As many on this blog know, I am a great fan of Pope Francis who has brought an inspiring leadership to the Church that has drawn millions back to the faith. Given that admiration, I was disheartened to read the Pope’s comment on free speech today. I ran a column last weekend on how world leaders are failing over themselves to “Stand With Charlie” after the massacre of editors and staff at Charlie Hebdo magazine. However, the West has been rolling back on free speech rights, including some of these very leaders. Pope Francis added his view this week to those insisting that free speech must have limits when it comes to insulting people about their religion. It is a disappointing observation, particularly when coupled with a rather poor analogy.
On the papal plane, Pope Francis spoke beside Alberto Gasparri, who organizes papal trips. He used his aide in this analogy: “If my good friend Dr. Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch. It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”
Of course, people can insult the faith of others. It is called free speech and you are not allowed to punch someone (or in the most recent case, massacre people) out of a sense of legitimate outrage. Clearly, Pope Francis was not condoning the massacre. He remains a leading voice for Peace and tolerance. However, the discussion of limits on free speech in the West has spawned a trend toward greater criminalization and prosecution for unpopular writers and speakers, including a crackdown in France after the march in support of free speech.
Pope Francis added that people who make fun of religion “are provocateurs. And what happens to them is what would happen to Dr. Gasparri if he says a curse word against my mother. There is a limit.” Presumably, the victims are Charlie Hebdo would be considered such “provocateurs,” precisely the image advanced by Muslim extremists insisting that they were incited to violence.
I still admire the Pope but he is less inspirational on free speech, particularly anti-religious speech, in making these comments. Ironically, free speech is the greatest protection of the free exercise of religion. It is the right that allows people of faith (as well as people who are agnostic and atheist) to speak out about their values and beliefs. That freedom comes with a certain covenant of faith in free speech: that we all can speak our mind without fear of prosecution or retaliation.
180 thoughts on “Not Charlie: Pope Francis Declares That There Must Be “Limits” To Free Speech In Criticizing Religion”
happypappies, the antagonist was indeed punished. The picture was put in his file as documentation of his actions. I usually always called parents. Please be assured I followed through on these situations–not like some of the teachers of today.
Geig De La Paz
I had no Idea you were the teacher. My point was that the classroom situation was a place to learn. It is different than life. It is not okay to practice violence because you are thin skinned on someone else because they insulted your Mother or your countenance. It is not appropriate.
If a person is insulted about satirical pictures of Mohammad – he should stay away from a Satirical Magazine. Not demand the magazine not print the pictures.
In the United States the Yo Mama is sooo ugly joke are legendary. and they are funny and exchanged inter-racially. It is a way to keep young people from taking themselves too seriously. We certainly exchanged insults good naturedly and sometimes they got out of hand when a bully got his testosterone up. He was punished. It is not acceptable to be violent because you are insulted. Ever. It is a sign or a lack of self control, To make excuses for terrorists and people in the future for being upset over Religion or whatever opens the door for more and more thin skinned reasons to knock that chip off my shoulder.
When people start to satirize a situation and it takes hold, it is because it is ludicrous for some reason or another and the situation need examination. If it’s a religion, oh well.
All religions fall under this category and nothing is sacred. For a while, in the United States we could not have a Nativity Scene in the front yard. We work these things out. People need to not fear punishment because they joke around and not be characterized as nasty and evil by news stations that publicize things that are so violent and unbelievable that we are desensitized to them.
I think it’s an oxymoron to joke about something and it be wrong and blank it out on the news because you expect violence because it is “disrespectful”???????
Come on. What have we come to? Are our skins that thin that it’s okay to get our feeling hurt at every little and imagined slight and who controls what the slights are and I am gonna punch you in the nose if I am provoked?
Have you ever lived with a violent man that made the rules?
Try it some time and then come back and tell me about free speech and freedom of expression
The Pope is speaking about the past of the Catholic Church…the Inquisition was the epitome of religious extremist…. without provocation they murdered thousands.
Alfonso, I listened to that entire clip, I don’t agree with you but that’s okay
I’m discouraged at the understanding of an entitlement to free speech that does not include the sense of responsibility for the words issued. I think our leaders intended responsibility and were writing at a time when that would be understood. Criticism is fine. Ridicule is not because ridicule intends to demean. The fact that it is not understood today seems to be me to be an example of the particularly American notion of ‘our rights’. So many of our rights have turned into demands, and it’s at the root of our doom, imo.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion. That is what is great about living in this country. Not trying to force everyone to think the same way you do or make you feel guilty and bad for not being the same way. Many here think the “Right Wing” churches are here to make you feel bad but imo that is just some crazy motorcycle groups and TV evangelists you don’t have to watch. You don’t have to go to Church or believe what they preach about sin and damnation either…………… 😉
I love Passive Aggressive behavior. It is my favorite thing. I actually did that very thing as a child. Only I did the funny picture of the teacher and the principle came in and pulled it. She was a substitute and I was very ashamed because it was mean. So I never made fun of people by their looks again.
However, that is something that is taught to children. Children are also taught that sticks and stones may break their bones and names will not hurt them and that there is NO excuse for violence.
There are a million platitudes for people in a free speech society to refer to regarding something they are offended by.
“Consider the source.” 😉
Once upon a time there were two boys in a classroom. One boy had a large nose. The boy who sat across from the big nosed boy would tease him about the protruding obstacle in the middle of his face. The antagonist drew a picture of the boy with a large nose, twice as long as it was in reality, and passed it around the classroom. Everyone laughed at the satirical illustration as the illustration continued its journey around the classroom..
The protagonist grabbed the insulting drawing out of one student’s hand and became enraged in anger. A fight ensued and ironically the protagonist ended up breaking the antagonists nose.
Moral of the story, negative comments do not mend relations, they cause disaster.
Once upon a time a teacher would be allowed to correct this behavior and the antagonist would have had the picture pulled by the teacher and sent home to the parent but now the Liberal School systems do not allow this and the Protagonist would have been suspended for violence as there is no excuse for it.
I am curious about the Islamic set-up. In the Roman Catholic Church we have one Pope and some central control out of the Vatican. Then there is the Eastern Orthodox Church. Then there is the Episcopal Church or Church of England which is an offshoot of Catholicism but Protestant in name. In the Muslim world are there Imams for each nation state? Like in Iran they have some Ayatolla who seems to be the boss. Is there one for each country or how do they break this up and rule? Is Mecca a seat of Islam governance for all Islam? I know that there are Shia, Sunni and Farsi. I guess I could go to Wikipedia.
It seems like religions get worse the more they are woven into the government. As in Iran as opposed to Turkey. Although Turkey seems to be going down the beaten path.
It varies by sect. Some hierarchical, some congregational.
Anarchist 2.0, there was a mockumentary made some years back that simulated what would happen if George W. Bush were to have been assassinated.
Correction: James Flacco, not James Franco. Obama cannot be wrong!!
“If it had been a group of black cartoonists . . .”
yes, yes, it’s not fair. If black people killed a bunch of people at a Klan print shop, world leaders wouldn’t be gathered for photo ops. However, it has nothing to do with free speech.
A group of leaders that are almost uniformly engaged in the suppression of speech in their own Nations come together for a photo op to defend freedom of speech? What’s that about?
The point of those leaders isn’t to advance free speech, but broaden the divide between Islam and the West, which is why the media isn’t paying attention to the blatantly bigoted anti-Muslim rhetoric of Charlie. It’s a French tradition really, if there’s a religion to hate, the French are on top of it. They’ve done it to the Christians and the Jews, so now the Muslims get their turn.
Our other recent “free Speech” issue was about that stupid Seth Rogan/ James Franco flick. If it would have depicted the assassination of the president of the US, the movie never would have been made in the first place. If it would have shown the death of the leader of a friendly nation, like David Cameron, there would have been prosecutions if the thing ever came close to being released. But that would have never happened, since we know the cozy ties the CIA has with the heads of Sony.
Autocorrect erratum. Cathedra not cathedral.
When the Pope speaks ex cathedral he is pontificating. At other times he is merely filling the role of pontificate.
mairbair–just joking around. Some set-ups are too good to pass up.
But since the noun form of “pontificate” means “the position of a pope” and the first definition of the verb form is “to officiate as a pontiff,” I’d say the pope can’t help but pontificate.
The pedant in me must applaud.
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