Misericordiae Vultus: Mercy Without Repentance?

On the Second Sunday of Easter (April 12), Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis released his bull Misericordiae Vultus, proclaiming the coming “Jubilee Year of Mercy,” commencing on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception in December.

The document contains many praiseworthy passages and welcome references to traditional modes of Catholic spiritual expression. It will no doubt be seen as a quintessential statement of Francis’ papacy, with its strong, even exclusive, emphasis on God’s inexhaustible love and forgiveness, with hardly a condemnatory note.

Indeed, Francis posits “mercy” as almost the essential truth of the Christian Faith.

Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to a hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.

This seems a rather broad understanding of the concept of mercy. The term could be replaced by a number of others—the Incarnation; the Resurrection; Grace; Love—any of which would ring true in these various sentences. As usual, however, Francis is less concerned with precise theology than he is with conveying a message of pastoral care and loving tenderness.

And there is no doubt that Francis believes that this manner of message is necessary in order to evangelize the modern world. He specifically notes that the Year of Mercy will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council, and he extols the Council’s ushering in “a new phase” in the history of the Church wherein the Church recognized the need to speak to modern man “in a more accessible way.” Francis sees the Council as tearing down “walls which had too long made the Church a kind of fortress” so as “to proclaim the Gospel in a new way.”

So, with the Year of Mercy, Francis sees himself as carrying on the great project of engagement with the modern world, glossing over the actual experience of the Church in this 50 years of the purported spiritual springtime. It is this vantage point of Francis—determined to advance the discredited notion of the “Spirit of Vatican II”—that explains the odd and incoherent nature of Misericordiae Vultus.

For Francis extolls the glory of God’s mercy, but with nary a mention of the reason man needs his mercy—sin. In order to call man to embrace God’s mercy, it is necessary first to call him to repentance. The people came to John to be baptized not to revel in the sunshine of God’s love, but to turn away from sin—to be “reborn,” as the Lord would later describe the experience of conversion to Nicodemus.

Francis spends considerable time citing examples of Christ’s mercy, and certainly these are beautiful manifestations of the Lord’s loving and compassionate heart. And Francis rightly emphasizes the Lord’s insistence on forgiveness as an essential act of Christian discipleship. But Francis avoids mention of the consequence of the failure of man to show mercy to man—Divine punishment, and even condemnation.

He discusses the parable of the wicked servant, whose master, moved with pity, forgives the servant’s debt, while the wicked servant refuses to do likewise to his own debtor. Yet, he declines to mention the Lord’s depiction of the fate of those who, like the unforgiving servant, are merciless.

Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.

Thus, mercy has no meaning without a consciousness of sin and of God’s judgment. Fear of God’s judgment has always animated Christian life, and the Gospels are replete with the Lord’s warnings of punishment for cruel and unrepentant sinners.

While it is true that the Church not need engage the world with dire messages of eternal punishment, She has a duty to preach the Gospel undistilled. She has a duty to call man to authentic Christian life, the key to which is a humble self-conception of himself as a sinner in need of God’s mercy. Only those who know the need for God’s mercy can appreciate its wonders. They are like the blind man of Jericho, crying out daily, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”; they are like the publican who begs “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

Francis wishes to share the great love and joy he experiences in discipleship with the world, and this is an admirable goal. But this zeal can inadvertently devolve into a kind of mania for good public relations, a determination to show that the Church is not downer, a “fortress,” but is, in the buzz words of the secular moralists, “inclusive and welcoming.”

We should indeed celebrate the Year of Mercy. But it will be a missed opportunity of the New Evangelization if it is not presented as a call to humble repentance, a long Lent, that urges modern man to recall that he is a sinner who needs, and who has, a Redeemer.

Editor’s note: In the photo above, Pope Francis (left) hands out copies of his papal bull. (Photo credit: L’Osservatore Romano)

Christian Browne

By

Christian Browne is a practicing attorney in New York state. A board member of the Nassau County Catholic Lawyers Guild, he earned his J.D. from Fordham University in 2004.

  • Alexandra

    Thank you VERY MUCH for this article. This is exactly what I think and find is lacking in this pope: the real teaching of Jesus, the reason why we are all called to conversion. Yes, the mercy of God is available to all of us, Jesus turned no one down, but he required conversion, a change of life. It reminds me of the adulterous woman He forgave and told her, “go and sin no more”. When he healed the men with leper, he told them to see a priest. We are healed by his wounds but we also must do our part, our cooperation with the mercy of God, not just by being merciful to others, but also by changing our lives, by instructing the sinner in all charity, so that he also will share withe the Saints the glory of God.

    • Alexandra

      “We should indeed celebrate the Year of Mercy. But it will be a missed opportunity of the New Evangelization if it is not presented as a call to humble repentance, a long Lent, that urges modern man to recall that he is a sinner who needs, and who has, a Redeemer.”

      Very important note and I especially like the ” a call to humble repentance, a long Lent”. Thank you again for the excellent points.

    • bosco49

      I agree that this is a well-written piece and agree with your remarks, Alexandra.

      For my part, I recall the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:20) whose Father, though he waited anxiously and watched the distant road hopefully, did not undertake a journey to cajole the Prodigal into returning while the son was squandering his inheritance on drink and loose women or even when he was reduced to feeding the unclean swine.

      The Father patiently waited on the operation of grace to illuminate the Prodigal that he had “sinned” against his Father and commence the long journey back to his Father’s arms and reconciliation.

      Mercy is all about the recognition of sin:

      “And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”
      And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!”
      And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23: 41-43

  • An Orthodox Christian

    “…This is the way we should see Christ. He is our friend, our brother; He is whatever is good and beautiful. He is everything. Yet, He is still a friend and He shouts it out, “You’re my friends, don’t you understand that? We’re brothers. I’m not…I don’t hold hell in my hands. I am not threatening you. I love you. I want you to enjoy life together with me.” – St. Porphyrios of Kafsokalivia

    If they acquire the spirit of God, self correction will follow. Fire and Brimstone will not convert them…..

    http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2011/10/elder-posphyrios-and-hippies.html

    • Objectivetruth

      “If they acquire the spirit of God, self correction will follow.”

      Sounds like the hope of many “once saved, always saved” Protestants.

      Christ uppercut Saul of Taursus with blinding light, angrily asking him “SAUL…..WHY ARE YOU PERSECUTING ME?!!” Conversion then followed.

      Don’t presuppose the power of God. Fear of the Lord is a gift of the Holy Spirit.

      • An Orthodox Christian

        If you believe that it sounds like Protestantism, than your knowledge of the Christian East is lacking greatly. I would encourage you to study the Eastern Fathers and Saints to correct this.
        I presuppose nothing. If the person has the Holy Spirit in them, then they will amend their lives by God’s grace, not through me wagging my finger at them.
        I understand you are angry, but this is not the Christian way. You suppose that Christ was angry at St. Paul….you use terms like “smack down”….again, this is not the way of Christ. There were times in history where God judged a people and acted accordingly. We are not God, and our response is to be one of firm love.

        • Objectivetruth

          “I understand you are angry,”

          What?!

          • An Orthodox Christian

            Using words like smack down and upper cut and the tenor and tone of this exchange lead me to conclude that you are angry and or outraged….which while understandable doesn’t always lend itself to a Christian response of care is not taken.

            • Using words like smack down and upper cut and the tenor and tone of this exchange lead me to conclude that you are angry and or outraged….
              Hypocrite.

            • Objectivetruth

              Buddy……If you haven’t noticed…..you’ve tried to judge the heart of almost everyone posting on this article!

          • Troll tactic of accusing someone of lacking equanimity.

        • Objectivetruth

          No, I would encourage you to study the Eastern Fathers, especially John Climacus, on the need for repentance before mercy:

          ” the renewal of baptism. Repentance is a contract with God for a second life. A penitent is a buyer of humility. Repentance is constant distrust of bodily comfort. Repentance is self-condemning reflection, and carefree self-care. Repentance is the daughter of hope and the renunciation of despair. A penitent is an undisgraced convict. Repentance is reconciliation with the Lord by the practice of good deeds contrary to the sins. Repentance is purification of conscience. Repentance is the voluntary endurance of all afflictions. A penitent is the inflicter of his own punishments. Repentance is a mighty persecution of the stomach, and a striking of the soul into vigorous awareness.”

          • An Orthodox Christian

            Yes, St. John is quite correct. Again….read what I wrote….

            “If the person has the Holy Spirit in them, then they will amend their lives by God’s grace, not through me wagging my finger at them.”
            True Repentance comes with the Holy Spirit….if a person has embraced God’s grace, than self-correction will be a fruit of that.

            • mod j of a

              I TOTALLY AGREE WITH ORTHO. C. i am so tired of hearing such “observations of others” What we need is to PRAY for people not judge. I wonder how many of the people who are so quick to “observe”, spent time praying for “these others”? Also why are we so quick to judge Pope Francis? Pope Benedict must have known who was the most likely to succeed him and so I think we should trust. Mercy is NEEDED now because the world has been sold a packet of lies about Christianity. The general population DO NOT BELIEVE THAT GOD COULD LOVE THEM. All Christian churches(including the UK) have fallen attendance. The world sees the Catholic Church as TOO JUDGMENTAL!! Gee I wonder why? I, myself go to my room and close the door to pray-and none of you know who I am, do you?

              • LarryCicero

                You appear to be judging the “observers” and the “general population” but I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you are making an observation.

  • Eduardo Echeverria

    Respectfully, I think this article is less than fair in interpreting Pope Francis’s Bull on the relation between mercy, conversion, and judgment. Mr. Browne says, “For Francis extolls the glory of God’s mercy, but with nary a mention of the reason man needs his mercy—sin.” But if he has taken a closer look at paragraphs 19-21 he would see that conversion, judgment, the justice of God is integral to the pope’s message of mercy. Some examples follow: “May the message of mercy reach everyone, and may no one be indifferent to the call to experience mercy. I direct this invitation to conversion even more fervently to those whose behaviour distances them from the grace of God.. . . Everyone, sooner or later, will be subject to God’s judgment, from which no one can escape.” He continues: “The same invitation [to conversion] is extended to those who either perpetrate or participate in corruption. This festering wound is a grave sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance, because it threatens the very foundations of personal and social life. Corruption prevents us from looking to the future with hope, because its tyrannical greed shatters the plans of the weak and tramples upon the poorest of the poor. It is an evil that embeds itself into the actions of everyday life and spreads, causing great public scandal. Corruption is a sinful hardening of the heart that replaces God with the illusion that money is a form of power. It is a work of darkness, fed by suspicion and intrigue. Corruptio optimi pessima, Saint Gregory the Great said with good reason, affirming that no one can think himself immune from this temptation. If we want to drive it out from personal and social life, we need prudence, vigilance, loyalty, transparency, together with the courage to denounce any wrongdoing. If it is not combated openly, sooner or later everyone will become an accomplice to it, and it will end up destroying our very existence. This is the opportune moment to change our lives! This is the time to allow our hearts to be touched!” Again, Francis says: “God never tires of reaching out to us. He is always ready to listen, as I am too, along with my brother bishops and priests. All one needs to do is to accept the invitation to conversion and submit oneself to justice during this special time of mercy offered by the Church.” In all these passages conversion is essential to receiving mercy, whose foundation is the cross of Jesus (see the opening paragraph of the Bull). Lastly, the pope gives a brief reflection on the relationship of “justice and mercy”: “These are not two contradictory realities, but two dimensions of a single reality that unfolds progressively until it culminates in the fullness of love.” “Paul’s understanding of justice changes radically. He now places faith first, not justice. Salvation comes not through the observance of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ, who in his death and resurrection brings salvation together with a mercy that justifies. God’s justice now becomes the liberating force for those oppressed by slavery to sin and its consequences. God’s justice is his mercy (cf. Ps 51:11-16). Mercy is not opposed to justice but rather expresses God’s way of reaching out to the sinner, offering him a new chance to look at himself, convert, and believe. . . . If God limited himself to only justice, he would cease to be God, and would instead be like human beings who ask merely that the law be respected. But mere justice is not enough. Experience shows that an appeal to justice alone will result in its destruction. This is why God goes beyond justice with his mercy and forgiveness. Yet this does not mean that justice should be devalued or rendered superfluous. On the contrary: anyone who makes a mistake must pay the price. However, this is just the beginning of conversion, not its end, because one begins to feel the tenderness and mercy of God. God does not deny justice. He rather envelopes it and surpasses it with an even greater event in which we experience love as the foundation of true justice. We must pay close attention to what Saint Paul says if we want to avoid making the same mistake for which he reproaches the Jews of his time: For, “being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law, that everyone who has faith may be justified” (Rom 10:3-4). God’s justice is his mercy given to everyone as a grace that flows from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus the Cross of Christ is God’s judgement on all of us and on the whole world, because through it he offers us the certitude of love and new life.” I think if Mr. Browne had paid more attention to these paragraphs, he would have seen in Pope Francis’s Bull an integral (even if not fully developed) relation of mercy, justice and conversion.

    • BXVI

      “This festering wound is a grave sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance…”
      Homosexual acts have traditionally been labeled as sins that cry out to heaven for vengeance too.

      • Patti Day

        ”I think this focus on mercy won’t reach the people it is intended to
        reach. The people he’s trying to reach want mercy without repentance.”

        I fear you are correct BXVI, that many desire mercy without “strings” and will be angered if all is not made perfectly smooth and easy for them. Pope Francis will speak before crowds in Philadelphia at the World Meeting of Families, to Congress in D.C., and to the United Nations prior to the opening of the Ordinary Synod and the Year of Mercy. I pray that much will be clarified before and during that time. Veni Creator Spiritus.

        • BXVI

          Me too but I think we are going to hear about global warming and economic inequality when he speaks to Congress and the UN and allows Obama to use him for a nice photo op.

    • bonaventure

      As I replied elsewhere to another user, it is the kinds of sin which Francis mentions and the kinds he omits that is the real problem.

      For while he does indeed makes mention of sin and the need to repentance, he focuses on “social sins” — and, unsurprisingly, lays the blame for many evils at the feet of the stereotypical greedy rich. But he seems to omit those sins (especially sexual sins) which, more than any, tear our societies apart today.

      Just re-read article 19 in full…

    • Christian Browne

      I appreciate your thoughts, though I disagree that these paragraphs render my thesis incorrect. The discussion in paragraph “19” reads as a digression wherein the pope specifically calls upon “men and women belonging to criminal
      organizations of any kind” and “those who either perpetrate or participate in
      corruption” to reform their ways. I grant that these paragraphs are a call to
      repentance, but they read as an appendage addressed to made men and Albany
      politicians rather than as a John the Baptist-style cry to the whole world.

      In paragraphs “20” and “21”, Francis engages in a discussion of
      relationship of “justice” to “mercy.” In sum, Francis correctly holds that
      justice and mercy are not opposed to one another, although he plainly sees
      mercy as “beyond” justice and warns that an undue focus on justice can lead to
      the legalism of the Pharisees. In this section, Francis also says that one who
      “makes a mistake must pay a price”, but, not to worry, for “this is just the
      beginning of conversion, not its end, because one begins to feel the tenderness
      and mercy of God.”

      So, again, while Francis offers passing references to God’s judgment, fear of the Lord is clearly not the theme. It cannot be said that these paragraphs, or any others in the document, clearly and adequately set forth the reason for man’s
      dependence on Divine Mercy.

      As I stated in the piece, there are many wonderful passages in the bull,
      especially those that remind us of Christ’s insistence that His followers
      forgive each other endlessly. But it still strikes me as somewhat incoherent to
      call for a year-long celebration of God’s Mercy without a comprehensive
      discussion of why it is necessary.

      Unlike Love, the existence of Mercy is contingent—that is, in a world without sin, there would be no need for Mercy, while, on the other hand, God is Love, the essence of all being. And because the need for Mercy is necessarily dependent upon man’s fallen nature, man must first reckon with his faults before he can
      embrace God’s Mercy. The weakness of the bull is in its failure to lay this
      foundation for the great celebration it inaugurates.

      • Eduardo Echeverria

        Thanks for your reply. The question you posed in the title of your article is whether Pope Francis offers mercy without repentance. Your answer to this question is affirmative. I argued that your article was unfair—because unbalanced in its presentation of the pope’s views on the relation between mercy, justice (judgment), and conversion. In Francis’s view, there is an integral relation between these three, not a digression (as you suggest). I don’t know the reason why Pope Francis focuses on the sins of criminals and corruption. But elsewhere in Evangelii gaudium, in his pre-papal and papal writings, addresses, talks, Wednesday audience talks, daily homilies, etc., he makes abundantly clear what the full range of sins encompasses. But even in the Bull the call to conversion and repentance is to all men, and all men are under the judgment of God. More to the point, does Pope Francis provide a systematic theological account of this integral relation? I said no, but that is not the same as claiming, as you do, that he almost pays no attention at all to conversion and judgment. You also claim later in the article that “Francis extolls the glory of God’s mercy, but with nary a mention of the reason [why] man needs his [God’s] mercy—sin. In order to call men to embrace God’s mercy, it is necessary to call him to repentance.” I think that, too, is unfair because throughout his Bull reference is made to sin, man’s sinful condition, forgiveness of sins. (By the way, in your reply to another critic of your article you say: “I did not write that Francis literally never used the words ‘sin’ and ‘sinner’.” Well, that isn’t accurate. You actually said there is “nary” a mention of sin. Now you say that there isn’t a “fulsome” [meaning ‘of large size or quantity, generous or abundant] account of why man is in need of mercy in the first place. But that is to change your criticism and hence the initial point you made]. Furthermore, Pope Francis gives a brief reflection on the relationship between mercy and justice, but you seem unsatisfied. I’m not sure why? You agree with him that justice and mercy are not antithetical attributes of God. Don’t you agree that mercy triumphs over judgment? Do you think that he cheapens justice, diminishing its significance? Pope Francis is not arguing that God is merciful without regard to justice, for that would be a caricature of mercy, pardoning a sinner without reconciliation, and that would not be a mercy that is supreme and worthy of God who sent His son to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins. At the same time, Pope Francis wants to argue (along with John Paul II in his encyclical Rich in Mercy) that true mercy and love is excess of justice, never destructive of justice, but must be and must remain the basic form of love, with mercy then appearing as the primary root of justice, of his work of redemption. In short, God cannot simply overlook sins; his justice must be satisfied in some way. The cross is a satisfaction. “[It] constitutes even a ‘superabundance’ of justice,” says John Paul II, “for the sins of man are ‘compensated for’ by the sacrifice of the God-man.” The reference to the “superabundance” of justice is an allusion to its perfection, its excess: past, present and future sins are fully satisfied by Christ’s death on the cross (see 1 John 1:9). But it means more than this allusion, I would argue. Chiefly, I think, it refers to the “excessive” character of God’s reconciling act in the death of Christ. This saving act is “excessive” in that God does not give us we truly deserve, but rather is merciful, giving himself in the self-sacrificial love of Jesus’ death on the cross for his enemies. As Pope Francis says, “God does not deny justice. He rather envelopes it and surpasses it with an even greater event in which we experience love as the foundation of true justice.” The cross is an act of merciful justice, and the mercy is a just mercy. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. . . . When we were God’s enemies we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son” (Rom 5:10). Again, Francis says: “God’s justice is his mercy.”

        Having said this, I have cut and paste passages from the Bull so that the reader may decide for himself whether you have been fair to the Holy Father’s position on the relationship of mercy, justice, conversion, sin, justice, and mercy. That is all I have to say about this matter in this context. Here follows Pope Francis:

        Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to a hope of being
        loved forever despite our sinfulness (§2).

        After the sin of Adam and Eve, God did not wish to leave humanity alone in the throes of evil. So he turned his gaze to Mary, holy and immaculate in love (cf. Eph 1:4), choosing her to be the Mother of man’s Redeemer. When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy. Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive (§3).

        In a special way the Psalms bring to the fore the grandeur of his merciful action: “He forgives all your iniquity, he heals all your diseases, he redeems your life from the pit, he crowns you with steadfast love and mercy” (Ps 103:3-4) (§6).

        The signs he works, especially in the face of sinners, the poor, the marginalized, the sick, and the suffering, are all meant to teach mercy. Everything in him speaks of mercy (§8).

        We become good confessors when, above all, we allow ourselves to be penitents in search of his mercy. Let us never forget that to be confessors means to participate in the very mission of Jesus to be a concrete sign of the constancy of divine love that pardons and saves. We priests have received the gift of the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins, and we are responsible for this. None of us wields power over this Sacrament; rather, we are faithful servants of God’s mercy through it. Every confessor must accept the faithful as the father in the parable of the prodigal son: a father who runs out to meet his son despite the fact that he has squandered away his inheritance. Confessors are called to embrace the repentant son who comes back home and to express the joy of having him back again. Let us never tire of also going out to the other son who stands outside, incapable of rejoicing, in order to explain to him that his
        judgment is severe and unjust and meaningless in light of the father’s boundless mercy (§17).

        During Lent of this Holy Year, I intend to send out Missionaries of Mercy. They will be a sign of the Church’s maternal solicitude for the People of God, enabling them to enter the profound richness of this mystery so fundamental to the faith. There will be priests to whom I will grant the authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See, so that the breadth of their mandate as confessors will be even clearer. They will be, above all, living signs of the Father’s readiness to welcome those in search of his pardon (§18).

        May individual dioceses organize “missions to the people” in such a way that these Missionaries may be heralds of joy and forgiveness (§18).

        In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God makes even more evident his love and its power to destroy all human sin. Reconciliation with God is made possible through the paschal mystery and the mediation of the Church. Thus God is always ready to forgive, and he never tires of forgiving in ways that are continually new and surprising. Nevertheless, all of us know well the experience of sin. We know that we are called to perfection (cf. Mt 5:48), yet we feel the heavy burden of sin. Though we feel the transforming power of grace, we also feel the effects of sin typical of our fallen state. Despite being forgiven, the conflicting consequences of our sins remain. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God forgives our sins, which he truly blots out;
        and yet sin leaves a negative effect on the way we think and act. But the mercy of God is stronger than even this. It becomes indulgence on the part of the Father who, through the Bride of Christ, his Church, reaches the pardoned sinner and frees him from every residue left by the consequences of sin, enabling him to act with charity, to grow in love rather than to fall back into sin (§22).

        Let us live this Jubilee intensely, begging the Father to forgive our sins and to bathe us in His merciful “indulgence” (§22).

        May the message of mercy reach everyone, and may no one be indifferent to the call to experience mercy. I direct this invitation to conversion even more fervently to those whose behaviour distances them from the grace of God (§19).

        Everyone, sooner or later, will be subject to God’s judgment, from which no one can escape (§19).

        This is the opportune moment to change our lives! This is the time to allow our hearts to be touched! . . . All one needs to do is to accept the invitation to conversion and submit oneself to justice during this special time of mercy offered by the Church (§19).

        It would not be out of place at this point to recall the relationship between justice and mercy. These are not two contradictory realities, but two dimensions of a single reality that unfolds progressively until it culminates in the fullness of love (§20).

        Paul’s understanding of justice changes radically. He now places faith first, not justice. Salvation comes not through the observance of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ, who in his death and resurrection brings salvation together with a mercy that justifies. God’s justice now becomes the liberating force for those oppressed by slavery to sin and its consequences. God’s justice is his mercy (cf. Ps 51:11-16) (§20).

        Mercy is not opposed to justice but rather expresses God’s way of reaching out to the sinner, offering him a new chance to look at himself, convert, and believe. The experience of the prophet Hosea can help us see the way in which mercy surpasses justice (§21).

        If God limited himself to only justice, he would cease to be God, and would instead be like human beings who ask merely that the law be respected. But mere justice is not enough. Experience shows that an appeal to justice alone will result in its destruction. This is why God goes beyond justice with his mercy and forgiveness. Yet this does not mean that justice should be devalued or rendered superfluous. On the contrary: anyone who makes a mistake must pay the price. However, this is just the beginning of conversion, not its end, because one begins to feel the tenderness and mercy of God. God does not deny justice. He rather envelopes it and surpasses it with an even greater event in which we experience love as the foundation of true justice (§21).

      • Eduardo Echeverria

        There must be a limit to the amount of words that is allowed in a reply. Here follows the remaining quotes I cut and paste from Pope Francis’s Bull:

        Everyone,
        sooner or later, will be subject to God’s judgment, from which no one can escape (§19).

        This is the opportune moment to change our lives! This is the time to allow our hearts to be touched! . . . All one needs to do is to accept the invitation to conversion and submit oneself to justice during this special time of mercy offered by the Church (§19).

        It would not be out of place at this point to recall the relationship between justice and mercy. These are not two contradictory realities, but two dimensions of a single reality that unfolds progressively until it culminates in the fullness of love (§20).

        Paul’s understanding of justice changes radically. He now places faith first, not justice. Salvation comes not through the observance of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ, who in his death and resurrection brings salvation together with a mercy that justifies. God’s justice now becomes the liberating force for those oppressed by slavery to sin and its consequences. God’s justice is his mercy (cf. Ps 51:11-16) (§20).

        Mercy is not opposed to justice but rather expresses God’s way of reaching out to the sinner, offering him a new chance to look at himself, convert, and believe. The experience of the prophet Hosea can help us see the way in which mercy surpasses justice (§21).

        If God limited himself to only justice, he would cease to be God, and would instead be like human beings who ask merely that the law be respected. But mere justice is not enough. Experience shows that an appeal to justice alone will result in its destruction. This is why God goes beyond justice with his mercy and forgiveness. Yet this does not mean that justice should be devalued or rendered superfluous. On the contrary: anyone who makes a mistake must pay the price. However, this is just the beginning of conversion, not its end, because one begins to feel the tenderness and mercy of God. God does not deny justice. He rather envelopes it and surpasses it with an even greater event in which we experience love as the foundation of true justice (§21).

  • Monica Kolars

    I respectfully disagree and I think you have missed the point of Divine Mercy. Are you familiar with the Diary of St
    Faustian? In it Jesus tells her before I come as a just judge, I come as as a merciful savior. I believe it is this encounter with Merciful Love that will effect a conversion to repentance. Also, I would suggest reading Father Gaitley’s book, The Second Greatest Story Ever Told. It is about Divine Mercy. Also, read St. John Paul’s encyclical on the subject. From the lens of these books and documents you may come to a different and more complete understanding of the momentous occasion that this Extraordinary Jubilee is. I agree there is much evil and sin but where sin abounds, grace abounds even more. I hope and pray many embrace this opportunity to feel His love and be transformed.

    • Michael S.

      I am glad you mentioned St. Faustina. However, one must shudder at the prospect that St. Faustina’s revelations of mercy came a few years (1930’s) before the widespread horror of the next fifty years for so many millions of people because of Stalin, Hitler and Mao. Truly, God have mercy on us!!!

  • Aliquantillus

    Francis’ approach won’t work. The modern world doesn’t think it needs mercy much at all. The Pope suffers from projecting Christian presuppitions on the modern world. What he says to modern man comes down to this: “God will accept you, even if you live a life of sin. God’s forgiveness is without bounds”. But the answer of modern man to this is: “What sin? I have a right to be what I am! So what mercy?” The whole thing betrays a huge error of miscommunication on the side of the Pope.

    • Jay

      “The first thing to do here is to demolish modern secular ideology.” I agree, but how do you do so? It’s the greatest sin to consider relativism applicable to any problem. So, what does church leaders do?

  • St JD George

    Being merciful requires one to exercise judgement in how best to address an individual’s particular needs and where they are in their life being away from God. However, there is no mercy in not teaching about both about God’s love and his nature. Preaching love without an understanding that we are all fallen and need to humbly ask for his forgiveness and repentance is like giving a person one shoe and telling them to go out into the world with the other foot bare. We need to make people whole and not enable by just saying nice words to make them feel good for the moment.

    • turriseburnea

      And who, pray, is doing that?

      • St JD George

        Maybe the Holy Spirit acting through us, if we let him.

  • To portray the Church for today’s mass media is more like the work of a cartoonist than that of a Renaissance painter. It affords the opportunity to convey only one simple impression which must be given in a very few broad splashes of very bright color. Accordingly, prior to Vatican II the only impression the uninitiated masses ever got of the Church seemed to be an equally unnuanced one about sin and punishment. I wonder if Pope Francis hasn’t decided to dedicate his watch to balancing that perception in the eyes of the “low-information voters” of this world? As for us — the luckier, more sophisticated ones who are probably watching the pontiff more closely via other than just the mass media — the rest of the story is actually there to be appreciated. For instance, this past Lent I was moved by a image of Pope Francis kneeling before another priest in confession at St Peter’s. I give him an “A” for his effective work in a cumbersome and most inexact medium.

    • GG

      But the low info people do not know what sin is. If they do go to confession what will they confess? Where is logic in any of this?

      • That’s just my point — the mass media only gives out pathetically simplified cartoons. Let’s not be expecting it to give out the Catechism of the Catholic Church. So if cartoon it must be, then at least the Pope has selected one attractive enough to possibly bring some low-info person hopefully to our door. After that, it’s our job give him or her the rest of the story.

        • BXVI

          I hope and pray this is the correct reading of what’s happening. I noticed in the section of the Bull that talks about the Corporal and Spiritual Works of mercy, he devotes a prhase to each and every one of them – except one – admonishing sinners. He glosses right over that one.

          • That IS interesting. Yet I can think of several times when I felt myself admonished by one or another of Pope Francis’ own pronouncements.

  • The correct response of the faithful Catholic to Misericordia Vultus is the Diary of St. Faustina,.

  • Vinny

    This misunderstanding of the Pope and how you receive mercy fits in well with the current ethos that “if it feels good do it” and “there isn’t any Hell.” But the mercy is always there if I happen to need it so I’m good to continue whatever I want to do.

  • Over at Ethika Politika, Mr. Andrew Haines has written a response showing the multiple times that Holy Father Francis used the words “sin” and “sinner” in his Papal Bull on Mercy in contra to Mr. Browne’s assertion. (“For Francis extolls the glory of God’s mercy, but with nary a mention of the reason man needs his mercy—sin.”) Did Mr. Browne even read what the Holy Father wrote?

    http://ethikapolitika.org/2015/04/16/misericordiae-vultus-is-for-sinners/

    • bonaventure

      While he does, indeed, mention sin on a number of occasions, it is the kind of sin which Francis mentions (and the kinds he omits) that is the real problem.

    • Christian Browne

      I did not write that Francis literally never used the words “sin” and “sinner”. Yes, I agree that “sin” appears 21 times and “sinner” 12 times in a document comprised of more than 9,000 words.
      Instead, I argue that he extolled the greatness of God’s Mercy without a fulsome discussion of why man is in need of Mercy in the first place. No fair reading of the bull would hold that, in discussing God’s Mercy, Francis placed significant emphasis on the stain of original sin and the sense of man’s inadequacy before the Lord. The mere fact that the word “sin” appears in the document hardly undermines the basic thesis of my article.

  • Paul Tran

    This article is spot-on !!!! Thank you so much for articulating the finer details.

  • BXVI

    Brilliant. Thank you!
    It is very simple. God’s mercy is always on offer but in order to receive it, one must acknowledge Him as God, confess one’s sinfulness, and repent. Pope Francis (drawing from Kasper) does not seem to believe this.

  • Veritas

    Has the Church ever had “The Year of Justice”?

  • GHM_52

    I agree with you completely. I smile every time Pope Francis talks about that “forbidding fortress”. It seems he is in a time warp! The Church has not been a forbidding fortress for many, many years. The super diluted Christian message voiced from almost every pulpit scares not a one! Bishops and parish priests talk like enlightened psychologists or sociologists. These last 60 years have been like an extended 60s: a sort of pantheistic “love is all, love is you” era, in lip service, I mean. When it comes to actions, the ugliness shows up in every corner in our present world. Just like the 60s: a lot of peace and love on the lips with a syringe full of heroin in the hand! I just hope our good Father Francis won’t do too much harm with his imprecissions. However, we must not forget the good news: the Holy Spirit is at the helm! He will provide for whatever is missing!

  • Lochain

    “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
    ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

    • Veritas

      I didn’t know Bonhoeffer wrote that, but it explains the idea in Catholic thinking that it’s not enough just to say “i forgive you for breaking my window; you must now fix the damage you’ve done.”

      Who could possibly disagree with that combination of mercy and justice. Nice quote, Lochain.

    • Guest

      I am grateful for this article, but not for its content (which I consider to be seriously flawed). I am, rather, grateful for the article because it made me aware of the pope’s bull (which I promptly read in its entirety). After reading Misericordiae Vultus, I must say that I agree with Eduardo’s assessment of Mr. Browne’s article (so, I will not repeat the points Eduardo has made so well).

      I will only say that I hope that everyone in the church takes the time to read Misericordiae Vultus and–more importantly–takes its messge to heart.

  • Lochain

    “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
    ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
    Bonhoeffer was a victim of Nazi hatred of Christianity and was hanged just a few weeks before the end of the war about this time of the year. I think this comment of his is one that Catholics today would do well to ponder. Mercy must always go hand in hand with repentance; we must be on our knees before the Almighty, face to the ground mourning for our sins for which Jesus died on the Cross not demanding the right to approach the Eucharist because murderers are forgiven and our sin is not as heinous as that. That is the attitude that seems rife in the Church now and just as much among those who rarely go to Confession ( mea maxima culpa – I say as well). The catastrophic decline in habitual Confession began when it changed to Reconciliation and coincided with the long lines of those going up to communion and receiving the sacrament in the hand and standing. All the habitual forms of piety have fallen away and i do not find that we are a more holy people. In the U.K. the number of Church going Catholics on a Sunday has fallen from 3 million to 1 million while the general population numbers have risen. If the great persecution is coming as heralded by the treatment of bakers, florists and other service givers, it may well be that we have brought it on ourselves by our bold and careless demeanour before the Blessed Sacrament, a symptom of which is the magpie chatter which breaks out almost before the priest has left the altar.

    • Objectivetruth

      Out of 7,000 people in my parish, most Saturday’s there’s only 8-10 people in line for confession. Only 10 sinners…..must be a very holy parish……ahem……..

      • Modern people are so good..

      • An Orthodox Christian

        Why are you watching who is going to Confession? You have your own soul to tend to. Perhaps other people can’t come on Saturday and made appointments throughout the week. You have judged these people without knowing anything about their situation.

        Lord, have mercy.

        • Noticing that confession lines are short isn’t “watching who is going to confession” -but your charge is calumny, so tend your soul.

          • An Orthodox Christian

            It’s nobodys business who is going to Confession and when. That is between them and their Spiritual Father. Objectivetruth made the snide comment about “10 sinners….must be a very holy parish.” That goes beyond noticing short confession lines (which in and of itself doesn’t necessarily mean what you think it means, as many people can’t come on Saturdays).

            • GG

              Stop insulting intelligence.

              • An Orthodox Christian

                Where have I insulted anyone’s intelligence?

              • GG

                The silliness that confession is embraced and practiced widely in our culture.

            • It’s nobody’s business what INDIVIDUAL is going to confession or not, but if almost nobody is going, it an obvious problem.
              Remember to confess your sin of calumny for accusing someone of spiritual voyeurism because they happen not to be blind.

              • An Orthodox Christian

                How do you know if “almost nobody is going?” Perhaps those people are confessing at other times, in other parishes. We don’t know that for certain, and we should assume nothing. This is the whole point I was trying to make. We should ALWAYS assume the best about our brothers and sisters, and when sin or scandal comes we should pray for the person and try and help them, by building them up and guide them back to the Light.
                I tell my Spiritual Father many things. I will say this, I repent of having ever entered this conversation.

        • Objectivetruth

          An observation, a barometer to our environment.

          I have judged no one. But you have certainly judged me.

          • An Orthodox Christian

            Your sarcastic aside about “must be a holy parish” was indeed a judgement, whether you acknowledge it or not.

            Again, the length of the Confession line in and of itself doesn’t necessarily mean people aren’t going to Confession. Saturday is one day out of the week.

            • Objectivetruth

              Oy……..

              Someone else deal with this troll, I don’t have the time nor energy……

              • An Orthodox Christian

                Why call me a troll when I merely pointed out that it isn’t helpful or edifying to make a comment like you made?
                You seem to be angry, but that was not my intent. Forgive me if I caused you to stumble or be upset. We should be building each other up, not tearing each other down…and that goes for everyone. The Easter and Christmas Christians are still our brothers and sisters, and they are coming, albeit infrequently. My point is that we should be nurturing the Faith that remains and not casting aspersions on other people….your Pope Francis is not throwing out Christian teaching, but emphasizing the Mercy that waits for everyone who embraces the Gospel. The Church is a hospital….and the people need help. That’s all I’m driving at.

                • Trolls argue insignificant details in bad faith. If the shoe fits…

            • LarryCicero

              In Poland, I saw people going to confession on weekdays and they can go before Mass. Here in suburbia, USA confession is typically from 4-4:30 on Saturday
              or by appointment. If it were more available, people would have less of an excuse not to go. I can’t help but notice all the folks who show up on Easter and wonder where they were since Christmas. I am observing, not judging.

              • An Orthodox Christian

                Observation is one thing, sarcastic comments about the holiness of a parish is something else based on unfounded assumptions observing the length of the Confession line on any given Saturday. I was merely responding to Objectivetruth’s post. It didn’t stop at mere observation, it was also a dig at other people’s spiritual life.
                In the Orthodox Church, Confession is often available after Saturday Vespers and oftentimes Sunday morning right before Divine Liturgy (as well as by Appointment). “Mind your own business” is the basic answer that is given by our Spiritual Fathers when one is tempted to look at what other people are doing, whether it is Fasting, Prayer, how often they go to Confession or whatever else. We should always pray and try and help others, but what others do is between them and their Spiritual Father, and ultimately…God. I would think this is the same in the West…..

                • LarryCicero

                  Is the “dig” the truth? The young priest who told me about his first day in the confessional made a similar comment that he thought he might be the only sinner in the parish. It is a reflection on the attitude prevalent in American society that confession is not all that necessary. The attitude is that attendance on Sunday is not all that necessary either- hence the Christmas and Easter Masses are moved to the gymnasium to accommodate the extraordinary attendees. Real presence in the Eucharist? How many believe that? You can’t help but wonder when you observe the casual attitude displayed at Mass if true belief exists, or if there is a misconception that forgiveness will be automatically granted. People should not be led to believe in mercy and to disregard the sin of presumption. Am I my brother’s keeper?

                • If “mind your own business” is so important to you, then perhaps you shouldn’t be judging people from the Church you don’t even belong to, no?

                • Objectivetruth

                  It’s ironic and laughable that you’d be accusing others of “judging” by judging their hearts and intentions from a few sentences in a comment box, is it not?

                  “God. I would think this is the same in the West….”

                  Take the name of the Lord in vain, much?

                  You’re not pals with another troll named “Nestorian” that pops in here every now and then to unload his anti Catholic garbage, are you?

                  • An Orthodox Christian

                    I offered an apology to you and you continue to attack me. I don’t understand why. You falsely accuse me of taking the Lord’s name in vain, but if you look at the sentence, you will see that it is on the end of an ellipsis in the previous sentence, which is me saying that God is the ultimate judge of what goes on between people. If there was a comma after God as opposed to the period, perhaps you could make that accusation. You then are nothing but dismissive of me and denounce me as a troll, which is an unfair attack when I have not attacked Catholicism in any way. We are all Icons of the Living God, and if my comments came across as hurtful or judgemental, I ask your forgiveness. My whole point was only to remind people that we cannot know the state of anyone’s soul and we shouldn’t speculate or offer comment on things that we don’t know. I was responding to your comment, not trying to attack you personally. There is no need to treat me in the way you have done.
                    This will be my last comment on this, as I have no desire or wish to argue or get into it with anyone.

              • My Church has it for a hour Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon.

                • LarryCicero

                  How does that work out for people who work on Saturdays?

                  • If you are working a full day every Saturday, it’s a conflict-however there are many other Churches nearby and they have Confession as late a 7PM.
                    Personal appointments are available as well.

                    • LarryCicero

                      If there is an effort to promote mercy then there should be an effort to promote confessions. Sure you can shop for an open confessional but the point is the priests should think more like a business and expand their hours to accommodate more parishioners. Priests are not consumer orientated. Why not confessions in the evenings or before Mass on Sundays if there is more than one priest in the parish? Adoration on one day during the week was started again some years ago in a nearby parish and then more recently in the local parish.People show up. Build it and they will come- institute the practice- open the door. If confessions require less than an hour a week then there needs to be an increase in advertising. There is a need for the product.

                    • My old Parish was or is experimenting with a Monday night

            • Martha

              I should think we could all practically walk right back into the confessional after exiting, so there should really never be a lack of a line where a priest is willing.

              If you were to do some simple math, figuring how many people attend the parish, how long an average confession takes, and how many hours per week are offered, I’m positive you will find it’s not nearly enough to get 1/4 of the parishioners through in a week (which would make for a rather minimum of confession once a month per person). People just aren’t going, on average.

              Please note the difference between ‘judging’ and ‘condemning.’ We all judge things every day. Think ‘observation.’

        • GG

          Give us a break.

      • LarryCicero

        We had a priest come straight from the seminary after ordination who in the confessional for his first Saturday had not one sinner show up. Eight to ten is not bad.

        • Martha

          That’s just sad! And to the commenter below… Orthodox? I should think we could all practically walk right back into the confessional after exiting, so there should really never be a lack of a line where a priest is willing.

  • fredx2

    I read Miseracordie Vultis, and I got the exact opposite impression. I was impressed by the repeated mentions of going to confession, of the person needing to feel the need for mercy because of his sin, etc.

    9. In the parables devoted to mercy, Jesus reveals the nature of God as that of a Father who never gives up until he has forgiven the wrong and overcome rejection with compassion and mercy. …God is always presented as full of joy, especially when he pardons. In them we find the core of the Gospel and of our faith, because mercy is presented as a force that overcomes everything, filling the heart with love and bringing consolation through pardon.

    • bonaventure

      While Francis mentions sin, the need for repentance, and reconciliation, it is the kind of sins which he uses as examples which may be the object of the author’s criticism, as well as the kinds which he omits.

      You cited the beginning of article 19. Allow me to cite it all. You will notice that those sins which most destroy and pull society apart today (especially sexual sins), are omitted — while the focus is laid on criminals, and (in typical socialist-lite fashion) the corrupt greedy and rich (which, in many cases, includes the job creators who, in spite of all their imperfections, are the last ones who actually make efforts to hold our society together).

      19. May the message of mercy reach everyone, and may no one be indifferent to the call to experience mercy. I direct this invitation to conversion even more fervently to those whose behaviour distances them from the grace of God. I particularly have in mind men and women belonging to criminal organizations of any kind. For their own good, I beg them to change their lives. I ask them this in the name of the Son of God who, though rejecting sin, never rejected the sinner. Do not fall into the terrible trap of thinking that life depends on money and that, in comparison with money, anything else is devoid of value or dignity. This is nothing but an illusion! We cannot take money with us into the life beyond. Money does not bring us happiness. Violence inflicted for the sake of amassing riches soaked in blood makes one neither powerful nor immortal. Everyone, sooner or later, will be subject to God’s judgment, from which no one can escape.

      The same invitation is extended to those who either perpetrate or participate in corruption. This festering wound is a grave sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance, because it threatens the very foundations of personal and social life. Corruption prevents us from looking to the future with hope, because its tyrannical greed shatters the plans of the weak and tramples upon the poorest of the poor. It is an evil that embeds itself into the actions of everyday life and spreads, causing great public scandal. Corruption is a sinful hardening of the heart that replaces God with the illusion that money is a form of power. It is a work of darkness, fed by suspicion and intrigue. Corruptio optimi pessima, Saint Gregory the Great said with good reason, affirming that no one can think himself immune from this temptation. If we want to drive it out from personal and social life, we need prudence, vigilance, loyalty, transparency, together with the courage to denounce any wrongdoing. If it is not combated openly, sooner or later everyone will become an accomplice to it, and it will end up destroying our very existence.

      This is the opportune moment to change our lives! This is the time to allow our hearts to be touched! When confronted with evil deeds, even in the face of serious crimes, it is the time to listen to the cry of innocent people who are deprived of their property, their dignity, their feelings, and even their very lives. To stick to the way of evil will only leave one deluded and sad. True life is something entirely different. God never tires of reaching out to us. He is always ready to listen, as I am too, along with my brother bishops and priests. All one needs to do is to accept the invitation to conversion and submit oneself to justice during this special time of mercy offered by the Church.

    • BXVI

      He seems to think that people have heard enough that they need to repent and so are no longer listening. He seems to think what they need to hear now is something different. I tend to disagree. I don’t think the desperate need for worldwide repentance has really been preached since Vatican II. I believe people will find the emphasis on mercy incoherent unless it is accompanied by an equally bold – not glossed over or downplayed – call to repentance. If I don’t think I need to repent, what good does mercy do me?

  • Jdonnell

    What patronizing silliness. As if the Pope needs this twit to straighten him out. This author thinks too much in terms of the courtroom, rather than in religious terms. As Walter Kasper, sometimes called “the Pope’s theologian,” says in his book, “Mercy,” “Mercy is God’s justice.”

  • hombre111

    I cannot imagine Crisis publishing an article criticizing either Pope John Paul or even Pope Benedict’s softer, gentler take on Christian responsibility, although some conservatives did grumble when Pope Benedict did not not loose fire and lightning on the “dissidents.”

    Pope Francis is the first Vatican II pope. St. John Paul tried to stem its course, and Pope Benedict followed suit. I can see now why it took several generations for past councils to finally bear fruit.

    • ColdStanding

      The kind of fruit the eating of which, you shall die the death.

    • Good grief you are a bitter, vile person.

  • Jacqueleen

    So often, the Encyclicals, the writings, the articles, the homilies, etc. fall short of
    the truth about mercy. Yes, Our Lord has an abundance of mercy and a willingness to
    shower mercy upon us but it is not automatic as many clergy would have you
    believe. WE MUST ASK FOR GOD’S MERCY WITH A CONTRITE HEART! Then and
    only then will we benefit by receiving God’s mercy. If we do not ASK
    for God’s mercy, we in effect are rejecting His Mercy (the unpardonable sin) and will then
    receive His JUSTICE. This is sad but true that many will miss out
    because they are not told that they MUST ASK FOR GOD’S MERCY WITH
    REPENTANCE IN THEIR HEARTS. It is our choice…We choose Mercy or
    Justice. Blessed Sr. Lucia (Fatima) told the Clergy that many, many
    souls will be lost at the end time because they will not ask for God’s mercy.. THESE WRITINGS, ARTICLES, HOMILIES
    MUST STIPULATE THE TRUTH ABOUT GOD’S MERCY….WE MUST BE SORRY FOR OUR
    SINS AND ASK FOR IT! MERCY IS OURS FOR THE ASKING!!!!!!!BUT NOT AUTOMATIC!!!! If Mercy was automatic, why would we need the Sacrament of Reconciliation and would there be a need for Purgatory? Clergy, stop leaving off the most important part of God’s Mercy..Get the true message out.

  • BXVI

    I just read the whole Bull. I don’t like it. It reduces all of God’s attributes down to one. To the extent it acknowledges justice or truth, it says that they are subsumed within and subordinate to mercy. That’s a new theology. Basically, a rehash of Kasper’s book.

    • turriseburnea

      Gosh, the Church Universal will really worry about your opinión!

      • BXVI

        Gosh, because this is, like, a “comment” blog. You know, where people post their reactions to articles? Sorry you don’t value my opinion but it wasn’t really addressed to you in particular, nor to the “Church Universal.”

      • GG

        Are you 12?

  • TDB

    There are enough people in the Church to tell others that hey are sinners. More are needed to tell them, as Francis does, that hey are loved anyway.

  • Athelstane

    What the modern world wants is not mercy.

    What it wants is license.

    And when talk like this of mercy is offered up without that larger context of sin and the need for redemption and reform that Mr. Browne speaks of, what it hears is license.

    • geraldine clark

      I know this. I am like this myself. I believe we all are. It is a daily restarting , a new request for grace. Even if believe we have given up all of our sins, we are then lured into those of pride. and so continue to be impotent and failed messangers of the gospel.
      In reading so many comments from faithful Christians and Catholics on these blogs it is clear that obedience without compassion is no better than the reverse sites representing the other side. Both have the same tone of arrogance and distain.
      I must face that I have been such a failure from both sides over my lifetime. It is a source of humiliation to see that in seeking truth for myself and others, I was always only a clanging gong.
      Humility must be the only way to holiness, when you really think about I, painful as it is to even attempt. It seems to be the only way we walk with Him, and measure each step with more than the courage to uphold His truth.
      With Him right beside us we see and hear how like the merciless servant we are. We see that we forget how much He has had to forgive us, must keep forgiving us. We gain an awareness that He loves each and every one of us as His own. In some small way we begin to see how evil to uses our faithfulness for it’s own purposes.

    • BXVI

      This is the big disconnect.
      It’s not that Pope Francis ignores the need of repentance altogether that bugs me. It’s the relegation of what should be central to the message to a sort of subsidiary issue. For every citation to mercy in the Scriptures that is set forth in the Bull, there is another citation that could be made to dire warnings of the consequences of failing to turn back to God and thereby receive his mercy. But virtually no such citations are made. To me, it presents an unbalanced picture.
      Pope Francis seems convinced that the world feels that the Church is judgmental and too focused on rules. Therefore, they have stopped listening. No one likes a scold, right? His response is to try to re-focus the world on God’s mercy instead. But…I wonder if the message of mercy will seem incoherent to people who don’t think they should need it.
      Moderns won’t be satisfied with pardon for conduct they don’t think is sinful. They’ll just be insulted by the implication that they are in need of mercy. They won’t be satisfied until what has always been called sin is no longer called sin. They want validation, and that’s what they’ll interpret mercy to mean.

  • Minnesota Mary

    I recently saw the movie, “Shoes of the Fisherman” starring Anthony Quinn as a newly elected Pope from Russia. I have no doubt that Pope Francis saw this movie years ago and has patterned his papacy after the Pope played by Quinn. It is quite alarming.

    • turriseburnea

      Wow!

  • Tito of Tacloban

    This article is another good example of t what our Blessed Lord is saying in Mt. 11:25, when he gives thanks to His Heavenly Father for hiding things from the wise and prudent and revealing them to little ones. Pope Francis is not in the business of advocating Mercy without repentance. Rather our Holy Father is constantly reminding people of God’s Mercy in order to elicit the only proper response to it, which is their repentance. Divine Mercy, when you come to think of it, is in its deepest meaning simply the Infinite Love of God freely offered to sinful humanity. It cannot bear fruit, or in other words, it cannot be the sinner’s salvation unless it is accepted freely as a gift from God by means of repentance and sorrow for sin. This is what this Holy Father is preaching all the time, that we should return to God through repentance. And he does it in his inimitable way, by inviting sinners to the Father’s house, so they could experience a real Father’s love and be willing to accept it, in the only way love and forgiveness can be accepted, by repentance. Just as light and darkness cannot coexist, so God and sin cannot coexist in a soul. The soul has be cleansed of sin before God can dwell in it. That is why the Holy Father compares the church to a field hospital where the sick and the wounded could be cared for, and if possible cured. But first they have to get in there or be persuaded to get in there.

    • Steve D.

      So where is the pope advocating for the repentance of those Catholics who are divorced and remarried?

      • turriseburnea

        Obsessed much?

        • GG

          I dunno why are you?

        • Guest

          Troll much?

  • bonaventure

    While Francis mentions sin, the need for repentance, and reconciliation, it is the kind of sins which he uses as examples which are worrisome, as well as the kinds which he omits.

    Let’s take article 19 as an example. The sins which most destroy and pull society apart today (especially sexual sins), are omitted — while the focus is laid on criminals, and (in typical socialist-lite fashion) the corrupt greedy and rich (which can include the job creators who, in spite of all their many imperfections, are among the last ones who actually make efforts to hold our society together).

    19. May the message of mercy reach everyone, and may no one be indifferent to the call to experience mercy. I direct this invitation to conversion even more fervently to those whose behaviour distances them from the grace of God. I particularly have in mind men and women belonging to criminal organizations of any kind. For their own good, I beg them to change their lives. I ask them this in the name of the Son of God who, though rejecting sin, never rejected the sinner. Do not fall into the terrible trap of thinking that life depends on money and that, in comparison with money, anything else is devoid of value or dignity. This is nothing but an illusion! We cannot take money with us into the life beyond. Money does not bring us happiness. Violence inflicted for the sake of amassing riches soaked in blood makes one neither powerful nor immortal. Everyone, sooner or later, will be subject to God’s judgment, from which no one can escape.

    The same invitation is extended to those who either perpetrate or participate in corruption. This festering wound is a grave sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance, because it threatens the very foundations of personal and social life. Corruption prevents us from looking to the future with hope, because its tyrannical greed shatters the plans of the weak and tramples upon the poorest of the poor. It is an evil that embeds itself into the actions of everyday life and spreads, causing great public scandal. Corruption is a sinful hardening of the heart that replaces God with the illusion that money is a form of power. It is a work of darkness, fed by suspicion and intrigue. Corruptio optimi pessima, Saint Gregory the Great said with good reason, affirming that no one can think himself immune from this temptation. If we want to drive it out from personal and social life, we need prudence, vigilance, loyalty, transparency, together with the courage to denounce any wrongdoing. If it is not combated openly, sooner or later everyone will become an accomplice to it, and it will end up destroying our very existence.

    This is the opportune moment to change our lives! This is the time to allow our hearts to be touched! When confronted with evil deeds, even in the face of serious crimes, it is the time to listen to the cry of innocent people who are deprived of their property, their dignity, their feelings, and even their very lives. To stick to the way of evil will only leave one deluded and sad. True life is something entirely different. God never tires of reaching out to us. He is always ready to listen, as I am too, along with my brother bishops and priests. All one needs to do is to accept the invitation to conversion and submit oneself to justice during this special time of mercy offered by the Church.

  • geraldine clark

    Is mercy not unmerited forgiveness?

    • GG

      Now back to the IVF, sodomy,contraception, fornication, adultery, surrogacy, masturbation, transgenderism, calumny, gossip, sloth, and much more. Why bother stopping?

      • turriseburnea

        OK, there you go. Enjoy!

        • GG

          That is what you get with cheap grace.

    • geraldine clark

      I’m not sure what you meant to say.

  • jacobum

    This is all about the triumph of feelings over faith and the denial and destruction of objective truth. PF is an in your face modernist. He admits he is an “undisciplined” person which he constantly reinforces by his banal pronouncements and “Protestant” Theology. He is actively leading the charge on the Synod of Sodomy and Adultery. The “Smoke of Satan” has burst into open flames with PF providing jet fuel rather than ordinary gasoline. He is providing public scandal. For those who are in denial look no further than those appointed to the G9 and his total lack of respect, let alone belief, in the truth and traditions of the Church which is charged with defending and passing on. It’s like the Church had no history prior to Vatican 2.
    Train wreck dead ahead and PF is the conductor.

    • From the 10th Edition of the Northeast Operating Rules Advisory Committee Operating Rules. Item 3 relates to Kasper and Marx. A real conductor would tell them to ride the caboose or the last car and stay out of the way.

      941. Conductors: Authority and Responsibilities

      Conductors have general charge of the train to which they are assigned, and all

      persons employed thereon are subject to their instructions. They are responsible

      for all of the following:

      1. The prompt movement of their train.

      2. The safety and care of their train and the passengers and commodities carried.

      3. The vigilance, conduct and proper performance of duty of the persons

      employed thereon.

      4. The observance and enforcement of all rules and instructions.

      Whenever necessary, Conductors must instruct crew members concerning the

      proper performance of their duties.

      Conductors must report all delays on the prescribed form.

      • LarryCicero

        The Church is in the transportation business-delivering souls to heaven.

  • Joseph

    Pope Francis’s bull mentions the Sacrament of Reconciliation – specifically – 5 times, a large section for priests as confessors, and mentions “sin” 53 times. There is also a lengthy discussion on mercy’s relation to justice. It isn’t vague; it is written for a specific purpose. He will have every Mass for the whole of the jubilee year to preach as to what “mercy” means, as will every priest across the planet.

  • BXVI

    I read the Bull. I would like to have seen much more emphasis on the desperate need for the entire world to repent in order to receive the mercy that is offered, and of the dire consequences for failing to do so. Jesus spoke frequently about how those who refuse his mercy will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and knashing of teeth. The dire consequences of failing to repent are seriously downplayed.

    • Steve D.

      That’s because this Bull is paving the way for the upcoming Synod. Calling for repent enhance would make things rather awkward.

    • turriseburnea

      Pity you were not consulted, really…

      • BXVI

        Um, this is called a comment box. You know, where people post their comments and reactions to things? I did not say I should have been consulted. I merely gave my reaction to the Bull.

  • Guest_august

    If a man calls
    himself “GAY” it means he is NOT seeking God and it means he has
    defective will in the matter of the use of the sex act. Such a man who calls
    himself “GAY” has already judged and condemned himself.

    It is as
    simple as that.

    God is
    merciful because He already causes rain to fall on both the good and the bad.

    .

    To seek
    mercy from God through the Church requires repentance and penance; on the part
    of the sinner or better still on the part of both sinner and his friends.

    To offer
    mercy without talking about repentance is to make the sinner a worse candidate
    for Gehenna than he is already.

    http://popeleo13.com/pope/2014/09/21/category-archive-message-board-124-repentance-and-psalm-18/

    http://popeleo13.com/pope/2014/08/25/category-archive-message-board-104-demas-sodomy-psalm-3/

    • geraldine clark

      “in the matter of the use of the sex act”
      I believe sodomy is now also common practice between many heterosexuals, so that is not useful as defining what it means to be ‘gay’.

      I wish we could have a free and open debate concerning this whole issue,
      if carried out with consideration and respect. It is clear that in some cases an individual has simply not identified with the same sex parent in this area of identity.

      How difficult a cross this must be as it would be noticed when young! The faith shown by those individuals who lead and attend Courage is remarkable given the social and political climate of today. They are surely even more harassed than those of us who are ridiculed for our own stand. What can we do that would really help with this issue?

  • Ruth Rocker

    Mercy is the impetus behind the current push to let the civilly divorced and remarried receive communion without having to do anything about their sin. Mercy is behind the “acceptance” of homosexuals in all their “glorious” manifestations, including getting “married” to each other.

    Mercy is hollow without acknowledgment of our sinfulness and our need for GOD’S mercy. We live in a fallen world and can only make it through by leaning into the arms of Jesus for rest and restoration. But we cannot assume that resting in His arms is the same as repenting of our sins. If we continue in our obstinate desire to revel in sin, then those arms will close to us and rightly so.

    Once again, the Pope is muddying the waters when it would be so very simple to lay out true Church doctrine.

  • 20. […] Paul’s understanding of justice changes radically. He now places faith first, not justice. Salvation comes not through the observance of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ, who in his death and resurrection brings salvation together with a mercy that justifies. God’s justice now becomes the liberating force for those oppressed by slavery to sin and its consequences. God’s justice is his mercy (cf. Ps 51:11-16).

    This does not make any sense whatsoever.

  • Martha

    True. Wonderful article, Mr. Browne. People want the loving and merciful embrace of God without being inconvenienced. I don’t believe the ‘Jesus loves you’ crowd sees the need to reform their lives to fit God’s plan, but the other way around.

    ‘Pick up your cross and follow me,’ and ‘Go and sin no more,’ are key elements of God’s mercy.

    I had just this conversation with a friend; she held that Catholics will be more fervent with a message of mercy, while I held that we need a (much) bigger dose of Fear of the Lord. All-encompassing mercy does not spur one on to reform one’s life but rather to become complacent in it.

  • Bruce Sullivan

    I am grateful for this article, but not for its content (which I consider to b seriously flawed). Rather, I am grateful because Mr. Browne made me aware of Misericordiae Vultus (which I promptly read in its entirety). I agree with Eduardo’s assessment of Mr. Browne’s article (so, I will not repeat the points he has made so well).

    I will say only this: it is my hope and prayer that everyone in the Church will read Misericordiae Vultus and–more importantly–takes its message to heart.

  • Bruce Sullivan

    I want to add another thought to illustrate the way in which I think Mr. Browne’s article is flawed. It is this: it is as if Mr. Browne expects Misericordiae Vultus to be a “stand alone” document.

    No document in the Church (including the individual books of Sacred Scripture) are “stand alone” documents. They all build upon each other and have the common backdrop of Sacred Tradition. In this case, Pope Francis has issued a relatively simple statement on God’s mercy in anticipation of the Year of Mercy. Does he dodge repentance or sin? No. Repentance and sin are mentioned and, of course, assumed. But, some may say, “Repentance and sin cannot be merely assumed!” But, the fact is that, in any magisterial document (or, for that matter, any intelligent human conversation) there is much that is assumed (otherwise we become lost in endless digression).

    Please consider the following examples as illustrations.

    I was received into the Church twenty years ago this past Easter. Prior to that, I was an anti-Catholic Protestant minister. Before being received into the Church, I would read statements from St. John Paul II that he made during his weekly audiences. I can well remember having knee-jerk reactions to the way in which he would often conclude by saying words to the effect, “We entrust this to the loving care of the Blessed Mother…”. At the time I would object and say to myself, “He should say, ‘We entrust this to the INTERCESSION of our Blessed Mother.'” In other words, I, personally, wanted him to be explicit regarding the way in which Our Lady provides assistance (i.e. through her intercession as opposed to the erroneous fundamentalist notion that Catholics somehow think that she operates as some kind of free-lance deity). Was my expectation reasonable? No. Why not? Because the Holy Father was addressing Catholics, and Catholics understand that entrusting something to our Blessed Mother means that we entrust it to her intercession. It was, therefore, unnecessary for him to provide qualifying statements every time he spoke in that manner.

    Similarly, to help non-Catholics understand the role of Sacred Tradition in understanding the authentic meaning of Sacred Scripture, I often use the following example. When you read St. Paul’s epistles, he will often begin by introducing himself as, “Paul, an apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (or words to that effect). He does not insert a footnote explaining that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary, etc. Why not? Because his readers share a common understanding–Sacred Tradition–that forms the backdrop to what he is writing.

    In like manner, Pope Francis simply assumes that anyone reading his proclamation on mercy understands that the very concept of mercy itself assumes the occasion for the need of said mercy. This is especially so regarding Catholics reading the Pope’s words who should read them in the light of the constant teaching of the Church.

    So, again, does Pope Francis deny the reality of sin? Does he deny the need for repentance? Does he make light of justice? The answer to all three is, “No.” What, then, appears to be the “flaw” of Misericordiae Vultus in the eyes of some? Apparently it is this: Pope Francis did not say everything that they wanted him to say or in the way they wanted him to say it. That, brothers and sisters, hardly constitutes solid ground for criticism of a beautiful document issued by the Vicar of Christ.

    Again, it is my hope and prayer that everyone in the Church will read Misericordiae Vultus and take its full message to heart.

  • Tom Saltsman

    “I forgive the $7,000.00 you owe me!”
    “What?” you say to me, a complete stranger. “I don’t owe you a nickel much less THAT much money! Are you insane? I don’t know you!”
    Such is mercy without judgement. It is pretentious, patronizing, and downright goofy.
    Now if you knew me and wrecked my car last week, a common value system would make far more sense for me to “forgive” the $7,000.00 you owe me. Now THAT would be merciful.
    My story is just a more lucid way to illustrate one of the good points in Browne’s article: without prior judgment, mercy makes no sense.

    I believe that just as the apostate Pharisees over-emphasized God’s judgement to the point of crucifying God Himself, so too, latter-day, apostate Christians will over-emphasize God’s mercy to the point of making heroes out of those who crucify God. “Poor guys. They didn’t know what they were doing. Let’s watch them do it again! Let them be what God created them to be: mean people. They can’t help it.” Christians who over-emphasize God’s mercy refuse to look at the ever-expanding mess that a lack of good, sound judgment makes.

    One extreme is as bad as the other.

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