Mercy requires Truth and the move away from sin. “Mercy is not moral peek-a-boo.”

Some folks are blabbing about mercy mercy mercy while shoving truth under the rug.  They suggest that mercy trumps truth, dogma, law conversion, etc.  Wrong. We have to call people on that.

There is a good article at Crisis Magazine today about Mercy and its lately neglected twin TRUTH.

St. John Paul II: No Mercy Without Truth

by John M. Grodelski

Mercy featured prominently in the polemics surrounding the recently concluded Synod on the Family. Mercy was frequently counterpoised to dogma as an appeal to dilute ecclesiastical practice and admit to Holy Communion those who were now “remarried.” Cardinal Kasper went so far as to publish a book between the 2014 and 2015 Synod sessions, Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life(New York: Paulist, 2014).

One might walk away from these events with the impression that, suddenly, the Church had discovered its vocation to mercy and was now busy making up for lost time when it was, presumably, unmerciful. Yet one should remember that St. John Paul II was the Pope who laid enormous stress upon Divine Mercy, emphasizing it as God’s premier attribute particularly relevant for contemporary man, and underscoring that focus by making the canonization of the “secretary of mercy,” Sr. Faustyna Kowalska, the first of the new millennium. If St. John Paul II’s first encyclical, Redemptor hominis, laid out the programmatic focus of his pontificate as one of Christian humanism, so we should not forget that his second encyclical, Dives in misericordia—issued 35 years ago this November 30—focused on the God who is “rich in mercy.” So much for the myth of the Church just awakening to her mission of mercy.

In the course of remembrance, however, we should go back even further, to a probably largely forgotten text from St. John Paul II’s prepapal writings, “Problem prawdy i milosierdzia” (The Problem of Truth and Mercy). That short text dates from 1957 and was one of twenty brief articles printed under the title “Elementarz etyczny” [The Ethics Primer] in Tygodnik Powszechny, the independent Catholic weekly then-published in Kraków. The articles in that series largely grapple with issues in modern philosophy having implications for faith and are distinguished by their succinct presentation of those questions in the light of faith.


Mercy, likewise, is not moral peek-a-boo. Mercy requires moving away from evil: “Where [mercy] enters in, evil effectively gives way. Where evil does not give way, mercy is not there—but we also add, where there is no mercy, evil does not yield. Mercy does not accept sin nor looks upon it as if peeking between one’s fingers, but only and exclusively helps in conversion from sin….  Divine mercy goes strictly in tandem with justice” (all translations mine).


I interrupt this sample to remind you of my call to Pope Francis to name John Paul Doctor of the Church with the title Doctor Misericordiae on Divine Mercy Sunday. HERE (Maybe some people who initially resisted me on this have finally started to figure out why I called for this?)

Skipping a bit to show how instructive this article is… this relates to the recent Catholic/Lutheran confusion provoked by comments made by the Holy Father. HERE and HERE


The scrupulous nominalist Martin Luther imported this voluntarism into Protestant theology through his doctrine of forensic justification: man is always sinful and never righteous, he is merely declared righteous by God, grace changing nothing. Man is moral dung. Grace is snow. The snow covers the dung, but does not change it: don’t go tip-toeing through the snowdrops barefoot…


Read the rest there.  It’s worth your time and attention.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. THREEHEARTS says:

    As Our Lord Jesus Christ explained it to St Faustina (found in her diary), “I am Mercy and Truth but above Me is the Father who is Justice”.

  2. The Masked Chicken says:

    From Veritatis Splendor of Pope St. John a Paul II:

    “32. Certain currents of modern thought have gone so far as to exalt freedom to such an extent that it becomes an absolute, which would then be the source of values. This is the direction taken by doctrines which have lost the sense of the transcendent or which are explicitly atheist. The individual conscience is accorded the status of a supreme tribunal of moral judgment which hands down categorical and infallible decisions about good and evil. To the affirmation that one has a duty to follow one’s conscience is unduly added the affirmation that one’s moral judgment is true merely by the fact that it has its origin in the conscience. But in this way the inescapable claims of truth disappear, yielding their place to a criterion of sincerity, authenticity and “being at peace with oneself”, so much so that some have come to adopt a radically subjectivistic conception of moral judgment.

    As is immediately evident, the crisis of truth is not unconnected with this development. Once the idea of a universal truth about the good, knowable by human reason, is lost, inevitably the notion of conscience also changes. Conscience is no longer considered in its primordial reality as an act of a person’s intelligence, the function of which is to apply the universal knowledge of the good in a specific situation and thus to express a judgment about the right conduct to be chosen here and now. Instead, there is a tendency to grant to the individual conscience the prerogative of independently determining the criteria of good and evil and then acting accordingly. Such an outlook is quite congenial to an individualist ethic, wherein each individual is faced with his own truth, different from the truth of others. Taken to its extreme consequences, this individualism leads to a denial of the very idea of human nature.

    These different notions are at the origin of currents of thought which posit a radical opposition between moral law and conscience, and between nature and freedom.”

    This should clarify the situation to those who think that mere conscience satisfies in the moral order.

    The Chicken

  3. trespinos says:

    In much the same vein as the J. Grodelski piece, but by a successor of the apostles, is the essay by Archbishop Chaput in the December issue of First Things. There the Archbishop beautifully and succinctly explicates the truth of Catholic teaching on mercy, contra the novelties that the Pope Francis may be tempted to pursue in his upcoming document, at least if his confidant Fr. A. Spadaro, SJ is to be believed.

  4. rosaryarmy says:

    People call going against Our Lord’s teachings “mercy”, as if we could be more merciful than Him.

  5. The Cobbler says:

    Nice to see voluntarism called out; too many people don’t know about these connections.

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