On Secular Pharisaism

Jesus spoke repeatedly, with sharp correction, against the religious Pharisees of His day. In this way, He was instructing and warning us about the Pharisees of every generation. For there are Pharisees among the Catholic Christian faithful. One of the primary errors of the religious Pharisees is the exaltation of rules above love, mercy, compassion and all the virtues. The Catholic Pharisees today emphasize discipline over doctrine; they demand strict adherence to exterior form, while giving little attention to the interior spiritual life. Many and varied are the errors of the Pharisees.

But what I’d like to focus on for this post is the secular version of Pharisaism. The secular version of this error emphasizes secular rules and regulation, such as might be found in government or business, over the common good. Values such as respect for fellow citizens and compassion for their needs are subjugated to the letter of the law. In business, the rules of the company are followed without regard to the needs of one’s coworkers. And businesses follow the letter of the law, so as to avoid any government penalties, but they have little concern for any harm caused by their unethical business practices. They seek money, usually following all the rules and regulations, without regard for God or neighbor.

As the world become progressively more sinful, secular Pharisaism becomes more prevalent. And more harm is done to citizens who are caught up in a maze of foolish rules and regulations, whether from government or a corporation. The laws of any city or nation should be based in the love of God above all else, and the love of neighbor as self. But the secular world shuns religion, always striving to push religious belief into a corner, or out the window altogether. What replaces the guiding principle of love is selfishness. Laws therefore become more and more disordered. And the secular Pharisees insist that, once a law is enacted, it must be followed as if it were Gospel truth. On the other hand, any good laws or constitutional principles that may remain are ignored or misinterpreted so as to limit the good that they might do.

If only we had laws reflecting the love of God and neighbor, along with a citizenry which generally lived according to that same guiding principle. Then any problems with poorly written rules and regulations could be solved with compassion.

[Matthew 12]
{12:1} At that time, Jesus went out through the ripe grain on the Sabbath. And his disciples, being hungry, began to separate the grain and to eat.
{12:2} Then the Pharisees, seeing this, said to him, “Behold, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbaths.”
{12:3} But he said to them: “Have you not read what David did, when he was hungry, and those who were with him:
{12:4} how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?
{12:5} Or have you not read in the law, that on the Sabbaths the priests in the temple violate the Sabbath, and they are without guilt?
{12:6} But I say to you, that something greater than the temple is here.
{12:7} And if you knew what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would never have condemned the innocent.
{12:8} For the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
{12:9} And when he had passed from there, he went into their synagogues.
{12:10} And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand, and they questioned him, so that they might accuse him, saying, “Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbaths?”
{12:11} But he said to them: “Who is there among you, having even one sheep, if it will have fallen into a pit on the Sabbath, would not take hold of it and lift it up?
{12:12} How much better is a man than a sheep? And so, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbaths.”
{12:13} Then he said to the man, “Extend your hand.” And he extended it, and it was restored to health, just like the other one.
{12:14} Then the Pharisees, departing, took council against him, as to how they might destroy him.
{12:15} But Jesus, knowing this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he cured them all.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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