Friday, February 24, 2006

The Vatican: Goose, gander, etc. 

We have been worried about asymmetrical tolerance, and how the tolerant can contend with the intolerant. Most people in the world seem to believe that Muslims, just by being angry and violent enough, can nullify the right to free speech held so dearly by Westerners. Even the Vatican, which nobody should have expected to stand up for free speech, denounced the infamous Danish cartoons three weeks ago ("Western culture has to know its limits"). Now, however, the papacy seems to have rediscovered its inner absolutism (which is, after all, what one expects from the Catholic pope):
After backing calls by Muslims for respect for their religion in the Mohammad cartoons row, the Vatican is now urging Islamic countries to reciprocate by showing more tolerance towards their Christian minorities.

Roman Catholic leaders at first said Muslims were right to be outraged when Western newspapers reprinted Danish caricatures of the Prophet, including one with a bomb
in his turban. Most Muslims consider any images of Mohammad to be blasphemous.
After criticising both the cartoons and the violent protests in Muslim countries that followed, the Vatican this week linked the issue to its long-standing concern that the rights of other faiths are limited, sometimes severely, in Muslim countries....

"Enough now with this turning the other cheek! It's our duty to protect ourselves," Monsignor Velasio De Paolis, secretary of the Vatican's supreme court, thundered in the daily La Stampa.


While not endorsing free speech -- as I wrote above, that's not exactly a Catholic specialty -- the Vatican does demand equal treatment, and that is also important. Now, everybody with two brain cells to rub together knows that this is an entirely bootless demand, insofar as the House of Saud isn't going to authorize the erection of a cathedral in Mecca, or even a humble Quaker meeting house in Riyadh's dankest corner, just because the world's smallest country says it should. But, and this is the important part, the Vatican's demand casts the asymmetry of Islam's own requirements for "respect" in very sharp relief. This is a useful service befitting the leaders of the world's largest church.

CWCID: The always vigilent USS Neverdock.


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