Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Pope is not Charlie

This Charlie cover appeared a few days after Jose Mario Bergoglio had been chosen as Pope. It put into his mouth the silly words of a ditzy reality TV star (though, changing "girl" to "God"):

"You're a girl, you got no shampoo? I mean, like, hello?"

Obviously, Charlie shouldn't have done that.

From a story by Nicole Winfield, 15 January:
ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (AP) — Pope Francis said Thursday there are limits to freedom of speech, especially when it insults or ridicules someone's faith.
Francis spoke about the Paris terror attacks while en route to the Philippines, defending free speech as not only a fundamental human right but a duty to speak one's mind for the sake of the common good.
But he said there were limits.
By way of example, he referred to Alberto Gasparri, who organizes papal trips and was standing by his side aboard the papal plane.
"If my good friend Dr. Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch," Francis said half-jokingly, throwing a mock punch his way. "It's normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others."
His pretend punch aside, Francis by no means said the violent attack on Charlie Hebdo was justified. Quite the opposite: He said such horrific violence in God's name couldn't be justified and was an "aberration." But he said a reaction of some sort was to be expected (...)
Recently the Vatican and four prominent French imams issued a joint declaration that, while denouncing the Paris attacks, urged the media to treat religions with respect.
Francis, who has called on Muslim leaders in particular to speak out against Islamic extremism, went a step further Thursday when asked by a French journalist about whether there were limits when freedom of expression meets freedom of religion.
"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." (…)

What to say about this?

Well, first, less than a week after the Hebdo massacre, there is the bizarre bad taste of the Pope (the Pope!) demonstrating what happens to those who "insult the faith of others" by pantomiming a punch.

Obviously, he should stop drinking alcohol at altitude.

Then of course there's the reference to that "Joint Declaration". Now, the Vatican did its homework with the four imams. Though they're straight down-the-line Muslims (as one would expect imams to be) and, thus, none of them have renounced Sharia Law or any of the other pillars of Islam, they're all thought of as "moderates". This means that they spend half their time denouncing the terrorist attack of the week as being the work of "extremists" and not reflective of "true Muslims", or whatever. After a grotesque 2006 stoning attack on a Muslim girl in Lyon who was accused of violating the rules on Ramadan fasting by eating a snack in her school playground, one of the imams, Azzedine Gaci, condemned the attack as "if the facts are proven, unacceptable". This was because in his view the attackers had not definitively established that the girl was in good health (she later claimed she had been sick and really needed to eat something), and thus had not taken into account one of the exemptions to fasting granted by the Koran.

But more importantly the Declaration shows that some people just don't like it when you draw snarky cartoons about them or about things they hold dear. Indeed, even after you're dead they'll be wagging they're fingers at you and tut-tutting, trying to get the last word in. But when they do that, who looks bad?

The Pope is of course an utter hypocrite. Just last week he made drive-by homily snarks at Yoga and Zen. I have at least two ex-girlfriends who would have been very offended at that. But for some reason the Pope thinks that's okay. Maybe it has something to do with the paucity of Yoga and Zen terrorist cells. And, of course, the Pope almost daily insults his own current or historical church or flock for this or that. For example, he has described adherents (like me) of the so-called Tridentine Mass, as people who are merely "addicted to a kind of fashion."

The Tridentine Mass is fundamental to my person and my Faith (it is, actually). I'm offended by the Pope's criticisms and want him to cut it out. I'm getting my punch ready.

Finally, the Pope claims that he thinks it a sin to criticize other religions. But what does he think the Church fathers, saints, martyrs, philosophers and most Popes up until 1960 or so spent much of their time doing, for goodness sake? Read anyone--Paul, St. Justin, St. Augustine, Aquinas, St. Francis himself, most popes, heck, even, well, God, in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New--whether it was Paganism, Gnosticism, this or that quasi-Christian heresy, Islam (after it arrived), Protestantism of this or that stripe or whatever. Being a Catholic meant criticizing the alternatives. So (according to the current Pope and those that agree with him) 2,000 years of reactionaries, bigots, whatever-ophobes and irrational holy warriors has finally yielded (courtesy of the kindness of the Holy Spirit, no doubt) a head of the Church who is finally, finally on the same wavelength as, well, the average New York Times columnist.

But he still isn't Charlie.

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