Philippa Byrne
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Judgment in practice
The Church
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This chapter develops the argument – outlined previously in Chapter 5 – that arguments over the status and importance of mercy were as central in ecclesiastical politics as they were in secular courts, and that bishops were engaged in a discussion over the relative merits of merciful or punitive justice. It examines three case studies to highlight these discussions. First, arguments over whether a group of heretics discovered in Worcester in the 1160s should be treated with leniency or severity, and which attitude would best bring them back to the Church. Secondly, how the language of mercy and justice was deployed by both sides during the Becket crisis, and how those events can be interpreted as set of arguments over how best to rebuke, reprimand and punish a king. Finally, the chapter moves to the thirteenth century to examine how Robert Grosseteste and Adam Marsh provided practical advice for office-holders – both within and outside the Church – on how to translate scriptural ideas about justice and mercy into action.

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Justice and mercy

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


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