Fr.Guillermo “Memo” Campuzano, C.M., currently serves as Priest Chaplain for DePaul’s Catholic Campus Ministry. He has worked on behalf of social justice on several continents and often works with religious communities around issues of faith and mission. Students adore him and his challenging, humorous, realistic and loving approach to life and relationships as well as his absolute passion for justice on behalf of those who are marginalized. Let’s hope all are inspired to share their thoughts in the wake of his – he loves a lively diálogo.
This is my first blog post ever. So my readers need to be very gentle and compassionate with my disorganized, free thoughts that I intend to share. My intention in accepting the challenge to write a blog about Charlie Hebdo is to be thought provoking and not in any way to dogmatize about something that needs to be analyzed very carefully (not just from one perspective).
This week I have read in several magazines and newspapers around the globe about something that deeply captured my attention: the right to blaspheme – which can mean many things. In a way, it’s what many in our society consider an absolute right – the right to say anything we want with no limits whatsoever. The right to blaspheme is the right to say whatever we want about what others consider sacred/absolute in their lives. Religious people who believe in God are people with an absolute that they call Hashem, Allah, El Shaddai – just to mention the three monotheistic Abrahamic religious experiences. I am aware that on behalf of this absolute, many acts of inhumanity have been and continue to be made in our society.
For me the paradox is that many people are claiming – after the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack – that they believe in another absolute: free speech, which gives them the right to say anything they want about other people’s absolutes, even if it is offensive. That absolute (free speech) is so absolute that they are willing to risk their lives for it. I say, “What?!?!” My question: Is this a battle between secular and religious absolutists? Does this reoccurring god of the intellectual world have any ethical limits? Or is it an absolute absolutism?
I am a religious man – and I humbly think I am an intellectual man. I like to say what I think – that is what I am doing on this blog. From both perspectives, as a religious man and as a pseudo-intellectual man, I believe that both my faith and my free speech have limits – my absolute respect for life. I absolutely deny, in my life, the possibility to kill or harm in the name of God. But I also deny the possibility to risk my life or put other people’s lives at risk just for me to have the right to say whatever I want. From an ethical perspective I think there is a moment when I morally can risk my life religiously or secularly: it is when I would give my life to protect the life of others. This is martyrdom in religious terms – to protect the life of others – or the most radical act of humanity in secular terms. Is this an absolute where religious and secular worlds can meet? I hope so.
In our humanity, what is absolute? To what do we give that value? What are willing to do to protect it?