The Pope’s expecting me.
Pope Francis, who is currently on a week-long tour to Asia, said on Thursday that there are limits to freedom of expression, especially when it insults someone’s faith and religion, according to media reports. The pope’s comments, made on board the papal plane en route to the Philippines from Sri Lanka, were reportedly made in response to a question about freedom of speech and religion.
“You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others,” Francis reportedly said, adding that while freedom of religion and freedom of expression are both fundamental human rights, there are limits to freedom of expression. “If my good friend Dr. Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch,” Francis said, throwing a mock punch toward his assistant standing beside him. “It’s normal.”
More recently, the Pontiff said, appearing to back track slightly on the above statement:
In theory, it may be said that the Gospel says we must turn the other cheek. In theory, we can say that we have the freedom to express ourselves, and this is important. In theory we are all in agreement, but we are human, and so there is prudence, which is a virtue in human coexistence. I cannot continually provoke or insult someone, because I would risk angering them, I risk receiving a reaction that is not right, not right. But it is human. Therefore, I say that the freedom of expression must take into consideration the reality of humanity, and for this reason I say that we must be prudent. This means we must be polite and prudent, as prudence is the virtue that regulates human relations.
In the same discussion he also touched on the well-recognized scourge facing the Catholic Church – that of irresponsible Catholics who are not contracepting and otherwise acting – in his words – “like rabbits”:
I think that three is the number of children per family that the experts say is correct to maintain the population, three per couple. When there are fewer than this, there is the other extreme, which we see in Italy where I have heard I do not know if it is true that from 2024 there will not be the money to pay pensioners. The key phrase to answer this question is the one that the Church has always used: responsible parenthood. How does one do this? Through dialogue. Every person, accompanied by their pastor, must find out how to achieve responsible parenthood. Some believe that excuse the expression to be good Catholics we must be like rabbits. No. Responsible parenthood. This is clear, and for this reason in the Church here are matrimonial groups, experts in this. I know of many, many legitimate ways to achieve this. On the other hand, for the poorest people, a child is a treasure. It is true, we must also be careful here. But for them, a child is a treasure. God knows how to help them. Perhaps some are not careful in this respect, it is true. Parenthood must be responsible. But look also at the generosity of those fathers and mothers who see every child as a treasure.
So this leads me to one observation and one question:
First, the observation. “In theory, it may be said that the Gospel says we must turn the other cheek.” Umm. Excuse me there, Holy Father, but if you check just an eensy teensy little bit, you might notice that right there in the middle of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:39) it is not just there “in theory” and it is not “may be said”.
The Beatitudes are not some e=mc² of salvation, that everyone says but no one can really understand. And since the point of your comment is directed toward your view that “we must be be polite and prudent . . . .” it seems that those, too, are merely “in theory” as you immediately segued from freedom of expression to analogizing faithful Catholics with good old Lepus curpaeums.
Which brings me to my question. Given that your comments are impolite, imprudent, and contrary to your admonition that “You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others,” can I come to the Vatican and give you a punch?
It is after all, as you say, normal.