Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018

Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018

The Briefing

November 13, 2018

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

It’s Tuesday, November 13, 2018. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

Vatican bars U.S. Bishops from taking action on sex abuse scandal, exposes structural fault in Roman Catholicism

Looking across the headlines today, there was one headline from the religious world that was particularly important. It was datelined Baltimore, Maryland, it has to do, as reported by major media, with the meeting of about 300 bishops of the Roman Catholic Church. It’s a meeting to which there have been a great deal of expectation attached. The headline story in The Baltimore Sun, the newspaper of the city where the meeting is to be held, as of yesterday, was this, “Catholic Bishops’ Meeting In Sex Abuse Crisis Shadow.” The Washington Post, very close to Baltimore, ran its headline story, “Crisis Will Be Bishops’ Sole Focus At Meeting.”

The article in the Baltimore Sun was by Jonathan M. Pitts. He reports, “The nation’s Catholic bishops will gather in Baltimore this week against the backdrop of a sexual-abuse crisis that has reached the highest levels of the church in the United States.” Pitts went on to report, “After a year in which a Pennsylvania grand jury report revealed that hundreds of ‘predator priests’ molested more than 1,000 children over seven decades and a U.S. cardinal resigned over sexual abuse allegations, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is expected to set aside much of its traditionally staid policy-making agenda to address the scandal during three days of meetings that start today.” That would be yesterday.

The Baltimore Sun article then cites the Reverend Thomas J. Reese, a Jesuit priest who is a long time religion writer and observer and analyst of Roman Catholicism in the United States. He said, “This is going to be a very important meeting in terms of how they,” meaning the bishops, “respond to the crisis and whether their response is going to be adequate to deal with the tremendous concerns everybody has.”

The article in the Baltimore Sun sets the agenda very clearly, the bishops have decided to set aside all of their traditional business and instead focus on a concentrated response to the child sex abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church. That would make sense. The Baltimore Sun article states over and over again that is the purpose, there is so much at stake, the bishops simply have to address this issue, or they and the Roman Catholic Church will be destroyed in terms of credibility.

And then you have the headline story in The Washington Post by reporter Julie Zauzmer. She begins by saying, “After months of outcry from American Catholics demanding that bishops, the highest-ranking Catholic leaders in the United States, be held accountable for decades of child abuse by priests, the bishops will meet in person for the first time for a days-long reckoning about how to address the crisis.”

She also went on to say, “In a highly unusual move, the bishops will put aside almost everything else on their agenda for the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and focus solely on rectifying their policies on abuse. The leaders,” we are told, “of all 196 U.S. archdioceses and dioceses are invited to attend the Baltimore event.”

The article by Julie Zauzmer in The Washington Post again indicates that the bishops know what is at stake, they know they have to respond. They know that their credibility and the credibility of Catholicism in the United States requires them to respond now. Not only sooner rather than later, but now, after they are understood to have failed, not only for a matter of decades, but for that matter, they have failed most excruciatingly, according to these press reports, in the last several months in the inadequacy of their response.

But then comes the bombshell. The bombshell came yesterday as The National Catholic Reporter tells us, “The plenary meeting of the Unites States Conference of Catholic Bishops opened with a bombshell. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the conference, announced that the Holy See had insisted the U.S. bishops not vote on any concrete action items regarding the clergy sex abuse crisis.” Instead, the Vatican said that the bishops are to wait for a February meeting of the presidents of all bishops’ conferences that Pope Francis had previously announced.

Now, to say this is a bombshell is an understatement. The instruction from the Vatican was announced to the Catholic bishops’ conference just as the news stories, I cited the two most important in The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post, announced even as their meeting began that the sole purpose of the meeting was to finally see the bishops respond to the crisis. But then the Vatican, and that means explicitly Pope Francis, told the bishops in the United States that they were to do no such thing.

A team of reporters for The Wall Street Journal, that would be Ian Lovett and Francis X. Rocca, reported, “The Vatican barred Roman Catholic bishops in the U.S. from taking action to confront sex abuse, frustrating church leaders from across the country who had gathered here,” that’s in Baltimore, “for their annual meeting aiming to address the conference.”

The reporters go on to say, “The night before the conference, the U.S. bishops’ leadership received an order from the Vatican forbidding them from taking any steps on sex abuse this year and forcing them to wait until after a global summit on the issue, scheduled for February.”

The Wall Street Journal then summarized the issue this way, “The Vatican’s move exposes a deep and growing rift between Pope Francis and the U.S. bishops over how to handle the sex abuse problem.”

Now evangelical Christians looking at this kind of news story may say, “Well, that’s just the Catholic world, that’s just their business, we have no interest in this.” But of course we do, for many reasons. For one thing, we need to watch what is going on in the Catholicism in order to learn the moral lessons and the theological lessons that present themselves.

First, the theological lesson. Here you are looking at the magisterial hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church acting as it has throughout the centuries, and that is to protect the Church and to protect itself. And that is something that is something that is now pretty much understood. Even as the Vatican has told the American Catholic bishops, they can’t even clean up their house, they can’t take action until after an international meeting of the presidents of the bishops’ councils. And that’s from around the world, which is going to change the situation enormously.

And we also have to note that the clergy sex abuse crisis, the priestly sex abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church, is certainly not limited to the United States, if anything, it may be worse elsewhere, especially in the developing world where there is less law enforcement and less supervision. If anything, in the United States it is the prevalence and the pervasiveness of a law enforcement culture that has eventually caught up. That’s exactly what took place when the Attorney General of Pennsylvania earlier this year released that devastating report, over 1,000 credible reports of the sexual abuse of children over 70 years involving hundreds of priests. But, of course, also involving, if nothing else, the lax oversight of the Catholic bishops.

And furthermore, as both of these news stories have made clear, the scandal has gone all the way up to the hierarchy of the American Catholic Church with the retired cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Washington D.C., now credibly, publicly, repeatedly charged, not only with covering up child sexual abuse, but with being a perpetrator himself.

One of the things we need to understand here is something that most evangelicals don’t see and that is that in the ecclesiology of the Roman Catholic Church, the bishops are effectively princes of the Church. They are royalty of a sort. One observer, having no theological agenda whatsoever, just made the historical observation recently that if you want to look at an operational medieval monarchial court, look no further than the Vatican. That is basically what it is. But you’ll also see here that the princes of the Church, the bishops and the cardinals, they eventually can be stopped, even in their intention to clean up their own house, by the pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, by the Pope. In this case, Pope Francis. That’s just a reminder to us of how much ecclesiology matters, the unbiblical office of the pope and the entire system of a magisterial hierarchy. What we see demonstrated here is what we have seen in so many other kinds of royal courts and that is the absolute determination to preserve and protect the court at any cost.

The cost in public credibility in the United States is likely to be massive. And I think the bishops understood that. That’s why they were sending every single signal they could imagine in the lead-up to the meeting, saying that they were going to take this seriously and they were going to act on it. But one of the very interesting issues of speculation about why the Vatican took this action has to do with at least one and maybe two of the three concrete proposals that the American Catholic bishops were expected to approve. And those proposals included some kind of lay oversight of bishops, a code of conduct for bishops, and also an independent third party, some kind of third party vendor that was to be involved in order to provide some kind of accountability when there was an accusation of priestly sexual abuse.

But here we need to note, the speculation amongst many Catholics and observers of the Catholic Church is that those first two are likely to be a step too far, a step way too far, we might say two steps too far, for the Vatican to accept. The issue here is that the Vatican is unlikely to approve any system that would provide for any kind of authority over the bishops in any nation. That would include the United States of America. To preserve the princely nature of the bishops and that appears to be something that Pope Francis is going to insist upon. And of course, that idea of some kind of lay oversight of bishops is, again, something that is likely to be unthinkable to the Vatican. That may well be why the Vatican put an absolute halt, even at the embarrassment of the bishops in the United States, upon their meeting this week.

But there’s something else we really need to note here. And that is that the step that would require a code of conduct for bishops is also likely to be a big problem for the Vatican. And it is something that in its absence points to a big surprise for many evangelical Christians, it’s also been a surprise for many Catholics. For example, when it comes to the retired cardinal archbishop McCarrick of Washington D.C., he was eventually, just here very recently, required to resign as a cardinal. That’s almost unthinkable in the Roman Catholic system, but he did so, not because of a credible accusation of the sexual abuse of an adult, in this case a seminarian, but rather for children. And that pointed to the fact that there is nothing in canon law, right now, in the year 2018, that would state that it is unlawful for a Roman Catholic bishop to sexually abuse an adult. That is a glaring absence.

And it’s addressed in one of these news articles, where the code of conduct for bishops is raised. One of the bishops himself said, “Why would we need a code of conduct? We have the gospel of Jesus Christ,” meaning the teachings of Christ in scripture. But he went on to say, evidently we do need it.

This is simply horrifying. And it points to the horrifying reality of this scandal. But it also points, we simply have to say, to the giant structural fault of the very idea of a Roman Catholic bishop operating with the kind of authority that Church recognizes. We simply have to observe that this is going to lead, one day or another, sooner or later, to a repetition of another scandal, if not this, then another scandal not yet anticipated. And that’s because if you have to come up with a code of conduct that’s going to stipulate by canon law something as profoundly simple to understand as sexual abuse, then you have already created a situation in which you’re not going to be able to come up with enough rules, given the sinfulness of sin and the ingenuity of human beings.

This, finally, theologically and morally, should remind evangelical Christians of the utter simplicity of the morality of sex as found in scripture. That utter simplicity comes down to this, the only legitimate context for human sexual expression is marriage between a man and a woman. The covenant of marriage, monogamous and enduring, between a husband and a wife, a man and a woman. The biblical understanding of sexual morality is that sexual expression is illegitimate in any other context, period. That is utter simplicity. It’s the simplicity given to us by the Creator and abundantly defined and emphasized in his revealed Word, the holy scripture.

You might say that the Protestant response in this light is simply this, when the scripture speaks, God speaks. And when God speaks, enough said.

Part II

New president of Planned Parenthood spends first day on the job trying to convince Americans Planned Parenthood has nothing to do with abortion

But next, we shift to a very important story here in the United States. Yesterday was day one on the job for the new leader of Planned Parenthood at the national level. As Alexandra DeSanctis reports, “It’s her first official day on the job as the incoming president of Planned Parenthood,” this was datelined yesterday. “And the way Leana Wen”, we are told, “spent her morning is a clue that she intends to continue the public-relations campaign convincing Americans that her group has nothing to do with abortion.”

Now, let’s just remind ourselves that Planned Parenthood is the most prolific provider of abortions in the United States. It is thus the most murderous organization, when it comes to the unborn, of any organization in the United States. We also understand that Planned Parenthood is, we can only put it this way, monomaniacally committed to abortion.

You may remember that in the early months of the Trump administration, leaders within that administration including the President’s daughter and her husband, met or at least communicated with Planned Parenthood leaders, saying that the administration would cease efforts to defund Planned Parenthood if they would only cease and desist from the operation of their abortion services. They absolutely refused to do so, it was Planned Parenthood that went national with the story in order to draw attention to the fact that they are so committed abortion that they rebuffed to the White House even making this kind of offer.

We’ve discussed the fact that amongst the secular left, you are looking at abortion as the sacrament of their religion. It is so essential and central, they are not about to part with it. It is central to their understanding of human liberation, all the way down to what they will describe as a woman’s control of her body and that means the woman’s decision, if she so chooses to end the life within her for any reason or for no reason, and Planned Parenthood would say, without scrutiny and furthermore, at any point along the gestational cycle.

We’re looking here at the fact that Planned Parenthood is making a very clear public relations statement in their new president. The big PR, we’ve already noticed this months ago, that came with the announcement of the appointment of Dr. Leana Wen as the new president, the big point they’re trying to make is, she’s a doctor, she’s all about healing, she’s all about life. It’s all about reproductive health care. It’s all about women’s health care. This is one of the great horrifying deadly lies of the 21st century. The use of the kind of language of women’s health care or reproductive health care, when most importantly, it is really serving as a camouflage for abortion.

The point Alexandra DeSanctis was making at Nation Review Online yesterday is that the friendly, indeed you could say fawning, press attention to the new president of Planned Parenthood allowed her, in appearances yesterday, to act as if abortion is simply not even a part of the picture. As DeSanctis writes, “Bright and early, Wen appeared on CBS This Morning, greeted by a panel of interviewers who were all but interrupting one another in their haste to toss softball questions her way.”

DeSanctis continues, “The segment began as one might expect, with CBS laying out statistics uncritically claiming that Planned Parenthood provides irreplaceable health care for millions of American women every year. Totally unmentioned, of course,” she says, “was the fact that Planned Parenthood is also far and away the nation’s largest abortion provider, performing 321,384 abortions last fiscal year alone.” That’s according to Planned Parenthood’s own annual report.

Let’s go back to that number, 321,384 abortions in the last fiscal year alone. DeSanctis then summarizes, “That’s more than one-third of the annual abortions performed every year in the United States.”

One of the essential points that DeSanctis makes here is that Leana Wen, the new president of Planned Parenthood, effectively, skillfully, strategically avoided using the word abortion even once in this media appearance. And CBS can only be described as complicit, if not equally strategic in allowing her to avoid the word.

Instead, she talked over and over again about health care, health care, health care. Reproductive health care, women’s health care, which is the new euphemism for abortion and allowing the avoidance of articulating the word abortion. Why? Because Americans, even those who say they are pro-choice or maybe even pro-abortion, they instinctively recoil, and this tells us something about the Imago Dei and about what it means to be moral creatures, even they recoil, even they have to recognize revulsion in the word abortion.

DeSanctis concludes her article by saying, “Wen’s interview this morning shows that Planned Parenthood intends to carry on deceiving the public, this time aided by a president,” that means the president of Planned Parenthood, “who is both an immigrant and a doctor, better enabling her to pretend that her group focuses on everything under the sun but abortion.” She concludes, “As long as media outlets such as CBS remain willing and eager to run cover, Planned Parenthood will continue to get away with it.”

But then we note that the very same kind of fawning attention is represented by the final full page in Sunday’s edition of The New York Times magazine, it’s an interview of Dr. Leana Wen. It was conducted by Caitlin Roper, just consider the headline, “Dr. Leana Wen Dislikes the Politicization of Health Care.” Think of the propaganda that’s reflected in that. Of course, every right-minded person would oppose the politicization of health care, but what you’re really looking at here is the euphemization of murder in the womb.

The most horrifying part of this article is the very end, where in answer to a question, Dr. Wen says, “Individuals can have their own views about abortion. What I have a problem with is when they, or the government, impose their will on women’s bodies and health. It’s insulting,” she says, “when people describe their anti-choice stance as pro-life. What I do,” she said, “is promote life and the well-being of women and families and communities.” Her last words, “I’m a physician, I went to medical school. Everything I’ve ever done is to save lives.”

Now, notice what’s going on there. “I’m a physician,” she says, “I went to medical school. Everything I’ve ever done is save lives.” Well, that is simply profoundly, morally repugnant when you consider the organization she now leads. To save lives? Well, what lives? Her organization terminated, as we just saw, last fiscal year alone, 321,384 unborn human beings in the United States. In just a 12 month period, in 52 weeks the organization that she declares that she now leads, having become a physician and gone to medical school and doing all she’s ever done to save lives, it’s an organization that proudly put to death 321,384 unborn human beings in America last fiscal year.

To the secular left, that makes her a heroine. But that actually tells us far more about the secular left than it even does about the new leader of Planned Parenthood.

Part III

Embracing insanity: In age of autonomous individual, one man takes this to its logical end, suing to lower his age 20 years

Finally, USA Today, just a couple of days ago reported a story with this headline, “Man, 69, sues to lower his age 20 years. He says it will help him on Tinder.” Joel Shannon reported for USA Today, similar reports were especially common in the European media, such as Harry Cockburn’s story at The Independent from London. Again, the headline there, “Man, 69, applies to legally change age because he ‘identifies as 20 years younger'”

Cockburn’s report from London states the issue this way, “A Dutch man is trying to legally change his age from 69 to 49 with the aim of boosting his online dating prospects. Emile Ratelband, a motivational speaker, entrepreneur and former daytime TV program host, is attempting,” we are told, “to move his birthday from 11 March 1949 to 11 March 1969.” He told The Telegraph in the Netherlands, “You can change your name. You can change your gender. Why not your age? Nowhere are you so discriminated against as with your age.”

Now, the man went on to say that his doctor had told him he has the body of someone more than 20 years younger than his age, he describes himself as a young god. And he now demands that the Dutch government and the Dutch society recognize that he is not, as his normal age would be reckoned, as 69, as his birth certificate states, but rather merely 49. Because listing his age as 69 cuts down on his romantic prospects on online dating services such as Tinder.

USA Today says that a Dutch court is expected to rule on the question in about four weeks, but one prominent Dutch lawyer told The Independent that the claim is not likely to get anywhere because after all, it’s nonsensical.

But wait just a minute, why is it nonsensical? We are living in a society that says you can fundamentally demand that the society say that even though you have a male anatomy, you’re a female. Even though you have female anatomy, you are a male. And you have a society that in every way is now insisting that all right-minded people must recognize this. We are increasingly told in this society that we are autonomous individuals who have the right to identify ourselves as who we are. This man, simply taking this to an admittedly ludicrous end by saying, “That must also apply to my age and the government must come to terms with this. I identify as 49, not 69.”

You may recall that back in 2015, there was controversy here in the United States with a young woman who identified as African-American and there was outrage amongst many committed to identity politics when it was discovered that she wasn’t actually, by the kind of definition commonly recognized, African-American, even though she identified as African-American. She was told, “You can’t do that because race is an immutable characteristic.”

But if that’s immutable, what about sex? What about the sexual identification as male or female? Well, we are told, “That can be changed.” Well, so could skin color and other kinds of characteristics. What we’re looking at here is the fact that we are a society that has embraced insanity and is trying somehow to say, “We’ll be insane on this question, but we’ll not be insane on that question.”

The culture insanity on this scale simply won’t obey the rules. Like an unruly dog, it jumps over the fence. Insanity spreads, it goes everywhere. Inevitably.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College just go to boycecollege.com.

I’m speaking to you from Birmingham, Alabama, and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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