Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019

Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019

The Briefing

February 26, 2019

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

It’s Tuesday, February 26, 2019. I’m Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

The culture of death lurches forward: Senate fails to pass legislation that would protect the lives of children born alive

In an event both tragic and simultaneously telling, one of the most important events in recent American political history, late yesterday, the United States Senate failed to muster enough votes to protect the lives of children born alive after an attempted abortion. It should be inconceivable that such an event would happen in a legislative body such as the United States Senate, but it did happen, and it happened yesterday.

As Mike DeBonis and Felicia Sonmez report for the Washington Post, the Senate voted Monday to block consideration of a measure that would punish any doctor who fails to provide medical care to a child born alive after an attempted abortion. All but three Democrats voted against a procedural motion on the Born Alive Abortion Survivor’s Protection Act, denying it the necessary 60 votes to proceed. The final vote count was 63 in favor and 44 opposed.

So a bare majority, 53 senators voted in favor of the legislation, but 44 opposed it. And what’s important to recognize is that the filibuster in the Senate requires 60 positive votes for a measure to proceed to the senate floor for a full vote. As the Washington Post rightly reported, the bill would have required a healthcare practitioner, “To exercise the same degree of professional skill, care, and diligence to preserve the life and health of the child, as he or she would to any other child born alive at the same gestational age.”

The post went on to say that the bill included criminal penalties, a right of civil action from the affected mother and a mandatory reporting requirement for other health providers. The primary sponsor of the legislation is Nebraska Senator, Ben Sasse. He was not only the sponsor, but the author of the bill. He said, “I want to ask each and every one of my colleagues whether or not we’re okay with infanticide. It is too blunt,” he said, “for many people in this body, but frankly, that is what we are talking about here today.” Are we a country,” he asks, “that protects babies that are alive, born outside the womb after having survived a botched abortion?”

Sasse went on to describe the legislation as an infanticide ban that would aim to protect innocent newborns. Now one of the things we have of necessity been tracking in the United States is the radical nature of the pro-abortion movement, now pressing for abortion to be legal under any and every conceivable circumstance, even late-term abortions, that even the pro-abortion movement had at least shied away from until very recently. But we have seen now, in the State of New York, and then proposed in Virginia, Rhode Island, and now Illinois, efforts to legalize even late-term abortion.

The Christian World View points to the sanctity and dignity of every human life from the moment of fertilization until natural death. Thus, every abortion is understood to be the murder of an unborn child. But even the most radical pro-abortionist had backed off of public support of late-term abortion until now. But it appears that all of the limits are now off. All of the restraint is off of the pro-abortion movement. Yesterday only three Democrats even dared to cross the aisle to vote for a legislative ban on infanticide.

That would have been unthinkable even very recently in American politics. But it’s the reality now, especially with the 2020 presidential election looming before us and so many Democrats vying for the Democratic presidential nomination. They were falling all over themselves to oppose this legal ban on infanticide.

As the post reported, all of the announced 2020 Democratic presidential candidates in the Senate, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Corey Booker of New Jersey, Kamala Harris of California, and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Add to her Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Bernie Sanders of Vermont. They all voted, “No.” They voted, “No” on a bill that would have required the protection of a baby born alive after a botched abortion. And yes, that does happen.

In the floor debate yesterday, Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky described the law as, “A straightforward piece of legislation to protect newborn babies.” He went on to accuse Democrats of, “Suggesting that newborn babies’ right to life may be contingent on the circumstances surrounding their birth.” Senator McConnell’s comments were exactly right, but we have to remember that in recent years we have seen the pro-abortion movement and its allies in the United States Congress, oppose even legislation such as the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act that prevented and outlawed the most macabre murder of an unborn baby in the womb. Now we see a similar pattern.

But what happened yesterday represents even a lurch forward for the culture of death. Senator McConnell said, “So my colleagues across the aisle need to decide where they’ll take their cues on these moral questions. On the one hand, there are a few extreme voices who decided some newborn lives are more disposable than others. On the other side is the entire rest of the country.”

Now, in that respect, Senator McConnell was pointing to the fact that there is, and is well documented, an overwhelming consensus of moral judgment on the part of the American people opposed to late-term abortion, not to mention infanticide. But what’s really striking in the story is not that 53 votes were for the legislation, but that 44 were opposed. Only three Democratic Senators dared cross the aisle in support of this legislation, and in every case, it’s understandable why when you consider their constituencies.

Those senators were Senators Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Doug Jones of Alabama. Again, consider the fact that every single declared candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in the senate voted and wanted to be seen and heard as voting against the legislation.

To whom is the Democratic party so obligated on the abortion question? The answer to that has to include the Planned Parenthood Federation of American. Lena Wynn, the president of the group, said, “We must call out today’s vote for what it is, a direct attack on women’s health and rights. This legislation,” she said, “is based on lies and a misinformation campaign aimed at shaming women and criminalizing doctors for a practice that doesn’t exist in medicine or reality.”

But of course it does. And if it wasn’t a problem, why did she oppose the legislation? There is an inherent and deadly contradiction in the pro-abortion argument, and we see it very clearly here. They go on to say, “This does not happen, and we must not outlaw it. This is a violation of a woman’s medical treatment, but it never happens and shouldn’t be worry anyway.” Some of the statements against the legislation coming from the Democratic side are virtually unbelievable.

Senator Patty Murray of Washington State went on to describe the bill as “Clearly anti-doctor, anti-woman, and anti-family.” Seriously, a bill that would have protected the sanctity of the life of a baby born is described as anti-family. Senator Murray went on to reveal the contradiction I described when she said, “It has no place becoming law. Its proponents claim it would make something illegal that is already illegal. She went on to add that the law would, “Do nothing except help Republicans advance their goal of denying women their constitutionally-protected rights.”

Well again, which way does she want it? There are at least three different directions of argument incompatible with one another in her statement. Does it happen, or does it not? If it does happen, is it meaningful or not? Is it a matter of the fact that this would deny women their constitutionally-protected rights? Then if it doesn’t happen, how would that be possible? If it is making something illegal that is already illegal then why would you oppose it, if it doesn’t exist anyway?

The pro-abortion movement is actually becoming an extended satire on Alice in Wonderland. Words don’t matter. Arguments are thrown at the air. It is simply a matter of making every desperate argument against a pro-life bill imaginable. Even in this case when we’re not talking about pre-natal life, we’re not talking about human life in the womb, we’re talking about a baby that has unquestionably been born alive, even in the context of a botched abortion.

So this is where we stand in America today. The context of the 2020 race for the Democratic presidential nomination, and the general leftward lurch of the Democratic party is now represented in an even more radical support for the abortion rights movement, and even more radical arguments coming from that very movement. And of course, not only do ideas have consequences, not only do elections have consequences, but legislation will have consequences. There will be consequences to the fact that this legislation did not pass.

But Christians should note this event very, very closely. We should consider the ramifications very, very gravely. Because if nothing else, the developments over the last few days, even the last 24 hours in the United States, show us just how far the culture of death is advancing by the hour. Not just by the decade or the generation, but by the day, by the week, and yes, even by the hour, right now in the United States of America.

From time to time legislation by virtue of the fact that it passes or fails to pass offers something of a diagnostic test of the moral condition of the United States, its people and its culture. Something like a moral MRI or a moral CAT scan. The scan revealed yesterday is chilling. The news is tragic. If you look honestly at this scan, what you see is the culture of death staring back at us ominously.

Part II

With all eyes on the Vatican, the meeting on Catholic clergy sex abuse ends with no concrete policy developments

Next, over the last several days, all eyes, especially of the media, have been on Vatican City, and the special event called by Pope Francis in a summoned meeting of selected bishops and those identified as religious superiors. The presenting issue was the clergy sex abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church. Reporting yesterday, Jason Horowitz and Elizabeth Dias of the New York Times tell us, “Pope Francis ended a landmark Vatican meting on clerical sexual abuse by calling for an ‘all-out battle against the abuse of minors, and insisting that the church needed to protect children from ravenous wolves.'” But as the reporters tell us, “For all the vivid language and the vow to combat this evil that strikes at the very heart of our mission, the Pope’s speech was short on the sort of detailed battle plan demanded by many Catholics around the world.”

As a matter of fact, Anne Barrett Doyle, a leader of the group known as Bishop Accountability, said, “Pope Francis’ talk today was a stunning letdown. A catastrophic misreading of the grief and outrage of the faithful. As the world’s Catholics cry out for concrete change, the Pope instead provides tepid promises, all of which we have heard before.”

The really surprising develop was the lack of any development in concrete policies handed down by the Pope. If you are looking at the Roman Catholic Church as an outsider, and that of course would include Evangelical Protestants, you would assume that the Pope would have the authority unilaterally to make change. After all, he is one of the last representations, we’re told, of an absolute monarch on earth.

And the international media reporting on what happened, more importantly, what didn’t happen at the special Vatican meeting, pointed to the fact that the Pope is himself the sole legislator. He can hardly complain that he couldn’t affect the change. He can do so unilaterally. He is described as the Pontiff, the Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church.

That very point was made by Nicholas P. Cafardi, a prominent canon lawyer in the United States. A canon lawyer is an official church law lawyer within the Roman Catholic Church. He said, “The Pope is the sole legislator, so he could make this change wherever he wants. Zero tolerance,” said the canon lawyer, “should be universal law. And the Holy Father can do it himself.”

But behind the bitter disappointment on the part of the many out of the Vatican meeting, there is a really interesting background. As a part of that background, we have to recognize that Pope Francis is actually the third Pope in a row to be judged as unwilling or unable to deal with the clergy priestly sex abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church. This has been a crisis that has now unfolded over decades.

Just a few months ago, Pope Francis ordered American Bishops to stop progress on developing some very clear policies in order to prevent priestly sex abuse. But even in more recent days it has become interesting that the Pope, seeking to lower expectations for the event that ended on Sunday, he also indicated along with members of the curate, that is senior Catholic leadership in the Vatican, the fact that there is yet no absolute international consensus among Catholics that there is even a crisis to respond to. A problem that needs to be fixed.

On Saturday, just a day before the day the end of the Vatican meeting, Elisabetta Povoledo reporting for the New York Times, offered a headline story, “As other nations take a hard look at clerical abuse, Italy mostly ignores it.” She described what can only be called an indifference in the Italian culture to this kind of priestly sex abuse. And one of the things she mentions is that priests and nuns and others are so popular in Italy that it’s difficult perhaps for the entire country to come to the consensus that there really is a problem. The reporter tells us, “Experts consider Italy’s response going to be one of the worst among western nations, comparable to that of some African and Asian churches in which denial about clerical sex abuse is still rampant.”

Reverend Hans Zollner, one of the Vatican’s top experts on safeguarding minors said, “In Italian, there’s no corresponding word for ‘accountability’.” He went on to say, “That says something.” Well, indeed, it does say something. It tells us that in the language there is even now no word that is equivalent to “accountability,” in English. That’s not just an interesting point linguistically, it’s an interesting point morally. Also of importance was the fact that the Pope did not use the term, “zero tolerance,” when it comes to clerical or priestly sex abuse of children in the course of the meeting and importantly in his addresses to the gathering.

The Wall Street Journal reported, “The Pope, who had previously used the phrase, didn’t mention it in his speech, in what critics took as a signal that the problem wouldn’t be solved during his Pontificate.” The Wall Street Journal also noted, “The Pope also displayed a controversial feature of his attitude to clerical sex abuse, his belief that the church has been unfairly singled out since the vast majority of abuse occurs outside the church, above all, in the home. The Pope stated, and I quote, ‘Those who perpetuate abuse are primarily parents, relatives, husbands of child brides, coaches, and teachers.'” The major point here is that the Pope failed to understand the gravity of the charges that had been made for decades against the Roman Catholic Church.

Part III

In the background of the Catholic clerical sex abuse crisis lies a contradiction in the church’s official doctrine and the reality of homosexuality

But next we have to turn to yet another dimension, a very important dimension, if often a missing, intentionally missing dimension, of the Roman Catholic Story. The international media has noticed this, and very tellingly, the New York Times reported in a story by Jason Horowitz, and again Elisabetta Povoledo. The headline, “Not on the Vatican Agenda, but on participant’s minds, homosexuality.” The reporter said, “Call to the Vatican last week by Pope Francis to grapple with the crisis of child sexual abuse by clergy, nearly 200 leaders of the Roman Catholic Church sat for lectures on the responsibility, accountability, and transparency, but privately, they kept raising one issue not on the agenda, homosexuality.

Now the New York Times is a very liberal, secular newspaper, perhaps the world’s most influential single newspaper. Editorially, it is avidly pro-homosexual rights. It is eagerly for the entire spectrum of issues summarized by LGBTQ. It is also in its reporting very much tilted in that direction. So we’re not looking here at some conservative website. We’re not looking at some kind of anti-Catholic website. We’re looking at the most influential newspaper in the world, dealing with the fact that in the background the absolutely necessary background to the Vatican clerical sex abuse crisis is the issue of homosexuality.

And the New York Times also noted what so many around that world have noted, and that is that the unmentioned issue, at least in public in the event, was so much in the background that when the Catholic leaders weren’t talking on the record, this is what they were talking about. And the background here is absolutely explosive.

The Roman Catholic Church officially declares all homosexual behavior to be inherently disordered. To be a grave sin, and yet, consistent reports over the last several decades indicate that a considerable percentage of Roman Catholic priests would rightly be described as homosexual. For decades there were open rumors and now open public arguments that a so-called gay lobby or pink mafia within the Vatican has represented a very clear homosexual influence at the highest level of the Roman Catholic Church.

Rumors going back to the retirement of the previous Pope, an unprecedented development with the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI, indicated that at the time it was understood by many that Pope Benedict had grown exhausted and exasperated trying to defeat and check the influence of the gay mafia within the Vatican. But the fact that this has now broken into the public in repeated stories in newspapers such as the New York Times indicates that there is more here than many prominent Roman Catholic leaders and observers had wanted to acknowledge.

In a front page article in the New York Times, just days ago by Elizabeth Dias, she writes, “Fewer than about 10 priests in the United States have dared to come out publicly, but gay men likely make up at least 30% to 40% of the American Catholic clergy, according to dozens of estimates from gay priests themselves, and researchers. Some priests,” she went on to report, “say the number is closer to 75%.” Now remember again, this is the front page of the New York Times.

Last Thursday, the opening day of the Vatican event, also saw the simultaneous publication of a blockbuster of a book. It’s an international release. In English the title is, In the Closet of the Vatican. It’s by Frédéric Martel, who is himself openly identified as homosexual. He goes onto to document the arguments about the pervasiveness of homosexuality within the Roman Catholic Church. The New York Times, interestingly goes back to say, “That both liberals and conservatives within Catholicism find something of usefulness in the argument and the documentation.”

Why would both liberals and conservatives find interest and urgency in the documentation of such a high percentage of priests in the Roman Catholic Church who will be described as gay? It is because conservatives look at these figures and point to the problem arguing that Pope Francis and the very confusing signals he has sent on homosexuality are the problem, and those who would point from the liberal side to the fact that if there are so many gay priests, perhaps the Roman Catholic should just normalize homosexuality, and let the priests come out of the closet.

Another dimension of all of this in the argument about clerical sex abuse is the acknowledgment that when you look for just one example in the United States, the overwhelming majority of the individuals abused, including the minors abused, they were boys, or they were young men. There is clearly a homosexual pattern. Some in the New York Times argued that this is simply a matter of access and priestly celibacy. The fact that only males are priests and they have access to so many young males, that explains it, they say, as if there’s no basic undertone of homosexuality.

But there’s also the ongoing argument the New York Times in every article related to this question goes on to state over and over again the argument that there is no documented link by the way homosexuality and the sexual abuse of children. But it should not be necessary to argue that in any way homosexuals are more likely to abuse children to argue that homosexuality is itself a major moral crisis in the Roman Catholic Church, and that it is not an accident that there is such an overwhelming majority of those abused that have been boys and young men.

Frank Bruni a very liberal and openly gay columnist in the New York Times, in recent days published an article entitled, The Vatican’s Gay Overlords, in which he basically concedes Martel’s argument about the percentage of Roman Catholic priests who are gay, and those who are leaders in the Vatican, who are also gay. But he goes on to argue that it is dangerous to have this reported because conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church might use this to clamp down on homosexuality. To censure homosexuals according to the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.

Evangelicals looking at this must recognize that clerical sex abuse is not a problem limited to the Roman Catholic Church. Recent evidence should prove that point demonstrably. But there are patterns and there are doctrines within the Roman Catholic Church that contribute to the globally explosive problem of priestly sex abuse in that church. And the Vatican meeting just concluded in Rome indicates why the Roman Catholic Church appears to be so unwilling and unable in any honest terms to come to an understanding of what must be done.

And here was also have to note something that is an important lesson to all of us. A church that isn’t clear, not just in its supposed doctrinal teaching, but in its pastoral application. In the daily life and discipline of the church. A church that isn’t clear about what is and is not scripturally mandated, scripturally proscribed, scripturally defined in human sexually, that church should not be surprised that confusion, corruption, and just about everything else that could be imaginable follows in the inevitable wake of that kind of confusion.

Pope Francis has fueled that confusion by arguing himself for a distinction between the actual doctrine and teaching of the church and the pastoral application. That is a fatal dichotomy. It will lead not only to confusion, it will lead to corruption. It will lead to the pervasiveness of sin. It will lead to the very pattern that this Vatican meeting was called to confront, but evidently didn’t, at least in any clear and unmistakably terms. And what makes this all the more perplexing in the case of the Roman Catholic Church is that is has a hierarchy, a magisterium, it has a Pope who could have acted, but didn’t. Didn’t act clearly. Certainly did not act decisively.

There are so many issues right now that demand the thinking of intelligent Christians. We’ll be looking this week at developments such as a major case on religious liberty coming before the United States Supreme Court. We’re going to be looking at a federal judge striking down the limitation of draft registration for men, and not including women.

We’re going to look at the fact that the United Methodist Church, the second largest Protestant denomination in the United States is meeting even right now in St. Louis in a specially-called general conference to decide in one meeting the future of the United Methodist Church on the LGBTQ issues. As you might expect, it is a massively important meeting. Now we would’ve talked about it on Monday and Tuesdays, on the briefing, except for the fact we have to wait until the final decision is made today.

Here’s a quick update. The conservative plan, the most conservative of the three major options, held a plurality of support in those who were meeting in the special conference in St. Louis, as of yesterday. But the final vote does not come until today. And understand what is at stake. We could see one of the major mainline Protestant denominations in the United States, the last one of those mainline denominations not to capitulate to the LGBTQ issues, we could see that church affirm its historical biblical teaching on the nature of marriage and human sexuality. That will lead to a division of the church to be sure, but it will at least mean that this major denomination affirmed the truth, the biblical truth of the nature of marriage and of human sexuality.

Thus, I in the briefing, encouraging us all to pray for our brothers and sisters in the United Methodist Church bravely fighting for truth, we must pray that they will win today, and that their cause will be vindicated. We’ll be talking about it extensively tomorrow on The Briefing.

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 to go boycecollege.com.

I’m speaking to you from Pasadena, California. Today, I’ll be speaking in chapel at California Baptist University. I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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