The dogwhistle chronicles
The Left mildly disguise their anti-Semitism by substituting the term “Zionists” for Jews. Our pope does it by substituting “Pharisees” and like terms, in his daily homiletic attacks from Santa Marta — aimed chiefly against Catholic doctrinal precision. Our Saviour, who could hardly have been an anti-Semite, being Jewish himself, did make actual Scribes and Pharisees the butt of parables, and was very sharp on religious hypocrisy. But this was not to the purpose of disowning their religion; rather of showing how representative characters were disowning their own.
As many popes before him were at pains to explain, to Catholics and to others, we are Jews ourselves and our religion is not a contradiction of, but a continuation from, the Truth and truths going back to Moses and before. The Ten Commandments apply to us, too; the Great Commandment that Our Lord specified was itself paraphrased from Hebrew Scripture. He does not “invent” this, He shows it to be the structural and hermeneutic core of the Torah and the Prophets. Echoes of the ancient Scripture are everywhere in our Gospels.
Christ did not come to overthrow the Law, but to fulfil it. He said as much. He came as a scourge not to those who upheld the Law in their lives and hearts, but to those who twisted it. He preached Love, in all its mystery and toughness, not Climate Change.
We call this pope’s persistent heresy “Marcionism,” after Marcion of Sinope, who came to Rome about the year 140, after the Bar Kokhba revolt. Marcion taught that the revelations of Christ and the traditions from Paul were incompatible with what he thought the legalistic, bellicose, jealous and spiteful God of the Jews and their Torah. Gnostic not Christian, he may be found in the roots of the Eastern religion of Manichaeism, which spread through the declining Roman Empire in the fourth century, and flourished in competition with Catholic Christianity for many centuries thereafter.
Marcion’s heterodoxy was identified and denounced, in texts we still have by the earlier and orthodox Tertullian, and in texts, fragments, and allusions of other Church Fathers. It is encountered by the serious student trying to master the development of genuine Catholic doctrine, as it peels off errors and misunderstandings from the ancient pagan world — many of which are flourishing again, and again must be confronted and defeated. On this one our pope has yet again, in his fuddling and irresponsible banter, grabbed the wrong end of the stick.
A much better understanding of the Catholic faith may be found in the open letter Rabbi Giuseppe Laras, emeritus of Milan, has addressed to a conference of biblical scholars. (More detail may be had from Sandro Magister, &c.) He echoes and enlarges upon complaints from e.g. Rome’s chief rabbi, Riccardo di Segni, about the Marcionism issuing daily from Santa Marta, and the rustily-edged politics that go with it. Rabbi Laras is put to the trouble of explaining what the Catholic doctrine is, to our pope; while further noting the exclusion of Jewish biblical scholars from that conference in Italy, which included many non-Catholics among its eight hundred invitees.
The Jews are the last people we should be opposing. How often, in Catholic teaching and liturgy, we have found ourselves onside with them against glib reformers, who by putting the New and Old Testaments in conflict, adjust Christ’s teachings to their own (usually malignant) ends. They are callow, and in failing to plumb the continuity between Old and New, comprehend neither. For it is in God’s “messaging” to the Hebrews that we first find the light of our Messiah; and without it His Coming makes no sense.