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Journal of Catholic Social Thought

Volume 16, Issue 2, Summer 2019

Marcus Mescher
Pages 253-277

Mercy: The Crux of Pope Francis’s Moral Imagination

Mercy is the defining characteristic of Pope Francis’s leadership. Francis’s words and actions have made visible a discipline of mercy, which does more than illuminate God’s character and purpose; it offers an expansive imaginative framework to spark new possibilities for moral agency and growth. Before Francis, mercy received limited attention in the canon of Catholic social thought. Francis’s signature message of mercy retrieves a central moral duty in Scripture, provides a focal lens for Catholic social thought, and aims to inspire a “revolution of tenderness” capable of inspiring personal conversion and social change. This essay moves forward in three steps. It first unpacks the rich and diverse meaning of the word mercy and explores its undervalued role in CST; it then analyzes how mercy functions as the crux of Francis’s moral imagination; and finally, it explores how mercy expands possibilities for living the principles of Catholic social thought.

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