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Pope Benedict XVI

I don’t wish any ill on any fellow primate or mammal of mine, so I don’t at all look forward to the death of Joseph Ratzinger, I don’t, or any other pope, not really, except for one tiny reason which I ought to confess and share with you. When he dies, there’s quite a long interval ’til the conclave can meet, and for that whole time, that whole interval — it is a delicious, lucid interlude — there isn’t anyone on Earth who claims to be infallible.

Isn’t that nice?

All I think, all I want to propose in closing is this: that if the human species is to rise to the full height that’s demanded by its dignity, and by its intelligence, we must all of us move to a state of affairs, where that condition is permanent. And I think we should get on with it.

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It’s the strange thing about the Catholic church, it is obsessed with sex, absolutely obsessed. Now, they will say we with our permissive society, we are obsessed. No, we have a healthy attitude — we like it, it’s fun, it’s jolly, because it’s a primary impulse it can be dangerous and dark and difficult. It’s a bit like food in that respect, only even more exciting. And the only people who are obsessed with food are anorexics and the morbidly obese, and that, in erotic terms, is the Catholic Church in a nutshell.

Do you know who would be the last person ever to be accepted as a prince of the Church? The Galileean carpenter. That Jew. They would kick him out before he tried to cross the threshold. He would be so ill-at-ease in the Church. What would he think! What would he think of St. Peter’s? What would he think of the wealth, and the power, and the self-justification, and the wheedling apologies?

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From Christopher Hitchens’s and Stephen Fry’s opening statements in their debate on the motion Is the Catholic Church a Force for Good in the World?. If you’re a Catholic, I wouldn’t recommend watching the debate — it’s one of the most decisively one-sided contests I’ve ever seen.

Today is Joseph Ratzinger’s final day as Pope.

Watch Fry’s engrossing opening statement below.