Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The Pharisee and the... Other Pharisee?

The Catholic social media erupted last night after Democratic Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg took aim at Vice President Pence, calling him unChristian on account of his political stances. The division was down party lines, but both sides were free with citing Our Lord’s words of not judging, while pointing out how the other faction supported things incompatible with Christian teaching. The problem was: both sides accused the other side of judging while ignoring the fact that they were judging as well.

Of course it’s not the point of my blog to make political endorsements or to side with one party as “God’s Party.” Rather, I write this to point out that both factions involved in this social media fight are playing the role of the Pharisee in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. By this, I mean that neither group is approaching God by saying, “Be merciful to me, a sinner.” Rather both sides are saying “I thank you God that I am not like that Democrat/Republican.”

Speaking objectively, there is no political party that is not at odds with Catholic teaching in some way, whether life issues, sexual morality, social justice, or other issues.  We, being called to be the light of the world and salt of the earth, have an obligation to reform the political party we affiliate with where it goes wrong. Unfortunately, what people do is play the tu quoque card—being quick to condemn the wrongdoing of the other side while downplaying the moral wrongs of their own party as unimportant so long as the “greater evil” of the other side exists. 

As a result, when the Church speaks out against one evil, she is condemned by the party who defends it and accused of being puppets of the other side. When she affirms that abortion and homosexual acts are gravely sinful, she is accused of being a “tool” of the Republican Party. When she speaks against unjust immigration and economic practices, she is accused of being a “tool” of the Democratic Party. Individual Catholics are adept at pointing out this hypocrisy on the other side while being blind to it on their own.

I want to make clear that Our Lord’s words on not judging means we can’t wash our hands and say, “Welp, that person’s going to Hell. No point in wasting time on him.” It doesn’t mean we cannot call an action evil.  In fact, God has warned us that we will answer for being silent. As God told Ezekiel (Ezekiel 33:8):

When I say to the wicked, “You wicked, you must die,” and you do not speak up to warn the wicked about their ways, they shall die in their sins, but I will hold you responsible for their blood. (NABRE)

Unfortunately, in our political climate, we do the opposite. We don’t speak out to save, we speak out to show our contempt. We say they are going to Hell for ignoring Church teaching X, while we’re focusing on opposing the greater evil first. The problem is, we define this by making the greater evil fit entirely in the political platform of our enemies while the lesser evil coincidences with our preferred party. 

This has to stop. Both parties are Pharisaical. The deadliest sin to us is the one that sends us to Hell, not the one we have no inclination to commit. Until we can see that and say to God “be merciful to me, a sinner” instead of “look at how bad they are!” we will be that Pharisee in the parable.


  1. This is such a great blog. How come you never get any comments?