Fishing for new customers–a.k.a. “The Courtyard of the Gentiles”

Pope Ratzinger is worried. 4% of Catholic priests and clergy are sexual predators and/or pedophiles, whole dioceses are going bancrupt from compensation payments to abuse victims, church attendences are down, and young and intelligent people wanting to forgo sex, marriage and family for celibacy and lying to children are harder and harder to come by.
So what do you when you’re the CEO of a global money-making scam, who sees his shares dwindle ? You create good PR, and step up your proselytising efforts. Well, you try anyway. Last year, Ratzinger instituted a “Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization” :

With the Apostolic Letter motu proprio, Ubicumque et semper – “Always and Everywhere”, Pope Benedict XVI has created the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization – a full-fledged Vatican office dedicated to the task of preaching the gospel to Europe and other traditionally Christian regions where the faith is in crisis.

And last week, we had the “Courtyard of the Gentiles” in Paris, a Vatican initiative to bring believers and non-believers together. It was announced last year by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture, to create the appearance of wanting a dialogue with atheists and agnostics. But it was from the beginning just set up as a token debate:

Archbishop Ravasi stressed that the new foundation is only interested in a “noble atheism or agnosticism, not the polemical kind — so not those atheists such as [Piergiorgio] Odifreddi in Italy, [Michel] Onfray in France, [Christopher] Hitchens and [Richard] Dawkins.” He sees such atheists as closed to dialogue: They view the truth with “irony and sarcasm” and tend to “read religious texts like fundamentalists.”

For what purpose was this set up, you might ask ? Well, I initially thought it was just to create some positive PR for the Catholic Church, and to be seen to be exploring common ground etc with atheists (as long as they’re not of the strident or militant variety), but boy, was I wrong. Ratzinger did well though, he got the UNESCO and foreign diplomats on board, to give this wankfest some credibility and seriosity.
At the closing of the 2 days of debates (who were the token non-believers there, I wonder ?), Ratzinger appeared per videolink and spoke to the folks gathered at Notre Dame cathedral, and then it became clear what this was all about, evangelising and proselytising, and converting young people to Catholicism. Don’t worry about “dialogue” :

“Dear young people, you can share not only your life experience but also your approach to prayer. You believers and non-believers, present here in this Courtyard of the Unknown, are also invited to enter the consecrated area, to pass the magnificent portal of Notre-Dame and enter the cathedral for a moment of prayer. For some of you this will be a prayer to a God you know through the faith, but for others it may be a prayer to an unknown God. Dear young non-believers, joining those who are praying inside Notre-Dame on this day of the Annunciation of the Lord, open your hearts to the Sacred Scriptures, allow yourselves to be drawn by the beauty of the music and, if you truly desire it, allow the feelings closed within you to rise towards the unknown God.

The God Whom believers learn to know invites you to discover Him and to live in Him. Do not be afraid! On your journey together towards a new world, seek the Absolute, seek God, even those of you for whom He is an unknown God.

“May He Who loves each and every one of you bless and protect you. He relies on you to show concern for others and for the future, and you can always rely on Him!”

Open your heart to the sacred scriptures ! Come look at our collection of fairy tales and bones of dead people ! That’s what dialogue looks like for Ratzinger and his club of geronts in robes. Who do they think they are fooling with this charade ?

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