The Pope Reflects on Freedom of the Press

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.

Pope_Francis_Korea_Haemi_Castle_19_(cropped)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.

May His Light Shine

“Epiphaepiphanyny” is an old term that means “revelation.” On January 6, the twelfth day of Christmas, Christians remember and celebrate the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. For centuries, the story in Matthew 2 about the wise men traveling to worship the king has been the focus of the day. As important as those verses are, my favorite Epiphany verses come from Isaiah 60: 1, “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you!”

One of the important ways to observe this day is to remember how his light has shined among you and how his glory has risen upon you. I got a call this morning from a friend whose mother had just passed away. She was born in the Texas brush country about 90 years ago as “Charleen” Brown but came to be known as, you may have already guessed it, “Charlie” Brown. My goodness, though, by whatever name she used, the light of the Lord shined through her stunningly bright and radiant.

For decades, Charlie was one of weekly greeters at George West First United Methodist Church. She met all who entered the church with a twinkle in her eyes, a welcome on her lips, and a hug or handshake (not to mention a bulletin) soon to follow. Her light—given in the name of Jesus Christ—shined for all who came through those doors.

It also shined for me in more personal ways. Our weekly Emmaus group met in her house every Tuesday morning, and she always had food ready! She was a great cook! Even more than that, though, the light that Christ shined through her that most touched my life was a caring one. My first February in George West found me in a prolonged and childish sulk over something I no longer remember. After a couple of weeks of this, one Sunday morning Charlie asked, “Mel, what are you so angry about? Don’t you know that we love you and want to help you?” She was sensitive to people, could read their moods, and would try to help them, if possible. As she spoke, I felt her love and care. For me, the sulky man-child, the cloud enshrouding me slowly dissipated in the light of her love.

Who has been the light of Christ for you? Who has “revealed” the love of Christ to you? Thank God for our Savior and for those who let his light shine through them! Amen.