Saturday, April 14, 2018

Is Abusing Children Sexually A Spiritual Encounter With God? Identifying & Responding To Fake News

            What do you do when a church leader describes sexual abuse of children as a spiritual encounter with God? What do we do when abuses against the Christian church goes viral on the internet?

            Recently a news flash accusing the Archbishop of the Catholic Church went viral on the internet. Apparently, this man claimed that Pedophilia Is ‘Spiritual Encounter With God:’1

One of the highest-ranking officials in the Catholic Church says sexually abused children can experience “a spiritual encounter with God through the priest” while being molested.
Australia’s most powerful clergy, Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart, says the Catholic practice of confession is satisfactory for dealing with pedophilia in the church as it helps priests absolve “their own guilt” after sexually abusing children.
Asked whether he was prepared to be jailed for failing to report child sex abuse by Catholic pedophile priests, Archbishop Hart confirmed he was willing to serve prison time.  He also claimed the right to cover for pedophiles in the church is an “absolutely sacrosanct communication of a higher order.“
He made the shocking statement in response to the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse which stated there should be “no excuse, protection nor privilege” for Catholic clergy who failed to alert police of abuse within the church.
But Archbishop Hart disagreed and insisted that sexual abuse was “a spiritual encounter with God through the priest” and was “of a higher order” than criminal law.

            Online news is gaining popularity. Harvard University quotes Pew Research Center’s finding that “people under age 50 get half of their news online. And for those under 30, online news is twice as popular as TV news.”2 But not everything that we read online is factual.

            Let us be diligent when we encounter derogatory news against Christianity. Beware of fake news websites and the detractors of Historic Christianity, whose intent is to spread lies in order to abuse Christians and Christianity.

            In fact, the news about the Archbishop of the Catholic Church is fake/false news. Take time to verify the credibility of the news that you read. Do not share anything and everything that you read. Respond only to the credible news items.

            There are quite a few fact-checking websites that identify fake news; some of which are:

            (1) www.snopes.com

            (2) HoaxSlayer.com

            (3) TruthOrFiction.com

            These fact-checking websites will enable us to verify the high-profile and international news. These websites may not be of much help in verifying the credibility of the local news – local church politics, accusations against your church leaders etc. Double-check or triple-check your local news with credible sources.

            Snopes.com has determined the news about the Australian Archbishop as fake, “Fake news web sites gave a blatantly manufactured account of a statement by Archbishop Denis Hart.” Furthermore, Snopes offers a detailed description of this fake news:3

In 2017, after a five-year investigation into child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in Australia, a specially-appointed Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse published their findings.
The report included a section on criminal justice reform, including a recommendation that clergy members become legally-mandated reporters of abuse, even if they obtain the information during the rite of confession.
The notorious fake news web site Neon Nettle reported that Archbishop Denis Hart, a leading member of the Catholic hierarchy in Australia, had rejected the confessional proposal and shockingly, described sexual abuse as a spiritual encounter:
Australia’s most powerful clergy [member], Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart, says he’s prepared to be jailed for failing to report child sex abuse by pedophile priests. He made the shocking statement in response to the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse saying there should be “no excuse, protection nor privilege” for clergy who failed to alert police of abuse.
Hart insisted that sexual abuse was “a spiritual encounter with God through the priest” and was “of a higher order” than criminal law.
Neon Nettle correctly reported that the commission recommended “that there should be no excuse, protection nor privilege in relation to religious confessions” when it comes to the legal obligation to report suspected child abuse.
However, the claim that Archbishop Hart called sexual abuse a “spiritual encounter with God” is blatantly false. Despite that detail, the claim has been the basis of many subsequent republications and reiterations of Neon Nettle’s article — including one published by the equally dubious YourNewsWire.com — in February 2018.
In reality, Archbishop Hart said that confession, not sexual abuse, was “a spiritual encounter with God through the priest.” In a statement released in August 2017, Hart wrote:
Confession in the Catholic Church is a spiritual encounter with God through the priest. It is a fundamental part of the freedom of religion, and it is recognised in the Law of Australia and many other countries. It must remain so here in Australia. Outside of this all offences against children must be reported to the authorities, and we are absolutely committed to doing so.
It is true, however, that Archbishop Hart told Australian media that he would be willing to face criminal conviction and go to jail rather than report to police information about abuse that he had received in confession:
When asked if he would go to jail to uphold the sanctity of the confessional, the Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, told ABC Radio Melbourne he would.
“I’ve said that I would [go to jail.] I believe that this is an absolutely sacrosanct communication of a higher order.”
Archbishop Hart denied suggestions priests would be above the law.
“I would go to extreme lengths outside of the confessional to make sure that the law was observed,” he said. “But there are some matters which are of a higher order, things to do with God.”
In its proposal to change Australian law and remove the confessional exemption from the obligation to report child sexual abuse, the Royal Commission said the right to religious freedom is “not absolute,” and should be limited in the interests of public safety:
We understand the significance of religious confession — in particular, the inviolability of the confessional seal to people of some faiths, particularly the Catholic faith. However, we heard evidence of a number of instances where disclosures of child sexual abuse were made in religious confession, by both victims and perpetrators.
We are satisfied that confession is a forum where Catholic children have disclosed their sexual abuse and where clergy have disclosed their abusive behaviour in order to deal with their own guilt. We heard evidence that perpetrators who confessed to sexually abusing children went on to reoffend and seek forgiveness again.
…We have concluded that the importance of protecting children from child sexual abuse means that there should be no exemption from the failure to report offence for clergy in relation to information disclosed in or in connection with a religious confession.
            To conclude, the Internet allows the presence of the good, bad, and ugly. As diligent Christians, we should verify the credibility of every [contentious] news item we encounter on the internet and then respond appropriately. Let us not waste our precious time and energy in responding to the fake news on the internet and in the process let us not slander the names and reputations of organizations and individuals who have been falsely accused.  

Endnotes:

1http://yournewswire.com/catholic-archbishop-pedophilia-god/

2https://www.summer.harvard.edu/inside-summer/4-tips-spotting-fake-news-story

3https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/archbishop-pedophilia-spiritual-encounter/            

Friday, April 6, 2018

No Hell, Pope?

            Pope Francis has a penchant to be embroiled in controversies.

            In an interview published on March 28, 2018, Pope told his longtime atheist friend, Eugenio Scalfari that there is no hell. He also claimed that the condemned souls just disappear, “In another interview with his longtime atheist friend, Eugenio Scalfari, Pope Francis claims that Hell does not exist and that condemned souls just "disappear." This is a denial of the 2,000-year-old teaching of the Catholic Church about the reality of Hell and the eternal existence of the soul.

            The interview between Scalfari and the Pope was published March 28, 2018 in La Repubblica. The relevant section on Hell was translated by the highly respected web log, Rorate Caeli.”1

            This, apparently, is the transcript of Pope Francis’ interview with Scalfari, “Scalfari says to the Pope, "Your Holiness, in our previous meeting you told me that our species will disappear in a certain moment and that God, still out of his creative force, will create new species. You have never spoken to me about the souls who died in sin and will go to hell to suffer it for eternity. You have however spoken to me of good souls, admitted to the contemplation of God. But what about bad souls? Where are they punished?"

            Pope Francis says, “They are not punished, those who repent obtain the forgiveness of God and enter the rank of souls who contemplate him, but those who do not repent and cannot therefore be forgiven disappear. There is no hell, there is the disappearance of sinful souls."”2

            Quite immediately, on March 29, 2018, the Vatican debunked this report, “In a statement released on Mar. 29, after Scalfari's report garnered worldwide attention, the Vatican said:

            "The Holy Father Francis recently received the founder of the newspaper La Repubblica in a private meeting on the occasion of Easter, without however giving him any interviews. What is reported by the author in today’s article [in La Repubblica] is the result of his reconstruction, in which the textual words pronounced by the Pope are not quoted. No quotation of the aforementioned article must therefore be considered as a faithful transcription of the words of the Holy Father."”3

            Whether the Pope believes in hell or not is not the matter at hand. Hell, if it exists, would not cease to exist just because Pope Francis does not believe in it.

            But hell should exist because God is a just and a loving God. Consider my thoughts from a previous blog entitled, ‘Hell In The Presence Of A Loving God:’4

We believe a loving God would not send HIS children, even under the pretext of unbelief, to eternal torment. How would a loving parent gift his child with prolonged suffering? Would the parent not do all within his means to prevent this horrendous occurrence? This is our painful dilemma. In other words, we question the credibility of God’s love with respect to hell.
True love respects and educates, but never enslaves. A parent who truly loves his child will educate him of good and evil. A parent will do “everything” within his power and will to stop the child from pursuing evil, but that “everything” excludes enslaving his child. If a child is bent on pursuing the path of evil, the parent will choose preventive actions, but will never imprison the child into solitary confinement. The circumstantially handicapped parent may opt to allow the child to have his way; this is the respect the parent shows to the disobedient child’s cognizant volition. A defeated and emotionally fatigued parent will allow the child to continue in willful disobedience. Nevertheless, the parents’ love for the child will never diminish even if the child willfully rebels to disobey.
The father of the prodigal son not only heeds to the property share request of the son, but he goes a step further by not preventing his son from departing to a distant country with his share of wealth (Luke 15:12-13). The son willfully disobeys the loving father, and departs. The loving father expectantly longs for his son’s return and when he does return, the father rushes to welcome the son even before he repents. This is father’s love. A parent’s love will never cease and always hope for the best, but at the same time, a parent’s love will respect the child’s conscious decision.
Was it not C.S Lewis who opined that there are two groups of people in this world of which one group would acknowledge and believe in Christ, bend their knees to HIM and say ‘Your will be done,’ and God would have this group living with HIM unto eternity (in heaven). To the other group who refuse to acknowledge and believe in Christ and bend their knees to God, HE will say ‘your will be done’ and grant them their wish to be away from HIM (in hell). God keeps those who desire to be with HIM, but respects and allows those who reject HIM to be away from HIM. This is true love – a love that provides all, but refuses to enslave. (Please remember the Bible’s proclamation that God has given mankind enough evidence to believe in HIM.)
Let’s travel back to the creation account in Genesis. God placed the tree of the knowledge of good and evil but commanded Adam and Eve not to eat of it (Genesis 2:9, 16-17). Even though it was a command, Adam and Eve were given the freedom to accept or reject God’s command. Thus God exhibited true love, and HE desires mankind to love HIM. True love can only exist in the conscious reality of freedom. Freedom to accept or reject the lover is intrinsic in true love. Therefore, God’s love for mankind warrants the presence of heaven and hell.
God’s justice can also be questioned with respect to hell. How can a just God eternally punish HIS children for the sin of unbelief committed during the specific period of time of their existence in this world? Isn’t the eternal punishment disproportionate to the sin committed in time? This is another painful predicament we struggle with.
Human life was designed to be with God unto eternity through mutual love. Sin separated man and God. God, in HIS foreknowledge, designed a way out of this predicament through the one time sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. HE has also done everything for mankind to believe in HIM, so mankind will be without excuse against God. When man refuses to believe in Christ and thereby rejects God, God simply allows man to be away from HIM unto eternity. In other words, the creational intent is an eternal fellowship with God or an eternal banishment from God. Mankind makes the choice, and God honors that choice. This is Justice. Therefore, God’s justice warrants heaven and hell.

            We could consider this theme from another perspective as well. Consider my thoughts from a previous blog entitled, ‘Why The Hell:’5

Instead of asking “why should there be a hell?” we could ask “what would happen if there is no hell?”
So if there is no hell, there would be…
No Punishment & No Justice
Hell is the perfect punishment for evil. Since evil exists, punishment should prevail. If there is no hell, there will be no perfect punishment for evil…
Sovereignty of Evil
Evil people prosper in this time and age (cf. Psalm 73: 3). If evil people prosper, the weak and innocent would suffer deeply…When evil rules, evil would be the superior moral. If there is no consequence for evil deeds i.e. if there is no hell, good cannot be the superior moral (good need not be stronger than evil). If evil rules over good, evil would be the sole standard for life. Hence evil will pulverize the good.   
Amoral World
…If evil is sovereign, this world would be amoral (evil would be the only superlative moral). Wouldn’t morality cease when the right-wrong moral distinction is erased?  
…Predicated on the fact that life is more valuable than materials, it might be of less significance to the victim and the society if a thief who robbed a pen was not convicted of his crime. But it is of a great significance if a murderer of a child remains unpunished for his crime.
The thief who habitually steals pens could progressively deteriorate into robbing millions. During this progressive deterioration, the thief could also become a killer. Thus the possibilities for the lesser evil to transform into greater evil are endless…If evil rules, violence would be rampant and peace would cease, for the world we live in would be amoral.
God’s Non-Existence
A world without hell could only be postulated under the condition that God does not exist i.e. an atheistic paradigm. It is very reasonable for evil to prosper and justice and peace to be non-existent in the atheistic worldview.
The atheistic paradigm would not (or cannot) offer any reasonable or logical answers to the problem of evil. Such is the moral bankruptcy of atheism.
Ask an atheist to explain the presence of evil. More often than not, they would quote Richard Dawkins in his work “River Out of Eden” and say “there is no such thing as evil.”…So an atheist who denies God’s existence will deny evil and will deny hell. He has no other option. So if there is no hell, there is no god.
Conclusion
If there is no hell, then:
1. Evil would be unpunished.
2. Evil would be sovereign (rule over good).
3. World would be amoral.
4. There should be no God (for hell is only plausible if God exists).
But this is the existential reality…We are not living in a world where evil is sovereign. We are living in a world where God is sovereign. Although Satan is the temporary ruler of this world, the sovereign God is in total control.
We know that God is in total control since our world is not amoral. There are punishments for evils. Evil does not rule over good. 
Good still rules over evil. This is precisely why a good number of people enjoy a rather peaceful existence. The presence of God entails peace.
God has temporarily allowed evil to reign. But HE has assured us that not a hair from our head will perish.
God is good. God does not tolerate evil.
If we repent of our sins, believe and remain in the Lord and Savior Christ, we will be saved. Those who do not believe in Christ remain evil, since their sins remain unforgiven because of their conscious rejection of Christ.
Such an evil person sins against an infinite God. Sins against an infinite God mandate an infinite punishment in the form of hell. Hell then is the eternal abode of all those who reject Christ.
In case you have not received Christ yet, please pray and receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your God and savior. I pray that you repent of your sins and ask Christ to forgive you. The merciful and loving Lord will forgive you and you will be with God forever and ever. I pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.

Endnotes:

1https://www.cnsnews.com/blog/michael-w-chapman/pope-francis-there-no-hell?utm_source=sumome&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=sumome_share

2Ibid.

3Ibid.

4http://rajkumarrichard.blogspot.in/2013/02/hell-in-presence-of-loving-god.html

5http://rajkumarrichard.blogspot.in/2016/02/why-hell.html


Websites last accessed on 6 April 2018.