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The Catholic Church and Free Expression:

The Church (I'm not speaking of individual Catholics, just the church hierarchy, or at least its authoritative voices), still seems not to have accepted free expression about religion, or for that matter religious freedom. Here's a Reuters report:

The Vatican on Saturday condemned the publication of cartoons lampooning the Prophet Mohammad which have outraged the Muslim world, saying freedom of speech did not mean freedom to offend a person's religion.

"The freedom of thought and expression, confirmed in the Declaration of Human Rights, can not include the right to offend religious feelings of the faithful. That principle obviously applies to any religion," the Vatican said.

"Any form of excessive criticism or derision of others denotes a lack of human sensitivity and can in some cases constitute an unacceptable provocation," it said in a statement issued in response to media demands for the Church's opinion.

The seat of the Roman Catholic Church said it deplored violent reactions to the cartoons. "Real or verbal intolerance, from wherever it comes, whether as an action or a reaction, is always a serious threat to peace." . . .

The Vatican said the institutions of a country should not be held responsible for the actions of a newspaper, but said governments "could and should intervene according to (their) national legislation".

This is not just an admonition about what's right, decent, productive, or in good taste -- rather, it's a claim that the law ought to have a relatively free hand in restricting speech that "offend[s] religious feelings of the faithful," which apparently includes some unstated amount of "excessive criticism or derision of others" that "denotes a lack of human sensitivity." May we still publish the works of Martin Luther? How about of Christopher Hitchens? The Last Temptation of Christ? The religious works of the Jehovah's Witnesses? A historical film in which some actor plays Mohammed? How about linking to the cartoons themselves (as I've done before)? Seeing the cartoons is , yet surely some who believe that any depiction of Mohammed is blasphemy can be offended even by a republication that's aimed at exploring the controversy.

This is not a marginal issue; it is at the core of the rights of free speech and religious freedom. Under the position the Vatican sets forth, large zones of religious debate, political debate, and art would be outlawed.

I realize this is just a press account; I've searched for an English-language version of the Vatican statement itself, but couldn't find it. I would love to learn that this is all just a misquote; if that's so, please do let me know. But if the account is accurate, it speaks pretty badly of the Church.

Thanks to Tim Cavanaugh at Reason's Hit & Run for the pointer.

nk (mail) (www):
I am sure that Reuters tilted the story as far as it could to make it look like a criticism of the newspapers. This blog reported only a few days ago the slanting of the U.S. State Department's statement. Socrates said, "To speak laconically is wisdom". (To lakonizein estin philosophein). It has been carried down as "brevity is the sole of wit". He may have been saying, "the more you say, the more you are likely to be misquoted". We should get the whole Vatican statement.

Off subject: When I go to McDonald's for a happy meal for my daughter, which includes a toy, I am asked "For a boy or for a girl?" The death of Betty Friedann reminds me of a Supreme Court case which held advertising "toys for boys" and "toys for girls" was sex discrimination. It also drew a distinction for commercial speech. Is that case still good law?
2.5.2006 6:47pm
anonymous coward:
If I don't have the right to say offensive things about religion, does that also abridge the right of the religious to say I'm going to burn in hell for eternity?
2.5.2006 6:55pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
"The freedom of thought and expression, confirmed in the Declaration of Human Rights, can not include the right to offend religious feelings of the faithful."

The breadth of this is amazing. I mean, the simple admission that a person is gay offends the religious feelings of many faithful. Saying the earth was not the center of the universe once offended the religious feelings of the faithful. I thought the Church had learned something...
2.5.2006 7:15pm
Sydney Carton (www):
To be fair, this plainly is the work of Vatican bureaucrats. Anyone who's read any of the published works of Ratzinger (Pope Benedict) knows that he is an intellectual and thus views fair criticism of religion as essential in exploring the truth of faith.

If this story isn't misquoted, I'll bet that it's followed up with another "clarification." Vatican bureacrats are just as bad as government bureaucrats.
2.5.2006 7:27pm
steve k:
The Vatican's position is not only a bad idea, it's also, probably, unworkable (in any ratinal, fair manner, that is). For instance, a certain amount of religious belief includes the condemnation of other religious beliefs (look at the Ten Commandments, for instance). The state will have to choose between favored and unfavored religious expression.

And as Mill and others have pointed out, being immune from criticism is not a good thing (though it may feel good)—even if you're 100% certain of your side, it leads to stale orthodoxy, all the more easily cut down when new ideas become too powerful to contain.

Also, check out Pajama Guy on this issue.
2.5.2006 7:48pm
Mobius (mail):
This reminds me of the difference between legally culpable behavior and morally culpable behavior in criminal law. Is it legally wrong to not help someone in duress, usually no, is it morally wrong, usually yes. The same analogy can be said about tort law and intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress. Is it illegal to say something mean spirited or even obscene, no; is it immoral, yes.

This leads to a duality from public officials; they will endorse no law that prohibits free speech, but they will vigorously condemn the "immoral" behavior. I feel this is what should happen and what is happening.
2.5.2006 8:09pm
jpaulg (mail):
I missed the memo saying that the Vatican was a representative democracy with a Bill of Rights enshrining the right to free speach. Perhaps as a religous enclave it might have a vested interest in promoting the idea that the press should treat religions with respect.
2.5.2006 8:17pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Sydney,

I had a bar mitzvah so I'm not particularly knowledgeable about the way the Vatican works internally. A couple of questions:

(1) Why would something this significant be delegated to a bureaucrat?

(2) Even if it was delegated to a bureaucrat, presumably Ratzinger at least saw and approved it, right?

(3) I think people are pretty concerned about this because, obviously, the Vatican is the moral compass for a lot of people. Do you think that the statement's moral force will be diminished by the authorship issue?

Thanks,
Lee
2.5.2006 8:18pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
If I don't have the right to say offensive things about religion, does that also abridge the right of the religious to say I'm going to burn in hell for eternity?

Of course not. If they're sufficiently Calvinist, that's not even criticism. God (for whatever reason, which may be divinely arbitrary) did not choose you for one of his elect, and thus you were hosed from the beginning for reasons beyond your control.
2.5.2006 8:27pm
CEB:
The baffling part of this is that it says that it is wrong to offend the religious feelings of the members of any religion. Putting aside the question of what a "religious feeling" is--maybe just a bad translation, doesn't religious belief by its very nature "offend" every other religion. The belief (and declaration) that Mohammed is God's prophet is a direct affront and repudiation of the beliefs of Christians, just as the belief that Jesus is the son of God is an affront to Muslims. I am non-religious &cannot for the life of me figure out how one can be an adherent of one religion &also have "tolerance" for all others.
2.5.2006 9:18pm
steve k:
The Vatican may not be required to support freedom of speech (as noted above), but it claims to. As Volokh quotes them, they seem to accept "freedom of thought and expression, confirmed in the Declaration of Human Rights...." Yet, apparently, their understanding of this "freedom" doesn't include the right to offend religious feelings, which either suggests weak support for or a weak understanding of what constitutes free speech.
2.5.2006 9:47pm
AnonymouslyYours (mail):
"The Church... still seems not to have accepted free expression about religion, or for that matter religious freedom."

Not getting to the merits of what you're saying, this strikes me as a really biased thing to say about the Catholic Church. Can you give me examples of where the Catholic Church "has not accepted religious freedom." I believe that this was one of the foundational tenets of the previous Pope, which helped bring the downfall of Marxism in your home country, Mr. Volokh.
2.5.2006 9:59pm
Patrick McKenzie (mail):
For what its worth, this is no more the position of the Church than the State Department's quoted statement is the position of America. It is the position of, at worst, the Vatican's diplomatic office, and carries no ecclasiastical weight. The Vatican's diplomatic office, like diplomatic offices everywhere, emphasizes conflict avoidance to frankly absurd lengths, especially vis-a-vis Muslims. If I can make the most attuenated defense possible, there are sizeable Catholic minorities in a lot of the countries which are burning Danish flags currently and the Church does not have the option of protecting its people through force of arms, nor do churches have even the ineffectual protection from harm that embassies theoretically have in international law. I still think the statement is wrong as both a philosophical and theological position and excessively craven besides, but its not wholly beyond reason.

Someone above asked why a position of this magnitude would be left to a bureacrat. One might as well ask why the State Department is allowed to weigh in on something as important as a foundational freedom guaranteed in the First Amendment. Answer: because there are factions and turf-wars in every bureacracy, and because when you put a microphone in front of a career diplomat you're going to get a dissembling palabum because that is the core competence of career diplomats whether they wear a collar or not.
2.5.2006 10:29pm
Giant Slurpee:
Zenit.org offers this English translation of the Vatican's statement:

In response to several requests on the Holy See's position vis-à-vis recent offensive representations of the religious sentiments of individuals and entire communities, the Vatican press office can state:

1. The right to freedom of thought and expression, sanctioned by the Declaration of the Rights of Man, cannot imply the right to offend the religious sentiment of believers. This principle applies obviously for any religion.

2. In addition, coexistence calls for a climate of mutual respect to favor peace among men and nations. Moreover, these forms of exasperated criticism or derision of others manifest a lack of human sensitivity and may constitute in some cases an inadmissible provocation. A reading of history shows that wounds that exist in the life of peoples are not cured this way.

3. However, it must be said immediately that the offenses caused by an individual or an organ of the press cannot be imputed to the public institutions of the corresponding country, whose authorities might and should intervene eventually according to the principles of national legislation. Therefore, violent actions of protest are equally deplorable. Reaction in the face of offense cannot fail the true spirit of all religion. Real or verbal intolerance, no matter where it comes from, as action or reaction, is always a serious threat to peace.
2.5.2006 11:00pm
Clint:
The obvious response would seem to be a hastily sketched cartoon lampooning the Vatican's position.

Perhaps an Inquisitor in full regalia explaining to Gallileo that he can't publish his paper on Heliocentrism as it might offend the religious sensibility of some Catholics.
2.5.2006 11:17pm
dew:

"doesn't religious belief by its very nature "offend" every other religion"

Well, they usually “offend” only in the sense that they disagree. Many people in the world still can still politely agree to disagree about many deeply held beliefs.

As far as I can tell, this is not that different than many non-religious contexts. That I will sometimes happily state that, “Bambi and Thumper are good to eat,” tells you about my diet, but I have friends that are hard-core vegetarians, including a couple of “vegans”. I like and respect them, and generally eat veggie when I go to restaurants with them. They respect my choices and seem to like me even if they think my choices are sometimes gross and even odious.
2.5.2006 11:19pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Kovarsky,

(1) Why would something this significant be delegated to a bureaucrat?
For the same reason the U.S.'s statement came from a State Department bureaucrat. The president's a busy man; so's the Pope. He may speak about it if asked at a press conference, but he doesn't generally personally speak for the U.S. government on most subjects.
(2) Even if it was delegated to a bureaucrat, presumably Ratzinger at least saw and approved it, right?
No reason to think so. This wasn't a statement of church Doctrine. Do you think Bush (or Clinton, if you think Bush is too disengaged) preclears everything the WH press secretary -- let alone the State Department -- says?
2.5.2006 11:28pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Not getting to the merits of what you're saying, this strikes me as a really biased thing to say about the Catholic Church. Can you give me examples of where the Catholic Church "has not accepted religious freedom."

Well, there was the encyclical Quanta Cura (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quanta_cura)... but that was Pio Nino. After he caught flak over it, he had to have some folks write up a justification that amounted to "yes, he wrote that, but at some deep level he actually meant the opposite." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syllabus_of_Errors).

It was issued while Pius IX was still a bit upset about the loss of the Papal States. Although you'd have thought that a person would appreciate that putting bets on who would lose, in a fight between the French army and the Italian one, was going to be a risky proposition.

It is amusing that the French response to the encyclical was ... to outlaw its publication.
2.5.2006 11:29pm
Jim C. (mail):
Actually, I think this is "just an admonition about what's right, decent," etc. To the extent it's a statement about law, it's an attempt to finesse the question. I would paraphrase the Vatican's position this way: Morally, the cartoons are offensive as a deliberate provocation to believers. Legally, governments might and should act "according to principles of national legislature" — which comes close to being a content-free statement. If principles of national legislation forbid any government action, as they do in the U.S., it seems like the Vatican is fine with that.
2.5.2006 11:32pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Bottom line: almost every standard of free speech has some limit for "offensiveness." In American law, the standard is "fighting words," and very narrowly drawn. European standards, I gather, are closer to "make someone else feel uncomfortable or excluded." The papal standard is closer to the latter. What we consider robust public debate they consider impermissible offensive.

How one reconciles that with soccer rioting is beyond me. But then, so is modern Europe.
2.5.2006 11:36pm
Sydney Carton (www):
Kovarsky,

I call B.S. on this story for several reasons.

1. It is unattributed. "The Vatican" doesn't say anything. It has departments, Congregations, Bishops and Cardinals who lead them, etc. No single individual is attributed to any statement in this story at all.

2. The Vatican also puts out an official newspaper, which sometimes has editorials in which their position on subjects are explained. But not always. I suspect that this "statement" was probably an editorial in that paper. But merely because it was an editorial doesn't mean it was the Vatican position (a fact which many reporters are ignorant of). The Vatican often submits editorials to the paper, but doesn't write all of them.

3. No, the Pope wouldn't have seen it if it was an editorial of that paper or if it was an off-the-hand remark of a Bishop or Cardinal.

4. The Vatican has affices which are equivilent to the Secretary of State, as well as theological offices dealing with drafting religious papers, and also bureaucratic offices for the running of the Church. They don't always talk to each other, and one off-hand comment from a diplomat calling for religious tolerance can be misinterpreted as saying that "Catholicism has a problem with Free Expression." The theological departments would have a serious problem with such a remark.

Ratzinger wrote a book called Truth and Tolerance. He discusses philosophical argumentation, respect for other religions and cultures, but also the importance of seeking the Truth. Obviously, the Truth (according to Catholics) will offend, because according to the Church, Islam is a false religion (it is theologically wrong, as well as historically inaccurate).

Anyway, bottom line: it is ridiculous to suggest that the Catholic Church has a problem with free speech, when the current Pope's authorship is so clearly in favor of an open philosophical search for the Truth (and yes, he does discuss Martin Luther). Sheesh, Eugene!
2.5.2006 11:37pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Anyway, bottom line: it is ridiculous to suggest that the Catholic Church has a problem with free speech, when the current Pope's authorship is so clearly in favor of an open philosophical search for the Truth (and yes, he does discuss Martin Luther). Sheesh, Eugene!

And yet, based on the current quote "they" (presumably, some person or persons in the Holy See) appear to suggest governments might ban lampooning others -- which is, in fact, inhibiting freedom of speech.

All this means is they think it's ok to write "scholarly thoughtful" criticisms, but other types of criticism (presumably nastly mean spirited ones) should be banned.

I went to Catholic High School in the US and primary school in El Salvador. There are ranges of thoughts on freedom of speech among Catholics in the US and other countries. The idea that some types of speech should be squelched by rule of law doesn't sound totally out of the realm of RC thinking to me!
2.5.2006 11:58pm
JGR (mail):
I accept that this may not be the official position of the catholic church; What is noteworthy is that for a group of well educated people (the bureaucrats) this is still an incredibly stupid statement, and not just for libertarian/free speech reasons.
The notion that all religions deserve equal respect is just stupid. What about religions that practice human sacrifice? What about Thuggism, the religion which practiced wanton violence and from which the word "thug" is derived. To be fair, most of these "all religions are the same" sentiments come from the loony left and self-described cultural relativists, not from the more devout religious members.
When I read accounts of the Church of Scientology, I am often struck by the fact that many secular writers who have never had a good word for "organized religion" nonetheless include an opening phrase such as "The church of scientology is not a normal religion", and go on to explain the brutal business philosophy, immoral tactics etc. Some of these writers have written essays blanketly grouping all religions together as evil conspiricies (standard leftist tripe) but suddenly come face to face with an actual "religion" which seems to embody their caricature of the catholic church or mainstream evangelicism, and they suddenly seem to admit that, yes, Christian churches actually feed the poor and provide spiritual sustenance, and feel they need to stress that the Church of Scientology is not like "normal" religions.
2.6.2006 12:07am
TRC:
Eugene criticizes the Church’s admonition that “Any form of excessive criticism or derision of others denotes a lack of human sensitivity and can in some cases constitute an unacceptable provocation.” Such statements can be rational: Allowing one group of people to print cartoons disparaging another people’s religion could produce a marginal increase in violence -- and this possibility is separate from (but related to) the issue of whether to outlaw such cartoons.
2.6.2006 12:09am
ficus:
The author of the statement is given as Sr. Navarro Valls in the French version of the Zenit story; go <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.zenit.org/french/">here</a> and click on the item "La liberte d'expression...," and see the last paragraph.
This gentleman, who has been the chief Vatican press officer for many years, is just that; he is not a diplomat. In writing this he was apparently responding to calls from some people for a statement. I imagine that his chief concern in issuing the statement was to do no harm. Beyond that, he was in moral exhortation mode, as it seems to me.
2.6.2006 12:16am
ficus:
This is the link.

Sorry about that.
2.6.2006 12:18am
Gene Vilensky (mail) (www):
The question isn't even the content of what was written. I think that given that Danish and Norwegian embassies have been burned down, fatwas were issued against the cartoonists, etc. criticizing the fact that the cartoonists may have done something wrong while paying mere lip service to the evils of violence seems to be poor timing. Again, I will pose the same hypothetical as I posed in a previous thread about the Boston Globe. If your best friend's brother insulted some guy, unwarranted and that guy then torched your best friend's family's vacation house, threatened to kill your best friend's brother and threatened to kill your best friend, the proper response would not be for you to issue a statement saying how wrong your best friend's brother was to insult the other guy. I'm sorry, but the libertarian argument is actually less important than the geopolitical one. There is a conflict between civilization and barbarism out there and the Vatical is so tone-deaf as to think that the focus of their statement ought to be the cartoonists. Shameful, absolutely shameful.
2.6.2006 12:40am
Anthony (mail):
2.6.2006 1:04am
Eugene Volokh (www):
AnonymouslyYours: The failure to respect religious freedom is right there in the Vatican statement -- if people may be legally barred from speech that "offend[s] religious feelings of the faithful," then they can't express their religious sentiments when those sentiments are seen as offensive or blasphemous by other groups. Much speech that is antireligious or blasphemous to one religion is the very doctrine of another religion.

Under the Vatican's view, Martin Luther could be legally barred from expressing his religious views, the Jehovah's Witnesses from expressing theirs, and so on. Any religion whose practice involves denunciation of other religions, or even involves what other religions see as blasphemy, would be subject to restriction. Perhaps, as anonymous coward suggested, this would even include any religion that suggests that those who believe (or disbelieve) certain things are damned to hell, since this may well offend religious feelings of other groups.
2.6.2006 1:40am
Thomas Roland (mail):
CEB said:" I ... cannot for the life of me figure out how one can be an adherent of one religion &also have "tolerance" for all others."

I was bred and reared in one of the religions of the tri-partite desert god(s)--the one that is himself likewise divided three ways while not being divided at all (yeah, I know), making the Holy Ghost one-ninth of the whole, I suppose.

You're sense is entirely correct as it applies to Yahweh/Jehovah/Allah because each such god is THE ONLY ONE and speaks THE ONLY TRUTH and demands TOTAL SUBSERVIENCE etc. etc. ad absurdum. If there is only one god and all purported others are pretenders, an adherent of one by logical necessity must be intolerant of all others, nothwithstanding the considerable fudging by the Vatican and others.

But the desert god(s) constitute a tiny minority of the number of all extant and/or extinct religions. (Unfortunately the number of adherents of the desert gods' religions is not a tiny minority of all religious people.) The vast majority of religions are not monotheistic, and most of the religions that have or have had personified gods (and not all do) admit the existence of gods of other religions or peoples. In those cases there may be intolerance, but tolerance is logically possible and often exists or has existed. Indeed, one finds many people in the far east adhering to more than one religion simultaneously and not logically inconsistently.
2.6.2006 1:50am
Kovarsky (mail):
Sydney, thank you very much. That was very informative.

David, I'm not sure why you responded with such a hostile tone. As I think I made clear in my post, I don't claim to have any knowledge about the way the Vatican works. And I'm not sure what to make of your odd assertion that I should intuit by analogy that the Vatican's equivalent of Scott McClellan would be institutionally empowered to release a very heavily scrutinized public document that was entirely at odds with his boss's philosophy.

And even assuming that it wasn't obvious that the accuracy of the analogy wasn't within the express scope of my question, I still don't think that once you analogize to the U.S. presidency and say, ok , the president has to delegate some of his decisionmaking, that it follows that his delegates can be expected to publish statements like this that are not conspicuously at odds with the express beliefs of their boss.

I might go as far as to say that Sydney and David's responses provide a nice contrast illustrating the way to constructively answer an honest question.
2.6.2006 1:50am
JGR (mail):
"I am non-religious &cannot for the life of me figure out how one can be an adherent of one religion &also have "tolerance" for all others."

"If there is only one god and all purported others are pretenders, an adherent of one by logical necessity must be intolerant of all others"

Both of these statements are based on a misunderstanding of the word "tolerance". To be tolerant of something is BY DEFINITION to disapprove or disagree with it. Hence a person who believes that homosexuality or adultery is a sin can be tolerant of homosexuals or adulterers in a number of different ways - They might oppose laws criminalizing the activities; they may refrain from constantly lecturing their coworkers on the grounds that a workplace should be a neutral environment etc. A person who DOES NOT believe that there is anything wrong with homosexuality or adultery is not "tolerant" of either, they are simply indifferent. The word "tolerance" presupposes disapproval.
As with so many other words, the political left redifined "tolerance" in an Orwellian fashion so that "tolerance" towards a viewpoint was frequently used to mean "never express disagreement" with a viewpoint. Conservatives have been pointing out for years the stupidity of this redefinition, and in actual fact, the left has recently begun to show signs that they recognize the misdefinition. Hence Albert Gore gave a speech a few years disapproving of the word "tolerance" towards groups such as homosexuals precisely because it implies moral disapproval. Some liberal universities have recently begun purging the word from their "offical" lexicon for similar reasons.
Of course, all of this explains why tolerance was long considered a virtue (loosely speaking, something that governs a passion.) If tolerance were simply apathy, it would scarcely be a virtue.
2.6.2006 5:38am
CEB:
JGR-
Good clarification, but the more virtuous form of tolerance is even more confusing to me. If someone truly believes that a certain behavior or belief is an affront to God, and is punishable by damnation, wouldn't they be compelled to let the person know and try to get them to stop the behavior or belief instead of tolerating it and letting them continue to offend God at their peril. It reminds me of the Nietzsche aphorism (not that I'm a fan, but a stopped clock is right twice a day): "It is not their love of mankind, but the impotence of their love of mandkind, that keeps the Christians of today from burning us."
2.6.2006 8:25am
Pete Freans (mail):
As a Roman Catholic, I did not participate in the election of Pope Benedict. In fact, I have not participated in any selection of any religious hierarchy at any moment of my life here on earth. Now why is that? Doesn't Vatican City, as a sovereign nation, have a constitution similar to the U.S., which protects the freedom speech the Professor is defending? Does Church law respect a women’s right to privacy, as our Constitution creatively does, to undergo an abortion? Shouldn’t a lay person (or those clergy have fallen from grace, if you know what mean) demand the ability to abort a fetus at Vatican City?

My strenuous point is this: the Church has never been a democracy and most members understand this. Those who didn’t joined Mr. Luther who was perfectly within his God given natural right of free will to break away. In some regards, the Vatican is not bound by secular jurisprudence. I emphasize in some regards because I am well aware of the abuse scandals which no Catholic has any tolerance for.

While the Church has the prerogative to express its opinion on recent events that may not reflect our American values, its short statement on the subject does not encourage blanket censorship. I believe it does suggest that governments should act if their laws permit them to do so. I’m sure the Professor is well aware that speech laws are very different in the U.K. (defamation, for example) and Germany (Nazi speech, for example) and yet they are no less a democracy.
2.6.2006 8:32am
Jim Christiansen (mail):
The failure to respect religious freedom is right there in the Vatican statement — if people may be legally barred from speech that "offend[s] religious feelings of the faithful," then they can't express their religious sentiments when those sentiments are seen as offensive or blasphemous by other groups.

I think you are taking this statement much too seriously. It is neither doctrinal nor legal but rather diplomatic, i.e., designed to sound vaguely sympathetic while saying very little. For the Church's position on religious freedom, see Vatican II's Declaration on Religious Freedom, especially the following:

"The social nature of man, however, itself requires that he should give external expression to his internal acts of religion: that he should share with others in matters religious; that he should profess his religion in community. Injury therefore is done to the human person and to the very order established by God for human life, if the free exercise of religion is denied in society, provided just public order is observed."

I think justice to the Church demands that her statements be interpreted in the light of long-established teachings. If you want to read the press release as inconsistent with the Declaration on Religious Freedom, I think you're over-reading. Even if you're right, however, we should take comfort from the reflection that the Church does not overrule conciliar statements by means of press releases.
2.6.2006 9:07am
Amy Dubruiel (mail) (www):
This statement came from the Vatican Press office, and the spokesman is not "Sr." but Dr. Dr Joaquin Navarro-Valles, the long-time head of that department, whose statements in the past have not gone unchallenged.

I think Jim Christiansen's interpretation is close to the mark.
2.6.2006 9:18am
Tim A:
Does anyone know what the Vatican has said about Oriana Fallaci, a person who actually faces government sanction for her "villification" of Islam?
2.6.2006 9:55am
Sarah (mail) (www):
Searches for the statement (in English) on the Vatican site turn up zilch:

http://vatican.mondosearch.com/

(I tried "freedom," "derision," and "Mohammed," before getting bored)

In my church, at least, we make a distinction between what someone says while officially speaking for the church, and what they say while they're just talking on their own behalf (even though they may hold an official position and may be speaking about topics related to the church or doctrine.)

I'm sort of inclined to give the Vatican the benefit of the doubt on this one, if it's not on the site (but it could be on the site; I've had only moderate success in finding things there that I'm pretty sure ought to be there, since I have to guess as to how they'll translate things to English.)
2.6.2006 10:00am
JGR (mail):
"JGR-
Good clarification, but the more virtuous form of tolerance is even more confusing to me. If someone truly believes that a certain behavior or belief is an affront to God, and is punishable by damnation, wouldn't they be compelled to let the person know and try to get them to stop the behavior or belief instead of tolerating it and letting them continue to offend God at their peril."

I am inclined to agree with a basic point: It really is true that many of our cherished liberal institutions (I'm using "liberal" in its traditional and more respectable sense) are not philosophically compatible - or are so only with difficulty - with many fundamentalist religions. Bertrand Russell once pointed out that early Christians would bash open a baby's head because babies were guaranteed entry to heaven, whereas if they lived to the age of culpability they could wind up in hell; and although almost all modern Christians would oppose this, they can't give any good reason. Technically, this isn't true - there are biblical injunctions against murder as well as harming children; but this does serve to illustrate that a genuine religious belief can have very radical moral implications.
I think that if someone really believes that everyone except religion x is bound to hell for all eternity, it is hard not to support outlawing other religions in cases where it is possible. The matter isn't quite as stark for Catholics who believe in purgatory, although I think it's still stark.
But it is possible and even to varying degrees the general rule for Christians to be tolerant for pragmatic reasons. I myself grew up in a fundamentalist, Pentecostal church. Although they believed very strongly in converting others, there was a general and even official recognition that the best way to accomplish this was through serving as a living example, not through lecturing others. If a member invited someone to church and they declined, they didn't keep inviting them every day - probably not on the grounds that it wasn't "tolerant", just because they knew that they would only turn that person off for good.
There is also a theological doctrine that goes back to St. Augustine - "the two kingdoms", the City of God and the City of Man. There is a general recognition among theologians that these are two realms that are complimentary but to some degree distinct. Even my fundamentalist pastor would quote Jesus' admonition to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's. One can support tolerance as a pragmatic neccessity in socio-politics.
When C Everett Koop was chosen as surgeon general, there was a lot of controversy because he was a Christian fundamentalist. Many people - most liberals but also some conservatives - were surprised when Koop took a strong role advocating condoms when the Aids epidemic hit. Koop cited the "two kingdoms" model as his governing philosophy.
During the sixties, there was a famous debate in National Review magazine between Frank Meyer and Brent Bozell on how far the role of the state should go in advocating virtue or freedom. Bozell's essay "Freedom or Virtue?" is still one of the best essays around arguing for a strong government role in inculcating virtue. Like many abstract doctrines, the doctrine of the two kingdoms is open to different interpretations and can mean different things to different people.
2.6.2006 10:33am
gvibes (mail):
For a quick primer on "tolerance" as used in the phrase "religious tolerance," please see the Lemmiwinks/Museum of Tolerance episode of South Park.
2.6.2006 11:01am
anonymoose (mail):
Catholics recognize there's a difference between what the civil authorities should stop people from doing, and the prudential judgment for what people should stop themselves for doing.

Except for the last paragraph, this is clearly an expression of the latter - what the Vatican doesn't want is Catholics piling on.

However, remember: we're dealing with an organization that spans many, many reasons. I take the last paragraph to mean, if there are laws against publishing stuff that might be inciting someone towards hatred of a religion, then they should be enforced equally to the benefit of Muslims as to that of Christians. If not, then not.
2.6.2006 11:02am
anonymoose (mail):
'reasons'=='nations'. Dumb typo.
2.6.2006 11:02am
Pete Freans (mail):
Tim A:

Ms. Fallaci has been a long critic of the Catholic Church, so I would assume that she has few fans there. See www.nationalreview.com/comment/vidino200405040834.asp for a thorough review of her book and her background.

Her second book, The Rage and the Pride, is just as hard hitting. It’s unfortunate that they have practically compared these books to Adolph Hitler's “Mein Kampf”. There is no question that the author has written reactionary books; her way of life, according to this author, is being held hostage. While the level of rhetoric may not fit my reasoning, her anger is well understood.
2.6.2006 11:41am
dweeb:
Does anyone notice that the Vatican is all in a lather about publishing images offensive to Muslims, but was notably silent about images of a crucifix in a jar of urine and a paintint of the Virgin Mary smeared with elephant dung? Does this mean that this Lent, we'll be allowed to eat meat on Friday as long as it's not pork?
2.6.2006 1:10pm
Neal Lang (mail):
Under the Vatican's view, Martin Luther could be legally barred from expressing his religious views,

Your analogy is wrong for any number of reasons. Mainly because Martin Luther, himself, was a Roman Catholic priest and academic theologian of some repute when he nailed his "Ninety-five Theses" to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg. This act was not a "challenge" to Church authority, as some would have it, but instead the accepted way for academics at the local university to put forth items for debate. Luther was not looking to mock the Church or her teachings, but instead he was putting on the table certain objections to practices he felt were contrary to his understanding of Revealed faith. His intentions were good, as he believed he was benefit HIS Church. Interestingly, much of Luther's critique was well deserved, as the the Church later made changes that reflected his objections. Unfortunately human vanity entered the picture and each side harded their positions and the rest is, as they say, "history". If you willing to open your mind to a revision of your historic misconceptions, I suggest reading Martin Luther to get a better picture of just what was involved in the Luther controversy.

As for the "Vatican's view" perhaps it might help to recall how even recently the Church was condemned for not taking a forceful enough position when it came to the Nazis and their anti-Semitic ways leading to the Holocaust. In fact, Pope Pius XII, a truly good and saintly man was unfairly featured as Hilter's Pope in a supposely scholarly book of the same name. Perhaps such criticism could explain the "knee-jerk" reaction when it comes demeaning peole of other cultures and faiths.

The Holocaust can be directly related to religious and racial bigotry that was fomented through the press, literature and the arts (movies, etc.) in countries that agreed the genocide was to be the final solution to improve the species by ridding the World of these undesireables.

The concept of "free speech" as it was understood here in America at the time of our founding did not include a license to do evil. The idea of freedom to speech and the press was always intended to facilitate the finding of the truth. The truth will never be found with conversations, publications, or cartoons the begin with an insult.
2.8.2006 2:14pm
JGR (mail):
Neal Lang,

Your historical digression into the life of Luther has very little to do with anything Volokh wrote. It is true that the nailing of the theses to the door is often misunderstood even by educated people (there are hundreds of these misconceptions, see also Galileo) but what does that have to do with anything? First, Volokh did not write "Under the Vatican's rules, Luther would have been immediatley prohibited from nailing theses to the door". He stated "Under the Vatican's view, Martin Luther could be legally barred from expressing his religious views".
Of course, the Church did eventually declare some of Luther's teachings heresy. Wikipedia gives this short account of why he wasn't more immediately suppressed:
"Luther was branded a heretic, and the pope, who had determined to suppress his views, summoned him to Rome.
Yielding, however, to the Elector Frederick, who the pope hoped would become the next Holy Roman Emperor and who was unwilling to part with his theologian, the pope did not press the matter, and the cardinal legate Cajetan was deputed to receive Luther's submission at Augsburg (Oct. 1518)."
This gets to the heart of the irony in your response - The Catholic church did routinely suppress heretics, so it is somewhat silly to try to turn the whole debate on whether Luther would have been suppressed at one particular point in spacetime.
At any rate, if you're still caught up in what the Church would have done to Luther at time x, just pick another analogy - "Under the Vatican's view, the church could have banned Bertrand Russell's 'Why I am not a Christian'.

"The idea of freedom to speech and the press was always intended to facilitate the finding of the truth. The truth will never be found with conversations, publications, or cartoons [that] begin with an insult."
I would agree - and Volokh repeatedly stresses to we commentators - that insults alone are not generally the most productive way of expressing an idea. (Although technically your last sentence still isn't true. Many of the most profound works in the English language are from authors who were not above using copious insults (see Nietzsche). But you seem to be willfully missing the point that "insults" - defined broadly as something that someone (anyone) takes offence to hearing or seeing - are often inextricably entwined with the expression of ideas. Even if you allow (correctly) that the First Amendment has been strectched beyond its original meaning in covering areas such as nude dancing, the fact still remains that political cartoons were around at the time of America's founding and are almost certainly covered under the First Amendment even for an originalist. I am not going to bother rehashing the reasons why some of these cartoons are making obviously valid intellectual points - This has been repeatedly covered on this blog and the whole blogosphere.
2.8.2006 7:45pm
Neal Lang (mail):
First, Volokh did not write "Under the Vatican's rules, Luther would have been immediatley prohibited from nailing theses to the door". He stated "Under the Vatican's view, Martin Luther could be legally barred from expressing his religious views".

First, I fail to see where "the Vatican" was recommending "rules" of any sort, accept perhaps asking people to exercise good taste and proper decorum in presenting contrary theological view. Apparently, you and Mr. Volokh would prohibit the Church from speaking on matters of what is "right" and what is "wrong". Perhaps you are, in fact, the "pots, calling the kettle black".

Second, I did not bring up Martin Luther, Mr. Volokh did. And he did so in a fashion that completely distorts the historical facts of the case with regards to the Church disiplining one of its Priest who strayed off the reservation. By use of the Luther heresy, both you and Mr. Volokh seem to be saying that Church must be disbarred from defining the "truth".

Of course, inasmuch as Martin Luther was an ordained Roman Catholic Priest and monk of the Augustinian order, he had sworn a sacred oath to defend the Faith from heresy. A vow which he arguably violated. I suggest that Luther's covenant with the Church put him a unique position with regards to what he may or may not profess as doctrine, especially if he wished to remain "in communion" with his Church. It would be one thing for a Priest scholar to argue the relevance of indulgences in "Revealled Faith" in an academic setting, but quite another to take the controversy public, in violation to one's sacred oath and Priestly vows. Sort of like relating top secret "sources and methods" of intelligence gathering to the press because you might not like the NSA Terrorist Surveillance program, when you have signed binding confidentiality agreements.
"Luther was branded a heretic, and the pope, who had determined to suppress his views, summoned him to Rome.
Yielding, however, to the Elector Frederick, who the pope hoped would become the next Holy Roman Emperor and who was unwilling to part with his theologian, the pope did not press the matter, and the cardinal legate Cajetan was deputed to receive Luther's submission at Augsburg (Oct. 1518)."
This gets to the heart of the irony in your response - The Catholic church did routinely suppress heretics, so it is somewhat silly to try to turn the whole debate on whether Luther would have been suppressed at one particular point in spacetime.

Are you suggesting that Pope does not, or cannot speak for the Church on matters of Faith and Doctrine? BTW, the Canon Law judicial procedures required to establish a finding of "heresy" and declaring someone a "heretic" are quite extensive, with the rights of the accused protected at every level.

However, it would appear that you are suggesting that while it is quite okay for the heretic to profess their ideas, apparently you would deny the Church the right to defend its doctrine. Again, in the case of Martin Luther or any heretic, the merely defends itself from the false teaching and separates the "false teacher" from itself. Would you deny the Church the right to "self-defense"?
The term heresy connotes, etymologically, both a choice and the thing chosen, the meaning being, however, narrowed to the selection of religious or political doctrines, adhesion to parties in Church or State.

Josephus applies the name (airesis) to the three religious sects prevalent in Judea since the Machabean period: the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Essenes (Bel. Jud., II, viii, 1; Ant., XIII, v, 9). St. Paul is described to the Roman governor Felix as the leader of the heresy (aireseos) of the Nazarenes (Acts 24:5); the Jews in Rome say to the same Apostle: "Concerning this sect [airesoeos], we know that it is everywhere contradicted" (Acts 28:22). St. Justin (Dial., xviii, 108) uses airesis in the same sense. St. Peter (II, ii, 1) applies the term to Christian sects: "There shall be among you lying teachers who shall bring in sects of perdition [aireseis apoleias]". In later Greek, philosophers' schools, as well as religious sects, are "heresies".

St. Thomas (II-II:11:1) defines heresy: "a species of infidelity in men who, having professed the faith of Christ, corrupt its dogmas". "The right Christian faith consists in giving one's voluntary assent to Christ in all that truly belongs to His teaching. There are,therefore,two ways of deviating from Christianity: the one by refusing to believe in Christ Himself, which is the way of infidelity, common to Pagans and Jews; the other by restricting belief to certain points of Christ's doctrine selected and fashioned at pleasure, which is the way of heretics. The subject-matter of both faith and heresy is, therefore, the deposit of the faith, that is, the sum total of truths revealed in Scripture and Tradition as proposed to our belief by the Church. The believer accepts the whole deposit as proposed by the Church; the heretic accepts only such parts of it as commend themselves to his own approval. The heretical tenets may be ignorance of the true creed, erroneous judgment, imperfect apprehension and comprehension of dogmas: in none of these does the will play an appreciable part, wherefore one of the necessary conditions of sinfulness--free choice--is wanting and such heresy is merely objective, or material. On the other hand the will may freely incline the intellect to adhere to tenets declared false by the Divine teaching authority of the Church. The impelling motives are many: intellectual pride or exaggerated reliance on one's own insight; the illusions of religious zeal; the allurements of political or ecclesiastical power; the ties of material interests and personal status; and perhaps others more dishonourable. Heresy thus willed is imputable to the subject and carries with it a varying degree of guilt; it is called formal, because to the material error it adds the informative element of "freely willed".

Pertinacity, that is, obstinate adhesion to a particular tenet is required to make heresy formal. For as long as one remains willing to submit to the Church's decision he remains a Catholic Christian at heart and his wrong beliefs are only transient errors and fleeting opinions. Considering that the human intellect can assent only to truth, real or apparent, studied pertinacity, as distinct from wanton opposition, supposes a firm subjective conviction which may be sufficient to inform the conscience and create "good faith". Such firm convictions result either from circumstances over which the heretic has no control or from intellectual delinquencies in themselves more or less voluntary and imputable. A man born and nurtured in heretical surroundings may live and die without ever having a doubt as to the truth of his creed. On the other hand a born Catholic may allow himself to drift into whirls of anti-Catholic thought from which no doctrinal authority can rescue him, and where his mind becomes incrusted with convictions, or considerations sufficiently powerful to overlay his Catholic conscience. It is not for man, but for Him who searcheth the reins and heart, to sit in judgment on the guilt which attaches to an heretical conscience.

The first law of life, be it the life of plant or animal, of man or of a society of men, is self-preservation. Neglect of self-preservation leads to ruin and destruction. But the life of a religious society, the tissue that binds its members into one body and animates them with one soul, is the symbol of faith, the creed or confession adhered to as a condition sine qua non of membership. To undo the creed is to undo the Church. The integrity of the rule of faith is more essential to the cohesion of a religious society than the strict practice of its moral precepts. For faith supplies the means of mending moral delinquencies as one of its ordinary functions, whereas the loss of faith, cutting at the root of spiritual life, is usually fatal to the soul. In fact the long list of heresiarchs contains the name of only one who came to resipiscence: Berengarius. The jealousy with which the Church guards and defends her deposit of faith is therefore identical with the instinctive duty of self-preservation and the desire to live. This instinct is by no means peculiar to the Catholic Church; being natural it is universal. All sects, denominations, confessions, schools of thought, and associations of any kind have a more or less comprehensive set of tenets on the acceptance of which membership depends. In the Catholic Church this natural law has received the sanction of Divine promulgation, as appears from the teaching of Christ and the Apostles quoted above. Freedom of thought extending to the essential beliefs of a Church is in itself a contradiction; for, by accepting membership, the members accept the essential beliefs and renounce their freedom of thought so far as these are concerned. From: Heresy

This gets to the heart of the irony in your response - The Catholic church did routinely suppress heretics, so it is somewhat silly to try to turn the whole debate on whether Luther would have been suppressed at one particular point in spacetime.
At any rate, if you're still caught up in what the Church would have done to Luther at time x, just pick another analogy - "Under the Vatican's view, the church could have banned Bertrand Russell's 'Why I am not a Christian'.

Other than as a representative of the Church, Martin Luther' hersey was hardly suppressed by the Church. Of course, as any organization, I believe the Catholic Church has the right establish what it stands for and whom may speak its name. Apparently your idea of "free speech" extends to the where the Church must allow to stand, unchallenged anyone who wishes to speak for it or anything that might offered by anyone as its doctrine. A novel concept, indeed!

As for Bertrand Russell, from where do you get the idea that Church would have, much less could have, banned Why I am not a Christian, such an idea is preposterous. It seems me that on the contrary - it is you and Volokh, who would deny the Church freedom to counter Mr. Russell's agruments. The Church has suggessfully defended itself with intellect and wit, including against the likes of Bertrand Russell.

Again, aside from requesting a modicum mutual respect for all men, I cannot see where the Varican has demanded or even recommended, formal "rules" regarding what can be published or spoken. It did, however, under its mantle of the primary Christian denomination in the World, suggest that we would all be better off if, rather then offend people we might have differences with, we follow the admonitions of the Founder of their religion, Jesus, the Christ, when He advised His followers:
Luke 6:31 "Treat others the same way you want them to treat you."
2.9.2006 11:07am
JGR (mail):
Neal Lang,

I am only going to respond briefly and then be done with it - I don't get involved in long debates where two parties are just talking past each other. My post was written in a reasonably clear and easily understood manner.

' Apparently, you and Mr. Volokh would prohibit the Church from speaking on matters of what is "right" and what is "wrong". Perhaps you are, in fact, the "pots, calling the kettle black". '
It is impossible to read either Volokh's post or mine as saying anything like this. Of course, any Church has the right to define its own doctrine and "supress heresy" in this fashion. It should have been obvious in context that I was using the term "suppress heresy" to mean invoking the power of the state to use its monopoly of force to legally punish heretics through imprisonment, fines, torture etc. It should have been obvious because that is the only thing this whole thread has been about.
You are simply flat-out wrong that this statement was just a "be considerate to others" statement; As Volokh wrote in very plain English:
' "This is not just an admonition about what's right, decent, productive, or in good taste -- rather, it's a claim that the law ought to have a relatively free hand in restricting speech that "offend[s] religious feelings of the faithful," which apparently includes some unstated amount of "excessive criticism or derision of others" that "denotes a lack of human sensitivity." May we still publish the works of Martin Luther? How about of Christopher Hitchens? The Last Temptation of Christ? The religious works of the Jehovah's Witnesses? A historical film in which some actor plays Mohammed? How about linking to the cartoons themselves (as I've done before)?'
As I said, I'm not going to continue this debate after this. I cut debates off when it becomes clear that the debate is pointless.
2.9.2006 6:51pm
Neal Lang (mail):
I am only going to respond briefly and then be done with it - I don't get involved in long debates where two parties are just talking past each other. My post was written in a reasonably clear and easily understood manner.

Well one of us thinks so.
It is impossible to read either Volokh's post or mine as saying anything like this. Of course, any Church has the right to define its own doctrine and "supress heresy" in this fashion. It should have been obvious in context that I was using the term "suppress heresy" to mean invoking the power of the state to use its monopoly of force to legally punish heretics through imprisonment, fines, torture etc. It should have been obvious because that is the only thing this whole thread has been about.

Kindly point out where the Vatican calls for a "suppression of heresy" or the use of the "monopoly power" of the State to do anything in regards to punishing anyone. You must be smoking something.
It should have been obvious because that is the only thing this whole thread has been about.
You are simply flat-out wrong that this statement was just a "be considerate to others" statement;

The translation, in its entirety states:
Code: ZE06020503

Date: 2006-02-05

Statement on Offending Religious Sentiments

"Coexistence Calls for a Climate of Mutual Respect"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 5, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the issued Saturday by the Vatican press office on reactions to the publication in several Western newspapers of caricatures of the prophet Mohammed.

In response to several requests on the Holy See's position vis-à-vis recent offensive representations of the religious sentiments of individuals and entire communities, the Vatican press office can state:

1. The right to freedom of thought and expression, sanctioned by the Declaration of the Rights of Man, cannot imply the right to offend the religious sentiment of believers. This principle applies obviously for any religion.

2. In addition, coexistence calls for a climate of mutual respect to favor peace among men and nations. Moreover, these forms of exasperated criticism or derision of others manifest a lack of human sensitivity and may constitute in some cases an inadmissible provocation. A reading of history shows that wounds that exist in the life of peoples are not cured this way.

3. However, it must be said immediately that the offenses caused by an individual or an organ of the press cannot be imputed to the public institutions of the corresponding country, whose authorities might and should intervene eventually according to the principles of national legislation. Therefore, violent actions of protest are equally deplorable. Reaction in the face of offense cannot fail the true spirit of all religion. Real or verbal intolerance, no matter where it comes from, as action or reaction, is always a serious threat to peace.

[Translation by ZENIT]

If either you are Mr. Volokh point to a call to brand these "heresy", point point it out. What does say is "coexistence calls for a climate of mutual respect to favor peace among men and nations"; also "Real or verbal intolerance, no matter where it comes from, as action or reaction, is always a serious threat to peace"; and also, "forms of exasperated criticism or derision of others manifest a lack of human sensitivity and may constitute in some cases an inadmissible provocation".

There is no mention State coersion - no mention of heresy and no mention of State sanction reregarding the speech or the press of any kind. In fact, the Vatican piece does not even opine that the offensive cartoons reach the level of "fighting words" ("inadmissible provocation"), as they were careful qualify that statement with the use of the word "may". In any event, the Vatican does not even come close to what you and Mr. Volokh.
As Volokh wrote in very plain English: As Volokh wrote in very plain English:
' "This is not just an admonition about what's right, decent, productive, or in good taste -- rather, it's a claim that the law ought to have a relatively free hand in restricting speech that "offend[s] religious feelings of the faithful," which apparently includes some unstated amount of "excessive criticism or derision of others" that "denotes a lack of human sensitivity." May we still publish the works of Martin Luther? How about of Christopher Hitchens? The Last Temptation of Christ? The religious works of the Jehovah's Witnesses? A historical film in which some actor plays Mohammed? How about linking to the cartoons themselves (as I've done before)?'
As I said, I'm not going to continue this debate after this. I cut debates off when it becomes clear that the debate is pointless.

Kindly point the place where "the law" is mentioned! I suggest you are reading something other than the Vatican statement. If you continue to make shit up, it is hard to have a reasonable discussion.

I do not see any connection what so ever with the "publish the works of Martin Luther" (several a complete sets of which are available in the Vatican library); "Christopher Hitchens"; "The Last Temptation of Christ"; "The religious works of the Jehovah's Witnesses"; or any "historical film in which some actor plays Mohammed". You are pulling that out of your ass. You are obviously clueless and way over your head in this debate, hence "you are sticking your tail between your legs and hitting the road".
2.10.2006 10:41am
Neal Lang (mail):
During the sixties, there was a famous debate in National Review magazine between Frank Meyer and Brent Bozell on how far the role of the state should go in advocating virtue or freedom. Bozell's essay "Freedom or Virtue?" is still one of the best essays around arguing for a strong government role in inculcating virtue. Like many abstract doctrines, the doctrine of the two kingdoms is open to different interpretations and can mean different things to different people.

Perhaps because Mr. Bozell understands, as did our Founding Fathers, that a "the People" lack "virtue and morality" they cannot be trusted with "freedom and liberty".
2.10.2006 10:47am