Who Are the Real Pharisees?

Who Are the Real Pharisees?
AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

There is a recurring theme in the papal rhetoric of the Francis era. To insist on the moral law too forcefully, the Pope and his allies often suggest, is to be like the Pharisees. Those “doctors of the law”, to borrow from a representative papal sermon, did not “consider people's lives but only their own rules of laws and words”, whereas Jesus was constantly willing to “go beyond the law, the letter”.

Whenever the religious law of Jesus's time seemed to impose needless suffering, he acted to lift the burden – healing on the Sabbath, embracing the unclean, sweeping away dietary regulations and other rituals that made people believe themselves defiled. And just as Jesus transcended Jewish legalism, Catholicism under Pope Francis must transcend its own legalities.

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