Cartoons, Islam and the Church

We understand and share the pain that cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed— first published in a Danish newspaper and later reprinted by some other European newspapers— have caused in the Muslim world. Religious beliefs should not be mocked or ridiculed.

At the same time, we deplore the violent response that has arisen worldwide. Particularly disturbing are attacks against Christians, such as the attack on a church in Lebanon or the murder of a priest in Turkey, apparently in retribution for the irreverent cartoons.

Some are trying to portray this conflict as a new clash between the Christian and Islamic civilizations.

Yet, this was not an attack by Christians on Muslims — even if the Danish flag bears a cross — but this is an attack by European secularism on religious beliefs.

Indeed, Christian figures are also routinely the subjects of similar ridicule.

Catholics in Boston know very well how cartoons can deeply offend. Our local media does not shy away from portraying nuns, priests and bishops — all prophets of God in our tradition — in satiric, embarrassing and sometimes insulting ways. Local theaters have staged irreverent theatrical pieces with insulting characterizations of Jesus Christ or Our Lady. One famous animal rights organization has mocked the pope and the Virgin Mary in their advertising campaigns.

Secularists, in their rush to promote what they see as a better, more tolerant world, ultimately promote intolerance themselves by exalting limitless freedom of expression at the cost of disrespecting other’s religious beliefs.

We hope that this tragedy, which has already claimed several lives, will be a call to responsibility.

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