Un-Catholic to set “Mercy” in opposition to Law: Part 1

A prominent Rabbi has just complained that rhetoric coming out of the Vatican is, as he hears it, anti-Jewish. A link to his open letter is here.

It is very good that this Rabbi knows of the difference between personal opinions spoken by men who happen to be Catholic authorities and the authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church herself. In the Church’s history, popes have spoken in two ways: Sometimes as pope and sometimes as a private person. We must not confuse these. Only words spoke as pope, only papal words, can be authoritative. Mere words of a man who happens to be pope are not authoritative.

So, most importantly, what is the Catholic view of the Law? The Rabbi’s open letter calls for clear presentation, not of personal whim, but of the truth, of true Catholic Dogma which no man has authority over.

Well, first, let us consider the gravest heresy of all regarding the law, Marcionism. Marcionism holds that the God of the Law has nothing to do with the God of the Gospel. They are, Marcion believed, enemies. 

For Marcion (excommunicated in AD 144), the God of the Law is only just, not merciful; only a law-giver not a grace-giver; only a judge, not a forgiver; only a commander, not a promiser. Few would jump for joy at such a God!

By contrast, the God of Marcion’s heretical Gospel is: only merciful, not just; only a grace-giver, not a law-giver; a law-abolisher not a law-enhancer; only a forgiver not a judge; only a promiser not a commander. 

Marcion’s heresy no one today believes as he taught it. However, its family resemblances are tempting. Today, and since Luther’s revolt, it is the sin of presumption. It presumes that God’s mercy will ill-befit his justice. It presumes, against St. Paul (Romans 2) that God’s mercy indulges human sin. The conclusion of heresy: “Therefore, sin boldly, that God may indulge the more!” NO SAINT EVER SAID THAT. ALL WHO HOLD THAT HOLD HERESY, DEFY REVELATION, AND PORTRAY GOD IN A FALSE LIGHT. ERGO, ALL SUCH ARE FALSE MESSENGERS OF THE GOSPEL.

It is interesting that a notable scholar relates that Luther thought that Marcion got Paul mostly right, excepting that the 2 Gods are just one God, who can act in 2 ways towards us. Whereas Marcion banished the evil God, Luther kept the “merely just” attitude of God close at hand, to be considered in dialectical tension with the “merely merciful” aspect of God.

LET US PRAY THAT ALL THE WORLD WILL KNOW THE TRUTH OF CATHOLIC DOGMA, THAT THE LAW IS NOT ABOLISHED BY JESUS CHRIST, SON OF THE ONLY GOD. RATHER, JESUS FULFILLS THE LAW AND BRINGS IT TO COMPLETION. THIS MEANS WHAT, CONCRETELY? IT MEANS (1) THAT THAT WHICH IN THE LAW ACCORDS WITH NATURAL LAW, JESUS RATIFIES AND EVEN ENHANCES (DO NOT EVEN LOOK ON A WOMAN SO AS TO LUST AFTER HER); (2) THAT THAT WHICH IN THE LAW IS ONLY AN ANTICIPATION OF GOOD THINGS TO COME IS SUBSUMED BY THE NEW PRACTICE OF THE CHURCH: IN LIEU OF ANIMAL SACRIFICE, THERE IS THE EUCHARIST; IN LIEU OF CIRCUMCISION, THERE IS BAPTISM, ETC.