NEW YORK (RNS) Cardinal Timothy Dolan on Tuesday (Jan. 13) denounced the Paris terror attacks by Islamic extremists as “an abomination” and “a nauseating perversion of religion,” and he stressed that no matter what cartoons were published by the satirical weekly targeted by the killers, they did not justify violence.
In finding no justification for the deaths of the Charlie Hebdo editorial staff, Dolan seemed to part ways with another prominent New York Catholic, Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, who essentially said the newspaper editors had brought on their own slaughter.
Two gunmen, who were apparently assisted by Islamic terrorist networks overseas, massacred a dozen people last week at the editorial offices of the French weekly, which for years had drawn the ire of many Muslims for publishing deliberately provocative images of the Prophet Muhammad and other religious figures.
The attacks — which ended with the death of the two gunmen along with an accomplice and four hostages taken at a kosher supermarket — paralyzed France for days, galvanized massive protests for tolerance, and sparked an intense, ongoing debate over blasphemy, free speech and religious provocation.
In one of the most explosive responses, Donohue said that while the killings must be condemned, Muslims were right to be angry at the weekly for its “long and disgusting record” of cartoons that “intentionally insulted” Muslims.
He also said the weekly’s publisher, Stephane Charbonnier, played a role in his own death by refusing to recognize the dangers of ridiculing sacred figures.
“Had he (Charbonnier) not been so narcissistic, he may still be alive,” Donohue said in a statement that drew sharp rebuttals even from some of Donohue’s fellow conservatives.
Speaking on his weekly Sirius XM radio show, Dolan did not mention Donohue by name, but the archbishop took a notably different tack. He echoed Pope Francis’ denunciation of the attacks as the fruit of a false form of religion, and said even offensive cartoons and articles could not rationalize such violence.
“No matter what this particular magazine may have been doing, no matter what their particular journalistic style or editorial stance may have been, nothing could justify the vicious attack upon them. We know that,” Dolan said.
The cardinal went on to talk about the propriety of publishing such depictions.
“Do we need to be sensitive about any signs of bigotry and animosity and hatred from anybody, from either side? From anywhere, anytime, anybody? Yeah we do, don’t we?” he said.
“Because if you chip away at a person’s dignity, if you chip away at the sacredness of human life, the dignity of the human person, if you chip away at religious sensitivities, if you chip away at elementary civility and courtesy, sooner or later you’ve got a pretty harsh society and culture … that could then go to terribly, radical, nauseating extremes.”
Also this week, the remnants of the Charlie Hebdo staff put out its latest issue and featured a cartoon of Muhammad shedding a tear and holding a sign reading “I Am Charlie,” the slogan embraced by millions after the attacks.
Above the image of the prophet are the words, “All is forgiven.”
KRE/AMB END GIBSON