As a parent, I’m constantly trying to teach my kids that physical violence and retaliation are escalating behaviors that might make you feel better in the moment- but moments later prove themselves to have not just “not solved” a problem, but in fact make your problems worse.
“Don’t hit your sister“, I tell my son.
“But SHE called me a poopy-head”
“So now, instead of telling your mom, and your sister going to her room- you both get to go to your room. Do you think hitting her made your life easier?”
Violence begets violence. Retaliation begets more retaliation. The world is not always going to spin in the direction you want it to and sometimes you are going to have to deal with things that make you frustrated and angry. There are lots of reasonable, logical, and moral ways to deal with the feeling that you have been slighted. As a parent, I understand that the toolkit for dealing with these feelings isn’t always available to my ten year old, let alone my seven year old- and certainly not my three year old. But it’s my job– as a parent, a teacher, a mentor- to give my kids the tools necessary to make better decisions and ultimately be better people.
I’ve had this talk with all of my kids at one time or another. It’s a little different depending on their age and the context of what they are angry about. You can’t tell a three year old to question whether a slight was really that important and hurtful that it even deserves your attention, but you can tell them to come to their parent when they are frustrated. Likewise, by ten years old you would want your child attempting on their own other strategies rather than just running to a parent every time something goes awry. Different situations call for different lessons.
All good teachers know this.
The Pope is having this talk with his flock right now. Except, he’s not telling them to avoid physical violence. He’s not telling
them to avoid the cycle of retaliation. He’s telling them that that is a reasonable consequence that someone who slights you ought to expect.
“If my good friend Dr Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch,” Francis said while pretending to throw a punch in his direction. He added: “It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”
Faith is sacred. It is sacrosanct. It’s totally off limits. You can’t insult it. Or someone’s mama. Whatever you do, don’t make fun of someone’s mama. ( And I assume, as a consequence, REALLY don’t make fun of the faith of someone’s mama)
There are layers upon layers of wrong going on here.
First, and perhaps the lowest hanging fruit, you don’t have faith in your mama. She tangibly exists- or at the very least existed- and the only thing particularly special about her is that she pushed you out of her uterus. She probably doesn’t care two licks that Alberto thinks she is “so ignorant that she thinks the Nicene Creed is a Prog Rock band.” You should probably just let that go and move on with your life.
Or you could punch him. That works, too.
Second, people are going to say things that you don’t like. People are going to insult things you really love and enjoy. My wife hates Star Trek, and I don’t punch her. I accept that some people really like “Pretty Little Liars” and “Gilmore Girls” more than television that makes you think. My wife and I have spirited discussions about what makes for good television, and we still go to bed together every night without reaching a consensus. You can disagree with someone and even argue with them if you think they are wrong.
Or you could punch them. That works, too.
Third, sometimes people say things that have a meaning different than you interpret. Alberto probably was using a “your momma” joke as a playful way of masculine bonding. He doesn’t really mean that your momma is so ugly that the Catholic Church suspects a second virgin birth. If you can’t interpret the sentiment of what someone is saying to you then it shows that you need more communication, not less.
Or you could punch them. That works, too.
But perhaps most disturbing of all is that Pope Francis is the “spiritual parent” of millions and millions of people. I only risk fucking up the lives of my five little children. This is a man whose words and teachings reach the whole world and are virtually gospel truth to 20% of the humans on this planet. And he is telling us that it is alright to resort to violence. It’s “normal“. These are the teachings that influence how Catholics will think about the limits of criticism. This is how Catholics will assume you deal with ideas that insult their sensibilities.
This is decidedly not how I teach my children about conflict resolution. I tell them to try to be kind, for sure. I tell them not to always expect kindness, and to recognize and reward kindness in others. Sometimes though, people will say things that you don’t like. Your brother might say that a unicorn is the least creative cryptid because it’s just a frigging horse with a horn on it’s head. “Who couldn’t dream that shit up?” he might say.
- You could just ignore it because unicorns are awesome and unicorns don’t need your brother’s approval.
- You could argue that almost all cryptids are amalgams of two animals.
- You could realize he’s just trying to get your goat (or Faun, as the case may be) and not let it get a rise out of you.
- You could tell him that dragons are just really big iguanas, so they are actually way less creative.
But you don’t ever hit your brother. Period. You don’t hit him, punch him, blow him up, shoot up his room with Kalashnikovs, throw acid in his face, stone him to death, lock him in his room indefinitely, or pinch him.
This is Parenting 101.
Too bad the Pope doesn’t see eye to eye on this point.
Maybe it’s because his momma is so bad at parenting, she thinks that the Holy See should see how long it can punch you till you say Uncle.