I consume vast quantities of Catholic media. Especially online. I find it enriching, enthralling, and sometimes, altogether irritating.
I am a true believer in free speech. It allows me to have this blog, but comments, well comments test my resolve in this area.
I recently came to realize that part of my irritation with comments on Catholic media sites is that there are still Pharisees in this day and age. There are some sites that I can no longer go to because of the prevalence of the Pharisees.
The simple definition of who the Pharisees were in the Bible is that they were religious scholars and elders who basically ran the religion. I don't hesitate to say that they were the "religious police squads" on par with those we see in fundamentalist Islam now who publically flog teenagers or men without beards or people who play music.
The Pharisees we encounter today online are men and women who are well versed in the Bible and the Papal addresses and encyclicals and everything Vatican and Vatican II. These people are not evil. They are not intending violence toward others, but they are spreading a poison of sort.
Tell me if you haven't seen this: someone posts a question to an open forum or a response to an article that includes a question. Some people respond in general then there are a couple of responses that quote scripture or some other official church document and basically say, it's open and shut this is the answer and there are no exceptions ever and anyone who doesn't follow this to the letter is going STRAIGHT TO HELL!!!!
I usually have to navigate away for a few minutes to compose myself.
The Pharisees in the Bible often tried to "trap" Jesus with their knowledge and stature in society. Remember when he cured someone on the Sabbath? Now, Jesus had it a lot easier than we do, because, hey he's the Son of God and has the answers. We don't always. If anyone tries to refute the statement that the online Pharisees posts, they are backed into a corner and often intimidated with the knowledge the former has over the latter. I often resist the urge to respond. Right or wrong, I know I won't be able to change this person's mind, only God can.
Here is what I do know, from the Bible:
1) Jesus hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors (including Matthew, his apostle). He did not refuse anyone who came to Him. He hated the sin, NOT the sinner.
2) When Jesus had a woman brought to him with the charge of prostitution/adultery his response to those who wanted to stone her: let he among you who has not sinned cast the first stone.
3) The Pharisees turned Jesus over to Pilate, blinded by their own knowledge and pride in it. They failed to see the gift they were given.
When you read a comment from the Pharisees, the most important thing to do is pray for them. Pray for their sanctification.