Friday, May 12, 2006

Of cabbages and kings: catholics and censorship

Interesting posts from the Volokh Conspiracy on the cryptic words of Francis Cardinal Arinze: "So it is not I who will tell all Christians what to do but some know legal means which can be taken in order to get the other person to respect the rights of others." Arinze does indeed seem to be advocating censorship. However, another statement I think has been unfairly represented as a threat to run riot:
Those who blaspheme Christ and get away with it are exploiting the Christian readiness to forgive and to love even those who insult us. There are some other religions which if you insult their founder they will not be just talking. They will make it painfully clear to you.
This is, at the least, open to interpretation. He seems to be clearly referring to the recent Danish cartoon Muslim riots. (It would be unfair, by the way, to predicate the cartoon violence to Muslims broadly: Muslim religious and civic leaders worldwide condemned the rioting, and surely only a small number of Muslims were directly involved.) But by referring both to the Christian duty to forgive (even if with frustration in his tone), and by suggesting legal action above, I don't think he can easily be stuck with the charge of inciting riot. Although it is possible to read his statement that way. One of the few quasi-defenders of Arinze has been Father John Neuhaus at First Things, who in the process of making a couple of good points waffles back and forth rather a bit too much.

Since people complain that those in an association often do not condemn the errors of the leadership, never let it be said that an Irishman didn't buy you a drink, or that a Catholic didn't say a Cardinal was wrongheaded to suggest censorship as a means of dealing with criticism. Arinze is wrong.

The web site Catholic Heirarchy has more details than you can shake a stick at on Arinze's position in the Catholic Church. (It is indeed quite high.) He is Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, which basically takes care of the details the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith can't be bothered with. If this sort of stuff seems interesting, you may want to look at the history of the rather amusingly titled Titular Sees, which are conferred on dioceses overtaken in partibus infidelium:
It is the custom of the apostolic see to confer on these bishops the title of one of those churches which in days past flourished with the splendor of virtue and the progress of religion, even though as a result of the changes and ravages of time they may now have lost their ancient resplendent glory.
History weighs heavily. On the other hand, keep in mind that history doesn't rhyme, but it repeats itself: the ancient loss of Christian territory to Islam (especially in Africa) is reversing itself. Every year, six million Muslims convert to Christianity.

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