Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 15, No. 10. June 11, 1952
Communism and Popery — A Debate Report at Last
Communism and Popery
A Debate Report at Last
The ambiguous decision that Communism was not a new form of Popery was reached by a small majority at a Little Theatre debate on May 2. There was an attendance of about 90. The night was cold and most of the audience sat muffled in coats shivering as dejectedly as Samoans at the South Pole. Whether the temperature affected the speakers or not is, of course, debatable but few were really heated. Interjections of note were also scarcer than usual. Mr. Curtain was in the chair. Professor Hughes was judge.
With missionary fervour Bryce Harland opened for the affirmative a subject "pregnant with possibilities." Although both Communism and Catholicism were "pseudo-religious" "both had a profound insight into truth." Both believed it to be their sacred mission to establish absolute dominion over all human beings.
As leader for the negative Conrad Bollinger began the best speech of the evening by pointing out to the "dear brethren there assembled, that tonight's debate achieved the great United Front that he had dreamed of in the college—that between Communists and Catholics, the first represented by himself, the second "by the youngest, blushing flower of the Papacy"—Mr. Cody. [Mr. Cody fulfilled his part by blushing "fellow-traveller" pink.] Mr. Bollinger demonstrated that this Unholy Alliance was only one of debating expediency, by comparing Marxian and Papal statements. He also defined the subject, something which the affrimative speakers neglected to do.
John Patterson (of fair-rent fame) rose to demonstrate that "the devil can cite Scripture to his own purpose." His reading of the Apocalypse was in the best Bible-banging tradition. He poured forth a torrent of picturesque details about a scarlet woman and a beast with seven heads and ten horns (or was it the other way about?). See O.P. He ended with a flourish of "argumentum ad hominen seeing Mr. Bollinger, in the immortal word of "Freedom"—"kowtowing before the ikons of Czar Stalin the First" while Mr. Cody bowed low before the ikons of his Church." In the words of the Apocalypse the audience "was filled with great wonder."
John Cody staggered to his feet and suggested that Mr. Patterson might be inebriated. He would recommend to him a little book of Hilaire Belloc's—"A Cautionary Book of Bad Beasts for Naughty Children." He remarked that he would introduce some wisdom into the debate (hollow laugh from audience) no less than some philosophy. (What a big word!) The whole thing was a matter of fundamentals, and if he could prove a fundamental difference of nature between Communism and Catholicism, his side's case would be indisputably proved. By coincidence he could! Pointing out the fundamental difference between a materialist (Communism) and a realist philosophy (Catholicism).
From the Floor
Disregarding Mr. Cody's conclusiveness a dozen speakers from the floor took their stand.
"Rev." Hubbard told of the Irish preacher who explained that the rock upon which Peter built the Church was really a shamrock.
Pat Burns spoke ironically against the affirmative comparing Joe Stalin and Pope Plus. She remarked that Marx had lifted his cry: "Religion is the opiate of the people" from Charles Kinsley, and she concluded that of all his books it must have been "The Water-Babies"!
Dennis Garrett in his coldly analytical style maintained that it was "the duty of a liberal to tolerate everything but intolerance." From the Liberal's point of view there was only a difference in time between the two systems under discussion.
The viewpoint that Liberals were squeezed in between the two camps was agreed with by Hec MacNcill. He recalled that Jesus had, in the temple, behaved abominably to the Chamber of Commerce. He doubted if His representatives today would continue this policy.
Lance Robinson maintained that Pope Gregory the Great's phrase—"Non Engeli, sed Angeill" misinterpreted: "Not English but Anglicans" should be revised to "Not Engels, but Anglicans." He punned that hierarchy was a new form of Marx.
Mr Lea, a promising new speaker, revealed a little known statement of Lenin's: "Where Atheism begins, there Communism begins."
The most profound and clearheaded speech of the evening was Nancy Pearce's analysis and attack on the use of the emotively abusive word "Popery." She had been researching in various sectarian missionary pamphlets in New Zealand and they used the word "popery" as a refusal to tolerantly and rationally examine the claims and statements of the Catholic Church. This emotive labelling, condemning outright without fair examination anything one was prejudiced against was being extended today to "Communism" and in this lay danger to truth, as did the use of the word "Popery."
Michael Lennane refuted slanderous charges of snoring, pointed out the absurdity of Mr. Patterson interpreting the Apocalypse—"notoriously incomprehensibel" and stressed that the fundamental difference between Communism and Catholicism was in their ends for man—one material, one spiritual.
Doug Foy, another snorer, spoke of "the only two important factors in life—sex and economics. (Mr. Foy takes economics in the main building). He spoke at length on Economics. Voice—"More Sex!"
Pat Hutchings philosophised: "In this muddled debate I have received illumination from Miss Pearce and Messrs. Garrett and MacNeill" (How near he was to the truth was demonstrated by the Judge's placings). Miss Pearce's speech reminded him of the story of children chalking nasty names about each other on a wall, but one wrote "William Jones is a Communist." After a dignified silence the audience sniggered. Mr. Hutchings: "I thought you would get it eventually." Voice: "Yes—who is William Jones?" Mr. Hutchings continued to a disappointed cry of "Anymore Jokes?"
Mr. Mummery pointed out that both Communism and Catholicism attempted domination over the individual's soul.
Maurice O'Brien explained some hazy points, such as the teaching of eternal truths in a changing society, the election of the hierarchy, Infallibility, and freedom of the mind. He pointed out that there were extremely few Papal infallible pronouncements.
After the leaders' summings-un for their cases, with Mr. Harland accusing Mr. Bollinger of duplicity. Mr. Cody of naivety, and both of arrogance (crowd derisively laughs at Mr. Harland's own manner here) Professor Hughes gave his pronouncements. "Judging debates was like marking exam papers in public." He had carefully noted the different techniques of the speakers in successfully creating a state of confusion. In reference to Mr. Harland he remembered the story of the discovery that a long-lived parson had had to use some of his sermons twice. But he had always conscientiously revised each. At one point he had pencilled in: "Argument weak here—Shout Like Hell! !
His placings: Mr. Bollinger, Mr.
Garrett. Miss Pearce, Mr. MacNcill. The vote of the students was a draw—18-18. half the whole house only, voting a win for the negative, 26-28.