This time, the conversation turned to the recent Islam-inspired terror attack in Paris. The pontiff was asked if freedom of expression is a fundamental human right. His response?
"You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith,"... If you do, he said, you "can expect a punch." (CNA)In other words, no. Freedom of expression (defined as the right to say whatever you want, insult whomever you'd like to, and attack whatever beliefs you feel like in any obscene manner that strikes your fancy) is not a "fundamental human right."
Pope Francis went on to demonstrate what he means,
"You cannot offend or make war, kill in the name of your religion...But, if... my... friend, says something against my mother, he can expect a punch. It's normal." (CNA)This is a nice expression of basic Catholic teaching (the Pope, after all and despite what the mainstream media would love you to believe is, in his own oft-repeated words, a "son of the Church.") For those unfamiliar, the Church teaches a freedom for excellence and teaches against an unlimited freedom to do whatever we please, independent of whether what we please to do is good or evil.
Pope Benedict XVI summed up the deficiency in modern understandings of "freedom,"
people have isolated the concept of freedom and have thereby distorted it: freedom is good, but it is only good in association with other good things... freedom must be measured according to... what we are - otherwise it abolishes itself.... If the freedom of man can only continue to exist within an ordered coexistence of freedoms, then this means that order - law - is, not the concept contrary to freedom, but its condition...The absence of law is the absence of freedom. (Truth and Tolerance, pg 245-249)
In other words, freedom, true freedom, is the right to do what is right, not the right to do whatever we happen to feel like doing. An unfettered freedom (freedom conceived as the right to do good or evil as I happen to please) is in fact the antitheses of freedom - it is slavery, the worst form of slavery, the slavery of sin which Jesus came to free us from,
"I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin." (Jn 8:34)Freedom conceived as a right to decide good and evil for ourselves (i.e. freedom divorced from virtue) is nothing other than the original sin. It is this sin, born from pride - born from the desire "to be gods" (cf. Gen 3:5), leads us out of Eden and onto the "broad road that leads to destruction" (cf. Matt 7:13).
Which is why with freedom of expression, indeed with any freedom, to quote Pope Francis, "there's a limit." That limit was crossed by Charlie Hebdo. It was crossed with those who attacked Charlie Hebdo. Both sides, then, were wrong. Which is why, while condemning the Paris attacked entirely, I am forced to say, "Non je ne suis pas Charlie."
Read CNA's coverage on the full speech over there, Pope on Charlie Hebdo: Don't Kill in God's Name, but Don't Insult the Faith and Full Transcript of Pope's Interview In-FLight to Manila.
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