Current Events & Trends: November/December 2018

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November/December 2018

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Current Events & Trends: November/December 2018

MP3 Audio (22.14 MB)

Catholic Church under fire for decades of abuse coverups

Catholic bishops gathered in Rome in October 2018 “for a synod in a moment in which ‘the Church faces perhaps its gravest crisis since the Protestant Reformation in the form of the worldwide clerical sexual abuse scandals,’ according to veteran Vatican analyst John L. Allen, Jr. . . . who heads up the Catholic online news outlet Crux” (Thomas Williams, “Report: Catholic Church Faces Gravest Crisis Since ‘Protestant Reformation,’” Breitbart News, Oct. 3, 2018).

Just prior, the church was “rocked by the revelation that 3,677 children, mostly boys, fell victim to sexual abuse in Germany, implicating well over a thousand clerics over the past few decades. The new figures come from an official report commissioned at the German Bishops’ Conference in 2014, released in [late September 2018]” (Damien Sharkov, “Catholic Church Abuse Scandal: Over 3,600 Victims Revealed in New Report,” Newsweek, Sept. 25, 2018).

This followed news that “more than half of the Netherlands’ senior clerics were involved in covering up sexual assault of children between 1945 and 2010” (“Pope Francis Rocked by Dutch Child Abuse Scandal,” Euronews, Sept. 17, 2018).

In August the pope visited Ireland amid the outrage there, as “Ireland has had one of the worst records of abuse in the world . . . A series of government-mandated inquiries over the past decade . . . concluded that thousands of children were raped or molested by priests and physically abused in church-run schools while bishops covered up for abusers” (Doug Stanglin, “In Ireland, Pope Francis Meets With Catholic Church Abuse Survivors,” USA Today, Aug. 25, 2018). 

The Washington Post reports that “in Australia, sex abuse in the Catholic Church has been so pervasive that thousands of people may be eligible for compensation. A five-year national inquiry into the abuse found that 7 percent of Australia’s Catholic priests were accused of abusing children between 1950 and 2010” (Siobhan O’Grady, “Despite Scandals, Australia’s Catholic Church Stands Firm Against Reporting Child Abuse Revealed in Confession,” Aug. 31, 2018).

It’s a serious problem in America as well. “Lawsuits by abuse victims have so far forced dioceses and religious orders in the United States to pay settlements totaling more than $3 billion, and at least 19 have filed for bankruptcy protection” (Tom Gjelten, “The Clergy Abuse Crisis Has Cost the Catholic Church $3 Billion,” National Public Radio, Aug. 18, 2018). This is dating back to the 1980s.

A Newsweek article reports that “BishopAccountability, whose mission is ‘documenting the abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church’ . . . says that there are also payouts involving over 8,600 cases of assault survivors abused by a member of the clergy dating back to the 1950s. The largest known payout amounted to over $600 million in 2007 . . . issued on behalf of 221 priests and other church employees accused of abusing and victimizing over 500 people” (Emily Zogbi, “The Catholic Church Has Paid Nearly $4 Billion Over Sexual Abuse Claims, Group Says,” Aug. 25, 2018).

BishopAccountability says it has documented that “settlements involving 5,679 persons . . . are only one-third of the 15,235 allegations that the bishops say they have received through 2009, and they are only 5% of the 100,000 U.S. victims” (ibid).

The same article reports that a Pennsylvania grand jury released a document on August 14 detailing cases where more than 300 priests in the state “have been accused, credibly, of abusing over 1,000 children over the course of 70 years.”  

The Catholic Church has been wrought with sexual scandal for decades now, so this is perhaps not so shocking to many. What is shocking is how long it has taken for allegations to come forward or be uncovered if formerly buried and legal action taken. How has something so heinous been hidden for six decades?

It’s horrible that the Catholic Church was able to hide all of these abuse cases for so long. Today, though, is a quite different world than 1945. The Roman Church isn’t seen as the pinnacle of authority it once was. It’s being forced to defend its image like never before because of the Internet and global communication.

Bible prophecy shows that a powerful church centered at Rome will play a role in end-time events before the return of Christ. It will be interesting to see how the Catholic Church will increase in political influence despite accusations like this. How will it handle such scandals going forward? (Sources: Breitbart, Newsweek, Euronews, USA Today, Washington Post, NPR.)



Weather reporter personifies fake news in hurricane coverage

First, our prayers go out to those who have suffered and lost so much during the recent hurricane that hit the East Coast of the United States in mid-September. Florence was a devastating weather disaster that caused considerable destruction and death.

During the coverage of the storm, many of the news reporters were out in the wind and rain to show the intensity of the storm. This is not new. For many years TV reporters have been on location during hurricane landfalls for great video of them braving the elements to bring the live story from the heart of the action. But all is not always as it seems. During Hurricane Florence one reporter was caught pretending to keep his balance against heavy wind, as two locals casually strolled by in the background—revealing the deceptive embellishment. 

“The reporter, Mike Seidel, used dramatic movements to seemingly keep his balance during a live shot on Friday. But then, two men enter the frame behind him and seem to have no trouble walking around” (Alex Langone, “Weather Channel Reporter Gets Called Out for Struggling Through Florence While Locals Stroll By,” Time, Sept. 16, 2018).

The idea of fake news has been a bone of contention among many—and rightly so. In this instance, yes, the hurricane was dreadful and caused catastrophic damage. Yes, the storm caused flooding and death. Yet, when this reporter was live, he could have simply said that the storm has yielded a bit of a break. Instead, for the camera’s sake, he leaned into the slight wind to give the impression of a fierce storm at that moment.

Some media outlets have been backed into a corner in terms of credibility. In the pursuit of ratings or being first to report a big story, something has gotten lost. Regrettably, truth has been the victim. As Isaiah 59:14 Isaiah 59:14And judgment is turned away backward, and justice stands afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.
American King James Version×
states, “Truth is fallen in the street.” Jesus said: “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities” (Luke 16:10 Luke 16:10He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.
American King James Version×
, New Living Translation).

Each time a report embellishes for the sake of ratings, sources lose credibility—as they should. We live in a world of enough lies without more deception being presented as “news.” (Source: Time magazine.)



Does an “Arab NATO” lie ahead?

Daniel 11:44 Daniel 11:44But tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him: therefore he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many.
American King James Version×
describes an end-time attack of a force led by one called, from the perspective of Jerusalem, the “king of the South” against another called “the king of the North.” As explained in our free study guide The Middle East in Bible Prophecy, these are successors to a line of other rulers in these roles starting in ancient times. The final northern power will be based in Europe, while the attacking southern power will arise in a region that has long been Islamic. Psalm 83 also foretells a confederacy of Arab and other peoples of the Middle East against Israel.

Knowing this makes a meeting planned for January 2019 of leaders of America and several Arab states an interesting matter to watch. In September 2018 the American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met six of his counterparts from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), as well as Egypt and Jordan. The stated goal is a coalition of Arab states to counter the growing influence of Iran in the region. The name of this proposed alliance is the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA). Plans call for the January meeting to be presided over by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Calls for such an Arab coalition are not new. They date back to the 1950s when Egypt’s President Gamal Abdul Nasser presided over a United Arab Republic, but it didn’t last. No more recent Arab coalition has been successful. Past efforts were aimed at containing and defeating Israel, but all failed or were humiliated in wars with the Jewish state. Today the common foe is not Israel but Iran. Iran has projected a disruptive influence in an arc stretching from Afghanistan westward to the Mediterranean Sea. Seeking to revive ancient glory, Iran is seen as the critical threat to all the prospective nations in this new proposal.

The proposed Arab alliance would not be a small insignificant military power. Saudi Arabia is well supplied by America with the latest missiles and aircraft. The Economist reports that, even excluding America, the alliance’s annual defense spending would exceed $100 billion and it would command over 300,000 troops, 5,000 tanks and 1,000 combat aircraft (“NATO for Arabs? A New Military Alliance Has Dim Prospects,” Oct. 6, 2018).

The strategic consequences of such a force could destabilize the region. George Friedman, writing in Geopolitical Futures, stated: “If this alliance actually works, then the Arabs go from being a divided and mutually hostile people to a united and potentially powerful entity. There’s a very real chance this could threaten both Turkey and Israel. Since both countries have large militaries, this could wind up, in the worst case, as an Arab power surrounded by non-Arab powers (Israel, Turkey and Iran)” (“Creating an Arab NATO,” Oct. 1, 2018). The stakes are high when such a power is considered in the volatile neighborhood of the Middle East.

An Arab NATO is a remote and problematic idea. But it could come together. If it does, the world could be a step closer to the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy. (Sources: The Economist, Geopolitical Futures.)



Supreme Court battle shows severe government dysfunction

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was one of the most highly qualified candidates ever. A cum laude graduate of Yale University, he worked as a law clerk for both an appeals court judge and a U.S. Supreme Court justice, as well as staff lawyer for U.S. government offices and the White House.

For 12 years he served as a U.S. Court of Appeals judge, part of that time also teaching at the law schools of Yale, Harvard and Georgetown Universities. The American Bar Association standing committee on the federal judiciary unanimously gave him its highest possible rating. Over the course of his career he went through six separate FBI background checks, none of which raised concerns. In his private time he coached a girls’ basketball team, tutored at a school and served meals to the homeless.

Yet when he was nominated in July to fill the seat of retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, liberal senators and organizations immediately opposed him, claiming he was unqualified (though his credentials far surpassed those of some sitting left-leaning court justices).

As part of the U.S. Senate’s “advice and consent” role mandated by the U.S. Constitution, Judge Kavanaugh met for hundreds of hours with senators, who were given more than a million pages of documents, hundreds of Kavanaugh’s previous legal rulings and more than 6,000 pages he submitted in response to nearly 1,300 questions. Yet in spite of providing reportedly more documentation than all previous Supreme Court nominees combined, some demanded more. Senate hearings degenerated into something of a circus, with demonstrators repeatedly interrupting and dozens being arrested.

Then, with hearings finally concluded and a vote to be taken, three women emerged alleging 30-year-old never-reported sexual crimes and misbehavior by Judge Kavanaugh dating back to his teen years. The legal standard of “innocent until proven guilty” was promptly thrown out, with multiple Democrat congressmen and leftist organizations, media pundits and celebrities pronouncing him guilty—even though a demanded FBI investigation interviewed all named supposed witnesses to the events and found that not one had ever seen such actions.

After several more days of suspense, demonstrations, accusations and media-fueled hysteria, Judge Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court in a highly partisan 50-48 vote, with all but one Democrat voting against him.

Why does such deep division exist in American government? The bottom line is differing views of the nation’s future. The Supreme Court, by such decisions as banning Bibles from school classrooms, outlawing school prayer, legalizing the murder of the unborn through abortion and redefining marriage by legalizing homosexual marriage, has injected itself into major moral, religious and ethical issues of the day.

Conservatives would like to see many of these decisions reversed, or at least subjected to popular vote. Liberals, unable to advance such goals at the ballot box, have been forced to rely on left-leaning judges to enact their agenda. Thus the nomination of the conservative Kavanaugh was met with all-out obstruction by liberals. And the battle may not be over. Should Democrats take control of the U.S. House of Representatives in November elections, leftists are already calling on them to impeach both Justice Kavanaugh and President Trump so they can no longer stand in the way of the liberal agenda.

Stay tuned as the battle continues. The stakes for the nation are very high.