A few weeks ago I got an email from a Nigerian billionaire philanthropist who had randomly picked ME to share some of his wealth. All I had to do was provide him with much of my personal information, plus a password to my bank account, so he could make the money transfer. I relate this to make the point that not everything that comes across your desk, be it email or a press report, is 100% reliable. Everything needs to be referenced and cross-referenced from multiple angles, before it is accepted as fact.
Recently a friend re-published on FaceBook a 2013 news article entitled: “There Is No Hell Fire; Adam & Eve Not Real – Pope Francis Exposes.” The content was about a supposed speech the Pope had made at the “Third Vatican Council” which stated the Catholic Bishops were reassessing all the doctrines of their church, and that the Pope personally was questioning the authenticity of the Bible, and the doctrines of creation, salvation and final judgment. Since I had never even heard of a “Third Vatican Council,” I doubted that the statements were accurate. I figured, at a minimum, the statements had to have been taken out of context. I can’t imagine what it must be like to live in a glass house like the President of the U.S. or the Catholic Pope, with everything you do and say documented, parsed, and dissected by both a friendly and an unfriendly media looking for something controversial to report.
My first reaction to the content of the article was a little sarcastic and weak: “Should I really care if the Pope tries to undo 6000 or so years of Biblical history and thought? After all, he’s just another human being.” But then the Lord reminded me about how even the apostles dealt with issues like this in the first century church. “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.” St. Paul dealt with the issue firmly and loudly: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” He was so enraged that any Christian leader would even dare to preach a false Gospel that he repeated the statement. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:6-9
My heart went out to the several (mostly young) people who had submitted comments on the supposed “Catholic Church’s reassessment of doctrine.” Most assumed that the Pope’s words were accurate, and one after another comment applauded these pending changes to doctrine that would trivialize sin and remove all consequences for bad behavior, and that would open the doors of heaven to humanity in general, whether or not they even believed God existed or that He had sent His Son to be tortured and to die for them. I recalled Jesus’ own anger with leaders who endanger their people’s eternal salvation because of false teachings: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” Matthew 18:6-7
I decided that, yes, I really do care if the Pope (or any other person of influence) tries to undo 6000 years of Biblical history and thought.
Fortunately, as I researched the content of the article, I found that it was a 2013 internet hoax. The original source was a blog called Diversity Chronicle, which contains a disclaimer in bold type: “The original content on this blog is largely satirical.” Unfortunately, a number of national and international news media republished the “Pope quotes” from a nonexistent “Third Vatican Council” speech as fact. Even though the hoax was eventually exposed by National Catholic Register, a Catholic news magazine, months later the false statements still have traction, and pop up occasionally in places like my friend’s FaceBook page.
It’s interesting that the article attached to her FB page actually was from a Nigerian website called “naijaurban” that publishes music, entertainment gist, Nigerian national news and daily events. The site contained such additional high caliber content as: Bad Girl Actress Anita Joseph Flaunts Her Things in new Photos, Kim Kardashian shows her butt is real, My Boyfriend’s Father is very good in the Bedroom, and Woman, 23, Grows Beard like a Man.
In hindsight, the satirical “Pope” article may sound ridiculous and silly – and those who relied on it as accurate may now feel foolish – but, in point of fact, it revealed the hearts of many “in-name-only” Christians who are not committed to the truth of God’s Holy Word. The ones who originally published such trash, and the ones who carelessly republished it, are accountable for the millions of souls they may have caused to offend God. Each individual is responsible for his or her own behavior; but those in positions of influence, including the media have greater accountability.
On behalf of all those who have either not previously fully committed to the Lord, or who have not fully committed to accepting His written Word as truth, or those who have caused other hearts to be drawn away from such a commitment, I repent for this national and international sin and encourage each one affected by it to do the same. We serve a merciful and loving God who says: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”