Debate: Do Catholics have anything to gain from dialogue with Humanists?

The New Humanist magazine called for constructive engagement with Catholics following Benedict XVI's visit to Britain

This week, Catholics and Humanists met in London to discuss such contentious issues as Aids, same-sex adoption and faith schools.

The meeting followed a “rowdy” public debate before the papal visit where Catholic speakers were heckled and found it difficult to get their points across. This prompted both sides to seek another opportunity to discuss the matters raised in a calmer, more rational manner.

Some believe this presents a thrilling chance to “re-boot” relations between Catholics and committed atheists. They argue that a less strained relationship will benefit both groups and that talks could even lead to co-operation in tackling pressing social issues such as poverty.

But others are deeply suspicious of the talks. They claim that they could lead Catholics to soft-pedal doctrine in a short-term quest for harmonious relations with non-believers. They say there is no real common ground to be discovered because the Catholic and Humanist visions of life are ultimately irreconcilable.

Where do you stand? Do you think this is the start of an important and creative new venture? Or is it simply a waste of time?