Mercy and Justice

A Challenge for Contemporary Theology


Volume Editors: and
The term mercy is currently omnipresent in Catholic debates. It dominates at events such as the recent Family Synods and the Jubilee Years. At the same time, it poses a significant problem for cases dealing with sexual abuse. Mercy calls to consider an individual's needs and this conflicts with justice necessitating equal treatment for everyone. Mercy applies to the fallible individual deserving of punishment, but who is saved by grace. This is most apparent in the Sacrament of Penance and other forms of penitence, forgiveness, and reconciliation where mercy both transcends and undermines justice. This problem, widely ignored in church teaching, is addressed by Dirk Ansorge, James Dallen, Judith Hahn, Atria A. Larson, Sandra Lassak, Michael A. Nobel, Rosel Oehmen-Vieregge, Heike Springhart, and Gunda Werner.

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Judith Hahn, Dr. theol. JCL, is Professor of Canon Law at the Faculty of Catholic Theology, Ruhr University Bochum. She has published extensively on legal theory and sociology of religious law, including Church Law in Modernity (Cambridge University Press, 2019).

Gunda Werner, Dr. theol., is Professor of Dogmatic Theology at Karl-Franzens University Graz and Chair of the Department for Systematic Theology and Liturgy at the Faculty of Catholic Theology at that same university. She has published comprehensively on the Sacrament of Penance, nineteenth-century Catholic theology and religious community formation in late modernity, including Die Freiheit der Vergebung (Pustet, 2016).

Part 1: The Sacrament of Penance: Liturgy and Law

 1The Reconciling Community: The Rite of Penance, Past and Present
James Dallen
 2“…equally a Judge and a Physician” – Questioning Canon 978 §1 CIC/1983 from a Canonical and Pastoral Point of View
Rosel Oehmen-Vieregge

Part 2: Penitence in Recent Church Teaching and Law

 3Merciful and Just? A Tension in Contemporary Semantics in the Doctrinal Regulations on the Sacrament of Penance
Gunda Werner
 4Fulfilling Mercy? Reconsidering the Jubilee Year Regulations on Penance and Reconciliation
Judith Hahn

Part 3: Justice and Mercy: Can These Two Principles Be Reconciled?

 5Punishment and Reconciliation in this World and the Next: The Relationship between the Penitential Discipline of the Church and Reconciliation with God in the Twelfth Century
Atria A. Larson
 6Justice and Mercy: Can they be Reconciled from a Systematic Point of View?
Dirk Ansorge
 7Misericordia,Benevolentia,Aequitas? Is there Room for Mercy in Canon Law?
Michael A. Nobel

Part 4: Rethinking Penitence: What May We Learn from New Approaches to Forgiveness?

 8“…as we forgive those who trespass against us…”? Aspects of a Theology of Forgiveness from a Protestant Perspective
Heike Springhart
 9Free from Burdens? Cultural and Social Aspects of the Concept of Reconciliation in Latin America
Sandra Lassak
 10What Remains? Some Answers, and Yet More Questions

The book will appeal to scholars and students of theology and religious studies. It is of particular interest for church historians, systematic theologians, scholars of Christian ethics, and practical theologians.
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