“This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”

At an event in Britain, the Telegraph reports, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila "lamented the “harsh words” that the Church used about gay and divorced people in the past, saying it left them feeling “branded.”

The “harsh” and “severe” stance adopted by the Catholic clerics towards gay people, divorcees and single mothers has done lasting harm, one of the most prominent members of the Church’s new generation of Cardinals has acknowledged.
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila in the Philippines, said the Church had to learn lessons from changing social attitudes and a greater understanding of psychology and recognise the “wounds” its judgmental approach had caused in the past.
...
He said that the past approach in Catholic schools and other institutions had often been to dictate rules and tell people that they were “for your own good”...

Asked whether clerics must find new ways of dealing with people once treated as outsiders, he said: “Yes, I think even the language has changed already, the harsh words that were used in the past to refer to gays and divorced and separated people, the unwed mothers etc, in the past they were quite severe.
“Many people who belonged to those groups were branded and that led to their isolation from the wider society.

Of course, as Catholics, we must avoid the use of any derogatory words that do not respect the dignity of the person.  Gay and divorced people must be treated with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.

But Cardinal Tagle is not talking about unjust discrimination or name calling.  In his remarks, he specifically references Catholic teaching as the source of these "hard words."

While Cardinal Tagle does not specifically state the words, one reasonably infers that the harsh words were things like "sodomite" and "adulterer," words so much out of vogue today. Or that the rules Catholic schools dictated were 'don't commit sodomy and adultery, because they are grave sins that can send you to hell."

It is never mercy to refrain from telling a necessary truth.  Sometimes the truth is a hard thing and we don't want to hear it. The "new mercy" everyone is on about is nothing new and is not mercy. It is placing our comfort and the short-term benefit of being liked over the eternal salvation of souls in grave danger.

Those who refrain from truth, those who refrain from true but necessary 'harsh' words do not walk the path of a follower of Jesus. Rather they, like some disciples who heard Jesus for themselves, found the words hard and walked a different way.

"As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, "You do not want to go away also, do you?" Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.…"

Yes, sometimes truth is hard, will we go away also? No Lord, You have words of eternal life