The head of the self-described largest Catholic civil rights organization in the United States said Wednesday that he did not condone the murder of journalists at the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo, but sympathized with the perpetrators.
"Killing in response to insult, no matter how gross, must be unequivocally condemned. That is why what happened in Paris cannot be tolerated. But neither should we tolerate the kind of intolerance that provoked this violent reaction," Catholic League president Bill Donohue said in a statement.
Two gunmen killed at least 12 people in Paris during an attack on the newspaper's office.
“The two men opened fire and coldly executed those gathered for the editorial conference,” a police source told AFP.
Donohue said Charlie Hebdo had a "long and disgusting record " of mocking religious figures, including unflattering depictions of the Prophet Mohammad and Catholic popes.
"While some Muslims today object to any depiction of the Prophet, others do not," he continued. "Moreover, visual representations of him are not proscribed by the Koran. What unites Muslims in their anger against Charlie Hebdo is the vulgar manner in which Muhammad has been portrayed. What they object to is being intentionally insulted over the course of many years. On this aspect, I am in total agreement with them."
Donohue, who has attacked liberals for not criticizing the Islamic faith, said the chief editor of the newspaper was to blame for his own death.
"Stephane Charbonnier, the paper’s publisher, was killed today in the slaughter," he wrote. "It is too bad that he didn’t understand the role he played in his tragic death. In 2012, when asked why he insults Muslims, he said, 'Muhammad isn’t sacred to me.' Had he not been so narcissistic, he may still be alive. Muhammad isn’t sacred to me, either, but it would never occur to me to deliberately insult Muslims by trashing him."
Donohue concluded: "Anti-Catholic artists in this country have provoked me to hold many demonstrations, but never have I counseled violence. This, however, does not empty the issue. Madison was right when he said, 'Liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty as well as the abuses of power.'"