The president of the Catholic League said the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo "provoked" Wednesday's deadly attack with its mocking cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
In a statement titled, "Muslims Are Right to Be Angry," Bill Donohue condemned the killings, but also said Charlie Hebdo's "intolerance" of religious figures is what prompted the attack. Twelve people were killed after masked gunmen stormed the publication's offices in Paris.
"Killing in response to insult, no matter how gross, must be unequivocally condemned. That is why what happened in Paris cannot be tolerated," the statement opened. "But neither should we tolerate the kind of intolerance that provoked this violent reaction."
"Those who work at this newspaper have a long and disgusting record of going way beyond the mere lampooning of public figures, and this is especially true of their depictions of religious figures," Donohue said. "For example, they have shown nuns masturbating and popes wearing condoms. They have also shown Muhammad in pornographic poses."
The Catholic League founder said Muslims have opposed the "vulgar manner" in which the Prophet Muhammad had been depicted, going on to accuse newspaper publisher Stephane Charbonnier, who was killed Wednesday, of playing a role in his own death.
"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,'" Donohue said. "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."
He continued, "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."
The Catholic League quickly received criticism for the statement, including from one Twitter user who wrote, "Don't forget to blame rape victims for dressing provocatively."
Another added, "You've got this one wrong Bill."
@CatholicLeague Wrong time to make this point. There's no "Murder is wrong but". Just " murder is wrong period."— LeoOD3 (@LeoOD3) January 7, 2015
@CatholicLeague you've got this one wrong Bill— Luke Moore (@tlukemoore) January 7, 2015
@CatholicLeague Please, just stop.— AquinasMan (@AquinasMan) January 7, 2015
The reaction on Facebook was similar, including several who said they were "speechless" by Donohue's stance.
A screenshot from the Catholic League's Facebook page
Donohue's comments came after Financial Times editor Tony Barber said Charlie Hebdo was “actually just being stupid” for publishing the mocking cartoons of Muhammad.