Monday, May 09, 2016

Mercy never overrides justice...

Father Robert McTeigue, SJ writes: "Very often, I hear folks speak of mercy as if it were a cancellation of justice. On this view, “justice” means, “you have to pay off your debt—or else.” “Mercy”, then, says, “About that debt—never mind!” And who wouldn’t breathe a sigh of relief when told that one’s debt has been dismissed, made irrelevant? That’s an appealing, even tempting image of justice and mercy, especially if you’ve ever been deeply in debt. Unfortunately, such a view tragically distorts justice and mercy. If left uncorrected, such a view runs the risk of making us unable to see or feel what is, to borrow a phrase from C.S. Lewis, “the weight of glory.” In other words, the roots of human dignity and the very character of God may be obscured by such a facile, beguiling, and impoverished view of mercy and justice."

Sadly many Catholics have succumbed to such a false notion of mercy. 

Pope John Paul II, speaking to workers at the Solvay factory back in the 1980s, reminded his listeners that mercy does not cancel out the objective requirements of justice.  He said:

                          "You know, in fact, that Christian love animates justice,
                            inspires it, discovers it, perfects it, makes it feasible, respects
                            it, elevates it, surpasses it; but it does not exclude it, does not
                            absorb it, does not replace it, but rather presupposes it and demands
                            it, because true love, true charity, does not exist without justice.
                            Is not justice perhaps the minimum measure of charity?"


Forgiveness is not a matter of overlooking sin.  While forgiveness can anticipate contrition, reconciliation always requires contrition.  And such contrition is only genuine if it involves the will and a real effort at making amends, insofar as this is possible.  Therefore, authentic mercy (unlike its counterfeit which is preached at so many parishes) does not condone or ignore the evil which it forgives.

Again, Pope John Paul II: "Christ emphasizes so insistently the need to forgive others that when Peter asked Him how many times he should forgive his neighbor He answered with the symbolic number of 'seventy times seven,' meaning that he must be able to forgive everyone every time. It is obvious that such a generous requirement of forgiveness does not cancel out the objective requirements of justice. Properly understood, justice constitutes, so to speak, the goal of forgiveness. In no passage of the Gospel message does forgiveness, or mercy as its source, mean indulgence towards evil, towards scandals, towards injury or insult. In any case, reparation for evil and scandal, compensation for injury, and satisfaction for insult are conditions for forgiveness. (Dives in misericordiae, No. 14).

This counterfeit mercy is attractive to those who want nothing less than a license to perpetrate wrongs on others while demanding forgiveness from those they have offended without first repenting of their wrongdoing.

But where there are bonds of friendship or love, as D. Dietrich von Hildebrand explains, " is strictly required by the logos of the relationship that our partner shall recognize and regret the wrong he has done to us....Most certainly we must forgive him...but here we must desire that he recognize and repent of his wrong, not merely for his own good but for the sake of our relationship itself - of the restoration of that intimate union of hearts which essentially demands the clearing up of all misunderstandings and the healing of all disharmonies.."

We can never achieve true peace by ignoring objective evils.  Dr. von Hildebrand explains that, "the attitude of rancorous enmity is not the only antithesis to the Christian spirit of forgiveness.  Another attitude opposed to it is that of simply ignoring the wrong inflicted upon us, as though nothing had happened.  This aberration may result from laziness, from faintness of heart, or from a sickly, mawkish clinging to outward peace.  We hold our comfort too dear to fight it out with our aggressor; or again, we feel terrified at the thought of any tension or hostility, and fear lest a sharp reaction on our part should exasperate the adversary; or perhaps we yield just out of respect for the abstract idol of peace.  This is  akind of behavior far remote from the genuine love of peace or from a genuine spirit of forgiveness.  It can never achieve the true harmony of peace, but at best a superficial cloaking of enmity, a mood of false joviality which drags our souls towards the peripheral...Also, people who behave thus fail to consider the moral damage that their supineness is likely to inflict on others.  It is very often necessary to draw a person's attention to the wrong he has done to us - in fact, necessary for his own good.  To pass over it in silence may easily encourage him in his bad dispositions."

This used to be understood by nearly all Christians.  But today, ignorance of the Scriptures has infected even many of our clergy.  In the Gospel of Luke, Our Lord says, ",,if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him; and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, 'I repent,' you must forgive him." (Lk 17: 3, 4).

If he repents.  The word "if" in this sentence makes this a conditional statement.  Those of you who have studied philosophy or mathematics know that a conditional statement is often used to assert a connection of some sort between the antecedent and consequent.  For example, an equation which states "if X = 5 and Y = 3, then X times Y = 15 represents a conditional statement.  When Jesus says, "If your brother sins [against you] and if he repents, forgive him," He is saying that authentic reconciliation involves, first of all, repentance for wrongs committed. 

Reconciliation is not possible otherwise.  Only what Dr. von Hildebrand so eloquently refers to as a "superficial cloaking of enmity."  As Christians, we are called to an authentic Christian spirit of forgiveness.  We are not called to live a lie.  While we must always forgive those who have wronged us, glossing over wrongs committed or pretending they never happened is not the road toward authentic reconciliation.


Unknown said...


If you follow the Master
the world will reject you
as it rejects the Pastor
with a lot of ballyhoo

The disciple is NOT above the Master
nor the servant above his Lord
the world is heading for a disaster
the Creator is ready to have it restored

The Queen of Heaven comes to warn
us poor children of naughty Eve
if we don’t listen, we’ll surely mourn
in an “eternity” full of grief

Each one of us is free to decide
whether to follow God or a worldly path
whether to be humble or full of pride
whether to be full of Love or full of wrath

The Righteous Judge keeps patiently
inviting His children to choose wisely
but most of us refuse blatantly
to follow His Commandments very precisely

He who will not hear, will feel .

Rita Biesemans, December 12 2013 Feast Day of Our lady of Guadalupe

David said...

Isn't it funny how those who belong the CINO crowd act as if they have discovered mercy but have no true understanding of what constitutes mercy?

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