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Chapter 6: Love, Justice, Mercy, and Social Responsibility

Question F: How Are Justice and Mercy Related in Practice?

Christians who love others will fulfill every responsibility toward them (see Rom 13.8–10, Gal 5.14, Jas 2.8–13). Thus, everything one owes anyone—beginning with what is owed others in justice—is demanded by the responsibility to love others as Jesus does (see Jn 13.34). Yet justice is not enough; in practice, love must go beyond it and become mercy. But because mercy transcends justice, it might be supposed that the requirements of justice can be fulfilled perfectly without mercy or even that mercy somehow sets aside justice. However, God is both just and merciful, and Christians are called to imitate him.

1. Fallen Humankind Often Evades the Requirements of Justice

While people have special responsibilities to other members of their limited communities—family, neighborhood, political society, and so on—they ought to regard all others as members, however distantly related, of one great family. For that is the truth of the matter: comprising a single species, human persons share the earth as their common home, and are all called to be children of God; yet they usually do not regard one another as brothers and sisters.

a) People tend to evade justice by restricting community. History, anthropological studies, and everyday experience teach that human beings of all times and places strongly tend to suppose that the requirements of justice apply only within their limited communities, excluding others and even denying their very personhood. For instance, many people of European origin who settled in the Americas regarded the indigenous peoples and the blacks transported from Africa as subhuman, and some people today adopt a similar attitude toward the unborn. Even when the humanity of others is acknowledged, various groups struggle for competitive advantage, so that many people who should form or participate in communities settle for arrangements short of real community. For example, more able people discriminate against those subject to some disability, members of one race or sex treat those of another as inferior, and so on.

b) The ultimate source of this narrowing down is sin. Sin, beginning with original sin, produces conditions in which it often is hard to act justly. In the fallen human condition, it seems virtually impossible to respect everyone’s rights, since evildoing by others must be expected and concupiscence inclines everyone to selfishness. Still, violating others’ rights remains wrong.80

In many cases, respecting everyone else’s rights would make a group vulnerable to others’ evildoing. For example, in some situations a tribe or nation must either unjustly dominate its neighbors or risk being unjustly dominated by them. In situations of scarcity, too, respecting others’ rights often endangers one’s own survival: in a famine, those who do not wrongly take the food from others’ mouths are likely to starve. In all cases, respecting others’ rights would require the stronger and more able to restrain themselves from satisfying their desires at the expense of the weaker and less able. Today, for instance, if the rich and powerful accepted structural changes in the economy so as to allocate to the weak and poor a share of the world’s resources corresponding to their basic needs and the fruits of their work, those with more would have to surrender, at least for a time, some of their security and comfort.

2. Mercy Goes Beyond Justice by Overcoming Injustice

A generous act goes beyond what justice requires, but it does not violate justice unless generosity toward one person is at another’s undue expense. Merciful acts, similarly, transcend the demands of justice without violating them.

a) God’s mercy is his goodness overcoming evil. Apart from what he has gratuitously promised, God owes no creature anything; everything he does in respect to creatures is thus pure generosity. Usually, however, his act of creating is not said to be merciful, since it did not overcome any prior evil. Rather, merciful said of God points to his saving will (see S.t., 2–2, q. 30, aa. 1, 4). God’s mercy is his steadfast love, by which he continues to love his creatures despite their sins and does everything necessary to save fallen humankind. This steadfast love overcomes sin, the greatest evil, and so is the greatest mercy.

b) Human love, confronting evil, similarly takes the form of mercy. For humans too, mercy resembles the generosity by which people give gifts to their friends and loved ones. It is a form of benevolence, an expression of love, by which people go beyond the requirements of justice and give something gratuitously. For instance, giving a friend a certificate for dinner for two in a restaurant and giving such a certificate to a poor, elderly couple whose social security check has been delayed are both acts of generosity: justice requires neither gift, and love motivates both.

Mercy, however, is different from other forms of benevolence in that it responds to evil (see S.t., 2–2, q. 30, a. 1). A merciful person gives another something not owed precisely in order to overcome something bad: feeding the poor and hungry couple is a work of mercy, because it does something to help them. Similarly, in response to others’ sins, the merciful bring about undeserved reconciliation with those who wrong them by granting forgiveness rather than exacting retribution.

c) Mercy transcends compassion by motivating effective action. Mercy must not be confused with the mere feeling of pity which does nothing effective about misery (see Jas 2.15–16) or with that sentimentalism which condones sin so as to spare people the pain of guilt. As John Paul II teaches:

The true and proper meaning of mercy does not consist only in looking, however penetratingly and compassionately, at moral, physical or material evil: Mercy is manifested in its true and proper aspect when it restores to value, promotes and draws good from all the forms of evil existing in the world and in man.81

3. Misconceptions about Justice and Mercy Must Be Set Aside

Mercy presupposes that a person depends on others for benefits to which he or she has no right. Assuming that such dependence is incompatible with equal personal dignity, many people suppose that mercy is at odds with justice. But this misconception flows from a mistaken ideal of individual autonomy and requires no refutation. Neither does the misunderstanding which confuses mercy with so-called charitable deeds which actually express pride, a desire for honor, and/or self-righteous condescension.

Other misconceptions concerning justice and mercy, however, are subtler and require clarification.

a) Justice does not demand that wrongdoers be repaid evil for evil. Some people think mercy somehow sets aside justice because they share a widespread misconception: that justice demands retaliation in kind—evil for evil. This misconception often is a premise, for example, in arguments for capital punishment. But justice does not require evil for evil. It demands only a restoration of a fair balance sufficient to deprive wrongdoers of the advantage they have taken over the law abiding, to mitigate conflict, and to establish harmony. None of these requires repaying evil with evil. “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” did set some limits to retaliation, but a vengeful attitude distorts justice rather than embodying it.82 Punishment motivated by hostility is not just.

b) Justice does not forbid giving what is unmerited. Some people think mercy violates justice by providing benefits to the undeserving. But merit is only a nonabsolute standard of justice, not one of its principles. Moreover, the most plausible kind of merit to use as a standard of justice is virtue: the morally good deserve more, the bad less. But recompense for such merit, which depends entirely on God’s grace, belongs mainly to him rather than to human beings, who are incapable of making the necessary judgments. Thus, it is a mistake to reduce justice to merit and use that conception to exclude mercy. One should not wait for others to become good enough to deserve forgiveness, nor should help be given only to the “deserving” poor, although the kind of help to be offered people depends, of course, on their needs and capacities to use the sorts of help which can be given.

c) Mercy does not cancel out the objective requirements of justice. Although mercy does offer forgiveness or some other unmerited benefit, it does not do this to evade the demands of justice, but to open the way to reconciliation and help those who suffer. The aim is that, with the healing and building up of the bonds of community, the requirements of justice might be met. John Paul II teaches:

 You know, in fact, that Christian love animates justice, inspires it, discovers it, perfects it, makes it feasible, respects it, elevates it, surpasses it; but it does not exclude it, does not absorb it, does not replace it, but rather presupposes it and demands it, because true love, true charity, does not exist without justice. Is not justice perhaps the minimum measure of charity?83
Thus, mercy never overrides justice. Forgiveness, for instance, is not a matter of overlooking sin. Although forgiveness can anticipate contrition, reconciliation still requires contrition, which is genuine only if it involves the will and real effort to make amends, insofar as possible. Thus, mercy does not condone or ignore the evil which it forgives.84

d) Mercy is not unilateral and condescending. It often is supposed that the benefits of acting mercifully necessarily are one-sided, and that mercy can be shown only by the virtuous toward sinners, the rich toward the poor, the strong toward the weak, and so forth; thus, it seems impossible for the merciful entirely to avoid condescension, which affronts the dignity of those to whom mercy is shown. Some therefore resist the idea that mercy should be shown to those in need, insisting instead that justice alone is enough.

However, mercy must be shown to those in need and their dignity also must be preserved; and both things can be done at the same time. Those who are shown mercy can respond in kind. This is so because, although human persons cannot reciprocate God’s mercy, mercy among human persons never is truly realized without mutuality. Mercy is love dealing with evil and suffering, and every human being suffers from sin and its consequences, and needs the help of others. Alcoholics Anonymous, for example, has learned not only that the active alcoholic needs the help of recovered alcoholics to recover, but that the recovered alcoholic must serve others in order to maintain his or her own sobriety.

Everyone needs others’ forgiveness and sometimes desperately needs their generous help. Therefore, mercy fully succeeds only when enemies mutually forgive one another, and when those who care for others’ needs receive care when they need it. Moreover, perfect mercy means that those who receive benefits show mercy to their benefactors, for example, when the hungry who are fed love their benefactors despite their defects. Far from being an obstacle to justice, mercy fosters communion of persons equal in dignity, thus leading them to achieve that equality in respect to various goods which justice requires.85

To suppose that those who receive mercy are thereby necessarily degraded betrays a false sense of values. Being in need is not shameful, while proud individualism, which assumes that nobody ever should depend on others, is the very antithesis of Christian humility. Indeed, those who show mercy also must be humble, and their mercy bears witness to the dignity of those to whom they show it:

The raison d’être of our charity is the inalienable dignity which we acknowledge in every human being, created in the image and likeness of God, loved by God, saved by God, adopted by God as a son, and identified with Christ himself. We cannot resign ourselves to leave this brother, who has such a value in God’s eyes, in misery, in abandonment, in loveless solitude. Our charity goes beyond the emotional pity which is undeniably a natural door for charity. It goes beyond horizontal solidarities. It is based on that transcendence which we recognize in each one of our brothers. Our brotherhood has its source in God. Such is the witness that you must bear, loud and clear, in the Church, like a light that one cannot put under a bushel, like a torch that must shine in the eyes of men. And at the same time, in all humility, we keep our awareness of being only servants.86

4. Christians Must Exercise Not Only Justice but Mercy

The gospel proclaims not only God’s merciful forgiveness of sin, but a new, universal, and permanent covenant. Jesus calls every human person to accept this covenant and enter into God’s heavenly kingdom. Those who do so accept the responsibility to show others the same mercy God has shown.

a) The gospel rejects the strategy of limiting human community. Rather than restricting community, mercy expands it, for mercy is the form love takes when it confronts and overcomes evil. Jesus teaches that each of his followers should be ready to be everyone else’s neighbor: that is exactly the point of the parable of the Good Samaritan (see Lk 10.29–37). He calls all who accept the gospel to share in and contribute to his work of divine mercy, to undo and overcome sin and its effects not only in themselves but in the whole world. “Christ’s messianic program, the program of mercy, becomes the program of his people, the program of the Church.”87 Moreover, inasmuch as true community is, not a mere arrangement to avoid needless conflict among individuals who remain autonomous, but a genuine sharing of life, it is not enough to avoid harming others. For inasmuch as the new covenant is communion of human persons in Jesus with God, how one cares for one’s neighbors’ needs is how one treats Jesus himself: “Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Mt 25.40; cf. AA 8, GS 27).88

b) Mercy is the justice of Jesus’ kingdom. Having received God’s mercy and entered into the new covenant community, a person must extend forgiveness and community to others.

 The “Golden Rule” occurs in Matthew—and even more directly in Luke—in the context of the Beatitudes, of a forsaking of claims of distributive justice, of the love of one’s enemies, of the demand to be ‘perfect’ and ‘merciful’ as the heavenly Father is. For this reason, gifts received from the Father are precisely what a Christian may expect from his neighbor and what he should give to his neighbor.89
One is strictly obliged to love enemies because, needing and receiving God’s mercy, one is bound to extend the same mercy to others (see Mt 5.7, 6.14–15; Mk 11.25; Lk 6.35–37; Eph 4.32; Col 3.13). The parable of the unmerciful servant makes this point: those who receive God’s mercy sin if they do not show mercy to others, and God will judge them justly (see Mt 18.23–35). Thus, Jesus taught his disciples to seek and expect God’s mercy only on condition that they extend mercy to others: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors . . .. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Mt 6.12, 14–15; cf. Lk 11.4). Within the community of the new covenant, whose members must treat every human person as a neighbor, the requirements of mercy are requirements of justice.90

c) Mercy’s requirements are not morally optional for Christians. While people often owe others forgiveness and help, apart from the new covenant these social responsibilities extend only to fellow members of various communities (compatriots, colleagues, relatives, and so on), and there is no need to go beyond the boundaries of existing community.91 Reaching beyond those limits in some exceptional case is a purely gratuitous gesture.

For Christians, however, doing what is necessary to overcome evil is never gratuitous. Jesus makes it absolutely clear that everlasting punishment awaits those who fail to serve his needs manifested in the hunger, thirst, homelessness, nakedness, sickness, and ill treatment of those regarded as the least important of his brothers and sisters (see Mt 25.41–46). So, the works of mercy are obligatory, and it is wrong to think of mercy’s requirements as if they were supererogatory (that is, above and beyond the requirements of duty).92

It might be objected that sinners have no right to be forgiven and those with needs have no right to more help from anyone than justice requires of that person. The answer is: The duties of mercy do not correspond to any rights which anyone has apart from God’s mercy to every human person. Since God has in fact shown mercy toward all, however, the Golden Rule requires everyone who accepts that mercy to show similar mercy to others. Thus, within the community of the new covenant, whose members must always be ready to welcome new members, sinners have a right to be forgiven by fellow sinners, and those with needs have a right to more help than justice otherwise would require. Yet those to whom mercy is shown are not entitled to it in such a way that mercy loses its gratuitous character. For those who are shown mercy are indirect beneficiaries of God’s entirely gratuitous mercy, since those who show mercy do so only by first sharing in God’s mercy and then handing it on.

Someone glad to receive God’s forgiveness would fail to treat others according to the Golden Rule if he or she were to withhold mercy from them. It is significant that in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus’ reaffirmation of the Golden Rule is at the heart of his teaching that Christians should love enemies, and the passage (Lk 6.27–36) culminates: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6.36).93 One fails to give others what they should be given by not forgiving their trespasses as God forgives one’s own and by not meeting their needs as one hopes God will meet one’s needs. Therefore, “the words of the Sermon on the Mount: ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy’ (Mt 5.7), constitute, in a certain sense, a synthesis of the whole of the good news, of the whole of the ‘wonderful exchange’ (admirabile commercium) contained therein.”94

5. Love Should Be Put into Practice in Doing Works of Mercy

Christians have responsibilities toward others which cannot be recognized independently of faith and hope, and cannot be fulfilled without love: the responsibilities of the mercy which is the justice of Jesus’ kingdom. Catholic moral theology usually has treated some of these in a general way, under the heading of almsgiving. Insofar as almsgiving is a form of penance, it was discussed above (in 4.B.2.f–g). The responsibilities of mercy, which are far more extensive than what most people would call “almsgiving,” will be treated in their specific variety in subsequent chapters, but there are a few general norms.

a) Works of mercy should be works of love toward those helped. Knowing they cannot use their resources for any better purpose than to meet others’ needs, loving givers appreciate the opportunity to come closer to others and build up the communion of love. Thus, a person must not only help others but must do so in a specifically Christian manner:

One should consider in one’s neighbors the image of God in which they have been created, and also Christ the Lord to whom is really offered whatever is given to a needy person. The freedom and dignity of the person being helped should be respected with the utmost sensitivity, and the purity of one’s charitable intentions should not be stained by seeking one’s own advantage or by fondness for domination [note omitted]. The demands of justice should first be satisfied, lest what is due in justice be offered as if it were a charitable gift. Not only the effects but also the causes of evils should be removed. Help should be given in such a way that the recipients may gradually be liberated from dependence and become self-sufficient. (AA 8)
Of course, people should not be given “help” which in reality would harm them, for example, by supporting their self-destructive behavior or irresponsibility. So, alcoholics and other addicts should be encouraged to do what is necessary to overcome their addiction, not helped to maintain it. And everyone capable of working ought to do the work necessary and possible to obtain the necessities of life: “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat” (2 Thes 3.10).95

b) Works of mercy should not be understood narrowly. In the narrowest sense, almsgiving is the act by which money or goods are compassionately given to a needy person for God’s sake (see S.t., 2–2, q. 32, a. 1). But the tradition broadens the notion by listing both corporal and spiritual works of almsgiving or mercy (see S.t., 2–2, q. 32, a. 2). The corporal works are feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, ransoming the captive, and burying the dead. The spiritual works are instructing the ignorant, counseling the doubtful, admonishing sinners, bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving offenses, comforting the sorrowing, and praying for the living and the dead.

Even these lists are not exhaustive. The full range of works of mercy can be understood only by considering that all of them implement Christian love of neighbor. Now, since the object of love is not limited to this or that kind of good, all one’s resources—not only money and material goods, but talent, time, energy, and so on—can and should be used to implement it. Therefore, the general norm for works of mercy is that all the members of Jesus’ body should make their resources of every kind available for the benefit of other members, actual or potential, of that same body.

c) Christians should rejoice in doing works of mercy. With respect to works of mercy, St. Paul teaches: “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9.7). The giver’s spontaneity and cheerfulness are signs of love.

Created persons have only what they have received as God’s gifts; those with greater gifts hold them in trust to serve others’ needs. Thus, loving givers are cheerful, for they are both pleased by others’ good, which they seek, and fulfilled personally in discharging their trust. They do not perceive those in need as inferiors, but as fellow members of Jesus who deserve care and help.

Moreover, Christians realize that the fabric of communion built up here on earth by their giving to others and receiving from them will last forever in heaven. Universal self-sufficiency would not make for community, but the universal dependence of created persons on God, together with their mutual interdependence, do.

d) Need is not the sole criterion for Christian love. Since mercy focuses on meeting others’ needs, Christian love might be thought to demand what Marxists think justice demands: to each according to need. But the Marxist is mistaken in suggesting that justice can be measured by needs. Mercy includes justice, and God’s mercy is the standard for Christian mercy. Rather than distributing his gifts solely according to the criterion of need, however, God gives greater gifts to some than to others. In this, he acts according to his overall plan for the kingdom (see Rom 9.14–18, 1 Cor 12.4–11, Eph 4.11–13; DS 1529/799; LG 12, AA 3, AG 23; S.t., 1–2, q. 112, a. 4).

Moreover, while the New Testament makes it clear that Christian love should extend to absolutely everyone, it also requires particular regard for communities in which one has specific responsibilities, even though fulfilling these sometimes is inconsistent with the criterion of need; for example, it insists upon the special duties each person has to his or her own family (see A.1.f, above; Eph 5.21–6.9, Col 3.18–4.1). Why does the New Testament maintain such priorities? Evidently because God’s love is wider even than his mercy. His plan includes not only redemption—the meeting of all the needs which result from sin—but the ongoing work of creation: bringing still more persons into being and more perfect fulfillment. Thus, while procreation and other good creative human activities do not meet needs, Christian love by no means excludes them.

e) Love requires that surplus be used to meet others’ needs. All people naturally love themselves and some others, and so use their resources to satisfy their own needs and the needs of their loved ones; decent people also acknowledge duties in strict justice and fulfill them. While Christian love does not exclude these uses of resources, it changes their meaning: in meeting needs out of Christian love, one always cherishes and builds up Jesus’ body, for now oneself and one’s neighbors are not loved as isolated individuals or as members of some merely human community, but as members or potential members of the communion of the divine family. For this same reason, however, whenever one has surplus resources, love requires using them to meet the needs of other members or potential members of Jesus’ body (on the meaning of surplus, see 10.E.2).

In a world without sin and the misery following from it, people might have surplus which they could justly keep for themselves or share with others just as they pleased. But in the actual world, fallen and redeemed, mercy must be done, using every gift and surplus resource. Of course, both surplus and need are matters of more and less, not only in the sense of being greater or smaller in quantity, but also in the sense of varying qualitatively in degree. Clothing which a person never will wear again is surplus in a stronger sense than clothing he or she occasionally wears but could do without; someone with nothing at all to wear needs clothing in a stronger sense than someone whose clothing is threadbare. And this is true not only of money and material resources but all one’s resources—the talents, time, and energy which even those materially poor can employ to meet others’ needs.

f) Christians should forgo rights for the sake of mercy. In the fallen world, where both society’s members and its structures are afflicted with evils, rights which would obtain in an unfallen world sometimes should not be asserted. For example, in an unfallen world, people who applied their work to their fair share of natural resources might have a right to the whole product. But in the world as it is, where some people are in dire need and social structures favor the rich and powerful, that right cannot be maintained intact, since part of the fruit of honest work always is urgently needed to mitigate suffering and struggle against injustice. Thus, a Christian conception of justice which incorporates mercy requires that, in the service of others, individuals forgo what otherwise would be their rights (see CMP, 27.F).

g) To omit works of mercy is a refusal to abide in love. Individuals, families, and other groups should take a conscientious approach to the question of the disposability of their more or less surplus resources and the urgency of others’ more or less compelling needs. Plainly, however, when someone’s surplus (in a strong sense) matches another’s extreme need, that individual either meets the need or refuses to love (see GS 69). People who fail in this matter, Jesus warns, “will go away into eternal punishment” (Mt 25.46).

This is not a threat that Jesus will impose punishment on the uncharitable; it is simply a warning that refusing to act as a member of Christ toward his other members, actual or potential, is of itself incompatible with sharing in the communion of divine family life: “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?” (1 Jn 3.17). It cannot, for faith without the works of mercy is dead (see Jas 2.13–17). Someone really prepared to enter into the intimacy of the heavenly kingdom will treat others as brothers and sisters even now, while someone who ignores others’ needs is not prepared to enter into the intimacy of the heavenly kingdom. Thus, Jesus does not threaten anyone but simply clarifies the full meaning of omitting works of mercy.

6. Christians Should Respond with Gratitude to Benefactors

Christian love requires those who receive mercy to be grateful toward those who have shown them mercy. As those who have gifts to offer can manifest and increase love by doing works of mercy, so those who benefit can intensify communion by their gratitude. Strictly speaking, gratitude is due only for a kindness that goes beyond the demands of justice (see S.t., 2–2, q. 106, a. 1); but since the grateful heart responds to the good will of others more than to the benefit received (see S.t., 2–2, q. 106, a. 5), Christians should respond with gratitude to anyone who treats them with love, even if everything done happens to be required by justice.

Gratitude should be manifested by words of thanks and praise, but also by good deeds, if possible by responding with a greater good than the one received (see S.t., 2–2, q. 106, a. 6). Christian gratitude often takes the form of praying for benefactors’ salvation and trying to help them to grow in holiness by encouraging them to do still greater works of love.

Usually, ungratefulness is not a mortal sin; it would be only if it resulted from inner contempt, or took the form of returning serious evil for good, or involved a grave failure to answer mercy with mercy when a benefactor in turn needed help (see S.t., 2–2, q. 107, aa. 2–3). Nevertheless, since Christians build up the fabric of communion in Jesus by giving to and receiving from one another, the loving gratitude of those who benefit from works of mercy is as important as the love of those who do the works.

7. Peace Is the Fruit of the Justice Which Includes Mercy

The preceding account of the relationship between justice and mercy helps clarify what the Church has in mind in talking about peace. Peace is not mere absence of conflict; it is the tranquillity of order, that is, the harmony resulting when people and other realities are as they ought to be.96 It is the communion that should be realized within any community of persons, ultimately among all humankind, and of humankind itself with God.97 The obstacles to this communion are already-existing evil and continuing injustice. So, only justice which includes mercy can lead to peace (see GS 78).

By his cross, Jesus reconciled humankind to God and laid the foundation for everlasting peace. “For this reason, all Christians are urgently summoned ‘to live the truth in love’ (Eph 4.15) and to join with all true peacemakers in pleading for peace and bringing it about” (GS 78). Ultimately, however, peace is not of this world: Since “human beings are sinful, the threat of war hangs over them, and hang over them it will until the return of Christ” (GS 78). The enduring reality of evil and its exacerbation by continuing injustice will always stand in the way of the attainment of peace. Still, it is worth pursuing, since justice ought to be done; and doing it does have some fruit in this world; more importantly, doing justice contributes material for the kingdom, in which alone peace will be fully realized, when the Lord returns and hands over the kingdom to his Father (see GS 38–39).

80. Pius XI, Quadragesimo anno, AAS 23 (1931) 219–22, PE, 209.132–35, describes a specific form of the process sketched here in general. Concupiscence inclines people to prefer the passing goods of this world to the lasting goods of heaven; hence, there develops an unquenchable thirst for riches which leads people to break God’s laws and violate their neighbors’ rights. Historically, several factors—the instabilities of the modern economy, the special opportunities it offers, the advantages of corporate organization, and inadequate governmental regulation—led increasing numbers to pursue profit without regard to the impact of their activity on other people. Pius then succinctly describes (AAS 221, PE, 134) the process of moral deterioration: “Those first entering upon this broad way that leads to destruction (cf. Mt 7.13) easily found numerous imitators of their iniquity by the example of their manifest success, by their insolent display of wealth, by their ridiculing the conscience of others, who, as they said, were troubled by silly scruples, or lastly by crushing more conscientious competitors.” The same analysis underlies the magisterium’s recent social teaching; see, for example, Paul VI, Populorum progressio, 49, 58–59, 66, 75–76; AAS 59 (1967) 281–82, 285–86, 289–90, 293–95; PE, 275.49, 58–59, 66, 75–76.

81. John Paul II, Dives in misericordia, 6, AAS 72 (1980) 1199, PE, 279.63. A few paragraphs earlier (AAS 1197–98, PE, 59), he explains that mercy is love dealing with evil: “Mercy—as Christ has presented it in the parable of the prodigal son—has the interior form of the love that in the New Testament is called agape. This love is able to reach down to every prodigal son, to every human misery, and above all to every form of moral misery, to sin.”

82. See Mt 5.38–42; John Paul II, Dives in misericordia, 12, AAS 72 (1980) 1215–16, PE, 279.120–22.

83. John Paul II, Address to the Workers of the Solvay Factory (near Livorno), 10, AAS 74 (1982) 602, OR, 5–12 Apr. 1982, 11.

84. See John Paul II, Dives in misericordia, 14, AAS 72 (1980) 1226–27, PE, 279.157.

85. See John Paul II, Dives in misericordia, 14, AAS 72 (1980) 1222–24, PE, 279.141–49.

86. John Paul II, Address to the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, 5, AAS 77 (1985) 478, OR, 7 Jan. 1985, 4.

87. John Paul II, Dives in misericordia, 8, AAS 72 (1980) 1205, PE, 279.86.

88. See Joachim Jeremias, The Parables of Jesus, 2nd rev. ed. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1972), 202–10.

89. Hans Urs von Balthasar, “Nine Theses in Christian Ethics,” in International Theological Commission, Texts and Documents: 1969–1985, ed. Michael Sharkey (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), 111; also see Paul Ricoeur, “The Golden Rule: Exegetical and Theological Perplexities,” New Testament Studies 36 (1990): 392–97.

90. See Jeremias, The Parables of Jesus, 210–14. Also see Antonio Di Marino, S.J., “L’epikeia cristiana,” Divus Thomas (Piacenza) 55 (1952): 396–424, for a treatment of the specifically Christian sense of epikeia as a virtue of moderation in judgment.

91. The principle that those who receive God’s mercy must extend mercy to others is not peculiar to the New Testament (see Sir 28.1–4), but its range of application is determined by the extent of the covenant: “Remember the commandments, and do not be angry with your neighbor; remember the covenant of the Most High, and overlook faults” (Sir 28.7; cf. Lv 19.18).

92. St. Thomas, Super evangelium S. Matthaei lectura, on Mt 22.39, generalizes from the conclusion of the parable of the Good Samaritan to define the concept of neighbor in the love commandment, saying that “under the name ‘neighbor’ is included whoever ought to do mercy to us or whomever we ought to do mercy to.” Thus, the responsibility of mercy is not supererogatory but strictly prescribed by the law of love.

93. John Paul II, Dives in misericordia, 4, AAS 72 (1980) 1191, PE, 279.36, teaches: “Love, so to speak, conditions justice and, in the final analysis, justice serves love. The primacy and superiority of love vis-à-vis justice—this is a mark of the whole of revelation—are revealed precisely through mercy. This seemed so obvious to the psalmists and prophets that the very term justice ended up by meaning the salvation accomplished by the Lord and his mercy [note omitted]. Mercy differs from justice, but is not in opposition to it if we admit in the history of man—as the Old Testament precisely does—the presence of God, who already as Creator has linked himself to his creature with a particular love.” See also 14, AAS 1221–28, PE, 139–61. John XXIII teaches that peace requires justice animated and perfected by love: Pacem in terris, AAS 55 (1963) 265–67, PE, 270.35–38.

94. John Paul II, Dives in misericordia, 8, AAS 72 (1980) 1206, PE, 279.88. The Pope goes on (AAS 1206, PE, 89): “This exchange is a law of the very plan of salvation, a law which is simple, strong and at the same time ‘easy.’ Demonstrating from the very start what the ‘human heart’ is capable of (‘to be merciful’), do not these words from the Sermon on the Mount reveal in the same perspective the deep mystery of God: that inscrutable unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in which love, containing justice, sets in motion mercy, which in its turn reveals the perfection of justice?”

95. See Paul VI, Populorum progressio, AAS 59 (1967) 266, PE, 275.18.

96. See St. Augustine, De civitate Dei 19.13; cf. Paul VI, Christmas Message (1966), AAS 59 (1967) 77, The Pope Speaks 12 (1967): 47: “Peace is not a primary good, but a resultant and derivative good that infers and requires a prior good. This prior good is precisely order, justice, the harmony of things.”

97. Thus, for St. Thomas, the essence of peace is the harmony within human persons, among them, and with God which is the fruit of charity (see S.t., 2–2, q. 29, aa. 1, 3). Pius XI, Ubi arcano Dei consilio, AAS 14 (1922) 685–86, PE, 192.33–36, clearly articulates the concept of peace of Christ, a work of justice perfected by charity and reconciliation.