Punitive God image must be overturned, Dublin prelate says

The Catholic Church has to turn the image of a punitive, judgemental God head over heels, the Archbishop of Dublin says.

Speaking at a Mass in Dublin on the feast of Our Lady of Mercy, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said many in his generation grew up in a religion where this punitive image prevailed.

“Mercy was reduced to a sort of lucky escape from the consequences of hard judgement, hardly the essence of the Christian life,” he said.

“The concept of biblical mercy can only be understood if we turn our image of a punitive God head-over-heels,” he added.

Archbishop Martin noted how a recent book by Cardinal Walter Kasper on mercy greatly impressed Pope Francis.

The problem was, the archbishop continued, “that if we are trapped into an image of God whose justice is primarily punitive, we will never see mercy as essential to the Christian concept”.

“Mercy will, to use the words of Cardinal Kasper, become ‘a concept often to be downgraded, degenerating in to soft spirituality or vague pastoral concern, lacking clear definition and shaped somehow to suit each individual’.”

He noted the challenge posed by Pope Francis for the synod next month “is to be open to ways of applying the primacy of mercy to particular situations, while remaining faithful to fundamental truth”.

Meanwhile, a Spanish bishop has said Pope Francis told him that the Church’s teaching that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics not receive Communion won’t change.

Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Cordoba said that during an ad limina visit to the Vatican earlier this year, Francis told him that “the Pope cannot change” what Jesus Christ has instituted.

In an interview with Diario Cordoba newspaper, Bishop Fernandez said, “We asked the Pope himself, and he responded that a person married in the Church who has divorced and entered into a new civil marriage cannot approach the sacraments”.

“The Pope said that ‘this was established by Jesus Christ and the Pope cannot change it’,” he added, according to a Catholic News Agency report.

“I say this because sometimes people say that ‘everything is going to change’, and there are some things that cannot be changed. The Church answers to her Lord and her Lord remains alive,” Bishop Fernandez continued.

However, he explained, “The Church is continuously telling us to be welcoming, that people not feel excluded, and we can always find ways to be more welcoming”.


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