Monday, October 5, 2009

Some people are rude.

This weekend, Sd and I went to the 'Festival of Dangerous Ideas' at the Sydney Opera House. We saw three lectures. The first was given in the concert hall on Saturday night by Christopher Hitchens . It was called 'Religion Poisons Everything'. The second was yesterday afternoon. It was about whether or not drugs should be legalised. There were three speakers, a barrister, an American ex chief of police and a doctor from St Vincents Hospital. The third was given by Cardinal George Pell - ' Without God we are nothing.'
The latter two were in the studio at the Opera House - a much smaller venue where it was possible for the speakers to take questions after their lecture.

I should say that we chose these particular lectures because we both ( for vastly different reasons )are interested in theology and the particular debate that both Christopher Hitchens and Cardinal Pell presented opposing arguments for. We are not religious people. However, I am very much an 'each to their own' type of person. My lovely husband? Not so much. That's another story though...
The drugs lecture we chose because we both are interested in the development of a new and successful way to deal with 'the war on drugs' and all the social problems that come with it.


After Cardinal Pell gave his lecture, the audience were able to ask questions. Now, I know that he is not a popular man and certainly not with the type of people that may want to go to a 'Festival of Dangerous Ideas' but I have to say that although I would consider myself to be in the group of people who dislike Cardinal Pell and his beliefs - I was appalled by the behaviour of one particular person in the audience and I still haven't gotten over it so , here goes...

Catherine Deveny was in the front row of the lecture.
I am not a fan. Will say that straight up.
She took notes throughout the lecture and at the end she was one of the first audience members to want to ask a 'question'. When she got the microphone she firstly asked facetiously what the Cardinal wanted to be called. He told her he had been called many things and she could call him whatever she wanted. She said no, that she wanted an answer to her question and he said ' Cardinal'. She then said 'Right' and proceeded to ask her 'question'. She did not address him as Cardinal or anything else. She then said that she had had an abortion and where was the soul of her dead baby? Because the baby wasn't baptised so is it in heaven or hell?
She shouted all of this although she was in the front row and had a microphone.
The Cardinal appeared to take her question on face value. As a genuine question. He answered her with what seemed to be compassion and compassion alone.
He said that the baby would definitely be in heaven and that she should never think that the baby would be in hell and then tried to talk about how the church is about forgiveness...she interupted him and shouted that she did not want forgiveness. Another audience member who later demonstrated that he was most likely to be suffering from a mental illness, told her she would go to hell. She turned to the audience and shouted ' Who's coming with me?' She did get a response...from about a quarter of the audience. She then went on to say that she was holding the microphone and that she was in charge now.

I don't think she expected the compassionate and measured response from Cardinal Pell and I also don't think she was interested one iota in his response.

She was interested in getting as much attention as possible and having an anecdote to write about in her next column. She was also intent on being as 'controversial' and 'provocative' as she could be.
Very successful on the first two counts. Well done.
On the third? Meh.

The thing is though that the rest of the audience had actually come to hear what he had to say. Not so much the bile from an audience member.

I found her behaviour towards Cardinal Pell disrespectful,rude and offensive.
I found her behaviour towards the audience disrespectful,rude and offensive.
I did not find her question offensive.
I found the way she asked it and why she asked it disgusting.

My dislike for Cardinal George Pell has not changed since I heard him speak.If anything though, after Catherine Deveny's efforts - I now see him as surprisingly more 'human' than he comes across in the media.
I still disagree very much with many of his views and those of the Catholic church.
I was baptised and educated in the Catholic church and for a long time have considered myself not to be Catholic or religious. Just for the record.



Anonymous said...

Hi, I was there and thought the whole thing was ridiculous, the guy in the audience who yelled out was Guy Rundle from Cikey!

megs said...

Are you sure it was him? He seemed like he was not in a good way at all! Seriously.
You're right. It was all a bit ridiculous!