Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin gave his approval for the reevaluation of marriage laws yesterday; he asked that our generation rethink our image of a punitive and judgmental God, as well as the concept and meaning of mercy.

“Many of us grew up in a generation where the image of Christianity was one more of being judgmental, than of being merciful. Mercy was reduced to a sort of lucky escape from the consequences of hard judgment – hardly the essence of the Christian life,” he said.

“The concept of biblical mercy can only be understood if we turn our image of a punitive God head over heels.”

Archbishop Martin referred to “Mercy: the essence of the Gospel and the key to the Christian life,” a book by Cardinal Walter Kasper, who himself has been criticized for suggesting church rules on marriage might be relaxed, the Irish Times reported.

“If we are trapped into an image of God whose justice is primarily punitive, we will never see mercy as essential to the Christian concept,” the Archbishop said. “Mercy will, to use the words of Cardinal Kasper, become ‘a concept often to be downgraded, degenerating into soft spirituality or vague pastoral concern, lacking clear definition and shaped somehow to suit each individual.’”

According to the Archbishop, Pope Francis said of Kasper’s book, “this book has done me such good.” The key, Archbishop Martin said, is understanding the subtitle.

Archbishop Martin is set to represent the Irish Catholic Church at a synod of bishops in Rome next month. Pope Francis posed a challenge for the synod, which is “to be open to ways of applying the primacy of mercy to particular situations while remaining faithful to the fundamental truth.”

It emerged last weekend that several cardinals have contributed to upcoming books that oppose change in church laws on marriage, including Cardinal Gerhard Muller (prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith), Cardinal Raymond Burke (prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature), Cardinal George Pell (prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy) and two other retired Vatican cardinals.