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Pope Francis: Jesus Did Not Tell the Pharisees that Divorce is Forbidden

There are coming to us now different reports about Pope Francis’ Santa Marta homily of today which are very troubling. He mentions the Pharisees’ question about divorce and whether it is permitted and then comments on the reaction of Our Lord (Mark 10:1-12), as follows:

Jesus does not answer whether it is permitted or not. He does not enter into their [the Pharisees’] classic casuistry. Because they [the Pharisees] thought of faith merely in the framework of “one may not” or “one may” – up to which point one may, up to which point one may not. Thus logic of casuistry: Jesus does not enter into it. And He Himself poses a question: “Now, what did Moses command you? What is written in your law?” And they explain the permission which Moses gave to write a divorce certificate and to dismiss a woman from marriage; and it is they who went into a trap, yes. Because Jesus calls them “hard hearted”: “only because you are so hard hearted, he has given you this law,” and He spoke the truth. Without casuistry, without permissions. The truth. [my emphasis]

Pope Francis also mentions the adulteress with whom Jesus repeatedly spoke and whom He did not condemn. Pope Francis explains that Jesus “puts aside casuistry.” It is in this context that the impression arises that Christ Himself ignored His own teaching.

What is stunning in these comments is the following fact: Mark 10:1-12 does make it very clear that Jesus Christ instructed the Pharisees about the right way. It reads:

He set out from there and went into the district of Judea [and] across the Jordan. Again crowds gathered around him and, as was his custom, he again taught them.  The Pharisees approached and asked, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” They were testing him. He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?” They replied, “Moses permitted him to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.” But Jesus told them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.  For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother [and be joined to his wife], and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” In the house the disciples again questioned him about this. He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” [my emphasis]

Pope Francis claims in his homily that Jesus Christ did not give a clear answer to the Pharisees, but Our Lord did. He did explain this law against divorce later more in detail to His own disciples, but He did not leave the Pharisees’ question unanswered.

Moreover, Pope Francis, in his homily, says that Our Lord “always speaks the truth” and then he mentions that Jesus did tell His disciples about the prohibition of divorce. Francis adds:

“This is the way of Jesus – it is quite clear – it is the path from casuistry to truth and mercy. Jesus leaves aside the logic of casuistry. To those who wanted to test him, to those who thought of this logic of ‘it is possible’, he termed them – not here, but in another passage of the Gospel – hypocrites. Even with the fourth commandment, they denied assistance to their relatives with the excuse that they had given a good offer to the Church. Hypocrites. The casuistry is hypocritical. It is a form of hypocrisy. ‘You can – you cannot’ … which then becomes more subtle, more evil: I? I can up to this point but from here to here, I cannot. This is the deception of casuistry.” [my emphasis]

While there is always a lack of clarity in Pope Francis’ speech that makes it hard to see, distinctly and reliably, what he means, he appears here to demean those faithful who wish to abide by the Law of God with regard to marriage and divorce, implying that these are the real hypocrites. The pope also implies in today’s homily that Our Lord did not give to the Pharisees a clear law. Moreover, this last quote implies that these faithful questions about what is forbidden and what is allowed are already in themselves effectively evil. The simple setting of boundaries and limits is here called a “deception of casuistry.” But, we have to remember that that is exactly what God has given to us in the form of the Ten Commandments and His Moral Precepts – so that we may have, under Grace, a life more abundant. God’s Laws are acts of love.

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