Whassamatta, il Papa – can’t take a joke?

By Scott St. Clair | The Save Jersey Blog

Pope Francis is on record saying you shouldn’t make fun of anyone’s faith, which puts him on the same side as the Kouachi brothers, at least in principle.   

In case you missed it, the Kouachi’s are the two Muslims who slaughtered the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists in Paris because they allegedly made fun of the Prophet Muhammad.  Would they have gone on a similar rampage cartoons poked fun at Hasidic rabbis, Joseph Smith or the Hindu big three of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva? Somehow, I think not.

Pope FrancisSorry, Your Holiness, but what you said offended millions of people across the globe who believe in free speech and dishonored the memories of those who’ve died either defending or trying to get it.

Ask yourself if the Pope didn’t justify, even slightly, what the Koucahi’s did when he said during a trip to Southeast Asia that someone who swears at his mother “can expect a punch.” I get that – I’m down with a guy defending his mother’s honor, but in this context wasn’t it a stupid thing to say?

To claim that Charlie Hebdo’s publication of ostensibly offensive material provoked – he used the word “provoke,” albeit in Italian – the attack is the equivalent of saying that a woman is responsible for her own rape because of how she dresses.

The Pope provided intellectual cover for Islamic terrorists and theocratic thugs like Anjem Choudary, the British-born Islamic fundamentalist who supported the Charlie Hedbo attacks, who recently wrote in USA Today, “Messenger Muhammad said, ‘Whoever insults a Prophet kill him.’”

Sorry, Your Holiness, but it sounds like you’ve taken one hit of sacramental wine too many.

The Pope was joined in this lunacy by Bill Donohue, head of the U.S.-based Catholic League. In a written statement, Donohue claimed that Charlie Hedbo editor Stephane Charbonnier’s “narcissism” in publishing provocative cartoons caused his death. This is crass intolerance from someone whose organization is allegedly for “Religious and Civil Rights”? More like religious anger and civil tyranny.             

But because we believe in the right to say even the most stupid things, Donohue can publish his treacle without official repercussion.

I’m tolerating your intolerance Bill, so we’re even.

Islamic Caliphate
Islamic Caliphate

As for me, I’m a black-sheep, backslidden Southern Baptist. I’m used to having my religious beliefs mocked and derided on a daily basis, especially by cretins claiming to be intellectuals, atheists, journalists, progressives and, occasionally, Catholics who are still pissed at Martin Luther, not to mention Ulrich Zwingli, the first Reformation-era Baptist, because back in the day they mocked and criticized the established church, which Pope Francis heads up today.

Just so you’ll have them, here are a few Baptist jokes that poke fun at what can be a dour and sometimes stodgy denomination:

  • Know how you excommunicate a Baptist? Give him a big towel;
  • Baptists don’t speak in tongues – they speak in dentures;
  • Know why you should never go fishing with only one Baptist? If you do, he’ll drink all your beer.

There – I’m an equal-opportunity offender.

Satire and mockery are legitimate forms of social commentary. In fact, sometimes they’re the only truly effective way of exposing hypocrisy, mean-spiritedness and corruption of all types, intellectual, temporal and spiritual.

Not all faiths are equal, but according to the Pope, all faiths are off limits. That means we’re precluded from deriding the hateful Westboro Baptist (no relation AT ALL) Church, Satan Worship or a faith that’s routinely cited to justify murder, rape, beheadings, mass-slaughter, suicide bombings and more (guess which one).

For the record, there’s no evidence that Catholics engaged in similar behavior in the modern era. But it was a church-is-off-limits attitude that precluded for many years an honest inquiry into the scandal of priests sexually abusing children. And poor, old Galileo, whose scientific discoveries were condemned as heresy for hundreds of years, died in prison for daring to challenge the church.

Francis – does anyone ever call him Frank? – endorsed official limits on speech, which isn’t as surprising as it sounds given that he’s from Argentina, a country with a tradition of violent suppression of civil and human rights that also was a haven for Nazis who sought to escape justice after World War II.

But who sets those limits? Who is the arbiter of good taste, decency and what’s offensive – the government, the church, some committee somewhere? Should it be the Pope, Bill Donohue or Larry Flynt?

Russian ChurchHow about nobody – all bans, restrictions and limits on what a person thinks and the dissemination of those thoughts are as offensive to those of us who cherish our freedom as the mocking brickbats tossed at this church, that temple or the mosque across the street. So, Pope Francis, in your zeal to defend religious faith you end up endorsing civil tyranny. The net result of that suppression is you make what you defend unattractive to the point of dirty, and what you want to suppress, no matter how inherently venal and despicable it is, plays the role of martyr.

Your own church history should teach you that its most profound periods of growth came when it was persecuted. So, by persecuting those who make fun of the church, you strengthen them.

You don’t defeat an idea by trying to eradicate it. Instead, you welcome it into the open air and sunlight where it can be exposed, discussed, examined, debated, critiqued and be made to stand or fall on its own merits. That’s how truth is arrived at.

Of course, we’ll all be held accountable for our verbal and intellectual sins at some point. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Galatians 6:7.

But in the meantime, get off the arrogant high horse of immunity from a figurative pie in the face because, in the words of Ricky Gervais, “You have the right to be offended, and I have the right to offend you. But no one has the right to never be offended.” 

If you find it offensive, don’t do it. But when it comes to telling others what to do – what they can think, believe or say – put a sock in it. If you don’t like what they say, then by all means criticize, protest, write a letter to the editor, rant on social media or preach like an Old Testament prophet from the pulpit. But don’t you ever, ever, ever tell anyone that they cannot speak their mind no matter how deluded or filthy that mind is. Denounce, but never deny.

2 thoughts on “Whassamatta, il Papa – can’t take a joke?

  1. http://www.catholicleague.org/muslims-right-angry/

    In his reply, Catholic League President Bill Donohue implied that the cartoonist had themselves to blame…

    “Stephane Charbonnier, the paper’s publisher, was killed today in the slaughter. It is too bad that he didn’t understand the role he played in his tragic death. In 2012, when asked why he insults Muslims, he said, “Muhammad isn’t sacred to me.” Had he not been so narcissistic, he may still be alive. Muhammad isn’t sacred to me, either, but it would never occur to me to deliberately insult Muslims by trashing him.”

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