Mansfield Fox

Law student. Yankees fan. Massive fraggle. Just living the American dream.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Church and the Danish Cartoon Riots

On the theory that it's always good to be best at something, I welcome Yale Daily News columnist Daniel Koffler's assertion (regarding the Danish cartoon controversy) that:
The most disgraceful reaction of all came - try to act surprised - from the Vatican, which claimed that "the right to freedom of expression does not imply the right to offend religious beliefs." Thus does Cardinal Ratzinger's church put us on notice, yet again, that it is positively opposed to individual and civil rights.
Now, I'll grant that the Vatican's press release on this subject is more - diplomatic - than I would like (though I suspect the provisions Mr. Koffler cites refer more to journalistic and public-discourse ethics than to a desire to unleash the Inquisition on the editorial cartoonists of the world). Were I in the business of issuing press releases, mine would have included a more full-throated defense of the freedom of the press, and a more vigorous condemnation of the anti-cartoon riots. Nevertheless, I think there's a compelling reason that the Church adopted the position and tone it did, other than Benedict XVI's status as the nexus of all that is evil and illiberal in the world: the Muslim world - in Palestine, Iraq, Nigeria, Indonesia, the southern Philippines and elsewhere - contains a significant, and on occasion imperiled, Catholic population. Those people are already the subject of hatred and occasionally violence from Muslim extremists on the grounds that they belong to an infidel religion; to associate the Catholic Church with the cause of blaspheming Mohammed would only deepen the danger in which those people live. It's worth noting that the day after the Vatican released it's statement, an Italian missionary in Trabzon, Turkey, was martyred by a gunman shouting "Allahhu akbar!".

I understand that it is a feat of great courage to criticize the madness of these Bronze Age fanatics in the pages of a student newspaper in southern Connecticut; I just hope Mr. Koffler can be magnanimous enough to not judge too harshly those, operating in less dangerous arenas (such as, say, the Muslim world), who respond with less boldness.