Just an addendum to Noah’s post. Remember when Donohue told Hugh Hewitt that very important people in the Catholic Church had dialed him up to say — privately — that they agreed with his infamous statement about the Charlie Hebdo attack? Hewitt circled back to that point repeatedly: Name names. If Donohue claims to represent mainstream thought in the Church, he should be willing to say which higher-ups supposedly agree with him. Nope, replied Donohue, you’ll have to take my word for it. It sure sounded like he was talking out of his ass, inventing institutional support for his position where there was none.
Now I wonder. What’s the difference between what Donohue said and this shpiel from Francis?
“One cannot offend, make war, kill in the name of one’s own religion — that is, in the name of God,” Francis said. “To kill in the name of God is an aberration.”
But then the pope began to outline what he sees as important limits on free expression. Francis began by joking that if someone were to swear against his mother, “a punch awaits him.”
Continuing more seriously, the pope said: “One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith.”
“There is a limit,” he said. “Every religion has its dignity.”
Before anyone claims that the religiously-ignorant western media is mistranslating him, that passage comes from the National Catholic Reporter. Now go back and read Donohue’s statement on the Charlie Hebdo slaughter. What’s he guilty of that Francis isn’t? He began by condemning the murders “unequivocally.” He acknowledged in his next post that Americans have the legal right to insult his (or any other) faith — which, actually, is further than Francis went in defense of free speech in his own brief remarks. The part that got him in trouble was when he said, in a post titled, “Muslims Are Right to Be Angry,” that Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier “didn’t understand the role he played in his tragic death.” He blamed the victim by defending the killers’ rage, if not endorsing their means. And so does Francis. The “punch awaits him” line may be a joke — a really odd one coming from the leader of a faith that preaches turning the other cheek in response to provocations — but his point is clear. If you insult someone’s faith, he’s morally justified in getting very, very angry and apt to respond, immoral though it may be, with violence. I see only two slivers of daylight between him and Donohue. One is their respective timing: Donohue was blaming the victim before the bodies in Paris were cold while Francis had the good taste to wait a week. The other is in the ambiguity of the Pope’s comments about “limits” to offending religion. Donohue doesn’t think those limits should be enforced legally, or so he says. Does the Pope agree?
I’m not the only one who sees the similarities between them either. Over at the Catholic League website, Donohue himself is declaring vindication:
I am obviously delighted that the pope has taken the same position I have on this issue. Radio chatterbox Hugh Hewitt doubted last week whether a single bishop would side with me. What does he have to say now?
Regarding the pope’s quip about punching those who offend us, here is what I said to Megyn Kelly last week: “If a woman has been beaten by her husband for 20 years and one day she goes out and she blows his brains out, I think we’re going to say she’s a murderer and we ought to try her. On the other hand any sensible person would say why don’t we look at the whole issue here.”
A woman reacting in self-defense after being beaten for decades is analogous to religious believers being offended by cartoons, huh? And to think, some people say Donohue’s denunciations of violence aren’t as heartfelt as he claims. Someone should run that by Francis. I’m curious how far the “punch” logic for blasphemers extends.
Exit question: Why didn’t Francis emphasize that murder is the greater affront to God? Angela Merkel told Germans this morning that it’s terrorists who are guilty of true blasphemy, a rhetorical move that won’t persuade any jihadis but at least shows that her moral priorities are in line. Francis’s remarks, at least according to the account of the National Catholic Reporter, have more of an on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand ring to them. Murder in the name of religion is wrong. Insulting religion is also wrong. Oh well.