The Name of God is Mercy A Conversation with Andrea Tornielli, is a delightful book. It is the contents of a series of interviews of Pope Francis by Andrea Tornielli on Mercy and the Year of Mercy earlier in Pope Francis’ pontificate.
Pope Francis tells several stories which place emphasis on the fact that God just wants a small opening to bring us Mercy. It is about making the first tiny step in order to transform us into better people.
There is one controversial section which made me hesitate which I will get to shortly. I had read Vinny Flynn’s 7 Secrets of Divine Mercy, a while back and reread the final chapter after reading the contents of Pope Francis’ messages. They were quite similar. Flynn concludes that the goal of Divine Mercy is transformation, which Pope Francis had been illustrating in the book. I was happy to see this.
Now for the controversial section. On Page 18, “… if the confessor cannot absolve a person, he needs to explain why, he needs to give them a blessing, even without the holy sacrament. The love of God exists even for those who are not disposed to receive it…. Do not push them away. People are suffering. It is a huge responsibility to be a confessor. Confessors have before them the lost sheep that God loves so much; if we don’t show them the love and mercy of God, we push them away and perhaps they will never come back. So embrace them and be compassionate, even if you can’t absolve them. Give them a blessing anyway. I had a niece who was married to a man in a civil wedding before he received the annulment of his previous marriage. They wanted to get married, they loved each other, the wanted children, and they had three. This man was so religious that every Sunday, when he went to Mass, he went to the confessional and said to the priest, ‘I know you can’t absolve me bit I have sinned by doing this and that, please give me a blessing.’ This is a religiously mature man.”
The question arises, is someone who is in a state of objective mortal sin, knows they are in it and do not leave this state, religiously mature? With all due respect to the Holy Father, I don’t think mature is the correct term. They are religious by trying to receive a blessing and going to church but they are not mature.
Someone who is mature religiously would have not committed adultery on their first wife, set the second spouse up (whom they love) for the sin of adultery and then produce children in this love triangle and unstable ground. Just stop and think, getting married and having kids is not a one week type thing, it is not a lapse of judgement. It is a prolonged, sought after, rationalized act against your conscience.
On the other hand, someone who is religious but still growing may believe that they can do as they please and hope for forgiveness. The great ‘but’ philosophy. But we are in love – the adulterous couple says, therefore our grave sin is okay because we will be really good in all the other ways we have to be.
The words of the gospel come to mind – Lord Lord did we not cast demons out in your name? And Jesus will say I do not know you – For the fact of the matter is, Jesus does not need a whole bunch of good deeds we want to do after we get our great ‘buts’. He wants the things he commands, and that means no adultery. I am of the belief that Jesus would prefer 1 confession a year with true repentance, then one every weekend without any desire to change your living situation.
I have met several faithful Catholics who have been lonely, financially burdened, and depressed because their spouses left them. The refuse to get remarried because they know the first marriages were valid. These Catholics are mature. They have taken a cross most would not even be able to bear. The man mentioned in the book under review, took up no cross. He did not reconcile with his first wife, and sought the benefits of a second marriage without regard for grave sin. That is not maturity.
I agree with the text on page 18 that people should be shown love regardless of their living situation and not shunned. I think a need to avoid sandal though is required. The book shows the need for mercy in these situations which is great! I just think the adjective mature is not well placed. Perhaps the Holy Father was focusing on the theme of the book rather than other topics I am thinking of. Perhaps there is a translation error from the original Italian. There is a chance that if I knew more of this man’s life I may to think he is mature.
I still think the book is very good. One small argument about an adjective for a whole book (its a shorter book 99 pages) is pretty good for me. The book is overpriced slightly. Unless you get it at a used book shop like I did, I recommend Vinny Flynn’s 7 Secrets of Divine Mercy over The Name of God is Mercy.