Wouldn’t one of those answers that always work in response to any Sunday school question — the Bible, God, or Jesus — be the answer to the dilemma of God’s justice and divine mercy?
But when Pope Francis answers the question, he neglects Jesus and the cross, the ultimate confluence of justice and mercy:
“Sacred Scripture presents us with God as infinite mercy, but also as perfect justice. How are these two things reconciled? How can the reality of mercy be articulated with the need for justice?” the Pope said Feb. 3.
While these two characteristics can seem like opposites, “it’s precisely the mercy of God that brings the fulfillment of true justice,” Francis affirmed.
The Pope made his comments to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly general audience. He recently began a new series of catechesis on the topic of mercy as it is understood in Scripture, in honor of the Jubilee of Mercy.
He said that when we think of justice, what might come to mind is an administration office where victims of an injustice appeal to a judge in court, asking that justice be done.
This, Francis noted, “is retributive justice, imposing a punishment to the guilty, according to the principle that each must be given what is due him.” While certain wrongs can be made right in this way, he said that it “still doesn’t bring true justice.”
Instead, it’s “only in responding with good that evil can be truly defeated,” the Pope said, explaining that this is what we find in the Bible
By helping the guilty person to see the evil done and by appealing to conscience, he can change. Such persons are able “to see their wrong and be open to the forgiveness offered,” Francis said, noting that this is also how families forgive each other, spouses and children included.
Might this be a window into the the problem of Roman Catholic laity not knowing church dogma? And don’t forget how the social justice designs of the mainline Protestant churches eventually made doctrine a trifle.