In a somewhat unusually direct move today the Pope called on Pakistan to reverse its blasphemy laws. The call may be welcome but it is somewhat undermined by less well-reported items in his speech, which specifically put religion above all other considerations in law. An extraordinary single paragraph from the Pope’s speech today, to ambassadors assigned to the Holy See:
…on this solemn occasion, allow me to state clearly several principles which inspire the Holy See, together with the whole Catholic Church, in its activity within the intergovernmental International Organizations for the promotion of full respect for the religious freedom of all. First, the conviction that one cannot create a sort of scale of degrees of religious intolerance. Unfortunately, such an attitude is frequently found, and it is precisely acts of discrimination against Christians which are considered less grave and less worthy of attention on the part of governments and public opinion.
On the one hand he seems to be saying that discrimination against any religion is as bad as any other, which is at least reasonable, but the ambiguity around collapsing the “scale of degrees of religious intolerance” plays into recent debates – partly prompted by the Pope himself – about “persecution”. It’s a word usually reserved for acts more severe than (for example) merely asking people to obey the law regardless of their religion, but which is losing a sense of severity thanks to those with an interest in collapsing the intuitive “scale of degrees” so that merely losing equality cases when you discriminate against others sits right next to actual persecution on the single point scale.
“At the same time,” the Pope continues in the same paragraph:
there is a need to reject the dangerous notion of a conflict between the right to religious freedom and other human rights, thus disregarding or denying the central role of respect for religious freedom in the defence and protection of fundamental human dignity.
So to translate, even though time and again the freedom of belief is found in law not to include the right to unlawfully discriminate against other people, no such conflict of rights is real, or rather my religious rights should trump all other considerations. For the Pope, the right to express religion, that is to act on beliefs we acquire in life, even by discriminating unlawfully against others, is more “fundamental” to human dignity than, for example, protecting people who want to live in accordance with the innate characteristics they are born with.
Even less justifiable are attempts to counter the right of religious freedom with other alleged new rights which, while actively promoted by certain sectors of society and inserted in national legislation or in international directives, are nonetheless merely the expression of selfish desires lacking a foundation in authentic human nature.
Translation: gay people who want to formalise relationships and adopt are being selfish and unnatural.
Finally, it seems unnecessary to point out that an abstract proclamation of religious freedom is insufficient: this fundamental rule of social life must find application and respect at every level and in all areas; otherwise, despite correct affirmations of principle, there is a risk that deep injustice will be done to citizens wishing to profess and freely practise their faith.
My beliefs come first, always and in all circumstances.
Full text: http://press.catholica.va/news_services/bulletin/news/26680.php?index=26680&lang=en