On his way to the Philippines on the airplane, Pope Francis spoke about freedom of speech in the case of Charlie Hebdo. Although he said freedom of speech is good, it also comes with ‘limits.’ He referred to his friend, who organizes the Pope’s trips, as an example.
If my good friend Dr. Gasbarri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch. It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.
It is important to point out Francis was half-jokingly using the analogy to try to make a point. However, the reason I don’t like this analogy is that the victims of Charlie Hebdo weren’t punched, but gunned down in cold blood. And who would Gasbarri expect the punch from? We know it wouldn’t be the Pope because he is a loving, humble man who wouldn’t hurt a fly. Francis needs to realize it is not necessarily true to say ‘he can expect a punch’ because it depends on who he’s talking about. In the case of the Paris attacks, it was radical Islamists who can’t handle a cartoon, unlike Christians, Jews, Hindus, or Buddhists. If this was ultimately the cartoon’s fault, why, other than Islamist extremists, would you not see violence over a cartoon come out of any other religion?
He included the following.
There are so many people who speak badly about religions or other religions, who make fun of them, who make a game out of the religions of others. They are provocateurs. And what happens to them is what would happen to Dr. Gasbarri if he says a curse word against my mother. There is a limit.
Although he did fully condemn the attack and said there was no excuse for it, his comments did create a storm on social media. What really caught the attention is the statement ‘there is a limit.’ Others have speculated that Pope Francis thinks freedom of speech regarding ridiculing religion shouldn’t be allowed, while others are saying that is taken out of context, and that Pope Francis wouldn’t support that type of restriction.
I wasn’t the only one who thought the analogy was a poor comparison, but Father Jonathan Morris agreed as well when he was on Sean Hannity’s show with Bill Donohue of the Catholic League and Kirsten Powers.
Although I understand what Pope Francis was trying to explain, I thought the words he used were not the best choice. I agree with the following tweet that Kirsten Powers retweeted below, observing the difference between saying one ‘cannot’ vs. ‘should not’ make fun of a religion as a vital point. If the Pope is only saying we shouldn’t morally make fun of other religions, the words ‘should not’ make fun of a religion sounds more appropriate than ‘cannot’, which many would imply legality.
@KirstenPowers I agree. There's a huge difference between "cannot" and "should not". I hope the pontiff meant the latter.
— Gary Hanshaw (@ghanshaw627) January 15, 2015
Overall, I think the usage of words the Pope used is what tends to cause a lot of havoc over it. To recap, I think his analogy of a ‘punch’ can’t compare to this Paris attack, and the wording used could have been better. The bottom line is that freedom of speech means protecting speech, including speech you may not agree with or feel offended by.