In October 2009, English comedian, actor, writer, and humanitarian Stephen Fry joined provocateur extraordinaire Christopher Hitchens to debate against former Member of British Parliament Ann Widdecombe and the Archbishop of Abuja, John Onaiyekan on the topic of ‘Is Catholicism a force for good in the world?‘. Television and radio journalist Zeinab Badawi moderated the session hosted by Intelligence Squared held at the Methodist Central Hall in Westminster.
Fry’s passionate and emotional speech opened with a reiteration of his respect for individuals’ choice of Catholic faith and appealed for their respect for others’ choices too:
I want first of all to say that I have no quarrel, no argument and I wish to express no contempt for individual devout and pious members of that church. They are welcome to their sacraments. They’re welcome to their reliquaries and to their Blessed Virgin Mary. They’re welcome … to their faith, to the importance they place in it, … to the comfort and the joy that they receive from it. All of that is absolutely fine by me. It would be impertinent and wrong of me to express any antagonism towards any individual who wishes to find salvation in whatever form they wish to express it. That, to me, is sacrosanct, as much as any article of faith is sacrosanct to anyone of any church or any faith, in the world. It’s very important. It’s also very important to me, as it happens, that I have my own beliefs. They are a belief in the enlightenment. They are a belief in the eternal adventure of trying to discover moral truth in the world.