Well he would, wouldn’t he. Anyway he does.
In provocative remarks which may cause consternation in France, the Pope said that freedom of expression had its limits, especially if it involved insulting or ridiculing religion.
He made the forthright comments to journalists on board his official plane as he flew from Sri Lanka to the Philippines, the two stops on his week-long visit to Asia.
That would be convenient for the Catholic church, wouldn’t it – but it’s wrong. Religion is one of the institutions that most needs insult and ridicule (as well as criticism and defiance). The pope’s religion undertakes to give us all orders, and we all get to answer back. We need to answer back.
Gesturing towards Alberto Gasparri, a Vatican official who organises pontifical trips and who was standing next to him on board the plane, he said: “If my good friend Dr Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch in the nose.”
Throwing a pretend punch, the Pope said: “It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”
Has the pope been watching Sacranie on Newsnight? Stephen Law summarized what he said last week:
Towards end of the programme cartoonist Steve Bell was interviewed alongside ‘moderate’ Muslim Sir Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Great Britain. Sacranie unequivocally condemned the attack on the Charlie Hebdo journalists. But he went on to suggest that there are limits to free speech. Sacranie drew an analogy popular with many Muslims between offending someone by insulting a dear member of their family and offending a Muslim by insulting their Prophet. Sacranie said he ‘would not dare’ to insult a member of your close family with the intention of hurting your feelings. He added that if he did, ‘I would perhaps get a punch on my nose’.
Maybe so, in both cases, but that is beside the point. A direct personal insult to one individual’s mother is not comparable to a generalized public insult to a public figure, especially one who has been dead for 14 centuries and is shrouded in myth anyway.
The Pope did not refer specifically to [Charlie Hebdo] but said that insulting religions was unacceptable and dangerous.
“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,” he said.
“They are provocateurs. And what happens to them is what would happen to Dr Gasparri if he says a curse word against my mother. There is a limit.”
That’s a disgusting thing to say.
The Pope in no way condoned the attack on Charlie Hebdo, insisting that violence carried out in God’s name was “an aberration.”
“One cannot make war [or] kill in the name of one’s own religion, that is, in the name of God.”
But those who ridiculed another religion should expect some sort of reaction, he said.
A frown, a roll of the eyes, a swear word, a decision never to buy the magazine again. That kind of reaction. But that, pope, is not what’s under discussion, so it’s irrelevant.