We offer an extensive book review on the last Work of Cardinal Kasper, dedicated to the Mercy of God. Kasper's considerations on Mercy have doctrinal and pastoral implications for Marriage. Original text was published in Italian at www.chiesa and on this Blog.
If Mercy neutralizes Justice, it annuls itself
By Fr Serafino M. Lanzetta
We greet with great interest the theological effort of Cardinal Walter Kasper to restore the theme of God’s mercy not only to the centre of the Church’s preaching and pastoral approach, but - above all – to the centre of theological reflection. In his recent book on Mercy, which appeared in German in 2012 and was then translated into Italian by Queriniana (Giornale di Teologia 361) in 2013, "Misericordia: Concetto fondamentale del vangelo - Chiave della vita" [published in English under the title "Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life"], the German Cardinal, for many years president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, parts from a bitter observation: Mercy, which occupies a central place in the Bible, has in fact fallen completely into oblivion in Systematic Theology, being treated only in an accessory manner. Up until the threshold of the 1960s it has no central place in the manuals of Systematic Theology, and in the more recent manuals it can even be totally lacking. If it does appear, it takes a place which is wholly marginal. Notwithstanding the fact that the pontificate of John Paul II gave a great impulse to the rediscovery of Mercy, as a theological and spiritual theme – thanks above all to the Polish saint, Faustina Kowalska – and that Benedict XVI made it, in a certain way, his guide, with the first encyclical on love, "Deus caritas est", the theme still remains hidden in its potential development for theology, and therefore for Christian life. Our Cardinal, then, in his text with which we occupy ourselves (5th Italian Edition, 2014), takes up this issue, and presents on a systematic level the theme of God’s Mercy.
A Justice that retracts into Mercy?
Mercy is an indispensable medicine, it is the ingredient that is sadly lacking, but that – on closer inspection – represents the only true response to the Atheism and the ever so pernicious ideologies of the Twentieth Century. How does one announce again a God whose even existence, after Auschwitz, we would do better to pass over in silence? Historically, in Kasper’s judgement, supported by O. H. Pesch, "the idea of a chastising and vindictive God has cast many into anguish regarding their eternal salvation. The most well-known case, and a harbinger of grave consequences for History, is that of the young Martin Luther, who was for a long time tormented by the question: 'How can I find a kind God?', until he recognised one day that, in the sense of the Bible, God’s Justice is not his punitive justice, but his justifying justice and, therefore, his Mercy. On this matter, in the Sixteenth Century, the Church divided" (p. 25), and so, from that moment, the rapport between Justice and Mercy became a central question for western theology.