Piers Morgan accuses Pope Francis of 'endorsing violence' against critics of religion
Piers Morgan on Feb. 18, 2014. [YouTube]

Former CNN host Piers Morgan accused Pope Francis on Thursday of promoting aggression against anyone who criticizes religion.

"Here was my Holy Father, supposedly a man who espouses the philosophy of turning the other cheek, telling us all to whack someone in the face if they insult us," Morgan wrote in the Daily Mail. "Well, isn't that exactly what Al Qaida did in Paris, metaphorically speaking? They claimed the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists had insulted their religion, and reacted with physical aggression. Albeit aggression of a deadly, despicable varity."

Morgan's column was published a day after the Pope condemned the mass shooting that killed 12 Charlie Hebdo staff members, while saying that "there are limits" to freedom of speech and comparing insulting a person's faith to insulting his mother.

"If my good friend Dr. [Alberto] Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, then a punch awaits him," the Pope said, using his trip organizer as an example. "It's normal. One cannot provoke. One cannot insult the faith of others. One cannot make fun of faith."

While Pope Francis has emerged as "the biggest breath of fresh air since John Paul II," Morgan argued, his remarks effectively "endorsed violence" against Charlie Hebdo, since their content -- which mocked the Islamic Prophet Mohammad, among other religious figures -- could lead to them being seen as "provocateurs."

"If I were a non-violent Muslim, who has had to put up with a week of people demanding I apologise for the actions of a bunch of cowardly terrorists, then I would feel perfectly entitled right now to ask what on earth the Pope is thinking by defending the use of violence to suppress free speech?" Morgan wrote. "All religions should be held up to scrutiny, mockery, and the occasional insult. When my own Church covered up the widespread abuse of young children by many of its pedophile priests, that was behaviour thoroughly deserving of every insult thrown its way. And Charlie Hebdo did exactly that, incidentally."

Morgan wrote that while he admired the Pope, the Bible itself advocated for adulterers to be stoned to death, as well as the "eye-for-an-eye" philosophy of retribution, placing him on the wrong side of the argument.

"I don’t want my Pope, or any religious leader, to ever endorse any form of violence for anything," Morgan stated. "Their job is to promote peace, and they should stick to it."

Watch a report on the Pope's remarks, as aired on CBS News, below.