Pope Francis’ thoughts on mercy contrasted and analyzed

Encouraging statement here, for those concerned about God’s anger.

One thing the world seems pretty certain about: Christianity is a killjoy, anti-sex religion. But this is a lie. Nothing in the Bible says that sex is wrong.

The Bible does hold the view that sex is such a mysterious and powerful thing that it ought to be subject to certain boundaries — like marriage. The Bible views the body as something important — something to be taken care of and used in God’s service, not used as a sexual toy. [Italics mine

— via CBN.com

This surely doesn’t solve a lot of problems, but it’s a good start.

That said, the writer offers this, from Colossians 3:5-10:

Put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual sin, impurity, lust, and shameful desires.

Don’t be greedy for the good things of this life, for that is idolatry. God’s terrible anger will come upon those who do such things. You used to do them when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language.

Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old evil nature and all its wicked deeds. In its place you have clothed yourselves with a brand-new nature that is continually being renewed as you learn more and more about Christ, who created this new nature within you.  [Boldface added]

Pope Francis typically takes a somewhat different tack, as in this in a Jan. 13, 2016, address:

  1. OUR LORD IS A “MERCIFUL AND GRACIOUS” GOD, “SLOW TO ANGER, AND ABOUNDING IN STEADFAST LOVE AND FAITHFULNESS”

The Lord is presented in Sacred Scriptures as “merciful God.” And this is His name, through which He reveals to us, so to speak, His face and His heart. He Himself, as narrated in the Book of Exodus, on revealing Himself to Moses describes Himself thus: “The Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (34:6).

We find this formula also in other texts, with some variation, but always the stress is put on mercy and on the love of God who never tires of forgiving (cf. Jonah 4:2; Joel 2:13; Psalm 86:15; 103:8;Nehemiah 9:17). Let us look together, one by one, at these words of Sacred Scripture that speak to us of God.

All Old Testament references, interestingly, when the writers were bleaguered by worshipers of all sorts of other gods. He leaves out (avoids?) St. Paul to the Colossians. I’d say that’s because he is more aware of today’s beleaguered people’s struggles than of strictures and commands. It’s how his mind works and how he sees his audience.

If  you want a mystery to plumb, theological or otherwise, by the way, think hard about how his mind works.

A Chilean scholar made a very well-aimed shot at it in a critique of Francis’ latest exhortation, Exsultate et Gaudete, in which he equates pro-life efforts with pro-immigration activism:

. . . it is utterly disquieting that, on the one hand, the Pope has been “flexible” on matters that, according to Catholic doctrine, are the object of a specific and absolute prohibition, saying for example that “we must not insist too much on such issues [of abortion]”, or speaking favorably and even inviting hardline pro-abortion personalities such as Emma Bonino while, on the other hand, supporting in an absolute and rigid manner political decisions about immigration, that are clearly the object of a prudential judgement.

In this sense, he gives the strong impression that he uses his papal influence to promote his own political ideas rather than affirming Catholic doctrine, as would be his duty.

Now that’s getting down to business. Catholic men and women can disagree about the latter, but not so the former, one being about what not to do, the other about how to do it.

Claudio Pierantoni is a Patristic Scholar of Medieval Philosophy at the University of Chile and Member of the John Paul II Academy for Human Life and Family. He is someone I will be looking up as a prime practitioner of the art of figuring Francis out, a guide for the perplexed, you might say, to use a phrase familiar indeed to the Medieval expert.

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