At the end of Amoris Laetitia, Francis puts his point this way:
We put so many conditions on mercy that we empty it of its concrete meaning and real significance. That is the worst way of watering down the Gospel. It is true, for example, that mercy does not exclude justice and truth, but first and foremost we have to say that mercy is the fullness of justice and the most radiant manifestation of God’s truth. For this reason, we should always consider “inadequate any theological conception which in the end puts in doubt the omnipotence of God and, especially, his mercy.”For Francis (and for many Protestants), the dogma of the Church is subordinated to the primary value of mercy, perhaps we might go so far as to say that doctrine and mercy compete or can be in conflict with one another. In AL, mercy is first in the hierarchy of spiritual values subordinate to it is the unfolding truth of God and the resulting the call to discipleship (which, if anything, is a call to carry the cross of suffering and adversity in this world while holding up at the same time the fullness of the divine revelation in the doctrine or teaching Christ has made known and the Spirit has proclaimed in His name. In this way the call to follow Christ becomes more about the character of mercy than it does belief in what Christ has accomplished by His incarnation, obedient life, holy death, and life-giving resurrection. The inevitable conclusion is that worship and prayer are good, the sacraments are great, but virtue of mercy is better and greater. In wonder if it is fair to conclude that in the spirituality of Francis, mercy trumps justice, love trumps truth—not that justice and truth are of no consequence but that they are lower in priority and secondary to the primacy of mercy.
Now there are some within my own church body who would rejoice in this train of thought. They are those who constantly pit pure doctrine against mission, confessional against missional, and liturgy against evangelization. It is as if we have redefined the Gospel so that the cross has become less fact than principle, mercy is less the atonement for the sins of the unworthy sinner than generic compassion, and grace has become unfailing acceptance rather than the grace that grants the Spirit to believe and repent and live (through the means of grace).
Francis is sounding like a boomer -- one who sees the institution of the church as something big and bad that has corrupted the simple faith of Jesus and the simple life of mercy. At times I might agree with him that this is what has happened. But I would insist that the church is not the enemy of mercy but the agent of Christ's mercy and that mercy is always cross shaped. There is no mercy worth having that does not flow from the innocent arms of the Savior outstretched in suffering for the sake of the guilty, to win salvation, to pay sin's terrible debt, and to grant life to those living in the shadow of death. It is from THIS mercy that the Church loves the poor, needy, outcast, disenfranchised, and refugee. Of course the mercy work does not replace speaking the Gospel, calling them to repentance, and delivering the Kingdom to them in the living waters of baptism. But neither can the Church care for the soul and be oblivious to the needs of the body and this mortal life. Yet we dare not forget that the Church is not a philanthropic organization but the body of Christ, delivering Christ to the world through the means of grace so that a world apart from God and cut off from His creative and redemptive purpose may be restored through the blood of Christ.
Personally, I am growing weary of the constant tug of war between those who say mercy or Gospel, love or Truth, compassion or repentance. . . this is a false competition, a deception of God's purpose and will to pit them against each other, and a distraction from the work of doing both -- speaking Truth and acting mercifully!