Just in case you haven't already seen it on Pharyngula, I present the Intelligence Squared Debate - Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry vs. The Catholics. While it's a whole 45 minutes of your precious time (I hope your time is precious), it is well spent whether you're interested in debates on religion or not, just because both Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry are such eloquent and forceful speakers.
My own take on the question of whether the Catholic Church is a force for good in the World or not is that I don't know. I am not really religious (in fact, I make Dawkins look like a choirboy), but I have to say that in answering the question fairly, one must weigh the good things that the Catholic Church does against the bad things that it is responsible for. The bad things include both sponsoring and failing to properly punish clergy who rape children - when it is known that the raping happens again and again, the Church should know to do something radical to prevent it, which it has not done (e.g. shutting down those positions of authority altogether). But those unquestionably bad things must be weighed against the good things the Church works, and I don't know what those are, or what the magnitude of them would be. It could be that many a child's life and virginity is saved in the sanctity of churches and by clergymen around the globe. I don't know. It could also be that whole societies would fall into disarray should the Catholic Church suddenly cease to exist. I find that unlikely, but I admit I don't have the data to deny it.
If I had to venture an educated guess, I'd say that yes, the Catholic Church is a force for good in the World, but not nearly as much as it is a force of poverty, superstition, rape, murder, death, misery, and the propagation of falsehoods.
Bioplastic from weaver's broom
18 hours ago in Doc Madhattan