The Pope's Advice Regarding Speech Raises More Concerns Than It Answers
As he continues to build a pontificate endeavoring to appeal to nearly everyone on some level, Pope Francis responded to the Charlie Hebbdo massacre in the same spirit.
The Catholic News Service has the Pope on record as saying “It's true, one cannot react violently... But...one cannot insult other people's faith, one cannot make fun of faith.”
Such a standard would seem perfectly reasonable in a culture steeped in Christian values.
However, in a profoundly decayed postmodern era, the Pope's recommendation raises more conundrums than his attempt at sage advice actually resolves.
For example, how is insult or making fun of being defined?
Some of depictions of Muhammad (as well as of Christ) published in the French satire magazine no doubt crossed the boundaries of good taste.
However, in this age obsessed with sensitivity to the point where certain agitators can't seem to shake off the sting of an insult after a few hours, the bar as to what constitutes being offended has been shockingly lowered.
For example, there are those that insist it is improper for adherents of one expression of the Christian faith to criticize what are believed to be the doctrinal shortcomings of another.
At the same time, those uplifting such a spirit of ecumenicity in the next breath let loose with a litany of rants against the brand of Christianity adhered to by the person being badgered into acquiescence and silence.
Likewise, what if the legitimate beliefs of a religion compel that religion to act in ways or profess beliefs that are perceived as offensive or insulting to others?
Muslims aren't too keen on the doctrine of the Trinity; is the Pope willing to renounce this foremost Christian fundamental in order to comply with the spirit of the age?
There are some that believe that it is not the place of church functionaries to bar an individual from the elements of Communion or the Lord's Supper.
So what if someone feels slighted by the Roman Catholic Church assiduously monopolizing what adherents of this understanding of Christianity believer are essential ingredients in the liturgical pursuit of salvation?
Likewise, to what extent is the remark “...one cannot insult other people's faith, one cannot make fun of faith” to be adhered to?
To some, an insult to faith can be little more than to insist that your doctrine is right and someone else's is wrong.
It must be remembered that when an American hears these sorts of principles, they are more like rules of etiquette in that they are good ideas to aspire to but not all that much will be done to you if you decide to ignore them.
However, when nearly anyone else around the world says these sorts of things, they mean these notions should be imposed as a matter of statutory law with punishments such as fines or incarceration.
It, therefore, must be asked does the Pope stand with those wanting liberty to prevail throughout the world or does he side with those wanting to plunge civilization into an interminable tyranny?
Frederick Meekins is an independent theologian and social critic. Frederick holds a BS in Political Science/History, a MA in Apologetics/Christian Philosophy from Trinity Theological Seminary, and a PhD. in Christian Apologetics from Newburgh Theological Seminary.