Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, has issued a statement this week claiming that the religious intolerance of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists “provoked” the “violent reaction” that led to their deaths.

In an article titled "Muslims are right to be angry,” Donohue cites the French publication's long history of offending the religiously devout, including Catholics.

Murdered Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier “didn’t understand the role he played in his tragic death,” Donohue writes.

The statement continues: “In 2012, when asked why he insults Muslims, he (Charbonnier) said, 'Muhammad isn’t sacred to me.' Had he not been so narcissistic, he may still be alive,” Donohue adds.

"Killing in response to insult, no matter how gross, must be unequivocally condemned. That is why what happened in Paris cannot be tolerated," writes Donohue. "But neither should we tolerate the kind of intolerance that provoked this violent reaction."

So religious people have the right not to be offended by blasphemy, Donohue suggests, in his version of the “if you don’t want to be attacked by assailants don’t wear such short skirts” rationale so beloved by elderly British judges.

Those who flout religious pieties, do so at their peril Donohue contends. Killing must be unequivocally condemned. But neither should we tolerate this kind of intolerance…

It’s Donohue’s “but” that qualifies the “unequivocally” part and makes his case that the terror attack is really the fault of its victims.

Meanwhile Donohue’s critics counter that he has always been more concerned over insults to his faith than addressing the international abuse crisis that has erupted within it.

Donohue’s shock statement was quickly denounced by the Washington Post and even by the conservative National Review yesterday. But on Fox News his controversial views received their most sympathetic hearing.

Meanwhile on the conservative Salem Radio Network yesterday presenter Hugh Hewitt, who describes himself as “an orthodox Catholic,” told Donohue he was “appalled and embarrassed” by Donohue’s attitude to the attacks and strongly urged him “to rethink this.”