Sorry, Pope Francis, but they can

Let's give Pope Francis credit for answering questions and putting himself in the middle of a mess.  It's a bit of change, specially for Catholics like me, who remember the days when the Pope waved from the balcony and not much more. 

It probably started to change when Pope John Paul II traveled to Poland and challenged communism.  I recall the events of that June 1979 and feeling so proud of Pope John Paul II.

This is what Pope Francis said:

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."

The pope is right and wrong.

He is right that people should not mock religious symbols.  I was deeply offended when Charlie Hebdo mocked Jesus or other symbols of Christianity.  That kind of humor is tasteless and adds nothing to our discussion.  It makes no point and divides people.  In other words, you can criticize the Catholic Church's position on abortion, marriage, or women in the clergy without having to show a cartoon of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost engaging in sodomy.

The pope is wrong in a bigger way.

Yes, it'd be nice if people did not use their free speech to make fun of others or to mock religious leaders.  Unfortunately, that's not reality.  We live in a world where freedom is protected and cartoonists can do whatever they want.

We don't have to buy the magazine, or watch it online.  But I will defend their right to draw the cartoons.

In the meantime, let's not get lost in the cartoons.  We do not have a "cartoon problem" in the world.  We have a serious terrorism problem that won't go away unless we confront it, and at the very least, call it by its real name. 

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