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Catholics and Islamists Unite for a New Inquisition

By Tracy R. Twyman, 2006

When riots broke out all over the Middle East, conservative columnists with a pro-Christian bent quipped that this was evidence of the intolerance and extremism of Islam. Christians, they noted, were not rioting over The Da Vinci Code. This, they said, demonstrated the superiority of Christianity over Islam.

Well, they were half-right. Islamic doctrine is intolerant of insults to, and deviations from, its central tenets. But then, so is orthodox Christian doctrine, most notably, that of the Catholic Church. True, the Church’s position on heresy and blasphemy has modernized and liberalized since the Dark Ages, but only because society has. As The Catholic Encyclopedia at notes:

The present-day legislation against heresy has lost nothing of its ancient severity; but the penalties on heretics are now only of the spiritual order; all the punishments which require the intervention of the secular arm have fallen into abeyance.

But the Church makes no apology for the heretic blood that was once shed, even the extreme torture of those judged by the Spanish Inquisition, or the genocidal slaughter of Cathar heretics in the Albigensian Crusade. This they defend with cold, Darwinian logic. As The Catholic Encyclopedia states:

… tolerance of destructive elements within the organism amounts to suicide. Heretical sects are subject to the same law: they live or die in the measure they apply or neglect it.

So the One True Church, in the interest of its survival, had to eliminate all schism groups within its own organization. Heretics, by promoting rival ideas, brought death upon themselves.

But the Church has other ways of washing its hands of these deaths. The Inquisitors, The Catholic Encyclopedia now tells us, “only renounced on the guilt of the accused and then handed him over to the secular power to be dealt with according to the laws framed by emperors and kings.”

From my observation, the Catholic laity today seems quite accepting of the diversity that exists in the marketplace of religious ideas. Most Catholics I know have no desire to burn heretics and blasphemers, or even to have the government censor heresy and blasphemy. Since the Second Vatican Council, we’ve seen that many of the Church’s own leaders have similarly tolerant attitudes.

Yet there are elements within Catholicism today who believe they have the right to impose their own religious taboos upon the whole of society, and seek every legal avenue available to do so. Catholic lobbying and PR groups, such as William A. Donohue’s Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, are trying to establish the idea that Catholics are a minority group with a perpetual victim status that entitles them to be protected from anything that offends them.

Some Catholic groups and individuals are even seeking to use the instruments of government to censor speech that expresses thoughts about Jesus Christ with which they don’t agree. They are pressuring governments around the world to enact anti-blasphemy legislation to protect their religious symbols, just as Muslim groups have been doing in response to the controversial Danish political cartoons lampooning the Prophet Mohammed.

As an example, on April 9, a Catholic priest in Auckland, New Zealand attempted to bring a civil case against the television station CanWest. The priest, Father Denzil Meuli, tried to charge the network for “blasphemy” because they aired an episode of South Park that showed a statue of the Virgin Mary menstruating.

Father Meuli failed in his attempt. But in September 2005 in France, fashion designers Marithe and Francois Girband were successfully sued by a Catholic group for an ad campaign they ran which included a rather innocent spoof on Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper. The judge banned the ad, ruling that it was “an aggressive act of intrusion on people’s innermost beliefs.” Apparently, Leonardo’s artwork, like the fictional writing of Dante Alighieri, is now enshrined as official Catholic doctrine that cannot be defamed.

It should not surprise us, then, that the novel The Da Vinci Code, which suggests the heretical idea that Jesus was married … with children, is targeted for destruction by Catholic groups. The Vatican has officially called for a global boycott of the book and film. But they have also gone beyond merely asking for voluntary action from individuals. They have gotten the book banned in Lebanon, and the Christian Council of Korea is seeking to have the film version banned in that country.

Perhaps this explains why Church leaders have made statements recently in regards to the Danish Mohammed cartoon issue that do not seem to support the Western practice of free speech. Cardinal Archille Silvestrini, head of the Vatican’s department for Eastern Churches, was quoted as saying, “Freedom to satirize which offends other people’s feelings becomes prevarication.” Cardinal Ersilio Tonini, former archbishop of Ravenna, also told UPI reporters that “Freedom of the press, including satire, must stop where religious belief begins.”

I’m sure that these two padres would have no objection at all to the recent combined efforts of Turkey and Pakistan, who are pressuring both the European Union and the United Nations to pass international anti-blasphemy legislation. They want to revive centuries-old blasphemy laws in Europe that haven’t been enforced in decades, and then alter them to protect Islam against insults.

Ideally, the Turks and Pakistanis want this legislation to include a mechanism whereby those who blaspheme Islamic beliefs could be extradited to a Muslim country for trial. In most Muslim countries, the penalty for blasphemy is death. Sweden and Norway have now agreed to look in to the matter, while Spain has pledged itself an enthusiastic partner in this effort.

In the United States, where blasphemy laws are much less likely to be passed, Catholic spokesmen are using other legal terms to try to cast The Da Vinci Code’s heretical suggestions as criminal acts. On a National Geographic documentary called Is It Real: Da Vinci’s Code which aired on April 24, Father William Stetson used the word “libel” to describe the assertion that Jesus was married. Earlier, on March 1, WorldNetDaily “Movie Guide” Dr. Ted Baehr used the term “slanderous” to describe the book’s “blasphemous” assertions.

Spirit matter notwithstanding, most would agree that Jesus is, corporally, dead, and has been for two millennia. Who, then, shall sue on His behalf for all the “libel” and “slander” that He has been subjected to lately?

Well, that would only be possible if He had living heirs – descendants who could represent Him in court. But to suggest such a thing would be heresy, of course. At any rate, it seems to be internationally accepted in places like France, New Zealand, and Lebanon that when Jesus gave the keys to St. Peter, He gave the Catholic Church power of attorney over Him.

For now, “slandering” Jesus is still legal in the United States. But if certain interest groups get their way, controversial speech about Jesus, Mary, Mohammed, Buddha, Krishna and L. Ron Hubbard could soon be censored by the government. I can think of few things more dangerous to our Republic.