At a time when all of France is buying copies of the latest and most offensive issue of Charlie Hebdo, Pope Francis has weighed in on the controversy.
The AP reports:
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.”
I am certainly less knowledgeable about theological questions than the pope, but still, I recall that Jesus Christ once said:
…whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Perhaps, Jesus really meant to say that if someone insults your mother then all bets are off.
One hopes that the pope was not comparing the Prophet Mohammed to his mother. And one suspects that a "punch" is not the equivalent to gunning down the staff of a newspaper or murdering shoppers in a kosher super market.
To be fair and balanced, I offer some remarks Peggy Noonan made yesterday about the proliferation of “blasphemous” images of the Prophet Mohammed.
Her view is clearly consonant with my own, so it is well worth quoting:
This is the moment, a week after the shootings, on the day of the publication of the first issue of the magazine since the murders, to rob all the Muhammad cartoons of their mystique. Steal away their power. Make them banal, not secret, censored and powerful but common. Flood the zone, let everyone see them. Show that they are only cartoons, caricatures, playthings. Show that the murderers got exactly the opposite of what they wanted. “You kill to stop a cartoon? We flood the streets with cartoons. You can’t take it? We have freedom here. You don’t have to live in the midst of it, you can go to a place that does not put such an emphasis on this kind of freedom.”
If in the West you keep such things as the cartoons in a magic, censored vault you give them mystical power and luster. These stupid drawings should not be imbued with these qualities! The argument is for disseminating them.