Tuesday, May 09, 2006

'Da Vinci Code' movie sparks Catholic censorship envy

It seems a Roman Catholic cardinal is a little envious that Islam gets to squelch those who offend its tenets.

In the latest Vatican broadside against "The Da Vinci Code," a leading cardinal says Christians should respond to the book and film with legal action because both offend Christ and the Church he founded.

Cardinal Francis Arinze, a Nigerian who was considered a candidate for pope last year, made his strong comments in a documentary called "The Da Vinci Code-A Masterful Deception."

Arinze's appeal came some 10 days after another Vatican cardinal called for a boycott of the film. Both cardinals asserted that other religions would never stand for offences against their beliefs and that Christians should get tough.

"Christians must not just sit back and say it is enough for us to forgive and to forget," Arinze said in the documentary made by Rome film maker Mario Biasetti for Rome Reports, a Catholic film agency specializing in religious affairs.

"Sometimes it is our duty to do something practical. 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 said.

"This is one of the fundamental human rights: that we should be respected, our religious beliefs respected, and our founder Jesus Christ respected," he said, without elaborating on what legal means he had in mind.

[. . .]

"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," Arinze said.

This appeared to be a reference to protests by Muslims around the world over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad. [Philip Pullella, Reuters]
Consider what is being asked here: Arinze seeks to prevent portrayals of Catholicism that he disagrees with, calling respect for his creed a "fundamental human right" and asking that Catholics take legal steps to prevent the showing of these portrayals.

But why? How is the demand that the world respect the tenets of one's religious beliefs a "fundamental human right?" Where does this right draw its justification? Is it because God commands it? How is God's alleged commandment binding upon me, if I find no reason to believe in God? How is it that I am bound to genuflect before the mystical whims of others?

And note that Arinze is not calling for religious liberty--he is not calling for his right to argue for his philosophy free from coercion. Instead, he holds that his faith gives him the right to silence others. So much for the oft-repeated notion that Christianity begat freedom. Arinze, just like the Islamsts who demand that no one blaspheme their prophet, is calling for nothing less than the (re)instillation of religious tyranny.

Arinze's statement is disturbing; it indicates that even the more Westernized religious creeds are drawing inspiration from militant Islam in seeking to coerce belief. I count that as among one of the worst philosophic signs I've seen in years.

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