At a papal mass held at the Vatican on March 12, 2000, Pope John Paul II offered what purported to be an apology for Catholic atrocities through the ages, including the colonial suppression and forced conversion of native peoples, failure to help Jews and others when threatened with intolerance, as well as "violence in the service of truth" which some took to refer to the Inquisition and other church-sponsored persecutions.
While some (including Jewish leaders) declared that the apology didn't go far enough, many other religious leaders hailed the Pope's remarks as a major step toward greater understanding among the world's religions, as well as among the various branches of Christendom.
One week later, in the first papal visit ever to the birthplace of Christianity, the Pope landed in Palestine to begin a tour of the Holy Land, including a mass to be held in Manger Square in the old city of Bethlehem. During this visit the Pope called for greater unity between Christianity and the other two great religions with Middle East rootsJudaism and Islam.
A reporter on the CBS Evening News (3/22/2000) gave the Pope the title "God's politician", and noted that while the Pope has encouraged democratic movements around the world, he is nevertheless uncomfortable with democracy because of the freedoms it gives people which he thinks they shouldn't have, such as the right to make choices the church considers immoral.
The Bible predicts that a time would come when "all the world wondered after the beast" (Rev. 13:3). Recent moves by the Pope have furthered this process dramatically.
Regarding the Pope's so-called apology for the Church's intolerant deeds, one finds it hard to take this seriously since the dogma of papal infallibility remains intact. So long as the church's past wrongs bear the endorsement of past Popes, one finds it hard to see how the Pope can truly apologize until he concedes that popes aren't infallible after all.
The following inspired statement could have been written in the past few weeks. In the light of recent papal statements, it is sobering indeed:
"The Roman Church now presents a fair front to the world, covering with apologies her record of horrible cruelties. She has clothed herself in Christlike garments; but she is unchanged. Every principle of the papacy that existed in past ages exists today. The doctrines devised in the darkest ages are still held. Let none deceive themselves. The papacy that Protestants are now so ready to honor is the same that ruled the world in the days of the Reformation, when men of God stood up, at the peril of their lives, to expose her iniquity. She possesses the same pride and arrogant assumption that lorded it over kings and princes, and claimed the prerogatives of God. Her spirit is no less cruel and despotic now than when she crushed out human liberty and slew the saints of the Most High" (The Great Controversy, p. 571).
The Power of the Religious Right
CNN's final wrap-up of the "Super Tuesday" primary results the evening of March 7, 2000, began with this headline:
"Riding a wave of Religious Right indignation, George W. Bush swamps John McCain."
Most analysts and commentators agree: Texas Governor George W. Bush owes his primary victory over Arizona Senator John McCain to the power of the Religious Right. Any hope by McCain that his attacks on Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson would bring party moderates out of hiding, faded with the results of the March 7 Republican primaries. Those observers who thought the Religious Right had dwindled into dotage following the failure to remove the President from office last year, now recognize that this giant still bestrides the American political landscape, with increasing visibility and strength.
Too many Christian conservatives still forget the Saviour's command to Peter to put up his sword (Matt. 26:52), as well as His statement to Pontius Pilate: "My kingdom is not of this world." While Christians have a responsibility to support morality with their individual votes, alliance with political parties or groups seems unwise. Again we cite the following words of the modern prophet:
"In order for the United States to form an image of the beast, the religious power must so control the civil government that the authority of the state will also be employed by the church to accomplish her own ends" (The Great Controversy, p. 443)
"Let the principle once be established in the United States that the church may employ or control the power of the state, that religious observances may be enforced by secular laws; in short, that the authority of church and state is to dominate the conscience, and the triumph of Rome in this country is assured" (Ibid., p. 581).
Defaming Those Who Keep God's Commandments
Yet another mass suicide stunned the world on Sunday, March 19, 2000, as 500 members of a strange cult appear to have deliberately burned themselves to death in Uganda, central Africa. The group called itself "The Church for the Restoration of God's Ten Commandments."
Many who revere the Ten Commandments certainly have nothing in common with religious fanatics who kill themselves, but we can clearly see how Satan is working to bring into ill favor whose who emphasize the restoration of God's law.
We can see yet another of many ways in which the following inspired prediction will be fulfilled:
"Those who honor the Bible Sabbath will be denounced as enemies of law and order, as breaking down the moral restraints of society, causing anarchy and corruption, and calling down the judgments of God upon the earth" (The Great Controversy, p. 592).
More Shooting Rampages
Gun violence continues to claim lives and headlines in America, beginning with the shocking murder of a first-grade student by a six-year-old classmate in Michigan on February 29. Days later another shooting spree erupted in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, which left two dead and three critically wounded. One week later another shooting rampagethis one in Memphis, Tennesseeleft a number of firefighters shot by a gunman. A reporter for the CBS Evening News stated, recalling the violent first months of 2000: "People are dying for something to change."
Again we recall the Bible's statement about conditions before Noah's Flood, that "the earth was filled with violence" (Gen. 6:11). Jesus declared: "As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man" (Luke 17:26). In the words of inspiration, describing the world before the Flood:
"The land was filled with violence. War, crime, murder, was the order of the day. Just so it will be before Christ's second coming" (SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 1, p. 1090)