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Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Rationale for Mercy

Coming of age is a young person's transition from childhood to adulthood. The age at which this transition takes place varies in society, as does the nature of the transition.... Particularly in western societies, modern legal conventions which stipulate points in late adolescence or early adulthood (most commonly 16-21 when adolescents are generally no longer considered minors and are granted the full rights of an adult) are the focus of the transition.....

...Some [Christian] traditions withhold the rite of Holy Communion from those not yet at the age of accountability, on the grounds that children do not understand what the sacrament means. In some denominations, full membership in the Church, if not bestowed at birth, often must wait until the age of accountability and frequently is granted only after a period of preparation known as catechesis. The time of innocence (before one has the ability to understand truly the laws of God and that God sees one as innocent) is also seen as applying to individuals who suffer from a mental disability which prevents them from ever reaching a time when they are capable of understanding the laws of God. These individuals are thus seen as existing in a perpetual state of innocence by the grace of God.

Society contents itself largely to live with many fictions, a primary one being that all individuals – perhaps with the exception of the mentally ill or disabled – uniformly attain the age of accountability requirements at precisely 21 years of age or somewhat younger. This assumes physical and mental maturity have been reached. Mental maturity entails not only a fully developed mind physically but also in terms of having received through word and deed sufficient conceptual indoctrinationmost essentially concepts with ethical aspects that bear upon individual and social behavior and that lead to what is commonly referred to as responsible behavior. Those who have been favored with almost ideal nurturing environments themselves are prone to make an assumption that such blessings are a given for everyone—and if not, are of negligible importance in any case. One of the most cogent arguments for mercy thus eludes them and they remain content to demand justice without mercy—which is ironic since mercy was something they received in spades in their own development years. They fail to realize that what they received as a matter of course constituted a blessing simply not available to everyone. Likewise those adjudged most guilty in our society are from another point of view the most innocent—not having received the benefits of sufficient guidance and training—certainly a sad thing, and a due cause for mercy.

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