Humanist-Catholic Debate: Worth the Effort?

From a note on Benedict XVI Facebook page (of all places):

Last month two groups of people met in a church in central London to discuss gay adoption, abortion and religious schools. On one side were representatives of Catholic Voices, on the other a group from the Central London Humanist Group.

The point, says Paul Sims of New Humanist magazine, was “to experiment with the idea of Humanists and Catholics sitting down and engaging with each other on contentious issues in a cordial manner”.

The two groups focused on issues of gay marriage, gay adoption and abortion.  Not surpringly, little common ground was found besides the obvious.  Does this mean that such meetings are pointless?  The question takes on more force when you examine the aftermath of the Pope’s visit in late 2010, which on the surface was more beneficial to BOTH groups.  Catholics called it a PR victory, as church attendance rose afterward, and their opponents appeared “shrill and intolerant,” whereas secular humanists called it a PR victory because they received a good deal of media coverage and provoked public debate of the very questions they wanted to draw attention to.

So then, should we even bother with civil public debate?  If so, why?  Is this sort of debate an aspect of public witness, or is it frivolous?

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