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Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana, ISIS, and Freedom of Speech, etc. by Fr. George W. Rutler


May 10, 2015
by Fr. George W. Rutler

History is filled with surprising anomalies that catch us up in contradictions. Sir Walter Scott wrote in his poem Marmion about the Battle of Flodden Field: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave / when first we practise to deceive!” The battle took place in 1513 while Henry VIII was in France fighting as a member of the Catholic League. His queen, Catherine, eventually to be divorced, organized the battle with success. Meanwhile, Pope Julius II styled Henry of England “The Most Christian King of France” and, although Henry would prove a disappointment in church matters, in 1521 the next pope, Leo X, declared him “Defender of the Faith,” a title Henry kept even after it was rescinded in 1538. In another anomaly, at the time of the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland in 1690, Pope Alexander VIII supported the House of Orange against the Catholic Stuarts, and ordered that church bells in Rome be rung to celebrate the Protestant victory.

The web of contradiction becomes more entangled in our day when politics are complicated by moral inconsistencies. I cite three examples. First, the birth of Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana occasioned celebrations, as the birth of any baby should. During the royal pregnancy no one referred to the unborn princess as anything other than a baby, and attention was focused on whether the infant was a boy or a girl, and what name would be given. Yet by the laws of the realm, she was a potentially disposable fetus. No one raised the question of the civil consequences should the unspeakable be done, and the child be aborted if judged unsuitable for the line of succession.

Second, there was rioting in Baltimore—and demonstrations in the streets of many cities—over the death of a young man in police custody. Though that case has yet to be decided in a court of law, it absorbed national attention while at the same time the public slaughter of hundreds of Christians by ISIS received scant commentary. Although no one still calls these ISIS murderers “Junior Varsity,” there persists an ideological aversion to admitting that they are engaged in a most heinous kind of religious persecution.

Third, the shooting of two Muslims in Texas evoked editorial indignation at the provocative art display that had engendered their wrath. Not long ago some of the same editors defended as “legitimate expressions of free speech” the touring exhibition of a picture of the Crucified Christ in urine by Andres Serrano, and an image in the Brooklyn Museum portraying the Virgin Mary covered with obscenities and elephant dung by Chris Ofili, who was awarded the Turner Prize for his body of work.

Such commentators were negligent of their own inconsistencies. Among the things they forgot in their moral incoherence was the advice of Pope Alexander VIII’s great-nephew, Pietro Cardinal Ottoboni: “Liars need good memories.”

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