Year of Youth 2018

What is Mercy and What Are Some False Conceptions of It?

Last edited 9th December 2015

What is Mercy and What Are Some False Conceptions of It?

Is it simply having pity for someone or bending the rules? As the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy kicks off, Catholic theologians weigh in on mercy, and its surprising connection to justice.

True mercy is action, “reaching out to and accompanying people where they’re at, even in their state of brokenness…in order to bring new life,” Dr. William Mattison, a moral theology professor at the Catholic University of America, said in an interview with CNA.

This “brokenness” could be a spiritual state like sinfulness or a physical or emotional sickness, he clarified.

“The fundamental stance of God towards humanity is mercy,” he said. “We alienated ourselves from God, communally and individually in sin,” he acknowledged, but “God doesn’t just feel bad for us, He sends the Son. Christ doesn’t just feel bad for people, He heals people and invites them.”

Pope Francis began the Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy by opening the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on the morning of Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. The Holy Door is only opened for a jubilee year – once every 25 years with the last one being in the year 2000 – or in this case, for an extraordinary jubilee.

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