Philippa Byrne
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The problem with mercy
The schools
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This chapter provides a detailed analysis of the multiple ways in which the twelfth-century schools attempted to define justice, examining the influence of Aristotle, St Paul, Cicero, Augustine and Anselm. It identifies a central focus of scholastic debates: how to reconcile justice and mercy; whether to privilege forgiveness for offenders or punish offenders in full. These questions invited masters to dwell on how obligations to punish could ever be reconciled with the demands of Christian caritas. The chapter sets out the central problem for twelfth-century judges and what was at stake in judgment: the merciless judge would receive no mercy from God. The chapter reveals the complexity of the debate in the schools, where theologians recognised that any attempt to explain justice had both immediate political and long-term soteriological dimensions. Finally, it highlights how all these discussions emphasised the practicalities of justice, and the connection between theological discussion and political praxis.

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Justice and mercy

Moral theology and the exercise of law in twelfth-century England


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