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1. The Catholic Church is a Force For Good in The World

The Catholic Church is a Force For Good in The World

Can anything good really be said of an institution that has such a warped attitude to sex that it tries to stop the world from wearing a condom, is bitterly opposed to gays leading a fulfilled life and regards women as unworthy of officiating in its rituals? But who you gonna call when it comes to finding a good school for your children, when it comes to standing up for the oppressed, when it comes to giving material and spiritual succour to the wretched of the earth? In 2009 Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens locked horns with Anne Widdecombe and John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, over whether or not the Catholic Church was a force for good. Today the debate has been watched more times online than any other Intelligence Squared event. We're thrilled to make the audio available to all as part of our Advent podcast.

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2. The Catholic Church is Beyond Redemption: Pope Francis Cannot Save it

The Catholic Church is Beyond Redemption: Pope Francis Cannot Save it

Mired in allegations of sexual abuse, corruption in the Vatican and the first papal resignation in six centuries, the Catholic Church is in crisis. Two thousand years of arcane methods, tired dogma and unpalatable lies have left the papacy crippled and out of touch. The secularised West has lost faith in notions of infallibility, of temporal power and of a world in which gay marriage, abortion and the use of condoms remain outlawed. The Catholic Church stands on the brink of entropy, and no amount of confession can save it. It is beyond redemption. Or is it? In the wake of Benedict’s abrupt departure, Pope Francis has emerged as a beacon of hope for downtrodden Catholics worldwide. Finally there’s a leader who can reconcile the principles of the traditional institution with the needs of young church-goers in search of a spiritual path: a man of humility, concerned for those in want and committed to promoting dialogue between faiths and cultures. Moreover, as Catholicism in the West declines, the numbers of the faithful have surged across Africa and Southeast Asia, which as the West slumps into economic decline, must give grounds for optimism. The Catholic Church has come through a hell of a lot worse over the centuries, and with a new captain at the helm it can surely weather the storm. Pope Francis can save it. Speaking for the motion were barrister and human rights expert Dr Ronan McCrea and Colm O’Gorman, an outspoken critic of the Catholic Church. Speaking against the motion were Catholic theologian, priest and author James Alison and former editor of the Catholic Herald Peter Stanford. The debate was chaired by Guardian columnist, author and broadcaster Jonathan Freedland.

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3. Prayer at the School of St Ignatius

Prayer at the School of St Ignatius

Today it's the turn of St Ignatius as we look at Ignatian prayer and spirituality for our 'Schools of Prayer' podcast series. St Ignatius of Loyola founded the Society of Jesus - the Jesuits - in 1540. Today there are over 18,000 priests and brothers present in more than 100 countries. One of the 18,000 just so happens to be our current Holy Father, Pope Francis. His heart for social justice, deep prayer and inspirational teaching in some ways makes him a typical Jesuit. So who can tell us more about St Ignatius and his teaching? How can we learn from Ignatian Spirituality to deepen our own prayer by having that personal encounter with God - that face-to-face conversation? We visited Campion Hall in Oxford to speak to Dr Rob Marsh SJ.

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