9 January 2015


I fully share the view of the Magisterium that Capital Punishment, though not formally excluded, is, in normal circumstances, an unnecessary and undesirable feature of modern societies. Earlier, and Christian, societies in which it did exist very probably needed it because they were unprotected by the sophisticated coercive agencies possessed by modern states. I could stomach either one of these unpleasant alternatives, but I profoundly dislike the idea of being burdened with both.

Even if such state killing is allowed, I regard as totally and thoroughly abhorrent the thought of private individuals without juridical status taking it upon themselves to "execute" those of whom they disapprove. Whoever they are; whatever they have done.

Consequently, I am horrified almost beyond belief by the events in France. Our hearts go out to the people of Paris; we saw the horrors of terrorism in our own Capital when the London Underground was bombed and, before that, during the Irish troubles. And we remember with gratitude the deep sympathy and sense of solidarity which swept through France when British Regiments, bandsmen and horses included, were bombed in Hyde Park and Regents Park.

This does not mean that I feel obliged to join in all the current rhetoric, or to proclaim, in solidarity, Je suis Charlie. Among those who have been so wickedly attacked there appear to have been some very hate-ridden and corrupted minds, whose venom was not confined to ridiculing Islam. Je ne suis pas Charlie.

One can find on the Internet a front cover of the periodical concerned in which the Holy and Blessed and Glorious and Undivided Trinity is blasphemed by means of an obscene cartoon of a very explicitly sodomitical nature. It surprises me that images of such indecency were allowed to be publicly displayed for sale in a civilised city. One can also find a cartoon of Pope Benedict holding a mole inside his unbuttoned cassock and saying Ca me change des enfants de choeur. "Freedom of expression"? Would indecent cartoons defaming prominent pro-homosexual activists go unnoticed by the French equivalent of Mr Plod? And what about the constant attempts in more than one country to prevent pro-life activists from showing, in public, pictures of aborted foetuses? "Freedom of expression"? What world do some of these people live in?

But in one respect I do reluctantly admire these victims of terrorism. In Britain, we have nasty and unwholesome people who feel free to blaspheme our Holy Faith. But they are careful not to take on Islamic militants. Like all seasoned bullies, they have an acute and skilled eye for the soft target. Like all practised bullies, they are very careful not to tangle with the truly Hard Men.

At least the minds of those dead Parisian cartoonists were not devoid of the simple human virtue of courage. Unlike their British counterparts, they were prepared to take the risk of putting their own survival where their mouths and their pens were. In this, if in nothing else, they were not unmanly. Being prepared to die for ones beliefs is not nothing, whatever those beliefs are. God bless them, and may they know the mercies of Christ.


Simon Platt said...

Hear, hear!

The point at issue here is not, as so many of the commentators favoured by the British media seem to think, "freedom of expression", but freedom not to be murdered.

Je ne suis pas Charlie aussi.

Richard Duncan said...

Cartoonists are murdered in Paris and the entire British media goes into meltdown over the right to freedom of expression.

The entire Christian population of Iraq is persecuted, murdered and driven into exile, and ... silence.

Double standards.

Cherub said...

This is the most sensible and balanced comment on the Paris terrorist attack that I have read. Freedom of expression is not an end itself. The law provides relief (if you can afford it) against those who defame you. And free speech is not a defence to fraud. The balance has been lost. Charlie needs to face up to their own sins. But the killings are both indefensible and intolerable. Bravo Father Hunwicke!

William Tighe said...

A NY Times liberal columnist on "I am not Charlie:"


Patrick Sheridan said...

"The entire Christian population of Iraq is persecuted, murdered and driven into exile, and ... silence."

Just like the silence (and therefore the tacit approval) of Western democracies on the genocide committed by the Israelis against innocent Palestinian Muslims and Christians. I sometimes wonder if our Islamic problem would obviate if people stopped taking the superstitious, messianic pseudo-state seriously.

Woody said...

With freedom of anything, comes a responsibility to use it wisely. I am sure this is where we have failed one another.

margaretmt said...

Fr Hunwicke, as an admirer of your postings, may I venture to suggest that, in this particular case, you are perhaps trying too hard to let your head rule your heart?

It is evident from what you write that you are with the shooting victims, their families and France at this time. In that regard, your heart is clearly proclaiming 'Je suis Charlie', such solidarity being an important part of what the cry means and, for many people proclaiming it, I suspect, ALL of what it means. For many others, of course, it is above all a defiant call for freedom (echoes of JFK's 'Ich bin ein Berliner!').

One feels that you want to go with your heart, but have a moral obligation to distance yourself from the paper's stance and the offensive-to-many cartoons to which this leads, which brings you to proclaim: 'Je ne suis pas Charlie'. You appear thereby to deny, however, that part of 'Je suis Charlie' that is solidarity with fellow-humans in their suffering and to compound thereby the already prevalent notion that 'Je suis Charlie' is ONLY about freedom of the press, which it isn't. That much has become evident. That apparent denial and compounding seem to me to be a great pity, however much one understands your reservations.

Might it have been more faithful both to your feeling and to the full meaning of the slogan to proclaim: 'Je suis Charlie mais ... ' and then expand, rather than 'Je ne suis pas Charlie' which is perhaps (as so often when the implications, resonances and dangers of language use are considered) rather too shocking?

Jacobi said...

These murders by Islamists of the cartoonists had nothing to do with free speech or any objection to bad taste. They were concerned only with the killing of those deemed to be opposing Islam or its prophet.

We have, since the seventh century endured repeated waves of Islamic assault designed to conquer, subdue and convert. We are now only at the start of the latest such assault, another attempt to Islamise Europe the Middle East and Africa.

The first step in dealing with this is to grasp what is happening. Not many have as yet done so!

Rubricarius said...

Further to Fr. Duncan's comment above let us not forget that in the days of Saddam Hussein Christians in Iraq were free to practice their faith and indeed had assistance from the Iraqi state for the building of churches etc. The West has made a true messof Iraq - a massive and disgraceful 'own goal' IMHO.

I have had some, limited, experience of quite hard-line Muslims. What I have always found is that they respect people who take their faith seriously. Indeed what seems to aggravate them most is indifference and mockery of religion. Whilst I would, of course, condemn the murder of the French journalists and cartoonists some of those covers of CH were appalling.

Michael Leahy said...

Rubricarius, may I make a comment or two? Your comment about Saddam is very relevant, because I am beginning to suspect that only despotism can stand up to Islamism, certainly not democracy as it has degenerated to in the West.
The other thing that struck me is that, while respecting your experience which is certainly far broader than mine, I can't help but think of those stories of Christian children horrifically martyred for their Faith by the hard-liners of ISIS-Christ can obviously aggravate some of them too.

Unknown said...

Thankyou for this one Padre - one of the best, most balanced commentaries to date I've read or heard anywhere on this subject from a Catholic perspective. This morning, I’d been working on a much more detailed pertinent contribution to your combox , but seeing as you already have all the essentials covered, and in view of what has already been posted , it might be worth simply iterating the following point for the benefit of a reader or two:

Freedom of speech and freedom of expression equally means not saying something which others would have you say , simply because they believe you should say it : How tragically ironic to find a comment here suggesting that you should. From what I’ve been able to gather, I should think that the late Stephane Charbonnier (or Charb as he was known) , and the 11 other of his employees who were all victims of this horrendous act (God rest each of their souls in His Divine Mercy) would be the first to tell you , you’re fully entitled to say “Je ne suis pas Charlie”, and to say it with conviction !

(Now, if only we could get the flippin’ media to slow down in putting up all those terrorist’s photos everywhere for us to look at, and start putting up pics of the victims so we might have a human face on whom and whose families and friends we’re praying most for at this time , it might prove more effective in moving us to pray for them even more).

B flat said...

Father Hunwicke always argues lucidly, even if one should not want to agree with him, it is rare to find a hole in his argument. So he himself will answer margaretmt if he wishes.
For myself, I think the proclaimed self-identification with Charlie is an empty gesture, typical of our lazy and uncommitted society. A Christian, primarily identifies with Christ, the Incarnate God Who identifies with all humanity in all ages. He suffers with those who suffer and takes on Death for us, and rises Victorious from it. Charlie was a grubby and short episode in human literary production; God knows better than we, how to evaluate all the qualities of its contributors. Fr Hunwicke has put the balance of his sympathy very correctly to my mind. Bravo!

peregrinusto said...

On the same day in Nigeria several hundred innocent people were murdered by Islamist terrorists and there was barely a mention on the BBC or in mainstream media. I assume these murdered people were not politically correct leftists and so not worthy of similar sympathy.