Thursday, January 15, 2015


A few posts back I wrote about the limits of free speech and that we do not have the freedom of speech to spread hate, to yell fire in a crowded theater or slander someone. All of these, even in the USA, can get you in trouble with the legal system.

What Pope Francis seems to indicate is that His Holiness is aware of human psychology and reaction to provocations and this is complicated when one is radicalized or a fanatic.  He uses the example of the reporter asking him a question and then calling his mother a bad name, the Pope's reaction would be to strike back and say take it back! Pope Francis is such a populist in his communication style to say the least but he is understandable in this regard.

So while anyone of sound mind would condemn revenge and homicide and the murder of the cartoonists in France, it would seem that Pope Francis is placing some of the blame on their provocations.

The other thing that these cartoonists and now their living colleagues need to learn is that they not only place themselves in harm's way by their blasphemies and provocations but they place other innocent citizens including the  law enforcement in harm's way. How many innocnet people died because fanatics were provoked to do something quite radical.

And on top of this, with the latest provocation from this paper, other innocent people including the police might be placed in harm's way. There is a limit to free speech!

From Rorate Caeili:

The Pope speaks on freedom to blaspheme: "If a close friend insulted your mother, you might punch him, right?"

In his airplane interview in the flight taking him from Sri Lanka to the Philippines, Pope Francis commented on the limits of freedom of speech:
[Question] Yesterday morning, during mass, you spoke of religious liberty as a fundamental human right. With respect to the different religions, up to what point can we go in terms of freedom of speech, that also is a fundamental human right?

[Pope:] Thank you for this intelligent question! I believe that they are both fundamental human rights: religious freedom and freedom of speech. We are French, right? Well, then, let's go Paris, let's speak clearly. We cannot hide a truth today: each one has the right to practice his religion, without causing offense, freely, and we all wish to do this.

Secondly, we cannot offend, make war, kill, in the name of religion, that is, in the name of God.

That which is happening today surprises us, but let us always think of our history: how many wars of religion have we known! Think only of the Night of Saint Bartholomew [St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre]! How can we understand that. We also have had our sinners regarding this, but we cannot murder in the name of God, it's an aberration. To murder in the name of God is an aberration. I believe that is the main thing on religious liberty: we must practice it in liberty, without causing offense, but without imposing or murdering.

Freedom of speech...Each person has not only the freedom, the right but also the obligation to say what he thinks to aid the common good: the obligation! If we think that what a member of parliament or a Senator says - and not only they, but so many others - is not the good path, that he does not collaborate wirh the common good, we have the obligation of saying it openly. This freedom is necessary, but without offending. Because it is true that one should not react violently, but if Mr. Gasbarri [note: voyage planner, standing beside the pope], who is a great friend, says a swear word about my mother, he can expect to receive a punch! It's normal... We cannot provoke, we cannot insult the faith of others, we cannot mock faith.

Pope Benedict, in an address I cannot recall well [note: the Regensburg address] had spoken of this post-positivist mindset, of this post-positivist metaphysics that led, in the end, to believe that all religions, or all religious expressions, are a kind of sub-culture: they are tolerated, but they are irrelevant, they are not in the culture of the Enlightenment. This is a legacy of the Enlightenment.

There are so many people who speak ill of religions, who mock them, who play with the religion of others. They provoke...and it can happen that which could happen to Mr. Gasbarri if he said anything about my mother. There is a limit! Each religion has dignity, each religion that respects human life and man, and I cannot mock's a limit. I take the example of the limit to say that, in the matter of the freedom of speech, there are limits, as in the case of my mother.


Anonymous said...

In a moral sense, one does not have the right to mock someone's religion, but in a legal sense, free speech is (or should be) an absolute right, over than the exceptions for yelling fire in a crowded theater, libel and slander. However, no one has a right to not be offended, and no one has a right to kill someone because they don't like what another person says or draws.

JusadBellum said...

Legally the use of "hate" to describe merely a difference of opinion is going to be the means by which the State will persecute the Church.

That's how small minorities, in the name of equal rights, shut up majorities not by power of persuasion but by coercion (whether by direct state action or threat of lawsuit).

See, they can heap opprobrium and vitriol at religious folk all day long in ways and means that any observer would describe as 'hateful' but to merely disagree with any of their truth claims is taken as ipso facto sign of 'hate'.

It's a nifty (if cynical) trick.

But it's terribly short sighted and perhaps on some level they know this sort of ugly triumphalism is doomed to fail.

John Nolan said...

Bergoglio was quick to condemn Benedict XVI for his remarks at Regensburg in 2006. in fact he was the only senior Church figure who did not publicly defend the Pope. I suspect that he made the remarks without actually having read the address. As far as I know he has never apologized.

Gene said...

Yeah, right, Pope…blame the victim. Such crap is inexcusable. Luther has got to be laughing his apse off.

Anonymous 2 said...

A few evenings ago I almost posted the comment below in response to the following post from WSquared:

“According to Lombardi, Benedict's speech was ‘a warning, addressed to Western culture, to avoid 'the contempt for God and the cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom.'"

In the end I did not do so because I was struggling with the question I now pose at the end and because, as I understand the matter, perhaps the most objectionable of the cartoons were parodying the very bad movie that caused such consternation last year and that was even implicated in the Benghazi tragedy. But, given that the subject has come up again and indeed that Pope Francis has now addressed it directly, well, here goes:

That is why, while condemning the evil terrorist acts perpetrated in Paris, I could never join with all those liberals and so-called conservatives who say “Je suis Charlie.” I would be ashamed to be Charlie. I have now seen the relevant cartoons of Muhammad and some are truly vile, like so much else produced by Charlie Hebdo, including about the Catholic Church.

We need to distinguish three issues:

(1) Should there be a legal/constitutional right to free speech, i.e., should the government be prevented from censoring speech such as those vile cartoons? Yes.

(2) Should we expect people to practice self-censorship according to standards of decency and good taste, not to mention wisdom? Yes.

(3) If someone fails to practice such self-restraint, do they deserve to be murdered? No.

So, why not condemn the terrorists and ALSO criticize Charlie Hebdo? I saw Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League, trying to do exactly this on a Hannity special on “The Rise of Radical Islam” on FOX News broadcast (again?) on Sunday evening. Sean Hannity did what he frequently does when someone makes an inconvenient point: tried to cut Donohue off, move to a break, and move on (he did the same with a woman who later tried to make a different “inconvenient” point).

Donohue has been roundly attacked for suggesting that Charlie Hebdo should have exercised self-restraint (as urged before publication of some of these cartoons in 2012 by the French government, by the way). I expect this from liberals and libertarians. I do not expect it from “conservatives” (real ones that is).

Apparently Donohue was also attacked by Megyn Kelly for taking the same line on her show on FOX. His response included:

"I would prefer the Madisonian understanding," Donohue argued, "which also says this -- liberty can be lost by the abuse of power but also the abuses of liberty. Self-censorship is the friend of freedom because if we don't have self-censorship, we're going to have individuals interpret their rights in extreme fashion."

I believe Bill Donohue is right about this. Is he? The thing that gives me pause is that I think we want the freedom to criticize, and even deride, political figures. Indeed, we probably even want the freedom to call out the excesses of religion. Can we do this consistent with the above approach?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know about "Legatus"?

Is anyone a member?

CFGtom said...

GREG GUTFELD: We know with rape that you never, ever blame the victim. but with terror, you can. They had it coming. They dressed the part. That's right, just like a woman who dressed suggestively.

Paul said...

Let the fireworks begin:

Sean Hannity, Fr. Jonathan Morris, Bill Donahue and Kirsten Powers:

Evil exists in this world. Anyone can, even those who do good, provoke a response. People do bad things and then wonder why bad things happen.

We all have free will choice. Many of those free will choices are legal. However, no one has the right to do evil. Some Wisdom, Temperance and Humility could have helped all those at Charlie Hebdo and those who did the murders.

It wasn't to be. Bad things happened. Now, it is up to us to draw Good from this Evil.

Anonymous 2 said...


It would seem that we are of similar mind on this matter, judging from our respective posts overnight.

Gene said...

Anon 2, While I agree with what you say in theory, there are some complications. We, in this country, have absolutely no business criticizing or chastising anyone for political satire, lampooning, slander, libel or any other form of verbal combat because it has been a part of our political tradition since the very founding. In our country today, we tolerate journalistic and media outrages that would have made Twain, or Bierce, or Mencken throw up. So, for anyone in this country to suggest that Hebdo was out of line is laughable.

Now, self-restraint is indeed the issue…and common sense. But, self-restraint in today's world is another casualty of our so-called "freedoms." But, common sense tells you that you may not like lions...they eat people and are wild and savage. Do you, then, go and yank the lion's tail?
This is a complicated issue because we are already cowering and waffling in the face of terrorists. Political correctness has castrated this nation, which is led by a man who did not need castration. Do we, then, cower further by feeling guilty for political satire and criticism of a savage ideology?

I disagree, sometimes angrily, with you and Ignotus on some issues. I poke fun, get polemical, and even call names. But, I would not expect either of you to hunt me down and kill me nor would I ever contemplate physical harm to either of you. That is called civilization and social polity. The Muzzies were wrong on every score. There is no defense for their actions. In a civilized world, even in American law, verbal or political provocation, no matter how extreme, does not excuse murder.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Donoghue is a buffoon, a perpetual pugilist, and, as far as I am concerned, an embarrassment. He practices exactly what he condemns when he ridicules, satirizes, and/or heaps opprobrium those who, in his judgment, are "enemies" of the Church.

Anonymous 2 said...

Father Kavanaugh:

You know Bill Donohue better than I do. But on this particular point is he right? Pope Francis seems to hold a similar position.

Mike said...

I revile the cartoons published in France; they are disgusting where they are not infantile. Still, I am not required to support Charlie Hebdo or magazines like it (unlike, say, publicly underwritten displays of Piss Christ), and I fear that legal remedies forbidding such asininity risk having the same laws come back to bite us for our "blasphemy."

After all, Catholic theology is blasphemy to Muslims: they vehemently (and sometimes violently) object to our belief that Jesus is Lord and Savior, that He is the Son of God, and that God is trinitarian in nature. Thus I'll put up with the Charlie Hebdo's of the world - all the while protesting against their message and refusing to subsidize their sacrilege - if only to protect myself and my Church from being hoist on our own petard.

Paul said...

Martyrs of The Church come to mind. If something will almost certainly result in one's own death, make very certain it is for something good.

George said...

Mike @ 6:33 PM
You bring up another aspect of this which many have not considered or thought about and that is blasphemy which is supported with taxpayer dollars. The recent satanic "mass" in Oklahoma City was held at the publicly supported and built with taxpayer funds
Civic center. There have been a number of events and displays across the U.S. over the years which blasphemed Christ and offended God by doing so to the the Blessed Virgin
Many of these are held at privately founded and managed facilities but some of these do recieve public funding Of course the satanists argument is that they are taxpayers and should have equal access to these facilities also. One wonders though if a group wanted to hold an event at the Oklahoma City Civic Center or a similar facility which blasphemed Isalamic beliefs, if they would get the OK from the local authorities to do so. It is up to us to protest these abominations by at least writing a letter or email to the appropriate persons who are responsible in some way or another for these things being held while at the same time praying for all involved.

Daniel said...

You can argue that Charlie Hebdo used poor judgment and should have used self-restraint -- I think that is obvious -- and also condemn the attacks and state that they can never be justified. To use the Pope's analogy, if you insult someone's mother, you may get punched in the nose, but in this country and France, the puncher will be charged with assault. Because words alone will never justify such an attack. That's one of the differences between civilized societies and others. To blame the victim, I believe, blurs that line.