Right – after an unexpectedly and unapologetically prolonged break, I have returned to the blogosphere. Much has changed since my last posting: shiny new Pope Francis (whose name, rather pleasingly, anagrams to “penis for cap”) has taken the golden throne; the repulsive Ken Ham apparently has a book; Kent Hovind has done his porridge but hasn’t learned a thing. Yet much is still the same as it ever was. Case in point:
On the anniversary of the shootings in Paris, satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo’s latest issue is causing the Vatican’s collective knees to jerk in every direction at once.
Unashamedly and incitefully proclaiming “One year later, the assassin is still on the run”, the satirists are doing what only satirists can do – cut straight to the often ugly truth hiding behind a mask of respectability. In this case – and I stress that I am going purely on the cartoon alone, not having read the issue itself – that the god of Abraham is not a god of peace, inciting and inspiring its followers to commit the most inhuman atrocities in its name. Pretty uncontroversial stuff, one who has actually read the magic storybooks might think. It’s like saying that Long John Silver walked with a limp, or that Fanny Hill put it about a bit.
But of course that wasn’t the way the Papal mafia wanted us to see it. It is, after all, their bread and butter being exposed. Through the Vatican daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, they gave this statement:
“Behind the deceptive flag of an uncompromising secularism, the French weekly once again forgets what religious leaders of every faith have been urging for ages – to reject violence in the name of religion and that using God to justify hatred is a genuine blasphemy.
“Charlie Hebdo’s move shows the sad paradox of a world which is increasingly sensitive about being politically correct to the point of being ridiculous … but does not want to recognise or respect believers’ faith in God, regardless of their religion.”
Francis – aka Jorge Mario Bergoglio – went further, telling reporters during his Asian tour:
“You can’t provoke, you can’t insult the faith of others, you can’t make fun of faith.”
No institution or individual is beyond satirical criticism. To insinuate otherwise is to deny others the very freedoms of speech, expression and belief that they demand as inviolate for themselves. I don’t need to spell out just how dangerous this path is.
Even the Vatican PR department went into a flat spin, falling over themselves to explain that he didn’t mean last year’s attacks were justified. That’s Papal Infallibility out the window, then.
By no stretch of the definition can the RCC ever be labelled a victim of bullying, not even accidentally. Bullying is the act of perniciously attacking a target that can’t defend itself or fight back. Satire, done properly, is a funhouse mirror held up to sacred cows; exaggerating the most prominent and egregious features so as to expose the truth lying concealed behind the mask. Maybe if the RCC doesn’t like what it sees, it shouldn’t blame the mirror. But I wouldn’t expect any other reaction from an institution with a disturbing habit – habit, geddit? – of blaming the victims for the church’s own failings.
But let’s leave the final word to the Catholic Bishop of Evry-Corbeil-Essonnes, Michel Dubost, and the President of the French Muslim Council, Mohammed Moussaoui, from a joint statement made in 2012 in the wake of Muslim protests at Charlie Hebdo’s publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed:
“the French Republic has as its motto: “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.”
“we defend the right to freedom and, in particular, support freedom of expression within the law”.
Much has changed. Yet much is still the same as it ever was. It’s like I’ve never been away.