111 – What moved Jesus in all situations was nothing other than mercy

When going through the pages of the Gospel, we are filled with love and admiration in observing how Jesus ‘went about doing good’ (Acts 10: 38) – He cured all, pardoned sins, multiplied loaves, resurrected the dead, blessed children, etc. But, there is a truth that is often forgotten in our days, and even ends up being despised by those who would prefer to tear away the memory of it from their consciences: in the inseparable unity of merciful Jesus, there also exists justice, severity and integrity that does not tolerate the abominations or the errors of those who obstinately persist in sin. Both are the same Jesus…in both ways, Jesus is good, rather He is Goodness itself!

The pages of the Gospel clearly demonstrate this complex reality, flowing from the same Divine Heart so full of sweetness and mercy.

Faced with today’s widespread corruption, and the grave violations that are committed against his eternal law, could it be that Christ, who is God Immutable, ceases to be just and becomes only merciful? Are we be acting in a judicious manner by mollifying sinners who are proud of their state and don’t have the slightest intention of changing? Or, by proceeding in this way, are we not debasing our dignity as children of God, in an attempt to adapt ourselves to the world? To answer these questions, it is opportune to recall the perennial teachings of the Catholic Doctrine regarding the true meaning of divine justice and mercy.


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Sacred Scripture presents God to us as infinite mercy and as perfect justice. How do we reconcile the two? How does one reconcile the reality of mercy with the demands of justice? It might appear that the two contradict each other; but in fact it is not so, for it is the very mercy of God that brings true justice to fulfilment. But what kind of justice are we talking about?
If we think of the legal administration of justice, we see that those who consider themselves victims of injustice turn to a judge in a tribunal and ask that justice be done. It is retributive justice, which inflicts a penalty on the guilty party, according to the principle that each person must be given his or her due. As the Book of Proverbs says: “He who is steadfast in righteousness will live, but he who pursues evil will die” (11:19). Jesus, too, speaks about it in the parable of the widow who went repeatedly to the judge and asked him: “Vindicate me against my adversary” (Lk 18:3). This path however does not lead to true justice because in reality it does not conquer evil, it merely checks it. Only by responding to it with good can evil be truly overcome. (General audience, February 3, 2016)
With our eyes fixed on Jesus and his merciful gaze, we experience the love of the Most Holy Trinity. The mission Jesus received from the Father was that of revealing the mystery of divine love in its fullness. “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8,16), John affirms for the first and only time in all of Holy Scripture. This love has now been made visible and tangible in Jesus’ entire life. His person is nothing but love, a love given gratuitously. The relationships he forms with the people who approach him manifest something entirely unique and unrepeatable. The signs he works, especially in favour of sinners, the poor, the marginalized, the sick, and the suffering, are all meant to teach mercy. Everything in him speaks of mercy.Nothing in him is devoid of compassion.
Jesus, seeing the crowds of people who followed him, realized that they were tired and exhausted, lost and without a guide, and he felt deep compassion for them (cf. Mt 9:36). On the basis of this compassionate love he healed the sick who were presented to him (cf. Mt 14:14), and with just a few loaves of bread and fish he satisfied the enormous crowd (cf. Mt 15:37). What moved Jesus in all of these situations was nothing other than mercy, with which he read the hearts of those he encountered and responded to their deepest need. (Bull of Induction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, no. 8, April 11, 2015)

Note to the English DzB: The English translation on the Vatican site is “What moved Jesus in all of these situations”, but the Italian is very clear “Ciò che muoveva Gesù in tutte le circostanze”, just as the Spanish “o que movía a Jesús en todas las circunstancias”, the Portuguese “Em todas as circunstâncias, o que movia Jesus era”, the French “Ce qui animait Jésus en toute circonstance”, the German “Was Jesus in all diesen Situationen bewegte” and so on. Curiously, the Latin has: “Iesum in omnibus rerum adiunctis nihil aliud movebat nisi misericórdia.” Bad translations?
What would you respond to those who, even among Christians, think that mercy loosens the claws of justice, and, therefore, is unjust; to those who think that mercy cannot be the response to – for example- those who persecute us or perhaps due to an unjustified fear, construct walls to defend themselves instead of bridges?
[Francis] Yes, ultimately there exists the problem of moral rigidity, right? The older son was morally rigid: “He spent the money on a life of sin, so he can’t be received like this”. Rigidity: always in the place of the judge. This rigidity is not of Jesus. Jesus reprehended the doctors of the Church: he was very, very much against rigidity. He used an adjective for them that I would not like to be used for me: hypocrite. How many times did Jesus use this adjective for the Doctors of the Law: hypocrites. It’s enough to read Matthew, chapter 23: “Hypocrite.” And they theorize, mercy yes…but justice is important. In God – and among Christians because they are in God – justice is merciful and mercy is just. They cannot be separated: they are one thing. And how can this be explained? Go to a theology professor and he’ll explain it to you…And after the Sermon on the Mount, in Luke´s version, comes the sermon of the plain. And how does it end? “Be merciful as the Father”. It doesn’t say: be just as the Father. But it is the same thing! (Interview with TV2000 on the Year of Mercy, November 20, 2016)
The Church’s way, from the time of the Council of Jerusalem, has always always been the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and reinstatement. This does not mean underestimating the dangers of letting wolves into the fold, but welcoming the repentant prodigal son; healing the wounds of sin with courage and determination; rolling up our sleeves and not standing by and watching passively the suffering of the world. The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for eternity; to pour out the balm of God’s mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart. The way of the Church is precisely to leave her four walls behind and to go out in search of those who are distant, those essentially on the “outskirts” of life. It is to adopt fully God’s own approach, to follow the Master who said: “Those who are well have no need of the physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call, not the righteous but sinners” (Lk 5:31-32). (Homily, Holy Mass with the new Cardinals, February 15, 2015)
God always opens doors, he never closes them. He is the daddy who opens doors for us. The second thing he says is: don’t be afraid of tenderness. When Christians forget about hope and tenderness they become a cold Church, that does not know where to go and is entangled in ideologies and worldly attitudes, whereas God’s simplicity tells you: go forward, I am a Father who caresses you. I start to fear when Christians lose hope and the capacity to embrace and caress […] The Bible clearly shows that God’s main virtue is that He is love. He waits for us; he never tires of waiting for us. He gives us the gift and then waits for us. (La Stampa Interview, December 16, 2013)

Teachings of the Magisterium

Enter in the various parts of our study

I – Is God only mercy?
II – The justice of Jesus Christ – as narrated in the Gospels
III – Christ shepherds with justice, and his ministers should imitate him
IV – Doctrinal observations regarding justice and mercy

I – Is God only mercy?

Sacred Scripture

The Lord is righteous, he loves righteous deeds – He hates those that love violence

The Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven; his eyes behold, his eyelids test, the children of men. The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and his soul hates him that loves violence. On the wicked he will rain coals of fire and brimstone; a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup. For the Lord is righteous, he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face. (Ps 11:4-7)

Saint Augustine of Hippo

Your righteousness displeases the wicked

And I discerned and found it no marvel, that bread which is distasteful to an unhealthy palate is pleasant to a healthy one; and that the light, which is painful to sore eyes, is delightful to sound ones. And Your righteousness displeases the wicked. (Saint Augustine of Hippo. Confessions, Book VII, Ch. 16)

Saint Irenaeus of Lyon

Goodness does not desert God in the exercise of justice, neither does He show Himself unmercifully just

Again, that they might remove the rebuking and judicial power from the Father, reckoning that as unworthy of God, and thinking that they had found out a God both without anger and [merely] good, they have alleged that one [God] judges, but that another saves, unconsciously taking away the intelligence and justice of both deities. For if the judicial one is not also good, to bestow favours upon the deserving, and to direct reproofs against those requiring them, he will appear neither a just nor a wise judge. On the other hand, the good God, if he is merely good, and not one who tests those upon whom he shall send his goodness, will be out of the range of justice and goodness; and his goodness will seem imperfect, as not saving all; [for it should do so,] if it be not accompanied with judgment. Marcion, therefore, himself, by dividing God into two, maintaining one to be good and the other judicial, does in fact, on both sides, put an end to deity. For he that is the judicial one, if he be not good, is not God, because he from whom goodness is absent is no God at all; and again, he who is good, if he has no judicial power, suffers the same [loss] as the former, by being deprived of his character of deity. And how can they call the Father of all wise, if they do not assign to Him a judicial faculty? For if He is wise, He is also one who tests [others]; but the judicial power belongs to him who tests, and justice follows the judicial faculty, that it may reach a just conclusion; justice calls forth judgment, and judgment, when it is executed with justice, will pass on to wisdom. […] He is Lord, and Judge, and the Just One, and Ruler over all. For He is good, and merciful, and patient, and saves whom He ought: nor does goodness desert Him in the exercise of justice, nor is His wisdom lessened; for He saves those whom He should save, and judges those worthy of judgment. Neither does He show Himself unmercifully just; for His goodness, no doubt, goes on before, and takes precedency. The God, therefore, who does benevolently cause His sun to rise upon all, (Mt 5:45) and sends rain upon the just and unjust, shall judge those who, enjoying His equally distributed kindness, have led lives not corresponding to the dignity of His bounty; but who have spent their days in wantonness and luxury, in opposition to His benevolence, and have, moreover, even blasphemed Him who has conferred so great benefits upon them. (Saint Irenaeus of Lyons. Against Heresies, Book III, 25, 2-4)


It is heretical to divide the justice and goodness of God

Now, since this consideration has weight with some, that the leaders of that heresy (of which we have been speaking) think they have established a kind of division, according to which they have declared that justice is one thing and goodness another, and have applied this division even to divine things, maintaining that the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is indeed a good God, but not a just one, whereas the God of the law and the prophets is just, but not good; […] And they gather together instances of this, Wherever they find a history in the Scriptures of the Old Testament, relating, e.g., the punishment of the deluge, or the fate of those who are described as perishing in it, or the, destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by a shower of fire and brimstone, or the falling of all the people in the wilderness on account of their sins, so that none of those who had left Egypt were found to have entered the promised land, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb. Whereas from the New Testament they gather together words of compassion and piety, through which the disciples are trained by the Saviour, and by which it seems to be declared that no one is good save God the Father only; and by this means they have ventured to style the Father of the Saviour Jesus Christ a good God, but to say that the God of the world is a different one, whom they are pleased to term just, but not also good. […] Will they say that He who at one time was just has been made good? Or will they rather be of opinion that He is even now just, but is patiently enduring human offences, while that then He was not even just, inasmuch as He exterminated innocent and sucking children along with cruel and ungodly giants? (Origen. De principis, Book II, Ch. V, no. 1-2)

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

The righteous God cannot allow offenses to His goodness to remain unpunished. Kindness without justice is not a virtue

Is thine eye evil because he is good. This wicked presumption of thine on His benevolence has produced in thee an insolent disregard of His knowledge, and a daring defiance of His power. For this, and nothing less than this, thou unholy one, is thy train of thought. This is the wickedness that thou dost devise on thy bed, and sayest thinkest thou that the Creator will destroy His own work ? I am well aware that no thought of mine escapes God, because He is God, nor does any such thought please Him, because He is good. Nor can I escape His hand if He so wishes because He is mighty. But need this be a cause of dread to me? For if through His goodness He can have no pleasure in evil done by me how much less can He derive it from evil action of His own? I should call it evil on my part to wish to oppose His will and on His part to avenge Himself. He therefore cannot wish to take vengeance for any crime, since He neither will nor can part with His inherent goodness. ‘It is thyself thou wretch, alone that thou deceivest, not God. Thou deceivest thyself, I repeat, and thy wickedness lies to thyself not to God. Thou dost indeed act deceitfully, but He detects thy motive. Thus thou deceivest thyself not God. And since in return for His great goodness, thou dost contemplate great evil towards Him, thy wickedness naturally leads thee to hate Him. For what can be more unjust than that the Creator should be scorned by thee for the very reason for which He most deserves thy love? What can be more outrageous than that when thou hast no doubt that the power of God shown in thy creation, could be used for thy destruction, thou dost yet rely on His abundant kindness, and that this should lead thee to hope that He will be unwilling to exercise His vindictive power ? Wilt thou repay good with evil and love with hatred?’ Now I say that this malice is deserving, not of passing indignation but of abiding wrath. For it is thy desire and hope to be on an equality with the most gracious and most high Lord, although that is not His wish. Thou desirest that He shall have always before His eyes the distressing sight of thine unwelcome presence, and thou thinkest that though He is able to cast thee down, He will not do so, but that He will prefer Himself to suffer than to allow thee to perish. It is undoubtedly in His power to over- throw thee, if such be His will but in thine opinion His kindness will not allow Him to entertain such a wish. If He be such as thou supposest Him to be, it is clear that thy conduct in not loving Him is so much the baser. He does allow action to be taken against Himself rather than take action against thee how great must be thy malice in having no consideration for Him who disregards Himself in sparing thee? But it is inconceivable that He who is perfect can fail to be both kind and just. It is not as though kindness and justice cannot exist together. Kindness is really better when it is just than when it is slack nay more, kindness without justice is not a virtue. It therefore appears that thou remainest ungrateful for the loving-kindness of God whereby thou wast created without exertion on thy part, but thou fearest not His justice of which thou hast had no experience, and dost therefore audaciously incur guilt for which thou dost falsely promise thyself impunity. Now mark that thou wilt find Him whom thou hast known to be kind, to be also righteous, and thou wilt thyself fall into the ditch which thou hast dug for thy Creator. Thy design seems to be to inflict on Him an injury which He is able to avoid if He wishes to do so a wish which thou thinkest that He cannot entertain, as He will not be wanting in that kindness which has led Him never within thine experience to punish anybody. The righteous God will most justly retaliate by punishing thee, since He neither can nor ought to allow such a slight on His goodness to remain unpunished. (Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. The twelve degrees of humility and pride, Part II, Ch. X, pg. 62-64)

Benedict XVI

Justice and charity coincide in God

Justice and mercy, justice and charity on which the Church’s charity is hinged, are two different realities only for the human person. For we distinguish carefully between a just act and an act of love. For us ‘just’ means ‘what is due to the other’, while ‘merciful’ is what is given out of kindness. One seems to exclude the other. Yet for God it is not like this: justice and charity coincide in him; there is no just action that is not also an act of mercy and pardon, and at the same time, there is no merciful action that is not perfectly just. How far God’s logic is from our own! And how different is his way of acting from ours! (Benedict XVI. Address in the Rebibbia district prison, Rome, December 18, 2011)

Saint Thomas Aquinas

Mercy and truth are necessarily found in all God’s works

Mercy and truth are necessarily found in all God’s works, if mercy be taken to mean the removal of any kind of defect. Not every defect, however, can properly be called a misery; but only defect in a rational nature whose lot is to be happy; for misery is opposed to happiness. For this necessity there is a reason, because since a debt paid according to the divine justice is one due either to God, or to some creature, neither the one nor the other can be lacking in any work of God: because God can do nothing that is not in accord with His wisdom and goodness; and it is in this sense, as we have said, that anything is due to God. Likewise, whatever is done by Him in created things, is done according to proper order and proportion wherein consists the idea of justice. Thus justice must exist in all God’s works. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica I, q. 21, a. 4)

In God, mercy is His desire to dispel the misery of others, whatever be the defect we call by that name

Mercy is especially to be attributed to God, as seen in its effect, but not as an affection of passion. In proof of which it must be considered that a person is said to be merciful [misericors], as being, so to speak, sorrowful at heart [miserum cor]; being affected with sorrow at the misery of another as though it were his own. Hence it follows that he endeavors to dispel the misery of this other, as if it were his; and this is the effect of mercy. To sorrow, therefore, over the misery of others belongs not to God; but it does most properly belong to Him to dispel that misery, whatever be the defect we call by that name. Now defects are not removed, except by the perfection of some kind of goodness; and the primary source of goodness is God, as shown above (Question 6, Article 4). It must, however, be considered that to bestow perfections appertains not only to the divine goodness, but also to His justice, liberality, and mercy; yet under different aspects. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica I, q. 21, a.3)

Saint Alphonsus Liguori

God cannot take pity on the obstinate sinner determined to offend him

‘The Lord hath sent me to heal the contrite of heart’ (Is 61:1). God is ready to heal those who sincerely wish to amend their lives, but cannot take pity on the obstinate sinner. The Lord pardons sins, but he cannot pardon those who are determined to offend him. Nor can we demand from God a reason why he pardons one a hundred sins, and takes others out of life, and sends them to hell, after three or four sins. By his Prophet Amos, God has said: ‘For three crimes of Damascus, and for four, I will not convert it’ (i. 3.) In this we must adore the judgments of God, and say with the Apostle: ‘the depth of the riches, of the wisdom, and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments’ (Rom 11:33). He who receives pardon, says Saint Augustine, is pardoned through the pure mercy of God; and they who are chastised are justly punished. ‘Quibus datur misericordia, gratis datur: quibus non datur ex justitia non datur’ (1 de Corrept.). How many has God sent to hell for the first offence? (Saint Alphonsus Liguori. Sermon XV for the First Sunday of Lent, On the number of sins)

God executes justice on those who despise him and abuse his mercy to insult him the more

God is merciful. Behold the third delusion of sinners by which an immense number are lost! A learned author says, that the mercy of God sends more souls to hell than his justice; for sinners are induced, by a rash confidence in the divine mercy, to continue in sin and thus are lost. God is merciful. Who denies it? But great as is his mercy, how many does he send to hell every day? God is merciful: but he is also just; and therefore he is obliged to punish those who offend him. He shows mercy; but to whom? To them who fear him. He hath strengthened His mercy toward them that fear Him. As a father hath compassion on his children, so hath the Lord compassion on them that fear Him (Ps 102:11,13). But he executes justice on those who despise him, and abuse his mercy to insult him the more. God pardons sin; but he cannot pardon the will or the determination to sin. […]But the Apostle tells as that God does not allow himself to be mocked. Be not deceived. God is not mocked (Gal. 6:7). It would be a mockery of God to insult him as often and as much as you please, and afterward to expect heaven. […]When, the number of mercies which he has resolved to show to the sinner is exhausted, he then punishes all his sins together. And the longer God has waited for his repentance, the more severe will be his punishment, says Saint Gregory. (In Evang. Hom. 13). […] The patience which he has had with you, and the great mercies which he has shown to you, and not to others, ought to animate you not to offend him again, but to serve and love him. (Saint Alphonsus Liguori. Preparation for Death, Part 3, Consideration XXIII , 2)


No depraved affection could possibly shake God’s absolute justice

Again, it shows God to excel in the height of all perfections, especially in infinite wisdom before which nothing lies hidden, and in absolute justice which no depraved affection could possibly shake; and that God, therefore, is not only true but truth itself, which can neither deceive nor be deceived. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Aeterni Patris, no. 5, August 4, 1879)

John Paul II

The just and holy Lord cannot tolerate iniquity

But the just and holy Lord cannot tolerate unholiness, corruption, injustice. As a ‘consuming fire’ and ‘everlasting flame’ (Is 33:14), he lashes out against evil to destroy it. (John Paul II. General Audience, no. 2, October 30, 2002)

Theophilus of Antioch

God is angry with those who act wickedly

‘Is God angry?’ Yes; He is angry with those who act wickedly, but He is good, and kind, and merciful, to those who love and fear Him; for He is a chastener of the godly, and father of the righteous; but he is a judge and punisher of the impious. (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book I, Ch. III)

Saint John Vianney

God is just in all that He does - when it is a matter of punishing us, it is done with rigor though we have only a light fault

No, my dear brethren, we would never have the courage to commit the least sin if we could understand how much it outrages God and how greatly it deserves to be rigorously punished, even in this world. God is just, my dear brethren, in all that He does. When He recompenses us for the smallest good action, He does so over and above all that we could desire. A good thought, a good desire, that is to say, the desire to do some good work even when we are not able to do it, He never leaves without a reward. But also, when it is a matter of punishing us, it is done with rigor, and though we should have only a light fault, we shall be sent into Purgatory. This is true, for we see it in the lives of the saints that many of them did not go to Heaven without having first passed through the flames of Purgatory. (Saint John-Marie Baptiste Vianney. The Sermons of the Curé of Ars, I come on behalf of God)

Paul VI

Sins bring punishments inflicted by God’s sanctity and justice

It is a divinely revealed truth that sins bring punishments inflicted by God’s sanctity and justice. These must be expiated either on this earth through the sorrows, miseries and calamities of this life and above all through death, or else in the life beyond through fire and torments or ‘purifying’ punishments. Therefore it has always been the conviction of the faithful that the paths of evil are fraught with many stumbling blocks and bring adversities, bitterness and harm to those who follow them. These punishments are imposed by the just and merciful judgment of God for the purification of souls, the defense of the sanctity of the moral order and the restoration of the glory of God to its full majesty. (Paul VI. Apostolic constitution Indulgentiarum doctrina, no. 2, January 1, 1967)

John Paul I

God must punish: this is not agreeable but a truth of faith

It is also difficult to accept some truths, because the truths of faith are of two kinds; some pleasant, others unpalatable to our spirit. For example, it is pleasant to hear that God has so much tenderness for us, even more tenderness than a mother has for her children, as Isaiah says. How pleasant and congenial it is! […] Other truths, on the contrary, are hard to accept. God must punish, if I resist. He runs after me, he begs me to repent and I say: ‘No!’ I almost force him to punish me. This is not agreeable. But it is a truth of faith. (John Paul I. General audience, September 13, 1978)

Saint Justin of Rome

Nothing and no one escapes the notice of God

And more than all other men are we your helpers and allies in promoting peace, seeing that we hold this view, that it is alike impossible for the wicked, the covetous, the conspirator, and for the virtuous, to escape the notice of God, and that each man goes to everlasting punishment or salvation according to the value of his actions. For if all men knew this, no one would choose wickedness even for a little, knowing that he goes to the everlasting punishment of fire; but would by all means restrain himself, and adorn himself with virtue, that he might obtain the good gifts of God, and escape the punishments. For those who, on account of the laws and punishments you impose, endeavor to escape detection when they offend (and they offend, too, under the impression that it is quite possible to escape your detection, since you are but men), those persons, if they learned and were convinced that nothing, whether actually done or only intended, can escape the knowledge of God, would by all means live decently on account of the penalties threatened, as even you yourselves will admit. (Saint Justin of Rome, Martyr. Apology, Ch. 12)

Gregory I

Hell is eternal not because God delights in the torments of the wicked, but due to His righteousness

But they Say, no just man takes pleasure in cruelties, and the guilty servant was scourged to correct his fault. But when the wicked are given over to hell fire, to what purpose shall they burn there forever? We reply, that Almighty God, seeing He is good, does not delight in the torments of the wretched; but forasmuch as He is righteous, He ceases not from taking vengeance on the wicked. (Saint Gregory I quoted by Saint Thomas Aquinas. Catena Aurea in Mt 25:46)

Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Last Judgment will reveal that God’s justice triumphs over all the injustices

The Last Judgment will reveal that God’s justice triumphs over all the injustices committed by his creatures. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1040)

II – The justice of Jesus Christ – as narrated in the Gospels

Sacred Scripture

‘Depart from me, you evildoers’

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few. […] Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’ (Mt 7:13-14. 21-23)

Jesus reproached the towns where his mighty deeds were done, since they had not repented

Then he began to reproach the towns where most of his mighty deeds had been done, since they had not repented. (Mt 11:20)

‘Be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna’

And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. […] Even all the hairs of your head are counted. […] Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father. (Mt 10:28.30.32-33)

Jesus will send his angels to collect all evildoers and throw them into the fiery furnace

The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, ‘First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.’ […] He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. Just as weeds are collected and burned (up) with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. (Mt 13:24-30. 37-43)

Jesus will separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace

The kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away. Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. (Mt 13:47-50)

‘If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away’

If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter into life maimed or crippled than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into fiery Gehenna. (Mt 18:8-9)

Chastisement for those who attend the banquet of the King without a wedding garment

The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. […] The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’ The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ (Mt 22:2-3.7-13)

The wicked lazy servant was thrown out to the darkness where there is wailing and grinding of teeth

It will be as when a man who was going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money. After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ (Then) the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’ His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ (Mt 25:14-30)

There is no mercy for those in hell

There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’ Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’ (Lk 16:19-26)

The judgment of the Son of Man when he comes in his glory

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’ […] Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’ […] And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. (Mt 25:31-34.41.46)

On the Day of Judgment people will render an account for every careless word they speak

You brood of vipers, how can you say good things when you are evil? For from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks. […] I tell you, on the day of judgment people will render an account for every careless word they speak. By your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned. (Mt 12:34.36-37)

Woe to the person through whom scandal occurs

He said to his disciples, ‘Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the person through whom they occur. It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. Be on your guard!’ (Lk 17:1-3)

Jesus looked at the wicked with anger

Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ (Mk 3:5)

Jesus drove out all those engaged in selling and buying in the temple

Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all those engaged in selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And he said to them, “It is written: ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’, but you are making it a den of thieves.” (Mt 21:12-13)

‘As for you, Capernaum? You will go down to the netherworld’

But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And as for you, Capernaum, Will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to the netherworld. Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me. (Lk 10:14-16)

Jesus to the scribes and Pharisees: ‘You serpents, you brood of vipers, blind fools, hypocrites, whitewashed tombs, woe to you! how can you flee from the judgment of Gehenna?’

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the kingdom of heaven before human beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves. Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’ Blind fools, which is greater, the gold, or the temple that made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’ You blind ones, which is greater, the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it; one who swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it; one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who is seated on it. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. (But) these you should have done, without neglecting the others. Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth. Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’ Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets; now fill up what your ancestors measured out! You serpents, you brood of vipers, how can you flee from the judgment of Gehenna? (Mt 23:13-33)

Jesus even rebuked Peter

Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.’ (Mk 8:32-33)

Saint John Chrysostom

Jesus reproaches when he wishes to point out that the sin is great, and the punishment and wrath in store for it grievous

‘Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of your own eye’ (Mt 7:5). Here His will is to signify the great wrath, which He has against them that do such things. For so, wheresoever He would indicate that the sin is great, and the punishment and wrath in store for it grievous, He begins with a reproach. […] I bid you care for yourself first, in whose case the sin is both more certain and greater. But if you neglect yourself, it is quite evident that neither do you judge your brother in care for him, but in hatred, and wishing to expose him. (Saint John Chrysostom. Homily XXII on the Gospel of Saint Matthew)

Saint Irenaeus of Lyon

Nothing unbecoming or evil pleases God – He metes out punishment accordingly

Still further did He also make it manifest, that we ought, after our calling, to be also adorned with works of righteousness, so that the Spirit of God may rest upon us; for this is the wedding garment, of which also the apostle speaks, ‘Not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up by immortality.’ (2Cor 5:4) But those who have indeed been called to God’s supper, yet have not received the Holy Spirit, because of their wicked conduct ‘shall be,’ He declares, ‘cast into outer darkness’ (Mt 22:13). He thus clearly shows that the very same King who gathered from all quarters the faithful to the marriage of His Son, and who grants them the incorruptible banquet, [also] orders that man to be cast into outer darkness who has not on a wedding garment, that is, one who despises it. For as in the former covenant, ‘with many of them was He not well pleased;’ (1Cor 10:5) so also is it the case here, that ‘many are called, but few chosen’ (Mt 22:14). It is not, then, one God who judges, and another Father who calls us together to salvation; nor one, forsooth, who confers eternal light, but another who orders those who have not on the wedding garment to be sent into outer darkness. But it is one and the same God, the Father of our Lord, from whom also the prophets had their mission, who does indeed, through His infinite kindness, call the unworthy; but He examines those who are called, [to ascertain] if they have on the garment fit and proper for the marriage of His Son, because nothing unbecoming or evil pleases Him. This is in accordance with what the Lord said to the man who had been healed: ‘Behold, you are made whole; sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto you’ (Jn 5:14). For he who is good, and righteous, and pure, and spotless, will endure nothing evil, nor unjust, nor detestable in His wedding chamber. This is the Father of our Lord, by whose providence all things consist, and all are administered by His command; and He confers His free gifts upon those who should [receive them]; but the most righteous Retributor metes out [punishment] according to their deserts, most deservedly, to the ungrateful and to those that are insensible of His kindness; (Saint Irenaeus of Lyons. Against Heresies, Book IV, 36, 6)

To scoffers and to those not subject to God are assigned everlasting perdition

If, therefore, the self-same person is present who was announced by the prophets, our Lord Jesus Christ, and if His advent has brought in a fuller [measure of] grace and greater gifts to those who have received Him, it is plain that the Father also is Himself the same who was proclaimed by the prophets, and that the Son, on His coming, did not spread the knowledge of another Father, but of the same who was preached from the beginning; from whom also He has brought down liberty to those who, in a lawful manner, and with a willing mind, and with all the heart, do Him service; whereas to scoffers, and to those not subject to God, but who follow outward purifications for the praise of men (which observances had been given as a type of future things—the law typifying, as it were, certain things in a shadow, and delineating eternal things by temporal, celestial by terrestrial), and to those who pretend that they do themselves observe more than what has been prescribed, as if preferring their own zeal to God Himself, while within they are full of hypocrisy, and covetousness, and all wickedness—[to such] has He assigned everlasting perdition by cutting them off from life. (Saint Irenaeus of Lyons. Against Heresies, Book IV, 6)

Saint Gregory I

It belongs to the righteousness of an impartial Judge, that those whose heart would never be without sin in this life, should never be without punishment

They say that He held out empty terrors to deter them from sin. We answer, if He threatened falsely to check unrighteousness, then He promised falsely to promote good conduct. Thus while they go out of the way to prove God merciful, they are not afraid to charge Him with fraud. But, they urge, finite sin ought not to be visited with infinite punishment; we answer, that this argument would be just, if the righteous Judge considered men’s actions, and not their hearts. Therefore it belongs to the righteousness of an impartial Judge, that those whose heart would never be without sin in this life, should never be without punishment. (Saint Gregory the Great (Moralia XXXIV,19) quoted by Saint Thomas Aquinas. Catena Aurea in Mt 25:46)

God works with rigorous justice in the retribution of good and evil acts

How incomprehensible are the judgments of God, and with what justice does he work in the retribution of good and evil acts! Above, it said that while Lazarus was in this world, he desired to satiate himself with the crumbs that fell from the table of the rich man and no one gave them; and now it is said, in speaking of the chastisement of the rich man, that he desired that Lazarus, wet the tip of his finger into water, and let a drop fall into his mouth. From this passage it may be deduced, my brothers, how rigorous the divine justice is. (Saint Gregory the Great. Parables of the Gospel, pg. 169)

Benedict XVI

The parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus shows how earthly wickedness is overturned by divine justice

Today, Luke’s Gospel presents to us the parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus (Lk 16: 19-31). […] The story shows how earthly wickedness is overturned by divine justice: after his death, Lazarus was received ‘in the bosom of Abraham’, that is, into eternal bliss; whereas the rich man ended up ‘in Hades, in torment’. This is a new and definitive state of affairs against which no appeal can be made, which is why one must mend one’s ways during one’s life; to do so after serves no purpose. (Benedict XVI. Angelus, September 30, 2007)

Pius XI

Rewarding and punishing is inseparable from Jesus’ power of judging

He claimed judicial power as received from his Father, when the Jews accused him of breaking the Sabbath by the miraculous cure of a sick man. ‘For neither doth the Father judge any man; but hath given all judgment to the Son’ (Jn 5:22). In this power is included the right of rewarding and punishing all men living, for this right is inseparable from that of judging. (Pius XI. Encyclical Quas primas, no. 13, December 11, 1925)

Benedict XVI

God is the one who proclaims justice forcefully

Dear brothers and sisters, human justice and divine justice differ greatly. People are unable of course to apply divine justice. However they must at least look at it, seeking to understand the profound spirit that motivates it so that it may also illumine human justice and thereby prevent the inmate from becoming an outcast, which unfortunately happens all too often. […] God is the one who proclaims justice forcefully but at the same time heals wounds with the balm of mercy. The parable in Matthew’s Gospel of the laborers, called to work by day in the vineyard (Mt 20:1-16), enables us to understand the difference between human and divine justice because it makes the delicate relationship between justice and mercy explicit. The parable describes a farmer who hired laborers to work in his vineyard. But he did so at different times of day so that some of them worked all day and others only for an hour. When the time came to pay their wages the owner of the vineyard elicited amazement and started a discussion among the laborers. The matter concerned the generosity — considered unfair by those present — of the vineyard owner who decided to give the same remuneration to the workers hired in the morning as to those hired in the afternoon. In the human perspective this decision was an authentic form of unfairness, from God’s viewpoint an act of kindness, because divine justice gives to each what he is due and includes in addition mercy and forgiveness. (Benedict XVI. Address in the Rebibbia district prison, Rome, December 18, 2011)

John Paul II

Jesus is demanding, strong and firm when he calls people to live in truth - the Gospel of meekness and humility goes in the same stride as the Gospel of moral demands and of even severe threats to those who do not wish to convert

This ‘meekness and humility of heart’ in no way signifies weakness. On the contrary, Jesus is demanding. His Gospel is demanding. […] It is a kind of radicalism not only in the evangelical language, but also in the real demands of the following of Christ, which he does not hesitate to reaffirm frequently in all of their amplitude: ‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword’ (Mt 10:34). It is a strong way of expressing that the Gospel is also a source of ‘unrest’ for man. Jesus wishes to make us understand that the Gospel is demanding and ‘demanding’ means to agitate consciences, not permitting them to rest in a false ‘peace’, in which they become increasingly insensible and obtuse, such that in them spiritual realties are emptied of their value, losing all their resonance. […] Jesus is demanding. Not hard or inexorably severe: but strong and unequivocal when he calls someone to live in the truth. […] In exhorting to conversion, he does not hesitate to reproach the same cities where the people rejected belief in him: ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!’ (Lk 10:13); while he warns each and every one: ‘…if you do not repent you will all perish as they did!’ (Lk 13:3). Thus, the Gospel of meekness and of humility goes in the same stride as the Gospel of moral demands and of even severe threats to those who do not wish to convert. There is no contradiction between them. Jesus lives of the truth he announces and the love that he reveals, and this is a demanding love, just as is the truth from which it derived. (John Paul II. General audience, June 8, 1988)

III – Christ shepherds with justice, and his ministers should imitate Him

Saint Cyprian of Carthage

He who soothes the sinner with flattering blandishments furnishes the stimulus to sin

For, as it is written, ‘They who call you happy cause you to err, and destroy the paths of your feet,’ he who soothes the sinner with flattering blandishments furnishes the stimulus to sin; nor does he repress, but nourishes wrong-doing. But he who, with braver counsels, rebukes at the same time that he instructs a brother, urges him onward to salvation. ‘As many as I love,’ saith the Lord, ‘I rebuke and chasten.’ And thus also it behooves the Lord’s priest not to mislead by deceiving concessions, but to provide with salutary remedies. He is an unskillful physician who handles the swelling edges of wounds with a tender hand, and, by retaining the poison shut up in the deep recesses of the body, increases it. The wound must be opened, and cut, and healed by the stronger remedy of cutting out the corrupting parts. The sick man may cry out, may vociferate, and may complain, in impatience of the pain; but he will afterwards give thanks when he has felt that he is cured. (Saint Cyprian of Carthage. On the lapsed, no. 14: ML 4, 477-478)

Saint Augustine of Hippo

Christ shepherds with justice, and the good shepherds follow his voice

It concludes in this way: ‘And I will shepherd them with justice’ (Ez 34:16). Keep in mind that he only shepherds, because he shepherds them with justice. […] He shepherds, then, with justice, distributing to each one his own: this to these, that to those, the merits to those who deserve, be it this or that one. You know what you should do: he shepherds with justice those who he redeemed when they were judged. So he himself shepherds with justice. […] Where is your hard head now? Where is your tongue? Where is your mocking? Effectively, as your last days approached, you were a fool, you were fearful but lacking justice. For you wished not to judge rightly, neither regarding your error, nor regarding the truth. Unlike you, Christ shepherds with justice, he distinguishes the sheep that are his from those that are not. My sheep – he said – hear my voice and follow me (Jn 10:27). Here one discovers all good shepherds in the one Pastor. For there is no lack of good shepherds, but they exist in only one. Those who are divided are many. […] In these that shepherd: it is Christ who shepherds. The friends of the spouse do not prefer their own voice, but rather enjoy the voice of the spouse. Therefore, it is He himself who shepherds when they shepherd. Thus he says: ‘It is I who shepherd’ for his own voice and his charity echoes in theirs. […] In this way, then, he himself, being one, shepherds in them; and they shepherd forming part of he who is one. […]This is shepherding for Christ, shepherding in Christ, shepherding with Christ and not shepherding for oneself outside of Christ […] In this way, then, all are in the only shepherd, all announce the only voice of the shepherd, in such a way that the sheep hear and follow their shepherd, not this or that one, but rather the only shepherd. All announce, united in him, in one voice; let there not be different voices. ‘I pray thee brethren, that all have the same heart and that there not be divisions among you’ (1Cor 1:10). May the sheep hear this voice far removed from division, expurgated of all heresy, and follow their shepherd who said: ‘My sheep hear my voice and follow me’ (Jn 10: 27). (Saint Augustine of Hippo. Sermon 46, On Pastors, no. 27, 29-30)

Pius X

The true priest never swerves from the perfection of righteousness

The picture of the true priest, as Gregory understands and describes him, is the man ‘who, dying to all passions of the flesh, already lives spiritually; who has no thought for the prosperity of the world; who has no fear of adversity; who desires only internal things; who does not permit himself to desire what belongs to others but is liberal of his own; who is all bowels of compassion and inclines to forgiveness, but in forgiveness never swerves unduly from the perfection of righteousness; who never commits unlawful actions, but deplores as though they were his own the unlawful actions of others. (Pius X. Encyclical Iucunda Sane, no. 29, March 12, 1904)

Code of Canon Law

The priest is a minister of divine justice and mercy

In hearing confessions the priest is to remember that he is equally a judge and a physician and has been established by God as a minister of divine justice and mercy, so that he has regard for the divine honor and the salvation of souls. (Code of Canon Law. Can. 978 §1)

Gregory I

The pastor should be rigid through the zeal of righteousness

The pastor should be […] through the zeal of righteousness, rigid against the vices of evil-doers […] and yet, when the fault of the bad requires it, he be at once conscious of the power of his priority; […] he may not fear to execute the laws of rectitude towards the perverse. (Saint Gregory the Great. Pastoral Rule, book 2, ch. 6: PL 77, 34)

The pastor must stand in the battle out of love of justice to resist bad men

The pastor should be discreet in keeping silence, profitable in speech; lest he either utter what ought to be suppressed or suppress what he ought to utter. For, as incautious speaking leads into error, so indiscreet silence leaves in error those who might have been instructed. […] according to the voice of the Truth (Jn 10:12), serve unto the custody of the flock by no means with the zeal of shepherds, but in the way of hirelings; since they fly when the wolf cometh if they hide themselves under silence. For hence it is that the Lord through the prophet upbraids them, […] if he puts himself in front for the flock, he opposes a wall against the enemy for the house of Israel […] and to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord is out of love of justice to resist bad men when they contend against us. For, for a shepherd to have feared to say what is right, what else is it but to have turned his back in keeping silence? […] Hence again to the sinful people it is said, Thy prophets have seen false and foolish things for thee: neither did they discover thine iniquity, to provoke thee to repentance (Lam 2:14). […] And such the divine discourse convinces of seeing false things, because, while fearing to reprove faults, they vainly flatter evil doers by promising security: neither do they at all discover the iniquity of sinners, since they refrain their voice from chiding. For the language of reproof is the key of discovery, because by chiding it discloses the fault of which even he who has committed it is often himself unaware. Hence Paul says, ‘That he may be able by sound doctrine even to convince the gainsayers’ (Titus 1:9). Hence through Malachi; it is said: ‘The priest’s lips keep knowledge, and they shall seek the law at his mouth’ (Mal 2:7). Hence through Isaiah the Lord admonishes, saying, ‘Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet’ (Is 58:1). For it is true that whosoever enters on the priesthood undertakes the office of a herald, so as to walk, himself crying aloud, before the coming of the judge who follows terribly. […] But, when the pastor prepares himself for speaking, let him bear in mind with what studious caution he ought to speak, lest, if he be hurried inordinately into speaking, the hearts of hearers be smitten with the wound of error and, while he perchance desires to seem wise he unwisely sever the bond of unity. (Saint Gregory the Great. Pastoral Rule, book 2, ch. 4: PL 77, 30-31)

John Paul II

Promote justice in the power of the Word of God

Through the power of God’s word we find energy to promote justice, witness to love, uphold the sacredness of life and proclaim the dignity of the human person and his transcendent destiny […] The parable of the wheat and tares is always current. That’s the reason why, we, before all, we Shepherds, should profess loudly and clearly the faith, the Doctrine of the Church, all of the doctrine of the Church. That’s the reason why, we should adhere, and boldly attract the adhesion of the faithful, to the sacramental discipline of the Church, which is the guarantee of the continuity and authenticity of the salvific action of Christ, guarantee of the dignity and unity of the Christian worship and, finally, guarantee of the authentic vitality of the People of God. (John Paul II. Address to the Bishops of Canada on their ad limina visit, November 17, 1978)

Pius IX

Urge them to persevere firmly established in our divine religion!

We are fully confident that you, our beloved sons and venerable brothers, strengthened by the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, will continue steadfast in your outstanding Episcopal zeal. With one mind and heart and with redoubled dedication, may you persist in defending the House of Israel, may you fight the good fight for the faith and defend from the snares of the enemy the faithful entrusted to your care. Admonish and exhort them to be strong in our sacred faith, without which it is impossible to please God. Urge them to persevere firmly established in our divine religion, which alone is true and eternal and prepares for salvation and even, to a very great extent, preserves and prospers civil society. (Pius IX. Encyclical Quanto Conficiamur, no. 13, August 10, 1863)

IV – Doctrinal observations regarding justice and mercy

Compendium of the Catholic Church

The acceptance of God’s mercy requires that we admit our faults and repent of our sins

What does the acceptance of God’s mercy require from us?

It requires that we admit our faults and repent of our sins. God himself by his Word and his Spirit lays bare our sins and gives us the truth of conscience and the hope of forgiveness. (Compendium of the Catholic Church, no. 391)

Saint Thomas Aquinas

Justice and mercy are so united, that the one ought to be mingled with the other

Justice and mercy are so united, that the one ought to be mingled with the other; justice without mercy is cruelty; mercy without justice, profusion – hence He goes on to the one from the other. (Gloss quoted by Saint Thomas Aquinas. Catena Aura in Mt 5:7)

The service of God includes rendering to each one his due: justice

The aforesaid definition of justice is fitting if understood aright. For since every virtue is a habit that is the principle of a good act, a virtue must needs be defined by means of the good act bearing on the matter proper to that virtue. […] Hence the act of justice in relation to its proper matter and object is indicated in the words, ‘Rendering to each one his right, since, as Isidore says (Etym. X), ‘a man is said to be just because he respects the rights [jus] of others.’ […] Just as love of God includes love of our neighbor, as stated above (q. 25, a. 1), so too the service of God includes rendering to each one his due. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica II-II, q. 58, a.1)

Justice directs man in his relations with individuals and the community

Justice, as stated above (a. 2) directs man in his relations with other men. Now this may happen in two ways: first as regards his relation with individuals, secondly as regards his relations with others in general, in so far as a man who serves a community, serves all those who are included in that community. Accordingly justice in its proper acceptation can be directed to another in both these senses. Now it is evident that all who are included in a community, stand in relation to that community as parts to a whole; while a part, as such, belongs to a whole, so that whatever is the good of a part can be directed to the good of the whole. It follows therefore that the good of any virtue, whether such virtue direct man in relation to himself, or in relation to certain other individual persons, is referable to the common good, to which justice directs: so that all acts of virtue can pertain to justice, in so far as it directs man to the common good. It is in this sense that justice is called a general virtue. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica II-II, q. 58, a. 5)

Mercy is heartfelt sympathy for another’s distress

Mercy is heartfelt sympathy for another’s distress, impelling us to succor him if we can. For mercy takes its name ‘misericordia’ from denoting a man’s compassionate heart [miserum cor] for another’s unhappiness. Now unhappiness is opposed to happiness: and it is essential to beatitude or happiness that one should obtain what one wishes; for, according to Augustine (De Trin. XIII, 5), ‘happy is he who has whatever he desires, and desires nothing amiss.’ Hence, on the other hand, it belongs to unhappiness that a man should suffer what he wishes not. (Saint Thomas Aquina. Summa Theologica II-II, q. 30, a. 1)

A person is said to be merciful when he endeavors to dispel the misery of another as if it were his

In proof of which it must be considered that a person is said to be merciful [misericors], as being, so to speak, sorrowful at heart [miserum cor]; being affected with sorrow at the misery of another as though it were his own. Hence it follows that he endeavors to dispel the misery of this other, as if it were his; and this is the effect of mercy. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica I, q. 21. a. 3)

Mercy may denote a movement of the intellective appetite, in as much as one person’s evil is displeasing to another

Mercy signifies grief for another’s distress. Now this grief may denote, in one way, a movement of the sensitive appetite, in which case mercy is not a virtue but a passion; whereas, in another way, it may denote a movement of the intellective appetite, in as much as one person’s evil is displeasing to another. This movement may be ruled in accordance with reason, and in accordance with this movement regulated by reason, the movement of the lower appetite may be regulated. Hence Augustine says (De Civ. Dei ix, 5) that ‘this movement of the mind’ (viz. mercy) ‘obeys the reason, when mercy is vouchsafed in such a way that justice is safeguarded, whether we give to the needy or forgive the repentant.’ And since it is essential to human virtue that the movements of the soul should be regulated by reason, as was shown above (I-II, 59, A4,5), it follows that mercy is a virtue. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica II-II, q. 30, a. 3)

Saint Augustine of Hippo

Compassion is obedient to reason when shown without violating right

And what is compassion but a fellow-feeling for another’s misery, which prompts us to help him if we can? And this emotion is obedient to reason, when compassion is shown without violating right, as when the poor are relieved, or the penitent forgiven. (Saint Augustine of Hippo. The City of God, Book 9, ch. 5)

Saint John Chrysostom

Justice, love and truth purify the soul

For these are the things that comprise our life, these are what purify the soul, justice, love to man, truth; the one inclining us to pardon and not suffering us to be excessively severe and unforgiving to them that sin (for then shall we gain doubly, both becoming kind to man, and hence meeting also ourselves with much kindness from the God of all), and causing us both to sympathize with them that are despitefully entreated, and to assist them; the other not suffering them to be deceitful, and crafty. (Saint John Chrysostom. Homily 73 on Saint Matthew)

John Paul II

There can be no love without justice

Christ left us the commandment to love our neighbour. In this commandment, everything that concerns justice is also contained. There can be no love without justice. Love ‘surpasses’ justice, but at the same time it finds its verification in justice. Even a father and a mother, loving their own child, must be just in his regard. If justice is uncertain, love, too, runs a risk. (John Paul II. General Audience, no. 4, November 8, 1978)

Benedict XVI

Injustice: its origin lies in the human heart in a mysterious cooperation with evil

The Evangelist Mark reports the following words of Jesus, which are inserted within the debate at that time regarding what is pure and impure: ‘There is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him … What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts (Mk 7:14-15, 20-21). Beyond the immediate question concerning food, we can detect in the reaction of the Pharisees a permanent temptation within man: to situate the origin of evil in an exterior cause. Many modern ideologies deep down have this presupposition: since injustice comes ‘from outside,’ in order for justice to reign, it is sufficient to remove the exterior causes that prevent it being achieved. This way of thinking – Jesus warns – is ingenuous and shortsighted. Injustice, the fruit of evil, does not have exclusively external roots; its origin lies in the human heart, where the seeds are found of a mysterious cooperation with evil. (Benedict XVI. Message for Lent 2010, October 30, 2009)

Justice signifies full acceptance of the will of the God, and equity in relation to one’s neighbor

At the heart of the wisdom of Israel, we find a profound link between faith in God who ‘lifts the needy from the ash heap’ (Ps 113:7) and justice towards one’s neighbor. The Hebrew word itself that indicates the virtue of justice, sedaqah, expresses this well. Sedaqah, in fact, signifies on the one hand full acceptance of the will of the God of Israel; on the other hand, equity in relation to one’s neighbour (cf. Ex 20:12-17). (Benedict XVI. Message for Lent 2010, October 30, 2009)

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