Mar 22, 2017 676 Marlon De La Torre,

The Danger of Teaching False Mercy

One of the primal gifts parents offer our children is unconditional love. Because of the unique bond we hold with our children, the natural order of things is to care and nurture them to the best of our abilities because they are our children, our own flesh and blood. A unique but important way of understanding our role as authentic Christian witnesses toward our children is the emphasis of our children’s dignity.

The gift of dignity reflects an understanding that each human being is created with an inherent worth created in the image and likeness of God. This unique covenantal bond is very important to address and affirm because it creates an honest and authentic understanding of our role as children of God, and our responsibility not just to ourselves, but to God first and then to those around us. The Prophet Jeremiah (31:31-34) articulates the importance of this covenantal understanding in the following way:

“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”


A human being should not be denied the opportunity to recognize and embrace their own dignity in the image and likeness of God. All of us are part of a grand covenantal bond instituted by God reinforced by Christ and faithfully transmitted by the Church. The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” reminds us that the dignity of the human person implies and requires uprightness of moral conscience (1750). This means that inherent to our nature we possess a genuine moral compass that assists us in basing the judgment of things on the dignity of those around us, including ourselves.

In light of our covenantal relationship with Christ, genuine mercy directs our actions to seek those who have lost their sense of dignity as a child of God. This means that the role of a parent is to foster a mercy of conversion rooted in charity with the aim of guiding children toward an intimate communion with Christ and His Church (Luke 15:7). At the heart of our parental identity toward our children is the revelation of God’s love through His Son Jesus Christ and the enormity of this love found in the Paschal Mystery.


In basic terms, false mercy is an unwillingness to address moral virtue for the sake of satisfying disordered passion(s). This means that “my child doesn’t have the right to everything he wants just because he says so.” It does not mean that “he can do no wrong because he is God’s gift to this earth.”

Genuine mercy aims to help our children “find themselves” by recognizing their own faults and “owning up to them.” The parable of the Prodigal Son reflects this point very clearly where the son comes to “find himself” (Luke 15:17). That is, he finds his moral sense and realizes that the decisions he made did not lead to better state in life. False mercy rejects the idea of finding yourself because the attitude is “I am just fine.” If parents profess this distorted ethic of life, children will never see the need for moral conversion, let alone a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ. Genuine mercy challenges all of us to recognize our dignity as children of God which in turn will guide us to act on the spiritual and corporal works of mercy to those in greater need than ourselves.

Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman reminds us that, “Virtue is its own reward, and brings with it the truest and highest pleasure; but if we cultivate it only for pleasure’s sake, we are selfish, not religious, and will never gain the pleasure, because we can never have the virtue.”


Marlon De La Torre

Marlon De La Torre serves as the Department Director of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth. His professional catechetical background spans more than 19 years. Most important for him is his primary catechetical ministry—his family! Happily married to his wife Amy for nearly 18 years, he is blessed with four wonderful children, Miguel, Gabriella, Maria and Gianna. Originally published in www.knowingisdoing.org. Reprinted with permission.

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