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Since when did turning the other cheek turn into punching someone in the face, Pope Francis? And does that mean it’s OK to shoot them too?
Tomorrow, a Saudi blogger will be viciously flogged 50 times in the second of 20 such weekly punishment sessions he will receive this year.
Raif Badawi’s crime? Suggesting reforms for Islam.
A more compelling, sickening example of the suppression of free speech it would be hard to find.
Yet, just as I was about to pen an outraged column attacking the Saudi regime for such an inhuman, outrageous act, my attention was diverted to something equally troubling a little closer to my own spiritual home.
Today, the Pope, leader of the Catholic Church – of which I am a member – endorsed violence as a way to respond to insults.
Outrageous. While flying to the Philippines, Pope Francis told journalists that he defended freedom of speech as not only a fundamental human right but also as a duty to speak one’s mind for the sake of common good
Shocking: Then came the analogy: ‘If my good friend Dr Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, then a punch awaits him. It’s normal. One cannot provoke. One cannot insult the faith of others. One cannot make fun of faith.’ Gasparri is pictured at left
I could barely believe what I was reading. But he said it. It’s there, in plain language.
Asked for his response to the Paris terrorist attacks, Pope Francis – flanked by his Papal trip organizer, Dr. Alberto Gasparri – told journalists on a plane to the Philippines that he defended freedom of speech as not only a fundamental human right but also as a duty to speak one’s mind for the sake of the common good.
But then he clarified this, by saying there were ‘limits’ to how far this freedom extends.
‘There are so many people who speak badly about religions,’ he said, ‘who make fun of them, who make a game out of the religions of others. They are provocateurs.’
Then came the analogy which shocked me to the core:
‘If my good friend Dr Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, then a punch awaits him. It’s normal. One cannot provoke. One cannot insult the faith of others. One cannot make fun of faith.’
To illustrate his point, the Pope then threw a pretend punch towards Dr Gasparri.
The imagery was startling.
Here was my Holy Father, supposedly a man who espouses the philosophy of turning the other cheek, telling us all to whack someone in the face if they insult us.
Well, isn’t that exactly what Al Qaida did in Paris, metaphorically speaking?
They claimed the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists had insulted their religion, and reacted with physical aggression. Albeit aggression of a deadly, despicable varity.
By the Pope’s yardstick, weren’t the Charlie Hebdo staff guilty of being the very ‘provocateurs’ that he says are unacceptable and thus worthy of violent response?
And in similar vein, what’s the difference between punching someone for insulting you or lashing them 1000 times?
Violence is violence, it’s just a question of degree.
I like this Pope. He’s been the biggest breath of fresh air since John Paul II, and I find almost everything he does both invigorating and inspiring – whether he’s calling for gays not to be marginalized, kissing the feet of AIDS patients, or just declining the traditionally lavish trappings of Papal life at the Vatican.
[For video, see: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2911990/PIERS-MORGAN-did-turning-cheek-turn-punching-face-Pope-Francis-does-mean-s-OK-shoot-too.html?ito=social-twitter_dailymailus ]
Meanwhile in Saudi Arabia, blogger Raef Badawi is going to publicly flogged for suggesting reforms to Islam. In September, a Saudi court upheld a sentence of 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for Badawi, and he is expected to have 20 weekly whipping sessions until his punishment is complete
The pope has been a breath of fresh air, and he can be a true reforming leader with a common touch
He’s proven himself to be a true reforming leader with a very special common touch. And boy did we Catholics need someone like him to rescue the brand of our Church from decades of corruption and child abuse.
Not to mention one of my own personal bug-bears: the shameful refusal of the Vatican to advocate condoms as a prevention to disease rather than just a form of contraception. Something that would save potentially hundreds of thousands of lives in places like Africa.
But the Pope’s comments on freedom of speech today are ridiculous and dangerous. And if my critique qualifies as an insult in his book, then so be it.
The clear message from what he said is that nobody can mock, insult or poke fun at any religion. And further, that if someone insults you, even over non-religious things like your family, you have every right to use violence as a response.
Pope Francis was keen to stress that nobody should kill in the name of religion.
But what if the punch he advocates for exacting revenge on an insult kills someone, as many punches do?
If I were a non-violent Muslim, who has had to put up with a week of people demanding I apologise for the actions of a bunch of cowardly terrorists, then I would feel perfectly entitled right now to ask what on earth the Pope is thinking by defending the use of violence to suppress free speech?
All religions should be held up to scrutiny, mockery, and the occasional insult. When my own Church covered up the widespread abuse of young children by many of its pedophile priests, that was behaviour thoroughly deserving of every insult thrown its way. And Charlie Hebdo did exactly that, incidentally.
(I won’t apologise for those priests, by the way, but I will loudly condemn them as evil monsters who have no place in a civilised society, let alone a pulpit. Which is the same response I’d expect from every decent Muslim to terror attacks by people hijacking their religion to commit atrocities.)
So, Pope Francis is entirely wrong on this.
And as someone who admires him hugely, I regret that very much.
The Bible may cite an eye-for-an-eye and a tooth-for-a-tooth, but it also advocates stoning for adulterers.
I don’t want my Pope, or any religious leader, to ever endorse any form of violence for anything.
Their job is to promote peace, and they should stick to it.
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