Tuesday, September 19

In defense of the Pope

I have no great love for Catholicism or the Pope, but I do have a great love of freedom of speech and the right to criticize that which we see as harmful to our world. And if the Pope wants to use his enormous soapbox to make commentary about one of the failings of the world's other main religions, well, he should be able to do that without it provoking ridiculous outrage including the bombing of churches and the murder of nuns.

There is no sufficient defense for these despicable acts of misguided vengeance. True, there is some obvious irony and and a smattering of hypocrisy in a Pope scolding another religion for spreading its word through compulsory and violent tactics. And it is true that many Muslims do feel oppressed in many ways by evil Westerners, and this is seen as yet another extension of that oppression. And, sure, some will say that such proclamations only harm the already precarious relationship between Europe and Islam. And, true, the Pope says shit all the time about gays, birth control, and women that I wish he wouldn't, but I don't question his right to say it and I sure as shit don't join the neighborhood church-burnin' block party when he does say crap I think is ludicrous.

So I'm with Anne Applebaum when she says this:

... I don't mean that we all need to rush to defend or to analyze this particular sermon: I leave that to experts on Byzantine theology (and to my colleague Christopher Hitchens). But we can all unite in our support for freedom of speech—surely the pope is allowed to quote medieval texts—and of the press. And we can also unite—loudly—in our condemnation of violent, unprovoked attacks on churches, embassies, and elderly nuns. By "we" I mean here the White House, the Vatican, the German Greens, the French Foreign Ministry, NATO, Greenpeace, Le Monde, and Fox News. Western institutions of the left, the right, and everything in between. True, these principles sound pretty elementary—"we're pro-free speech and anti-gratuitous violence"—but in the days since the pope's sermon, I don't feel that I've heard them defended in anything like a unanimous chorus. A lot more time has been spent analyzing what the pontiff meant to say, or should have said, or ought to have said if he had been given better advice.

And this:

Maybe it's a pipe dream: The day when the White House and Greenpeace can issue a joint statement is distant indeed. But if stray comments by Western leaders—not to mention Western films, books, cartoons, traditions, ethics, and values—are going to inspire violence on a regular basis, I don't feel that it's asking too much for the West to quit saying sorry and remain united, occasionally, in its own defense. The fanatics attacking the pope already limit the right to free speech among their own followers. I don't see why we should allow them to limit our right to free speech, too.

Dear old Sully has more here, including his takes on the logos debate. Very interesting.


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