As reported by several media outlets today, Pope Francis made some observations on free speech today that likely grate on the more caustic despisers of all things religious as well as most free speech purists. While noting that free speech is a basic human right, and also adding that people have a duty to speak on matters affecting the common good, he also indicated that there are limits to freedom speech.
Here is what he said in pertinent part, “If my good friend Dr. Gasbarri [who was standing next to the Pope when the remarks were made.] It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.” He also added that this in no way justified the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, because such horrific incidents were never justified.
His remarks seem to be more practical than legal in nature. They seem to be rather common sense as well: if someone strikes to the core at something which another person values, it is reasonable to expect a reaction. While I sympathize with his comments, they do remain unfortunate. It is one thing to expect a punch or verbal retort, even in response to the most biting satire, but it is quite another to be cut in half with bullets because of a few squiggly lines accompanied by some text.
The Charlie Hebdo cartoons may have been unfair, excessive and provocative, but they were not murderous.