Pope Francis is not your normal Catholic Pope; born in Argentina he does not have the Eurocentric world view that has surrounded the Roman Catholic Church for so many centuries and he comes from a refreshing place in theology that emphasizes a lot more of the things people have in common, regardless of their faith. What he had to say regarding the Charlie Habdo cartoons is indicative of a view that certainly puts him at odds with most of punditry
Calling freedom of expression a “fundamental” human right, the pope outlined why he believes there are limits to that right. If someone “says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch,” he joked, according to an Associated Press translation. “It’s normal. It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”
Despite joking about his mother, Francis also condemned violent retaliation. “One cannot offend, make war, kill in the name of one’s own religion — that is, in the name of God,” the pope said. “To kill in the name of God is an aberration.”
Francis was speaking in Italian aboard the papal plane, on the way from Sri Lanka to the Philippines. According to the National Catholic Reporter, the pope was responding to a question about freedom of speech and religion in general. But acknowledging that the reporter asking the question was French, Pope Francis indicated that his response applied specifically to the attacks. “Let’s go to Paris, let’s speak clearly,” he said, according to NCR.
“The Pope’s expression is in no way intended to be interpreted as a justification for the violence and terror that took place in Paris last week,” the Vatican press office said in a later statement, addressing Francis’s remarks. The statement adds, “the Pope’s free style of speech, especially in situations like the press conference must be taken a face value and not distorted or manipulated.”
“The Pope has spoken out clearly against the terror and violence that occurred in Paris and in other parts of the world,” the statement continues, “Violence begets violence. Pope Francis has not advocated violence with his words on the flight.”
Days ago, Francis denounced the Charlie Hebdo attacks and the “deviant forms of religion” he said were behind them. “Religious fundamentalism, even before it eliminates human beings by perpetrating horrendous killings, eliminates God himself, turning him into a mere ideological pretext,” he said, according to the AP.
There is no God fearing sincere believer who would say anything different than what the Pope has said or what has been written in the pages of Miscellany101 but in this writer’s opinion it’s also unrealistic to expect people would not feel resentment towards those who use satire as a weapon to dehumanize or devalue one’s religious beliefs. The Pope believes that people have a responsibility to their fellow citizens and that satire and freedom of speech has limits and unbridled free speech also has consequences. It is a mature position and it takes a certain amount of courage to embrace it.