Amid Cries for Justice, a Surge of Mercy

May 29, 2020

In an article published recently in Public Discourse, Daniel Philpott, professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame and RFI Senior Associate Scholar, writes about the centrality of mercy as we proceed through this next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. As partisans engage in an “arms race of rhetoric” over ongoing restrictions and the reopening of American society, Philpott emphasizes the theme of mercy, properly understood:

In the modern world, the meaning of mercy is narrowed to exceptions to strict justice, such as when a judge waives punishment for a defendant. In the Christian tradition, by contrast, mercy is far wider, involving compassion for the distress of another and the resulting will to alleviate that distress.

Philpott notes that partisans — to include some Christians — have used the conditions created by the coronavirus to characterize their ideological and political opponents as either uncaring toward the vulnerable or too given to capitulation. Such a posture undermines mutual understanding and the bonds of solidarity required to pursue justice and meaningful action. All sides, whatever their views on how best to reopen society, should be guided by the principle of mercy because, “Protecting the weakest is not one goal to be balanced against the other goals but a priority whatever else is pursued.”

Philpott concludes by arguing, “A surge of mercy to protect the elderly and others who are confined might prove a healing tonic, both for our bitterly riven society and for the Christian church.”

Read the full article: Amid Cries for Justice, a Surge of Mercy.