VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Those who are corrupt, hypocritical and rigidly follow the letter of the law do not know what mercy is, and there can be no justice without mercy, Pope Francis said at a morning Mass.

“Corruption distanced them from understanding mercy, from being merciful. And the Bible tells us that the right judgment is precisely in mercy,” he said at the Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae March 23.

The pope’s homily looked at the day’s lengthy reading from the Book of Daniel in which two judges falsely accused the pious woman, Susanna, of infidelity after she refused to give in to their lustful desires.


“They were depraved judges, they were corrupted by vice, in this case lust,” the pope said, according to Vatican Radio.

The day’s Gospel reading from John offered another account of leaders casting judgment, this time against a woman guilty of adultery. However, the pope said, she was accused by scribes and Pharisees whose hearts were corrupted by being too rigid in observing “the letter of the law.”

“These men were not saints, they were corrupt — corrupt because this kind of rigidity can only keep going with a double life,” he said. “Those who are rigid are — to use an adjective Jesus gave them — hypocrites, they lead a double life,” he said.

The pope said there is another passage in the Bible in which a widow turned to a judge who “did not fear God and took care of no one: he cared about nothing, he only cared about himself,” he said, referring to Luke’s parable of the persistent widow. This judge, he added, was “corrupted by money, by prestige.”

All of the corrupted judges — the businessman, the depraved and the rigid — “do not know one word — they did not know what mercy was,” the pope said.

All three women — “a saint, a sinner and one in need, allegorical figures of the church — suffer judgment without mercy, both civil and ecclesial. And where there is no mercy, there is no justice,” he said.

“When the people of God voluntarily approach to ask for pardon, to be judged, how many times, how many times, they find one of these” corrupt judges, he said.

Those who are filled with vice “are capable of trying to exploit” others, he said. Those who only think about making deals “do not give oxygen to that soul, they don’t give hope,” and those who rigidly adhere to the law “punish in the penitent that which they are hiding in their own soul.”

All of them lack mercy, which is one of the most beautiful words found in the Gospel, Pope Francis said.

He said the day’s Gospel reading (Jn 8:1-11) contained a passage “that moves me very much.” The reading describes everyone gradually leaving after Jesus said only those without sin should cast a stone at the woman accused of adultery.

He said, citing Jesus’ words to the woman when they find everyone has gone: “‘Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir.’ ‘Neither do I condemn you’ — one of the most beautiful words because it is full of mercy.”