Not a single day goes by without Pope Francis making charity and mercy – central characteristic traits of any Christian – the pivot of his sermons, exhortations and proclamations, formal and informal alike. The last holy year, concluding in November 2016, which explicitly featured the motto of mercy, offers a welcome opportunity for the canonist to contemplate the relationship between mercy and justice. Certainly, there is no lack of warning speeches and auguries against the oversimplification of the canonical norms through invoking a false understanding of an imperative of indefinite mercy. To do so would be to neglect the crucial and central commandment of justice, which ensures both legal certainty and an equal treatment of similar cases. The papal address given to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota in 2009 may serve as an eloquent example. In his address Benedict XVI emphasised the interrelation of love (caritas) and justice (iustitia), but at the same time explicitly cautioned against over-pastorally motivated charity as far as the application of the law is concerned:
Charity without justice is not charity, but a counterfeit, because charity itself requires that objectivity which is typical of justice and which must not be confused with inhuman coldness. In this regard, as my Predecessor, Venerable Pope John Paul II, said in his Address on the relationship between pastoral care and the law: ‘The judge … must always guard against the risk of misplaced compassion, which could degenerate into sentimentality, itself pastoral only in appearance.’
There is sufficient reason, therefore, to consider once more how mercy and justice relate to one another.