman. The problem with the theoconservative take-over in the Catholic priesthood is not so much its extremism as its mediocrity. And it is mediocre because it has been trained not to think, not to argue, and not to engage the modern world. It has been trained solely for obedience - blind, dumb, unquestioning, intellectually moribund obedience. Hitch's continued riposte is below. It was not a fair fight, and, for some reason, I still want my church to make a case that is actually intellectually and morally defensible. Under Benedict's weak, reactionary leadership, it is losing the battle of ideas in the West more swiftly than any of us could have predicted: