The Relevance Of What Pope Francis Says

by Joseph G. Lariosa

“If you speak a language a person can understand, that goes to his head, but if you speak  his mother tongue, that goes to his heart.”

— Nelson Mandela

CHICAGO (JGL) – Pope Francis was not reinterpreting the message of Jesus that if someone slaps your cheek, you can offer the other cheek.

I think what the 78-year-old Pontiff really meant when he said if someone were to insult his mother that he was ready to “punch” someone, it is actually a refinement of what Jesus said of the Golden Rule — “Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them…” (Matt. 7: 12).

Saying that freedom of expression has limits, Pope Francis is only adhering to one of the four cardinal virtues of morality – exercising prudence. The other such virtues, of course, are justice, temperance and courage.

While man has free will – the capacity to do good or evil – exercising prudence or taking appropriate action or withholding such action at a given time all depends on the person making the decision.

If man exercises prudence, it will lead to mental peace or good will. Otherwise, it will lead to anarchy, like the death of 12 people following the Charlie Hebdo weekly attack in Paris, France.

Using freedom of expression to retaliate after an imprudent decision of Charlie Hebdo to publish a drawing of the prophet Prophet Muhammad as an insult to Muslim believers will only contribute to a vicious cycle of violence that harks back to the Middle Age of the Crusades.

Charlie Hebdo, an atheist, left-wing satirical weekly magazine, has a history of provocation. Its frequent targets have included religion – Christianity, Islam and Judaism – politicians and capitalism. And its cartoons have also been labeled racist, homophobic and misogynistic.

Muslims regard any depiction — even positive ones — of their prophet as blasphemous. The attackers said they had “avenged the Prophet Mohammed” as they left the scene.

But it’s very likely that the rise of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) in the aftermath of 9/11 and other terrorisms could have triggered the Charlie Hebdo to come up with the depiction.


But the Argentine Pope was consistent in his views when he remarked during an interreligious and interfaith meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka last week that the Second Vatican Council had declared that the Church has “deep and abiding respect for other religions.”

While air borne from Sri Lanka to the Philippines the Pope was asked by a newsman about the Charlie Hebdo attack by the Muslim extremists, the Pope said “there are limits to freedom of expression and my mother was the limit.”

“We have a duty to speak openly, to have this freedom, but without offending others.

“It’s true that you cannot react with violence, but if my aide (Alberto Gasbarri, the organizer of the papal trips) badmouths my mother, a punch would be coming for him.”

The Pope explained that violence in the name of religion can never be justified, but that there are “limits” to freedom of expression.

“Many people badmouth religion, mock it, play with other people’s religion.

“It can happen, but there are limits, every religion has dignity, every religion that respects life and human beings has a dignity, and you cannot mock it,” he added.

Pope warned that “you cannot provoke, insult, ridicule other people’s faith” without provoking anger or hatred. “For this reason freedom must be accompanied by prudence.”

In another brand of sincerity, Pope Francis first sought the permission of his listeners, if he could speak in his mother tongue – Spanish – at a dialogue at the University of Santo Tomas. Although he could speak Italian (his grandparents’ tongue) and German and have them translated into English, the Pope used Spanish because in the words of Nelson Mandela, speaking in mother’s tongue is speaking from the heart.

The Pope spoke in English in “all his talks and homilies,” when he was in Sri Lanka, according to my source, Fr. Anthony Jayakody. When the Pope spoke in Spanish to answer some of the probing questions of the Filipino youth, the Pope wanted his answers disarming and direct from his heart.


But at one point, the Pope was at a loss of words when a 12-year-old girl, Gyzelle Palomar, representing street children involved in drugs and sex trade, asked him why God is allowing young children to suffer.  Gyzelle was one of the three allowed to ask the Pope a question. The Pope could only say, “There is no answer. She couldn’t put into words but expressed it with tears. So when the next Pope comes to Manila, please let there be more girls” to ask questions.

The Pope explained there is a need to women for “higher consideration in the church, it’s not just to give them a function as the secretary of a dicastery, though this could be okay too. No, it’s so that they may tell us how they feel and view reality. Because women view things from a different richness, a larger one.”

He said, “Another thing I would like to underscore is what I said to the last young man (at the meeting with young people), who truly works well, he gives and gives and gives, he organizes to help the poor. But don’t forget that we too need to be beggars, from them, from the poor. Because the poor evangelize us. If we take the poor away from the Gospel, we cannot understand Jesus’ message. The poor evangelize us. I go to evangelize the poor, yes, but let you be evangelized by them. Because they have values that you do not.”

After his trip, the Pope admonished women from giving birth to multiple babies like rabbits, which usually give birth to 6 to 10 bunnies at one pregnancy. Saying that for a woman who was expecting her eighth child and had already seven who were born with caesarians as an “irresponsibility,” the Pope said women should exercise “responsible parenthood” instead. He encouraged women to attend marriage groups, where there are experts on the matter and the pastors, who can give them “licit” help.

He also recalled about a corruption incident where church donors in his native Argentina wanted half of the donation for themselves. The Pope thought of either insulting the donors by giving them a “kick where the sun never shines or play the fool. I played the fool and said, in truth, we at the vicariate don’t have an account; you have to make the deposit at the archdiocese’s office (chancery) with the receipt. And that was it.”

When Pope Francis went to Tacloban, it was meant first to console the survivors of the killer super typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan and to highlight the climate change. When Pope Francis cut short his trip by four hours to Tacloban because of the brewing storm, it was the best argument that there was an urgent need to reverse the tide of climate change. No doubt, climate change turned Yolanda/Haiyan into the strongest typhoon known to man.

Mitigating the effects of climate change should be the first order of business if man wants to arrest the rising level of water, the glaciers from shrinking, the ice on rivers and lakes from breaking up, plant and animal rangers from shifting and trees from flowering sooner. This is what the Pope calls “man slapping nature” because of man’s overproduction of greenhouse gases.


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