Sydney’s Cardinal Pell has accused “modern liberalism” as being intolerant to Christians wishing to speak and act freely and in accordance with their conscience and their religious values. His eight page speech focuses on “two tales of intolerance”.

The first involves the story of activists from various Christian (and no doubt a fair few non-Christian) denominations in the United States who campaigned in support for proposed state constitutional amendments that enshrine marriage as between a man and a woman only.

Pell claims these activists were subjected to intimidation and even death threats. Churches were “the focus for demonstrations, often attended by violence, vandalism and intimidation”. Some blogs even called for certain churches to be burned down, while businesses supporting the amendments were boycotted.

Who were Pell’s sources? One was blogger and news commentator Michelle Malkin whose record of tolerance included encouraging the boycott of Dunkin’ Donuts. Did she do so on health grounds and to highlight growing American obesity rates? No. Malkin objected to a Dunkin’ Donuts advertisement showing Rachel Ray wearing a fashion accessory that resembled the traditional Palestinian scarf, known as a keffiyeh. Malkin described the keffiyeh as “the traditional scarf of Arab men that has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad” and “a regular adornment of Muslim terrorists appearing in beheading and hostage-taking videos”.

Pell’s second example of intolerance was a handful of unsuccessful attempts by certain Muslims to seek orders against Christians who engaged in “criticism” of Islam “religiously, sociologically [and] philosophically”. Yet the strange thing is that the very individuals he tries to defend have themselves engaged in the kind of intolerance he accuses proponents of “modern liberalism” of engaging in against Christian groups.

Among those Pell defends is Danny Nalliah from Catch The Fire Ministries. Nalliah is on record as calling on his congregation to pray that mosques, Hindu and Buddhist temples and even Masonic temples be torn down.

Pell then claims that “many in the West have grown used to practising self-censorship when it comes to Islam”. That may be the case with certain non-Muslim Westerners, but there have been plenty of Muslims quite happy to openly criticise and question and even lampoon their faith, leaders and communities.

In all these instances, Pell sees Christians’ liberty being compromised by an aggressive form of secular liberalism. Yet Pell was quite happy to see special regulations introduced to stop people from causing “annoyance or inconvenience” to World Youth Day participants.

Before his next polemical foray, Cardinal Pell might ponder over words Christ once used: “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”

Peter Fray

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