Written by Brian M. McCall
Perhaps you have experienced a similar ad hominem attack as I have when simply stating or defending the very simple dogma on marriage that has been held by Catholics everywhere and always (at least before the gnostic oracle of Cardinal Kasper came on the scene). Marriage is the union between one man and one woman which bond is broken only by the death of one of the spouses. Our grandparents would have considered inconceivable that such a simple and basic statement could become the source of ridicule and persecution by fellow Catholics. Yet, utter this truth today and you are likely to be confronted with something like the following: “You are being like the Pharisees. Christ came to bring mercy and the Pharisees stubbornly held on to the letter of the law rather than embracing Christ’s new spirit of mercy. Like the Pharisees of old you obstinately are refusing the law of mercy Pope Francis seeks to promote.”
In reaction to the shocking mid-Synod report, Maria Madise, coordinator of Voice of the Family notes the same line of attack: “The Synod’s mid-way report will increase the incidence of faithful Catholics being labelled as ‘Pharisees’, simply for upholding Catholic teaching on sexual purity.” Like much of the pseudo-historical drivel being doctored up to support the jettisoning of natural and divine law (See Roberto de Mattei’s article on the abuse of the Council of Trent for an example here), such an attack completely misrepresents the real dispute between Our Lord and the Pharisees. This dispute was not between an overly rigid literalist interpretation of the law by the Pharisees and a lenient merciful more up-to-date spirit of the law interpretation by Our Savior. Rather, it was the exact opposite.
Inaccurately the dispute between the Pharisees and Our Lord is being misrepresented as a dispute between the rigid, legalistic, close-minded Pharisees clinging to the letter of the law whereas the merciful Savior liberally went beyond the letter of the law. Thus, those repeating the perennial proposition that a spouse engaging in marital acts with another person while his or her spouse still lives are objectively committing adultery (regardless of what human civil law calls it) and therefore cannot be admitted to a Sacrament of the Living, Holy Communion, are merely “Pharisees applying the strict letter of the law.”
“Francis and Kasper seek simply to extend the hand of mercy.” If we examine the testimony of Sacred Scripture (as confirmed by the Tradition of the Church) we find reality to be the exact opposite. It was in fact Our Lord who came to demand a more rigorous, not lax, application of the Law and the Prophets. It was the Pharisees through their technical distortion of the meaning of the words of the law that were advocating a minimalist compliance with the natural and divine law. As long as the letter of the law was fulfilled, they argued, we were justified. On the contrary our Lord came to call all Men to a more rigorous and perfect obedience to the law. We will examine the incident as reported by St. Matthew in which Our Lord clearly distinguishes His demand for rigor from the practice of the Pharisees.
Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For amen I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot, or one tittle shall not pass of the law, till all be fulfilled. . . . For I tell you, that unless your justice abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:17-20)