“No mercy, no justice”: Fr. Moloney’s lessons for minds that hate

In the wake of the madness and self-righteous hysteria that has gripped the world in the wake of George Floyd’s death, Fr. Moloney’s words resound with the clarity of true prophecy.

(Image: Alfred Kenneally | Unsplash.com)

There was a bitter irony in the treatment of Fr. Daniel Moloney, who was forced to resign as Catholic chaplain at MIT for suggesting that we should keep our heads and not lose them in the wake of the death of George Floyd. His courage and reason cost him dearly as those who are animated by emotion, not reason, demanded the priest’s head on a platter. Responding to the demands of those who hate with abject and craven cowardice, the archdiocese delivered the priest over to the mob.

The irony is that Fr. Moloney is the author of a recently published book, Mercy: What Every Catholic Should Know (Augustine Institute/Ignatius Press), which shows that the only way of achieving justice is through a correct understanding of mercy. “If both justice and mercy are virtues,” Fr. Moloney writes, “they cannot be contrary to each other.”

In a chapter entitled “Justice-Only Politics”, Fr. Moloney warns that a situation of “pervasive injustice” leads to the “danger of scapegoating”. It is ironic indeed that Fr. Moloney should himself have become a scapegoat in these times of pervasive injustice. There is also a section of his book which takes its title from a verse in the New Testament, “The Wrath of Man Does Not Accomplish the Righteousness of God”, in which Fr. Moloney speaks of the dangers inherent in righteous anger. Injustice is so pervasive, he tells us, that if we allowed ourselves to be angry about every injustice we learn about, we would be angry all the time:

We would be angry at racism and sexism, at religious discrimination and wasteful government spending, at conspicuous consumption on the personal level and at exploitation of the worker, at environmental degradation and cruelty to animals, at the plight of refugees, and at domestic violence and sex trafficking and child abuse and on and on. If we were to live this way, we would be so angry at so many things that there would hardly be a difference between our supposedly virtuous selves and a raving lunatic. We would become bitter. Therefore, it seems unlikely that anger, even righteous anger, is actually a good thing.

In the midst of the madness and self-righteous hysteria that has gripped the world in the wake of George Floyd’s death, Fr. Moloney’s words resound with the clarity of true prophecy. He then quotes from Scripture to illustrate the dangers of righteous anger. Apart from the passage from the Epistle of St. James, quoted already, Fr. Moloney offers the wisdom of the Book of Psalms: “Refrain from anger; abandon wrath; do not be provoked; it brings only harm.” He then reminds us of the words of St. Paul that we must put away “anger, fury, malice, slander, and obscene language”. And then, as a final coup de grâce, he offers the commanding authority of Christ Himself in the words of the Sermon on the Mount: “I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.”

And here’s what Fr. Moloney says about the angry intolerance of those who preach liberal “tolerance”:

The irony here is that in the name of preventing one set of social conflicts, tolerant liberalism threatens to provoke another. Tolerance is not mercy, but rather is a part of liberal conceptions of justice. Which means that, perhaps surprisingly, today’s tolerant liberalism is another form of what we have called justice-only politics. And like all justice-only politics, it can be inhumane toward those who oppose it, and it can lead to conflict and social instability over time.

Again, it is deeply ironic that Fr. Moloney, a prophet of the merciless inhumanity of justice-only politics, should become a victim of that very same inhumane intolerance of dissent. And the irony becomes even more palpable in Fr. Moloney’s warning about the dangers of justice-only politics leading to the sacrifice of scapegoats:

The practice of scapegoating, even when done in the name of “justice,” tends to lead to division in society, as we “throw people under the bus” and “kick them to the curb,” anathematizing them … and so in their merciless scrutiny the watchdogs of “justice” threaten everybody. Justice-only politics aspires to totalitarian tyranny.

How ironic that the author of these words of merciful wisdom should himself become a scapegoat who would be “thrown under the bus” and “kicked to the curb” by his own archdiocese.

The overarching lesson that Fr. Moloney teaches in Mercy: What Every Catholic Should Know is the flawed nature of the mob’s threatening demand that “no justice” means “no peace”. This is true but it misses the point that if there’s no mercy there can be no justice. If those rampaging through the streets could read this good priest’s good words, they might come to their senses instead of showing no mercy to those whom they have turned into scapegoats.

But the mob is not going to read Fr. Moloney’s words and will not, therefore, heed the wisdom that he speaks, preferring instead to stone the prophet rather than listen to him. As for the rest of us, especially those of us who are in danger of becoming as angry as the mob which has angered us, we could do far worse than to sit down and read this important book.

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About Joseph Pearce 36 Articles
Joseph Pearce is the author of The Quest for Shakespeare: The Bard of Avon and the Church of Rome and Through Shakespeare's Eyes: Seeing the Catholic Presence in the Plays, as well as several biographies and works of history and literary criticism. His most recent books include Faith of Our Fathers: A History of 'True' England and The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful: A History in Three Dimensions. Other works include Literary Converts, Poems Every Catholic Should Know, and Literature: What Every Catholic Should Know, and literary biographies of Oscar Wilde, J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. He is the editor of the Ignatius Critical Editions series. Director of Book Publishing at the Augustine Institute, editor of the St. Austin Review, editor of Faith & Culture, and is Senior Contributor at The Imaginative Conservative. Visit his website at jpearce.co.


  1. Mr Pearce is discrete when he says that “the archdiocese delivered the priest over to the mob.” More specifically it was the Archdiocese of Boston run by Cdl Sean O’Malley, OFM, Cap. who “delivered the priest over to the mob” The name bears repeating, over and over again.

    As we witness the anarchy and the mobs roving our streets, consider that many of these young people were abandoned by their fathers. Riots rarely begin in neighborhoods where there is a strong work ethic and an extensive paternal presence in the home. The riots and iconoclasm are symbolic of the spiritual anarchy emerging in our Church that becomes more palpable by the month. It began to come out into the open with our current pontiff concealing the evils of lecherous scoundrels; it continued with him accompanying fathers who divorced their wives and abandoned their duties to their children. It continued again with the refusal to reaffirm core teachings on sex and marriage. It continued yet again with the abandoning the Chinese to their task masters, and then surrendering in both the east and the west, our worship to the control of the secular governments. It now has morphed into endorsing bishops such as Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas who kneel before Marxist placards, or priests and nuns who bow before Pachamama idols.

    We laity can no longer expect that our spiritual fathers will defend us, unless we press them into service. This all begs the questions, what is the last straw, and who among the bishops and priests will rise up?

    • This will undoubtedly not be published as CWR edits truth they consider inflammatory. Truth throughout history has always inflamed those who will not call evil the evil that it is. Truth inflamed Satan to refuse to serve. The unwillingness to acknowledge truth has caused the untenable situation we now find ourselves.

      • “This will undoubtedly not be published as CWR edits truth they consider inflammatory.”

        News to me. But I’ve only been editing CWR for nine years, so I may have missed something.

  2. The Holy Fathers’s recent words on prayer too , asking the flock , to find strength in same , to be thus singing like the repentant sinner and warrior King David ..

    ‘Being throw under the bus ‘ – may be too harsh words about the incident .

    More likely that the Father figures had seen the angry mob and as on the occasion of the rescue of St.Paul , brought the basket to be used to remove him from the scene .
    Lord’s ways ,mysterious – St.Paul , who was delivered miraculously from prison , later spending much time in jail . Having become powerful in The Spirit ,Lord knew he was strong enough to use it well, to produce the fruit of trust and gratitude to
    The Father ,with and for those being converted , through his sufferings in union with that of The Lord .
    That too as mercy of The Lord …and a place like MIT could use conversions so that technology be used to help and heal creation and the greed in hearts , just as the Holy Father has been praying for too ; he too , in one sense , said to be in a prison of sorts , being amidst many who too would have their share of fallen traits .

    • You consider the phrase “thrown under the bus” to describe Cardinal O’Malley’s handling the situation to be too harsh, perhaps you would be so kind as to suggest another one.

      I’ll stick with “thrown under the bus”.

  3. I’m usually appreciative of the thoughtful commentary provided on this page. However, in this case, I think it’s a bit myopic, only a bit, but sufficiently enough to render this column biased and unhelpful. Having known Fr. Moloney for the better part of two decades, I know him to be a good man and a good priest. He is possessed of a keen intellect and masterful skills of argumentation. Sadly, few of those skills informed his statement. While I think the reaction of the Archdiocese was severe I don’t think it was thoroughly unwarranted. Fr. Moloney should have been more perceptive of the climate in which he was presenting his message. He ought to have known it wouldn’t be received well in the academy or in a public square that was broiling with unrest. Had he delivered this message in one of his usual fine homilies it would have rankled some but would likely have blown over. However, for him to package it in a disembodied way and send it out on cyber-wings into a bedarkened world was a fool’s errand. It came across as the wise man coming down from the mountain to tell the mob why they were wrong. This is not the position a pastor should ever reach out to his flock from. It should also be noted that Fr. Moloney chose to send his missive on the same day that his own ordinary promulgated his own message addressing the unrest of the moment. The Cardinal’s message was bloated and long, but Fr. Moloney would have been wise to have waited a few days before publishing a message which was diametrically opposed to that of his bishop, or he should have done more than just pay the barest of lip service to the words of the Cardinal. It shouldn’t be a far jump for some to have seen this as Fr. Moloney attempting to slap down the cardinal. Again, not a wise move. Lastly, for a man known both for his oratory and his mastery of the written word, the missive he sent was nowhere near his finest work. The paragraphs were disjointed, ideas were not presented clearly, and half-hearted attempts to show that he understood both sides of the situation left him open to just accusations of meanness and bias.
    I have great respect for Fr. Moloney, and I hope that he emerges from this firestorm with only minor scarring, but I hope he emerges wiser and more prudent in how he presents his message and engages with his audience.

    • “He ought to have known it wouldn’t be received well in the academy or in a public square that was broiling with unrest.”

      Nothing of any reasonable, truthful nature is received well right now in the academy or in a public square. So, should we stop trying?

      • No, we continue trying but doing so with prudence and wisdom. There are entire gospel passages on calculating the costs of building and of military maneuvers. There are wise ways of doing battle and taking calculated risks. Fr. Moloney’s letter was a foolishly uncalculated risk that largely preached to the converted but which doesn’t seem to have brought others into a deeper experience of truth.

        • No, T B, we are called to speak to the truth, no matter what the cost. What do you think is God’s will in this situation? When did our bishops become such cowards?

    • Silence is often interpreted as agreement. Silence is a cowards way out. I dont know why the Bishops chose not to back up their priest but it seems on par with their recent dubious actions in agreeing to shut down our churches and deprive their followers of the sacraments for 3 months. A period which would have been extended had not some bishops far from the East coast begun TELLING their governor’s that their churches would be reopened with or without the govt’s cooperation. THAT is leadership. Truth comes at a price too many bishops seem unwilling to pay.After all, lets not get anyone mad. The crazed mobs are now demanding the destruction of church statues and art, a demand they have no right to make and can be stopped from achieving as long as the Bishops discover their spine and dont jump into placating left wing “woke” mode. . Churches are NOT public property and nobody has the right to make demands of a congregation like that. This is a Revolution being conducted by a small number of thugs. They lack wide support. People are waiting for their govt and religious leaders to speak the truth, back them up and protect them.They will not get this from priests who kneel with the thugs and make pious mouthings about “racism” and group guilt. Sin is committed by individuals, not groups. Many of us resent being blamed for things we have never done, and in fact reject that blame outright. A good question would be WHY the democratic governors and mayors who are allowing their cities to be burned to the ground are doing NOTHING to stop this clearly violent and illegal activity. Why do so many nod like bobble head dolls at absurd demands and statements, many of which are untrue? Statues topple with no murmur from the authorities. Even the Bishops must know it is wrong to judge a man of another century by ONE aspect of his life, while ignoring his major positive accomplishments?? Clearly the DEMs value this rioter voter demographic, which is why they remain silent in the face of anarchy. Anyone who votes democratic is supporting the riots.

    • Your concerns about the sensitivities of “the academy” are especially hilarious. No morally true statement, no matter how delicately expressed, will fail to provoke outrage from that zoo. The approach you advocate has been about the only one taken by the Church over the last fifty years. It has accomplished nothing and, by now, is tantamount to surrender.

    • TB,

      Father Moloney is a priest, and acted as such. What you seem to want is a politician, trimming his sails to the prevailing wind. No, thank you.

      The letter Father Moloney wrote is not incendiary unless one is determined to be offended by everything. The praise of Mr. Floyd’s sterling character is misplaced; as Fr. Moloney pointed out, he was on drugs, he had a criminal record (which, by the way, included assault – pointing a gun at a woman’s belly to threaten her in the course of a robbery). The point is that no matter what one has done, it is not for the police to punish, but to apprehend. Those who insist that Floyd was a saintly, inoffensive person may not realize it, but what they seem to be saying is “If you’re saying he did bad things then you’re saying it was okay for him to die at the hands of the police.” In other words, their probably unconscious argument is “It isn’t what the police [or others] do, it’s to whom they do it.” That’s not what equal protection is.

      At the same time, they are displaying the kind of “reasoning” (which is utterly unreasonable) that leads them to assume that only people who are perfect in every aspect of their lives are worthy of respect or admiration or fair treatment; and that the perfection must be what they, personally, consider perfect. So they will tear down statues of men and women who are rightly admired for one or many things because of some imperfection as judged by today’s mob’s standards.

  4. I was moved to action after reading and researching even further the story of Fr Moloney. It is sad not only for Fr Moloney but also for all those who suffer the loss of his being Chaplain at MIT.

    But what I learned while reading all of the material is that Cardinal O’Malley supports the Marxist group BLM! I find this shocking, completely. I refer you to the Cardinal O’Malley’s pastoral letter:
    “The demonstrations and protests of these days … call us to uphold and defend the truth Black Lives Matter.”–Cardinal Sean O’Malley, June 5, 2020

    So to me what this event most clearly depicts is the split within the Church itself between traditional, non moral-relativistic, dare-I-say conservatives vs the social justice warriors of the left. For members of the hierarchy of the US Church 1) to not understand that that group with the clever catchy name is Marxist and that the Marxists’ unchanged goal for more than 150 years is the utter destruction of our social order and Western civilization and 2) to voice support in the call to “uphold and defend” that group–THAT IS THE ACTION BEYOND THE PALE. No lives matter to Marxists, Cardinal–you should know that.

  5. What I feel is the negation of freedom of speech. In many so called democratic countries, there is no freedom of speech, conscience,worship etc. Fr Maloney said that the cruelty done on George was wrong and sinful. But to quote someone ‘s statement about George’s unsocial behaviour is not anything wrong. Let it be anyone, be the President or the Pope, if serious mistake is committed, we have liberty to expose the

  6. The Archdiocese of Boston “thinks as man thinks, not as God thinks.” The hierarchy are making sure that they are “politcal correct” in all of their public actions.

    • Keep in mind that the cardinal’s boss, a Jesuit in Rome who won’t wear blood red shoes, is against Catholics getting involved in the culture wars. That’s because the Church’s temporal power and influence will diminish if we irritate the powers that be or ascendent forces in society.

    • Suppose that petition is successful…it is pope Francis who will pick the replacement from a small pool of candidates suggested by the diocesan movers and shakers…so I’m not overly optimistic about the end result of that. It might be the church equivalent of trading Bush in for Obama…

  7. My conversion from a wise guy atheist college student in the sixties, majoring in physics whereupon I began to observe the fingerprint of God, to a Catholic 12 years later was a long journey but prolonged by all the confusion I observed in a Church where I wanted to find allies because I was always pro-life, even in my non-believer days. It seemed like an Orwellian confused Church then, but even more so today.
    Basic Catholic moral theology, reflecting the Gospels, could not be more clear and coherent. Our Lord’s admonishment not to judge refers to souls, not behavior, nor judgments about intrinsic right and wrong. In not judging souls, we also can never know the event of sin, simply because an intrinsically evil act could only be sinful if it were acted upon with knowledgeable willful intent, of which a mere observer can never be certain. None of this is in any way complicated, and never wrong for anyone, lay person or clergy, to remind us of this self-evident understanding.
    When I was still young, I eventually found my way into a faith where I believed its coherent understanding of the world represented the will of God, not to mention moral sanity.
    Yet when a chaplain is dutifully mindful of an obvious Catholic understanding of moral truth, not to mention human mercy and forgiveness, he is vilified by his bishops as though he is preaching heresy. Such has become the bankrupt state of our Orwellian Church.

  8. Speak truth always if people cannot receive it so be it..the mob is at fault here and those weak and gutless Catholics who won.t back up this prophetic truth should be ashamed

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