Truth is of the mind, Mercy of the heart.
Truth is an aspiration, Mercy a condescension.
Truth is 'above', Mercy is 'below'.
Truth is narrow, Mercy is broad.
Truth unites, Mercy divides.
Truth is fixed, Mercy is arbitrary.
I have been reading the new revelations from the USA about another bishop and his successor covering up the ongoing abuse of adolescent boys, and elsewhere the present day promotion of clergy that are far from the chaste ideal and steal from their parishes to support a deviant lifestyle. Trying not to be judgemental, trying to see the case for the bishops concerned when they stand before God, I suspect they will plead, "I was being merciful", only to met by the voices of the abused who will cry out to condemn them, "Yes, you were, but not to us".
The problem is 'Mercy' is a rather vague and ambiguous term, we so often hear people speak of 'mercy-killing'. There is always a quality of arbitrariness, even partiality, about it. The concentration camp guard might well claim he was being merciful by beating a prisoner to death with a shovel rather than watching him starve to death. Similarly it might be claimed to be merciful to choose someone to change Vatican light bulbs who charged more and did the job less efficiently, and had a cocaine habit and a depressed wife, who happened to be related to Cardinal S, and therefore their plight was known understood, rather than someone unknown who would do the job more cheaply and efficiently. Under these circumstances Mercy seems likely to be a rather dangerous thing,
Psalm 85 has the beautiful verse:
Mercy and truth have met on the wayMercy when it does not meet truth, really does seem to be a source of corruption, something to make even a child cry out, 'Its not fair', Without a conscience honed by truth mercy can so easily become an instrument of oppression. Cardinal Kasper sees mercy as the chief attribute of God. For him Jesus Christ is God's Mercy made flesh. Man's redemption comes from God's mercy, not his justice. Of course he is right but Man is not God. Meister Eckhart said, "if we say God is good then we cannot say that man is good, if we say that man is good then we cannot say that God is good", he might well have gone onto say the same about mercy, God's mercy comes from his perfection, in his imperfection man cannot imitate it.
Righteousness and peace have embraced.
Mercy is a divine attribute, in God's hands it is always arbitrary but it is always good but when it is exercised by fallen human it always tends to corruption.
Back to child abuse: I almost understand that parents might not want to prosecute an abuser of their child, but if they claim they are being merciful, but who are they being merciful to. They are not being merciful to the next victim when the offender goes on to abuse again and again. They are not being merciful even to the abuser if he (or she) then goes on to perform even more serious acts of abuse that might lead to their eternal damnation or even a life spent in prison.
Whilst we might be hard wired to have an understanding of truth, mercy is a little more problematic. It is certainly merciful to feed the hungry, clothe the naked etc,, we can understand that. Scripture tells us that it is an act of mercy to correct the sinner and to teach the ignorant and counsel the doubtful but I do not think that sits well with our current non-judgemental understanding of mercy in the Church.
Mercy tends to confuse. When we talk of truth we tend to have a consensus of what we mean, Mercy however as we saw in the Synod tends to be divisive.
A year ago Bishop Egan said not giving Holy Communion to the pro-abortion politicians was act of mercy, the rest of the Bishop's Conference did not agree and when the Pope praises pro-abortion politicians we might presume he too would oppose the good bishop.
We may either cause or share the guilt of another's sin by praise or flattery, or even silence or by corrupted or even deviant sense of Mercy.