Pope Francis: One Cannot Make Fun of Faith
Pope Francis has earned a reputation as a liberal in comparison to recent predecessors but he’s no liberal.
AP (“Pope on Charlie Hebdo: There are limits to free expression“):
Pope Francis said Thursday there are limits to freedom of speech, especially when it insults or ridicules someone’s faith.
Francis spoke about the Paris terror attacks while en route to the Philippines, defending free speech as not only a fundamental human right but a duty to speak one’s mind for the sake of the common good.
But he said there were limits.
By way of example, he referred to Alberto Gasbarri, who organizes papal trips and was standing by his side aboard the papal plane.
“If my good friend Dr. Gasbarri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch,” Francis said half-jokingly, throwing a mock punch his way. “It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”
His pretend punch aside, Francis by no means said the violent attack on Charlie Hebdo was justified. Quite the opposite: He said such horrific violence in God’s name couldn’t be justified and was an “aberration.” But he said a reaction of some sort was to be expected.
I got sidetracked by work matters in the middle of writing the post and at the time just had the CNN Breaking News version of events. They were worse:
Freedom of expression is a right, but there are limits when it comes to insulting faiths, Pope Francis told reporters today, referring to events surrounding the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.
“One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith,” Francis said. Likewise, he said, people have religious liberty, but “one can’t kill in the name of God.” He said this after a reporter asked him about religious liberty and freedom of expression.
Without the context of the insult to his mother—essentially, the old “fighting words” doctrine that was long ago announced (but since largely rescinded) by the US Supreme Court—the pontiff’s words are outrageous. In context, they’re merely poorly framed.
Of course one can make fund of the faith of others. Of course one can insult the faith of others. That’s the essence of freedom of expression. But, yes, doing so may be cruel and mean-spirited. And one who does so repeatedly and with sufficiently provocative language or imagery is likely to get punched in the nose. Mass murder is, of course, another thing altogether and Francis says so.