Mercy And Justice

What is the relationship between mercy and justice in Catholic belief?

The Catholic faith teaches that God is Just. It also teaches that God is merciful.

As a sinner, I should, by the principle of justice, suffer eternal damnation. However, God is also merciful, so He has provided the means for me to avoid that just fate.

Is mercy an exception to justice? Or is mercy an intrinsic attribute of true justice, absent which the notion of justice becomes something else (cruelty? vindictiveness? revenge?)?

How should we, as Christians, hold the notions of justice and mercy? How should we practice them as a society?

Thanks in advance for any help on this matter.

The time of God’s mercy is now while we are alive in this physical life when we are called to repentance and holiness. The time of God’s justice is when we depart this life when we will be judged according to what we have done in response to His call.

Bishop Robert Barron gave a great talk about this during the World Meeting of Families in 2015.

He said, we must be 100% dedicated to Justice AND the Law while being 100% dedicated to Mercy at the exact same time.

I suggest watching his speech here:

God Bless

Here’s a good way to think of this:

Divine Justice, in all the activities natural to it, requires as a precondition of possibility, and has its foundation upon, the work of Divine Goodness. Thus, Divine Goodness is present and apparent throughout and has an influence upon all works Divine Justice. God gives us greater things in recognition of our service to Him than justice causes to be necessary. He also demands and obtains from us less and inflicts lesser penalties on us for our transgressions than He justly could. Less evil is allowed than justice strictly demands. This is Divine Mercy, which displays itself in its acts even in favour of those who make themselves not deserving of its effort. God causes His Mercy to occur in this particular way chiefly because of His feeling of sorrow and compassion caused by the suffering and wretchedness of condition of His creatures. Thus, God’s gifts to us go beyond any particularly good qualities we may have, and His penalties and demands against us are below what is due, as the extent of our abilities is limited. He makes His strong yet just desire for revenge less severe in view of how weak and delicate we sinners are compared to Him. He likewise puts a limit on evil in view of the misery which involves His creatures as a necessary consequence.

I hope this helps.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit