Pope says respect for religion should limit freedom of expression

UPDATED VERSION: Pope says respect for religion should limit freedom of expression

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Commenting on recent killings by Islamist terrorists at a Paris newspaper, Pope Francis condemned killing in the name of God, but said freedom of expression should be limited by respect for religion and that mockery of faith can be expected to provoke violence.

Pope Francis answers questions Jan. 15 during flight from Colombo, Sri Lanka, to Manila, Philippines. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis answers questions Jan. 15 during flight from Colombo, Sri Lanka, to Manila, Philippines. (CNS/Paul Haring)

The pope made his remarks Jan. 15 to reporters accompanying him on a flight from Sri Lanka to the Philippines. During the 50-minute news conference, the pope also said his encyclical on the environment will likely be published early this summer, and that he will canonize Blessed Junipero Serra, an 18th-century Franciscan missionary to North America, in the U.S. this September.

Asked by a French reporter to compare freedom of religion and freedom of expression as human rights, Pope Francis linked his answer to the Jan. 7 attacks at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, apparently in retaliation for the newspaper’s publication of cartoons mocking Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

“Let’s go to Paris, let’s speak clearly,” the pope said. “One cannot offend, make war, kill in the name of one’s own religion, that is, in the name of God.”

The pope said freedom of expression was a “fundamental human right” like freedom of religion, but one that must be exercised “without giving offense.”

Offering a hypothetical example that referred to the Vatican’s planner of papal trips, who was standing beside him as he spoke, the pope said: “It’s true, one cannot react violently, but if Dr. (Alberto) Gasbarri, a great friend, says a swear word against my mother, then he is going to get a punch. But it’s normal, it’s normal. One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith.”

The pope said those who “make fun or toy with other people’s religions, these people provoke, and there can happen what would happen to Dr. Gasbarri if he said something against my mother. That is, there is a limit. Every religion has its dignity.”

Asked about his widely awaited encyclical on the environment, Pope Francis said the document had already been through three drafts by a team under Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and reviewed by the Vatican Secretariat of State and the theologian of the papal household.

“Now I’ll take a week out in March to look at it. At the end of March, I think it will be completed. Then it will go to be translated. I think that if the translations go well, in June or July, it could come out,” the pope said.

Pope Francis said it was important the encyclical come out soon enough to influence a global climate change summit scheduled to open Nov. 30 in Paris, where he hoped leaders would show more courage on the subject than in the past.

While not explicitly replying to a question about the influence of human activity on climate change, the pope echoed earlier criticisms of man-made damage to the environment through such practices as deforestation and overexploitation of agricultural lands.

The pope opened the news conference with an unsolicited statement about his decision to canonize St. Joseph Vaz, a 17th- and 18th-century missionary to Sri Lanka, without going through the usual process, including verification of a second miracle attributed to the saint’s intercession. Pope Francis said St. Joseph was one of a series of great evangelists whom he planned to canonize without such preliminaries, in an effort to celebrate the practice of evangelization.

“Now in September, God willing, I will canonize Junipero Serra in the United States. He was the evangelizer of the west in the United States,” the pope said.

The pope has confirmed he will visit Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families in September, and has suggested he might travel to New York City, Washington, D.C., and Mexico City on the same trip, but no itinerary has been released. His announcement of Blessed Junipero’s canonization is bound to raise expectations that he will also visit the southwestern U.S. The Franciscan priest established 10 missions in what is now California and Mexico.

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15 Responses to Pope says respect for religion should limit freedom of expression

  1. Walt Horning says:

    The history of the Catholic church, is the history of the oppression of other religions.

  2. RG Cruz says:

    Reblogged this on @1RGCruz.

  3. Jim says:

    Pope Francis is correct in saying those who disparage another’s religion – or mother- might expect violence in return. I don’t have much sympathy for the dead artists of Charlie Hebdo. They didn’t get what they deserved, but they got what they should have expected. If someone taunts and waves a red flag in front of a bull and the bull charges and kills the person(s) taunting the bull and others, those taunting bare responsibility. It is theater, it is a drama, a scene created! Those who lead dramatic lives often come to a dramatic end and sometimes take others with them. We cannot blame the bull. He is what he is. We will not alter his demeanor or change his position toward the outside world by taunting him. Sadly, policemen and other innocents died as part of this drama- the predictable consequences of recklessly stupid acts.

  4. Freedom of speech grew out of a time when violent thugs and reactionaries responded to a difference of opinion with sword and fire. People championed and died for a idea so that today its becomes an expectation of civilized, if occasionally rancorous, discussion. It was and remains important to protect this right from those tyrants and bloody-minded fanatics who would censor others for scurrilous reasons using the same bloody tactics of times past. Its very disappointing to see others going supine in the face of violence because of some misguided notion of ‘civility’ or fear. They are cutting off their nose to spite their face.

  5. Margaret says:

    When will Pope Francis speak straight on Tibet and the human rights atrocities commited by the Chinese? By refusing to meet with the Dalai Lama he has just corraborated with a country whose policy the genocide of a UNIQUE BUDDHIST COUNTRY CALLED TIBET.
    Many Christians have great concern about this blatant lack of papal stance. Until he does so the rest of his decries for religious respect are simple hypocrisy.

  6. Joan Ghali says:

    Thank you Papa Francesco…a real PEACEMAKER in our troubled World today…Thank you for your wise words of wisdom…we are truly blessed to have you as our great Pope…a true Humanitarian who loves and respects people across the World of all Faiths and Cultures…who loves the poor of the World and defends the homeless and downtrodden and those excluded on the margins of society…You are truly doing God’s great work on earth. God Bless and Protect you always Papa…You are my Hero and I love and respect you more and more every day.

  7. jonathanlk says:

    I believe his first statements were fundamentally correct. I agree with them. I have to assume that he is speaking in a moral, but not a purely literal context in the latter statements. In my language where he is saying ‘you do not’ or ‘cannot’, he really means you ‘should not’, or alternately ‘it is logically meaningless to kill in the name of a god, or a faith, and also to insult someone’s faith’. It doesn’t mean you actually can’t insult someone’s faith, or that you actually can’t kill, because unfortunately you can, though not necessarily without consequences. I take his words to be direction in moral terms and toward being responsible with ones assumed freedoms and capabilities. I am a firm believer in the tenet that ‘with freedom comes responsibility’. You should be careful how you use it so that you don’ infringe on someone else’s rights, person, or property. Muslims tend to be highly emotional about their religion. You can criticize things that are extremely wrong, such as terrorism, without being offensive to more enlightened followers of the faith that is being used by whatever terrorists. You can express yourself as you wish, by law. And sometimes you can’t be both politically correct and logically correct at the same time. There are always crazy people out there. If you publish any opinion you are liable to offend someone. Personally I would not advocate censoring this magazine though as offensive as it is. Offended Muslims should strive to learn more about and accept that Hebdo has the right to do these things, and they can publish their own ‘counter opinions’, illustrated editorials, about the nature of these satires which some find poignant and which some find offensive. This way no one is hurt, and no one is breaking the law. And no one should expect to be ‘punched’. It is wrong logically for a mother to punch her son for cursing, as much as it is for someone to curse! Logic is a beautiful thing and people should start making more use of it. True Love in the human context is also beautiful, and is inherently never represented by evil acts inspired by hate.

  8. Paul says:

    This Pope is a disgrace. if someone insults or mocks you, insult or mock them back if you must. Or ignore them. Not only is his violent message unChrisitan, it’s illegal. It’s assault. Turn the other cheek Pontiff.

  9. Jim says:

    Ralph, if you are so intent on defending the kind of hate speech found in Charlie-Hebdo- be my guest! If you think blasphemy is an essential part of democracy- well— Have a subscription mailed to your home. And when your grandson asks questions about a man whose head is portrayed as a penis maybe you could explain it to him. Maybe you could also explain to him other forms of filth aimed at the Catholic Church, defaming the Trinity, the birth of the Christ Child and ridiculing the Church’s teaching on sexuality, marriage and the sanctity of life? Maybe you could explain the Eucharist portrayed as a condom??? How about it Ralph? Maybe you could explain the cartoon titled, “The true story of the Child Jesus” portraying Mary giving birth to the infant Jesus on a squatting latrine. Go ahead Ralph, but remember the only true weapon against radical Islam is the truth of Christ.

  10. I fully agree with the Pope. I think respect for each other is healthy natural and wholesome. I think the cartoonist is a real Charlie for putting his life on the line to ridicule someone else’s religion. I think the extremist would have shot the Prophet (PBUH) in the crossfire as he tried to diffuse the situation (if he was still alive). An extremist’ religion is mostly built around low self-esteem, if you ask me. It wasn’t so much about the Prophet as it was about his own demented ego, that he did what he did.Then there’s the march where all these world leaders marched in defiance of their own anti – blaspheme laws – that just staggering. If this is the level of discourse people are going to have around religion and freedom of expression, the rest of us reasonable folk will just have to retreat into stunned silence. And I speak as a reasonable Muslim woman.

  11. The Pope is a total washout ! His logic is a ‘idiotic’ as the example of ‘hitting someone back’ if he insulted his mother. Frankly, the freedom of speech is an INTEGRAL PART OF EVERY RELIGION..even though most religions’ are an ‘INSULT’ to people’s intelligence. How many times the Catholic Church has HAD TO CHANGE ITS TENETS, OR APOLOGIZE FOR THEIR backward views….throughout history? The most recent change (partial ) of heart is regarding their position about ‘gay people’…yes, if the Church had not been RIDICULED, CRITICIZED, OFFENDED, SATIRIZED…it would still be the ‘CHURCH of the Middle ages”….Much like ‘Islam’ which has remained THERE..because of its theocratic rule..and idiotic leadership.

  12. jim says:

    Sort of amazing how Francis has gone from “hero” to “goat” when people committed to a sodomite lifestyle found out he wasn’t going to buy in. Freedom of speech IS NOT an integral part of every religion, especially when it comes to blasphemy. … That it is not just wrong, it is ridiculous. Francis’s logic comes from natural law as well as from teachings of the Church. We don’t belong to ourselves, our bodies are not our own. They belong to God and therefore we need to dedicate them to HIS purpose! That includes our mouths!

  13. ersatz says:

    I agree with the other posters who have pointed out – The Pope didn’t say that you LEGALLY couldn’t say offensive things about religion. His words were pretty vague, just that “one cannot make fun of faith.” He’s just defended the right to freedom of expression, so he can’t mean “You can’t legally offend someone”, but rather, “You cannot MORALLY offend someone.”

    His words were ambiguous, which is to be expected from an informal interview. Yet everyone is jumping to conclusions about the Pope wanting legal limits to freedom of expression – when he said no such thing.

  14. Jim, Its up to Charlie Hebdo to justify Charlie Hebdo’s positions to you. What I’m saying is that Charle Hebdo, Muslims, and, yes, YOU, have the right to your opinions and to disagree vehemently with others peacefully and under rule of law. You are not a helpless bystander before the opinions of those like Charlie Hebdo. You have the power to speak your opinion, write dissenting articles, scream your heart out on Youtube, or publish dissenting cartoons. You can vote with your wallet or simply ignore Charlie Hebdo totally. Charlie Hebdo said something disagreeable? Than its up to you make yourself heard.,

    What you don’t have, what you never had, is the power to censor the opinions of others forcefully through intimidation and murder. You may find yourself shrugging at the massacre of a dozen people you disagree with its important to remember that knife cuts both ways. These same Islamists are merely representative of the same kind throughout the Middle East oppressing minority Christian populations. You don’t get to complain, you keep your head down and hope an irritated extremist doesn’t blow it off.

    If you think the actions of these terrorists don’t affect you consider that major newspapers are instructing staff to be careful of Muslim sensibilities, address Mohammad as the Prophet, to not show images of him, and to apologize if it happens. These same papers that treat Christianity with a dismissive disdain and see no reason not to continue with this treatment. At least Charlie Hebdo was honest in its position and treated all religions the same.

    So lets try to avoid the slippery slope of treating freedom of speech as if it was some irritating, childish concern. Its about making sure your idea of being a ‘martyr’ for Christ is an annoying cartoon and not a bullet to the head.

  15. jim says:

    Ralph, Blaspheming anyone’s religion or race serves little purpose.It disrespects those who live justly and peacefully. It puts them in the same bag with those who live violent or unholy lives. It makes incitement to violence easier on both sides. It is possible, for instance, to use the “N” word to describe those who demonstrated with the cry, “Let’s put wings on pigs! What do we want- dead cops- when do we want them? NOW” Would something that ugly do but to make racial tensions worse? Charlie Hebdo belongs in the same class which refers to Jews as “Kikes” It echoes the same kind of racism and religious enmity as existed toward Jews in the 30’s.

    It incites the same sort of hatred which led to thousands and thousands put on trains to the death camps. Christ would have none of this sort of thing and we as Catholics ought not either whether it is directed at us or at some other religion.

    Yes, I am acutely aware of the mistreatment, the persecution and execution of Christians and other religious minorities but that does not justify what Charlie Hebdo has done. I’m not going to pretend they are martyrs to “free speech” any more than I would pretend the same of Joseph Goebbles cartoonists with a similar distain for the Jews. Francis has spoken correctly! Catholics tolerated that sort of hate speech in many part of Europe. It led to war and the holocaust.

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