Is this really the right message after the Charlie Hebdo attacks?
I know Pope Francis was speaking off the cuff but this seems a little…not good to me. Look, we all know that the pontiff is against terrorism and violence. That’s not the issue. And I know some people are assuming that when Pope Francis says there’s a “limit” to free speech he’s speaking in legal terms. But there’s no reason to believe that. One must assume the pope is speaking morally, not about the legal limits of speech.
Pope Francis suggested there are limits to freedom of expression, saying in response to the Charlie Hebdo terror attack that “one cannot make fun of faith” and that anyone who throws insults can expect a “punch.”
The pontiff said that both freedom of faith and freedom of speech were fundamental human rights and that “every religion has its dignity.”
“One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith,” he said. “There is a limit. Every religion has its dignity … in freedom of expression there are limits.”
The right to liberty of expression comes with the “obligation” to speak for “the common good,” Pope Francis said, cautioning against provocation.
To illustrate his point, he referred to Vatican aide Alberto Gasparri who was standing nearby on the plane. “If my good friend Dr. Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, then a punch awaits him,” the pontiff said.
Is the pope saying violence is ok sometimes? What if it’s a really bad insult? Does that deserve more than a punch in the nose?
Look, I’m not against punching someone in the nose now and again. But I’ve got to tell you I worry a little about the pope saying it’s a good idea to punch others a week after Muslim terrorists slaughtered the employees of a magazine for a religious insult. In the abstract, a pop in the chops is not the end of the world. But we’re not living in the abstract right now. Everyone’s mind is on Islamic terrorism.
I guess we get good and the bad with a pope willing to speak so openly with journalists. This comment is not one of the good ones.