Festival of Dangerous Ideas
This article was published in Living Ethics: issue 82 summer 2010
Over the first weekend in October 2010, the second Festival of Dangerous Ideas (FODI) was presented by Sydney Opera House in conjunction with St James Ethics Centre.
The second FODI was a huge success, with crowds turning out all weekend to listen to speakers spruiking edgy ideas about art, climate change, children, economics, families, freedom, happiness, justice, peace, politics, religion, robots, terrorism, war and more.
Highlights included an IQ2 debate on the topic If you want peace forget justice and provocative presentations from homegrown commentators like Steve Biddulph, Hugh Mackay, Rebecca Huntley, Waleed Aly and Miriam Lyons. International guests included New York columnist Lenore Skenazy, dubbed ‘America’s Worst Mom’, military analyst PW Singer and London-based historian, writer and political campaigner Tariq Ali.
The headline event at this year’s festival was Sins of the fathers: should the pope be held to account?, a debate on the proposition that the pope should be tried for crimes against humanity for inaction against sexual abuse of children by the clergy.
Acclaimed barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC faced international human rights lawyer Alan Dershowitz to argue for the proposition. The Robertson v Dershowitz debate, held in a packed Concert Hall and chaired by the Centre’s Executive Director Simon Longstaff, showcased stunning and articulate dialogue on a riveting topic.
While Robertson argued that the Pope has protected perpetrators in a way that amounts to a criminal offence under international law, Dershowitz asserted that international law deals with war crimes, and that the sexual abuse of children by clergy is not in any way related to that. Rather, it is a series of crimes by individual priests and others throughout the world and failures by institutions to come to grips with it quickly enough.
However, Robertson claimed that as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the then Cardinal Ratzinger protected abusers through the Church’s canon law and that he ignored the victims.
Dershowitz counter-attacked: “Do not sacrifice due process and separation of church and state on the altar of the terrible crime of child abuse.”