Every so many years some of the world's most eminent scholars and religious and political leaders meet in the Polish city of Gniezno to discuss matters pertaining to Europe, especially the uniquely European view of spirituality and the nature and dignity of man.
The Gniezno Congress — which traces its roots back to the year 1,000 when Otto III arrived at the tomb of bishop martyr St. Adalbert in the city of Gniezno — is regularly attended by numerous presidents of European Countries, and, in 1997, was attended by the Holy Father John Paul II during his landmark visit to Poland.
This year's Congress, held from June 15-17, according to its website, addressed such questions as: "What is man? To what extent is the human being – in the fullness of his dignity — the foundation of the civilization of Europe? And what are the areas that still jeopardize humanity in its most profound dimension?"
In an effort to facilitate discussion on these difficult questions, the Convention initially chose to invite a man with a somewhat less palatable view of human nature and the European legacy than the former Holy Father–Princeton scholar Peter Singer.
Peter Singer is the notoriously radical philosopher and bioethicist, whose approach to ethics includes advocating as morally acceptable sexual intercourse with animals, the killing of "undesirable" or disabled newborn infants and eugenic euthanasia and abortion.
However, earlier this year a number of Christian groups found out that the Congress had invited Singer and began complaining to organizers. A LifeSiteNews.com source close to the scene indicated that parents of Downs Syndrome children were prepared to protest the Congress if Singer did in fact end up attending. In the end, however, Congress officials decided to cancel Singer's invitation due to the controversy, and the activist's name was removed from Congress literature.
In March of this year one of the mainstream newspapers ran two opposing columns discussing the pros and cons of Singer's proposed presence at Gniezno.
One article quotes Congress organizer Marcin Przeciszewski, who defended the Congress' invitation of Singer on the basis of fomenting debate about the pertinent issues. He also pointed out that Peter Singer's views are an interesting demonstration of where secular humanism ends up if followed through to its logical conclusion. "To be a Christian in the modern world means also to defend your views and win discussions with your greatest enemy," said Przeciszewski. "If we can't do this, it's difficult to speak about our mission in the world."
Polish opinion journalist Tomasz Terlikowski, however, who was strongly opposed to Singer's presence at the Congress, argued that there are simply some ideas that are so "inhuman" that they should never receive any recognition whatsoever, even for the purpose of debate.
Peter Singer, said Terlikowvski, "not only postulates the killing of the children, but also says that 'zoophile marriage' is illegal only because of speciesist chauvinism. You cannot talk to someone who presents views which are not simply eccentric, but criminal. They are inhuman, un-European and unworthy of serious discussion. You don't invite Adolph Hitler to a debate on Judaism, or ask Osama bin Laden to give a lecture on the future of Europe. A convention organized by Christians cannot be a place where such criminal views are presented."
Other speakers at this year's Congress included numerous respected Catholic figures, including Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the secretary of state of the Holy See, who pointed out to attendees that fundamentally Europe is a Christian civilization, and that the strength and unity of Europe can only be maintained by returning to the continent's Christian roots. The Congress also included representatives of numerous other religious and ideological backgrounds, including Muslim and Jewish leaders.