Is God’s mercy unconditional?

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Question: At Mass recently, I heard the prayers of the faithful say something like, “That the pastors of the Church may instill hope in the unconditional mercy of God.” Is God’s mercy unconditional?

Lee Ann Moser, Deerfield Beach, Florida

Answer: It is certainly proper to say that God’s love is unconditional. However, receiving mercy presupposes repentance on our part. While God offers that mercy to all, he does not force it upon us. For example, suppose I say to you, “I forgive you for the awful things you said about me yesterday.” But what if you don’t think they were awful, but were true and something I needed to hear? In a similar way, mercy cannot be forced on another and can even seem odious and manipulative to them. Even if one argues mercy could be offered unconditionally, repentance is necessary on our part to access it.

One of the chief errors of our day is the proclamation of mercy without any reference to repentance. Mercy does not mean that God is approving of our sin. To the contrary, mercy presupposes that we have sinned and need mercy. Recognizing this, we repent and seek mercy. So, repentance is the key that unlocks mercy.

Msgr. Charles Pope

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. at Send questions to