Vatican newspaper calls the Charlie Hebdo cover “blasphemy”

January 6, 2016 • 11:00 am

From CNN, re the cover:

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In its commentary this week, L’Osservatore Romano, the newspaper of the Vatican state, said it’s not impressed.

“This episode isn’t something new because, behind the deceitful flag of an uncompromising secularism, the French magazine once again forgets what religious leaders of different beliefs have been repeating for a long time to reject violence in the name of religion.

“Using God to justify hatred is an authentic blasphemy, as Pope Francis repeatedly said.”

Except when it’s hatred of gays. And who is the Pope to say what an “authentic blasphemy” is for Muslims? For many Muslims, an “authentic blasphemy” involves drawing satirical pictures of Islam,or even mocking Islam. Further, many religious leaders have promoted violence in the name of God, including the Church when it had universal political power.  Does Pope Francis deny that all over the Middle East, people are using God to justify murder?

Finally, the very idea of blasphemy is ridiculous, implying that some speech about God is off limits.

And from the Guardian:

The commentary added: “In Charlie Hebdo’s choice, there is the sad paradox of a world which is more and more sensitive about being politically correct, almost to the point of ridicule, yet does not wish to acknowledge or to respect believers’ faith in God, regardless of the religion.”

I’ll acknowledge believers’ faith in God,but I won’t respect it.

49 thoughts on “Vatican newspaper calls the Charlie Hebdo cover “blasphemy”

  1. I’ve tried to come up with commandments, for the big two monotheist religions, that capture their behaviour. An attack on blasphemers would come under #2. Feel free to add more…

    The Commandments of Monotheist Religion

    1. Followers of the holy book* SHALL FORM subgroups each with a separate interpretation of the holy book*, where each subgroup, at their own convenience, SHALL SUPPORT or SHALL ATTACK other subgroups.
    2. Followers of one holy book*, at their own convenience, SHALL SUPPORT or SHALL ATTACK followers of the other holy book* and/or any other person.
    3. Followers of the holy book* SHALL INDUCT their children, throughout their childhood, to the ways of the holy book* as interpreted by their subgroup.
    4. Followers of the holy book* SHALL RESIST any attempt by a third party to provide a follower, or their child, with any facts that contradict their subgroup’s interpretation of the holy book*.
    5. If the holy book* can be interpreted to permit acts against humanity, certain followers SHALL INTERPRET the holy book* accordingly, and SHALL COMMIT said acts against humanity.
    6. Other followers of the holy book* SHALL INSIST that those committing said acts against humanity, based on said interpretation of the holy book*, are not true followers of the holy book*.
    7. Followers of the holy book* SHALL PUNISH, at their convenience, a follower who has ceased to follow.

    * The Bible, the Koran.

    1. Maybe?
      8. Followers of the holy book SHALL CLAIM ONLY ONE GOD AS “THE” and “THEIR” ONLY GOD. SHARING IS EXPRESSLY FORBIDDEN AND PUNISHABLE BY STONING OR RIDICULE whichever is in vogue at the time. Apologists, on the other hand may take a pass when publicly trying to ease conflicts between all Followers.

        1. I was reading a novel last night about computational demonology. Part way through it was revealed that the main protagonist (character “Bob Howard”) had middle names Oliver Francis. About the same time he acquired a sidekick Peter-Fred Young.

          1. OK, got the BOFH reference (though I had to google PFY).

            I wasn’t aware the Bastard Operator From Hell engaged in holy wars (though I’m not that familiar with the canon, must have a catch-up on El Reg). I thought it was more bean counters, auditors and PHB’s (to steal an acronym from Dilbert) that he persecuted.


          2. I have to say I have met good bean counters (just as I have met good Catholics). It is only their profession that is evil.

            Frequently their goodness is expressed in helping me to negotiate the minefields of their procedures, just as, I suppose, a well-intentioned priest might coach me to give the right answers to the Inquisition.

            But in both cases (the parallels are numerous) the profession/religion gives ample scope for sociopathic authoritarians to impose bizarre doctrines and generally make everyone else’s lives a misery. While we poor financial sinners try and fail to comply with the holy purity of their arcane rituals.


    2. 9. Followers of the holy book whose subgroup is the largest SHALL BLAME political correctness for the failure of others to rush to their defense.

  2. On my reading it, the statement “using God to justify hatred is a genuine blasphemy” is not saying that the Charlie Hebdo cover is blasphemy, it is a continuation of the previous sentence, saying that those who kill in the name of religion are committing blasphemy.

    Thus it is trying disassociate religion from Islamist terrorism, and so critique the Charlie Hebdo cover which does blame religion.

    1. You are correct, CNN have misread this. Note that in the original Italian article, the last two sentences are separated by a colon.

      The Vatican condemns Hebdo not for blasphemy, but for failing to give credit to the efforts of religious leaders to condemn violence and hatred in the name of religion: an example of which would be the Pope saying repeatedly that the use of God [by religious extremists] to promote hatred is blasphemy.

      “L’episodio non è una novità perché, dietro la bandiera ingannatrice di una «laicità senza compromessi», il settimanale francese ancora una volta dimentica quanto leader
      religiosi di ogni appartenenza stanno ripetendo da tempo per rifiutare la violenza in nome della religione: usare Dio per giustificare l’o dio è un’autentica «bestemmia», come ha più volte ribadito Papa Francesco.”

  3. Given that the pope said he would punch his friend’s face if he insulted his (the pope’s) mother, in relation to the attack on ‘Charlie Hebdo’, he’s personally in no position to criticize, quite apart from his Church’s history.

    I wrote a post about this yesterday, but I didn’t get around to publishing it because (as so often happens at this time of year) people from the real world turned up. Now I’ve got to add this RCC hypocrisy before I can post it!

    Like Jerry, I’m happy to acknowledge faith in God, but I do not see why I’m required to respect it. All speech should be open to criticism. Religious speech is too often regarded as being separate, even by advocates of free speech. It should be exposed, just like every other stupid idea. What are the religious so afraid of? If what they say can stand up to scrutiny, it will be exonerated. I think they know as well as we do that it can’t handle the scrutiny, which is why they’re so determined to protect it in order to protect their power.

    1. I think Jerry stated “I’ll acknowledge believers’ faith in God, but I won’t respect it” the word happy does not appear.

      Likewise It is with regret that I acknowledge believers faith in God but I am absolutely not happy about it.

    2. Their last comment is a very strange request. I would argue that society does respect religion; it gives fairly wide latitude for religious practices. Gives religious nonprofits tax benefits and breaks on property taxes, and so on. Heck, our entire western 5-day-on, 2-days-off calendar is a monument to respecting Christian religious observances.

      What they seem to be doing is equating ‘society respects’ with ‘every individual member must value it highly.’ The two are not the same. Society respects The Beatles’ music. I don’t like listening to it. These two statements are not contradictory, even though I am a member of society. The same is true for religion. French society can respect it even while Hebdo publishes mocking pieces; the two statements are not contradictory.

      1. “Society respects The Beatles’ music. I don’t like listening to it.”

        I wouldn’t let that get out. (Sarcasm)

        I once truthfully, innocently (naively? recklessly?) volunteered to a couple of Beatles enthusiasts that I did not know the Beatles song, “Because,” it having happenstancely become a topic of conversation.

        The activity in which we were involved came abruptly, unproductively, to a halt. They just couldn’t believe that I didn’t know the song (no matter how many Beatles songs I otherwise in fact did know, eh?). “And you grew up during that time!”, they bloviated.

        I responded to the effect with Dawkins’s Argument from Incredulity, but that zoomed over their heads.

        I later asked if I should have lied and said that I did know it, or kept my mouth shut and made sure to sufficiently listen to it so as to be able to know it, prior to our next get together. I also told them that it put me in a frame of mind to try to find something they didn’t know that I thought they should know. (But I didn’t tell them that I decided against it in that I would be setting a most difficult, almost impossible, task for myself.)

      2. Heck, our entire western 5-day-on, 2-days-off calendar is a monument to respecting Christian religious observances.

        Um, that’s not right, is it? When christianity ruled the west, it was 6 days on, one day off (like in the 10 commandments)–the point is that the common herd are not permitted to have any say in how they run their lives.

        It’s only the liberal, secular movements of the last few centuries that have given us the five-day work week, and corollaries such as paid vacation time, anti-child labor laws, etc.

        1. The selection of Sunday as a day off is indicative of our historical respect for Christian religious observances. If Saturday isn’t…whatever, my point still stands.

    3. The Guardian reported that the Pope had reiterated his punch-in-the-face remark, thereby excusing Muslims’ (anyone’s) violent response to perceived insults.

      Papal bull.


  4. “I’ll acknowledge believers’ faith in God, but I won’t respect it.”

    Damn’ 🙂 right. And to quote Stephen Fry in a recent QI (that was probably a repeat of a repeat of…), “Religion. Shit it!”

    1. This echoes Hitchens stance that no one’s faith in a God can be denied: it is real for them. However

      “Faith is the surrender of the mind; it’s the surrender of reason, it’s the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other mammals.”

      To suggest that we cannot fairly criticize faith for what it is, a perjury to reason, is to place the world in prison of delusion.

      1. This is a fascinating point as we are NOT different to other animals. So religion must be a false positive for something of value that we as group animals look for.
        This is why I don’t respect religion as Tinbergens beak showed us the ease of animal receptors being ‘overthat stimulated’.

    2. Why should belief in a god be respected? After all, if an adult proclaimed that they still believed in Jack Frost I would have to acknowledge that belief but I wouldn’t be expected to respect it. I see no difference between that belief and a religious belief.

  5. A Catholic acquaintance of mine argued that Islam had killed more people in the name of a god than had Christianity. I challenged him to find the numbers and he’s been silent on the topic ever since.

    1. The world population has been rising, which raises questions as to how to compare fairly. Perhaps killings should be normalized to the world population at the time of the killing. If so, YHWH takes top honours for killing all but 8 people some 4000 years ago (flood of Noah). Several religions claim that God as their own, so they can share the blame.

      1. I suppose that it is fortunate (and most convenient, eh?) for Religion that 20th/21st century weaponry was not available for it to employ in killing prior to 1900. Something worth bringing up to its apologists whenever they mention Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc.

    2. I think my response would have been something along the lines of “that’s a race to the bottom both of you lose.”

  6. “the very idea of blasphemy is ridiculous, implying that some speech about God is off limits.” It’s off limits because ‘god’ is a fragile, over-sensitive creature who could fly into a rage and cause damage, so best to tippy-toe round him for fear of triggering something.

    According to some religious traditions he’s also quite stupid. If he says women shouldn’t show their hair you can just stick a wig on and show someone else’s hair. If he says certain things can only be done in your home just string a wire from post to post round your neighbourhood and pretend everything within it is your home. Apparently the senile old duffer either doesn’t notice or is beyond caring any more.

  7. Hey Pope Frank,

    The people who are politically correct to the point of ridicule are not the same ones promoting free speech. I guess when your worldview is based on black and white dichotomies, everyone who isn’t Catholic must be the same.

  8. Although it was 800 years ago, the church which purveyed the Crusades is not in a great position to be making this comment.

    If the Jains or Amish wish to weigh in here, OK maybe.

    I recommend the book
    “The Curse of Cain: The Violent Legacy of Monotheism” by Regina Schwartz

  9. Here, a new documentary on Charlie Hebdo in French, recommended by Caroline Fourest. Screened yesterday on France 5, ‘Charlie 712’ by Jérôme Lambert and Philippe Picard and featuring the discussions over how to cover the Danish cartoon affair of 2006. Featuring Cabu and as Caroline Fourest writes, “…their hesitations, their knowledge of the risk, their sense of obligation and the effort they made to create an anti-racist cover…” In French: 50 minutes. I haven’t watched it yet, but here goes. X

    1. Godless Spellchecker has a new podcast interview with Caroline Fourest in English – about 55 minutes. Blimey, the woman is the only person on the planet able to make an interesting point about insurance. And its relation to free speech. Religion really does poison everything. x

  10. Of all the strange “crimes” that human beings have legislated out of nothing, “blasphemy” is the most amazing–with “obscenity” and “indecent exposure” fighting it out for second and third place.

    – Robert Heinlein

  11. Using God to justify hatred is an authentic blasphemy

    Those are the best type! I typically won’t pay more than $1 for a knock-off blasphemy, but if it has provenance and the proper papers showing its an authentic one…$20!

  12. Say after me, o Vaticanos, “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the…..”
    Come on, children, after me, it’s not hard. You’re usually very good at these responses.

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