A Catholic defense of Al Mohler...
Hugh Hewitt has called attention to the recent attacks on Dr Al Mohler.
Although I can't profess to be an expert on Dr Mohler, I've been familiar with his work for a good decade or so. A leading Southern Baptist and defender of biblical inerrancy, Mohler has also been associated with the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, a group concerned about the erosion of traditional Protestant beliefs among today's evangelicals.
Recently, Dr Mohler has been accused of "anti-Catholicism" by Senator Salazar in a letter to James Dobson of Focus on the Family (Thursday, April 21, 2005) :
In March of 2000, Dr. Mohler said “I believe that the Roman church is a false church and it teaches a false gospel. And indeed, I believe that the pope himself holds a false and unbiblical office.”
My faith is the cornerstone of my values, as I am sure it is with you as well. I call on you to repudiate Dr. Mohler’s comments and hope you distance yourself from those who serve to divide the world’s Christian churches against one another.
As a Catholic who teaches philosophy and theology at a Catholic college, it seems to me that Dr Mohler has done no more than restate the traditional Protestant disagreements with Catholic theology. Dr Mohler thinks that Catholicism is based on a mistaken understanding of the Bible; Catholics confess that Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom to Peter and his successors (Mt 16.18/Vatican I). Dr Mohler's language is perhaps stronger than is used in some contexts, but no stronger than numerous Catholics have used with respect to Protestantism--and used in statements that are sometimes found in the official teaching documents of the Catholic Church. The claim that Dr Mohler's words constitute "anti-Catholicism" appears to have no merit whatever.
Yet Senator Salazar's own letter is not without concern. After attacking Dr Mohler, he writes: Indeed, I would ask for your prayers that the United States Senate transcend the abuse of power at the root of this controversy, and move forward in a spirit of bipartisanship on the issue of judges, as well as the monumental challenges facing our Nation such as health care, transportation, energy, education, and care for our elders.
Bipartisanship is certainly commendable. Healthcare, transportation, energy, education, and care for our elders are also important issues. But notably absent from the senator's list of issues are the pro-life and pro-family issues that Pope Benedict XVI has championed so strongly. In his July 2004 letter, the now Pope Benedict XVI set before every Catholic public official the serious moral obligation to protect human life: "There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia."
The following chart (from a 22 Jan 2005 post) shows why:
1.3 million--US abortion deaths in 2004 (est)
700,000--US heart disease deaths
560,000--US cancer deaths
107,000--US deaths in accidents
15-17,500--civilian deaths in Iraq since the beginning of the war
14,000--US AIDS/HIV deaths
1371--US military deaths in Iraq since the beginning of the war
59--death penalty executions in the US 2004
Senator Salazar's zeal to uphold the Catholic faith is commendable. One hopes that he will direct that zeal toward the pro-life issues that Pope Benedict XVI has called all Catholic public officials to defend with all the determination that they possess.
UPDATE/Clarification: prior to this post, I sent to Dr Mohler a short letter stating the gist of what I've said here.