Rorate Caeli has a fascinating piece by Roberto de Mattei which answers the questions: who are the Pharisees today?
Criticizing the “Pharisees” is recurrent in Pope Francis’ words. In numerous discourses, between 2013 and 2015, he has spoken of “the sickness of the Pharisees” (7th November 2013), “who rebuke Jesus for not respecting the Sabbath” (1st April 2014), of “the temptation of self-sufficiency and of clericalism, that codification of the faith in rules and regulations, as the scribes, the Pharisees, the doctors of the law did at the time of Jesus” (September 19th 2014). In the Angelus of August 30th 2015 he said that just as it was for the Pharisees it is “dangerous too for us to consider ourselves acceptable, or even worse, better than others simply for observing the rules, customs, even though we do not love our neighbor, we are hard of heart, we are arrogant and proud.” On November 8th 2015, he contrasted the behavior of the Scribes and Pharisees based on “exclusion” and Jesus’ behavior based on “inclusion”.
The reference to the Pharisees is evident, ultimately, in the Pope’s concluding discourse last October 24th, at the end of the XIV Ordinary Synod on the Family. In effect, who are the “closed hearts, which frequently hide even behind the Church’s teachings or good intentions, in order to sit in the chair of Moses and judge, sometimes with superiority and superficiality, difficult cases and wounded families” if not “the Pharisees who were making religion […] a [never-ending] chain of commandments”? (June 26th 2014). A Pharisee seems to be anyone who defends, with stubborn pride, the existence of commandments, laws and the absolute, mandatory rules of the Church.
Yet, who were the Pharisees exactly? When Jesus began His preaching, the Jewish world was divided in various currents, which the Gospels mention, and also historians like Flavio Giuseppe [Josephus] (37-100 A.D.) in his works Jewish Antiquities and The Jewish War. The main sects were the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The Pharisees observed the religious prescriptions in great detail, but had lost the spirit of Truth. They were proud men, who falsified the prophecies relating to the Messiah and interpreted the Divine law according to their own opinions. The Sadducees taught even graver errors, by placing in doubt the immortality of the soul and rejecting most of the Sacred Books. Both disputed the power of the Sanhedrin, which was lead by the Sadducees at the time Jesus was condemned.
Who are the Pharisees and Sadducees of our time? We can say it in all certainty. They are those who, before, during and after the Synod tried to (and will try to) modify the practice of the Church, and, through practice, Her doctrine on marriage and the family.
Jesus proclaimed the indissolubility of marriage, basing it on the restoration of the natural law the Jews had departed from, and He reinforced it by elevating the marriage bond to [the level of] a Sacrament. The Pharisees and the Sadducees rejected this teaching, denying the Divine words of Jesus, to which they substituted their own opinion. They falsely referred to Moses, just like the innovators of our times refer to a supposed tradition of the first centuries, falsifying history and the doctrine of the Church.
For this a valiant Bishop, defender of the orthodox faith, Monsignor Athanasius Schneider speaks of a “Neo-Mosaic practice” (see here) which re-emerges: “The new disciples of Moses and the new Pharisees during the last two Assemblies of the Synod (2014 and 2015) masked their practical denial of the indissolubility of marriage and of a suspension of the Sixth Commandment on a case-by-case basis under the guise of the concept of mercy, using expressions such as: “way of discernment,” “accompaniment”, “orientations of the bishop,”“dialogue with the priest,” “forum internum,” “a more fuller integration into the life of the Church,” a possible suppression of imputability regarding the cohabitation in irregular unions (cf. Final Report, nn. 84-86).” (The Final Report, nn. 84-86).
The Sadducees are the innovators that state openly the abandonment of the doctrine and practice of the Church; the Pharisees are those that proclaim the indissolubility of marriage with their lips, but deny it hypocritically in facts, proposing the “case by case” transgression of the moral law. The true followers of Jesus Christ belong neither to the neo-Pharisees party nor to the neo-Sadducee party, both modernists, but belong instead to the School of St. John the Baptist, who preached in the spiritual wastelands of his time. The Baptist, when he stigmatized the Pharisees and Sadducees as a “race of vipers” (Matthew 2, 7) and when he admonished Herod Antipas for his adultery, was not hard of heart, but was moved by love for God and souls. The hypocrites and the hard of heart were Herod’s advisors who claimed to reconcile his condition as an impenitent sinner with the teaching of the Scripture. Herod killed The Baptist to suffocate the voice of truth, yet the voice of the Precursor still resounds after twenty centuries.
Those who defend good doctrine, do not follow the example of the Pharisees and Sadducees, but the example of St. John the Baptist and Our Lord.
Go here to read the rest. Christ brought an uncompromising message and his auditors noted that He taught with authority. He who is The Law bluntly told the Pharisees and the Sadducees where their interpretation of the Law of God departed from the way in which God wanted Man to live. Those who would use clever formulations to destroy Christ’s command that marriage is indissoluble follow precisely in the footsteps of those Christ berated for substituting human commands for those of God.