Pope Francis I just made a visit to Albania and gave a speech decrying religious intolerance around the world. I agree with most of what he said, of course, including the need for interfaith community service, but it does raise questions about Catholic history that I’m sure he would rather avoid.
We cannot deny that intolerance towards those with different religious convictions is a particularly insidious enemy, one which today is being witnessed in various areas around the world…. [A]ll those forms which present a distorted use of religion, must be firmly refuted as false since they are unworthy of God or humanity. Authentic religion is a source of peace and not of violence! No one must use the name of God to commit violence! To kill in the name of God is a grave sacrilege. To discriminate in the name of God is inhuman.
Seen in this light, religious freedom is not a right which can be guaranteed solely by existing legislation, although laws are necessary. Rather religious freedom is a shared space, an atmosphere of respect and cooperation that must be built with everyone’s participation, even those who have no religious convictions. Allow me to outline two attitudes which can be especially helpful in the advancement of this fundamental freedom.The first attitude is that of regarding every man and woman, even those of different religious traditions, not as rivals, less still enemies, but rather as brothers and sisters. When a person is secure of his or her own beliefs, there is no need to impose or put pressure on others….
The second attitude which fosters the promotion of religious freedom is the work done in service of the common good…. The more men and women are at the service of others, the greater their freedom!
But this also means that the Catholic Church itself, which claims to be the one and only representative of God on earth, committed a “grave sacrilege” and therefore was not an “authentic religion” for most of its existence. The pogroms against Jews that went on for centuries, the various Inquisitions that tortured and killed in the name of God, with the full support of innumerable popes and the institutional weight of the church behind it. By the pope’s own logic, the church he leads is guilty of being “inhuman.”