Skip to comments.A Brief Reflection on the Catholic Definition of Tolerance
Posted on 09/05/2011 9:53:53 AM PDT by Te骹ilo
Brethren: peace and good to all of you in the name of Jesus.
A few posts ago I formulated a Catholic definition of tolerance derived from biblical and theological first principles. The definition was as follows:
Tolerance is that good habit that is, the virtue through which the Catholic Christian actively and consciously loves his neighbor, especially when the neighbor lives in grave sin, by avoiding judgment and showing him the same mercy the Lord shows us for our sins, as we choose the right means to eliminate or ameliorate the evil incurred in this world by the neighbors (and our own) actions, through the right exercise of the theological and cardinal virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, so that both our neighbor and us might attain salvation and everlasting life in the world to come.
I wish to reflect briefly on this definition with the aim of triggering some conversation here or elsewhere on the net, and also to move as many fellow Catholics as possible to enact this virtue in their lives. These are the reflection points:
Tolerance is a good habit, that is, a virtue, which needs to be practiced repeatedly until it becomes second nature as it were. This is where I active cooperation with grace comes. We embrace the grace each and every time we practice the virtue in our lives.Thank you all for your attention. May the love of the Father, the grace of Christ, and the koinonía of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
We must remember that tolerance, as understood by a Catholic, is not merely a natural virtue or good habit. Tolerance must be based upon the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love, in order for the virtue to achieve its supernatural end on us and on others. Otherwise it would be ineffective and supernaturally dead, a dead work so-to-speak.
The subject of the virtue is the acting Catholic; the object of the virtue, the object of our tolerance is always the human being who is acting against Gods law as transmitted in revelation or reflected in natural law. The act itself is not the object of toleration, but of moral evaluation. The act is good, evil, or neutral. Accordingly, once morally evaluated, our reaction to the act is of approval and furtherance; of disapproval and resistance; or indifference.
Some well-intentioned souls may be inclined to describe the previous approach as hate the sin, love the sinners. Ive always thought that cliché as dangerous, because hate is a dangerous emotion to lay claim to. It is very easy to transfer the hatred from the sinner to the sin. Many of us do it habitually. It is also dangerous to hate a sin the way Scripture tells us God does. We cant hate like God does, we are incapable of going beyond the Scriptural anthropomorphism.
Instead, we should focus on loving as God does, as being compassionate which is, to listen to the neighbor and to procure his or her healing with their salvation (and ours) as the ultimate end.
The Catholic virtue of tolerance does not exempt us from stopping, correcting, or reversing the evil caused by our neighbors moral falls, particularly when these evils cascade through culture and society. We resist these evils by first, evangelizing our culture and society. We must continue to proclaim the message of conviction, repentance, and conversion contained in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Lay people in particular are called to resist evil by being involved in the political process and working for the enactment and preservation of laws enacted in accordance to natural law, and the derogation of legislation violating natural law. All Catholics in public service must support legislation in favor of natural law and the Catholic electorate must work with particular force to remove from power those Catholic leaders who refuse to write laws supportive of human life, natural marriage, and the like.
An objection to the above definition of tolerance may take this form: Would you tolerate a serial/murderer rapist? Our answer should be yes: we tolerate them in jail. Should we tolerate abortionists? Of course, we should. We should tolerate them as unemployed. To be tolerant toward a person in grave sin does not mean giving them a free pass from the moral or legal consequences of their actions. Tolerance is no substitute for prosecution, judgment, verdict, and punishment, or for the future obsolescence of the abortion-provided market which will leave all providers in search of new employment.
The virtue of tolerance points toward the realization of that, when observing our neighbor sin grievously, there but for the grace of God go I. Due to the wound of original sin, and absent our willingness to cooperate with Gods grace, we can sin in the same ways or worse. This should keep us humble and realistic toward our own capacity to resist mortal sin.
Finally, we must remember that the core of Catholic tolerance lies in our duty to refrain from judging our neighbor as to his or her ultimate eternal destiny. We dont know the myriad of ways Gods grace will triumph, nor at what moment in a persons life. Our duty is to scatter the seeds and let God do the rest.
Please share with mailing list as feasible.
We were also told that Jews could never go to heaven.
I protested because it made no sense.
I also protested when they told us that Catholics should be blindly voting for kennedy.......because being Catholic automatically made him better.
“The Catholic virtue of tolerance does not exempt us from stopping, correcting, or reversing the evil caused by our neighbors moral falls, particularly when these evils cascade through culture and society.”
Well, I agree with you.
Thank you! We tolerate people, not deeds. We *react* to deeds. There’s a difference.
Very good, Teo. Thank you. Clarity is much needed in this.
Tolerance, especially as espoused by our culture today, is really better described as "Indiffernce" and is certainly not "Love". We are called to love each other and it can be an act of love to point out a sin to a brother or sister, as long as it is done sincerely and with concern over their well-being (including eternal). And not pointing out a sin to a brother, thereby allowing them to persist in their 'error', may in fact be our sin too.
My illustration is a drunk friend at a party. Should you be "tolerant" of him and not say a thing about him driving or should you be "intolerant" and love him by taking away his keys?
“1957-1961: I went to an all-girl Catholic High school. We were told not to bring non catholic boys to the prom.”
I wish all Catholic schools had such a rule.
“We were also told that Jews could never go to heaven.”
I doubt it since that’s not Catholic teaching. Still, most likely very few non-Christians will go to heaven. Jesus, a Jew Himself, was pretty plain about the need to have faith in Him.
Contrary to what some Catholic “traddies” may tell you, the Church had some faults even back before Vatican II, namely, yes, it’s true what you said occurred, also, stories of children being told to “not read the Bible for yourself” was also true. I know this as a fact, because my Grandmother was told this, and she isn’t a liar. It was also taught even after Vatican II to not “chew” the Consecrated Host at all, as you would be “hurting Jesus”.
Now, all that being said, none of what I wrote above was ever “official” Catholic Church teaching. It is the actions of some (well intentioned) teachers, mostly nuns, interpreting Catholic teaching for themselves and acting accordingly. IOW, the reverse of what we have today: Today, we have teachers and priests interpreting official Church teaching to the “left”; back then, it was biased to the “right” (to put it in political terms although it’s not quite accurate to describe it that way).
IN conclusion, always look to what the official teaching is, and a great place to start to find that is the Catechism of the Catholic Church (freely available online by simply Googling the term) and/or reading actual official documents from the various councils, such as Vatican II. As has been famously said, “Many reject the Catholic Church for what they think She teaches, not for what She actually does teach” (paraphrased).
Ping to post 11.
You give three examples that should not be lumped together. Also, I have a feeling they fall under the modernistic definition of tolerance as indifference to evil, rather than under the proper and Catholic understanding we see in the article.
1. Courting non-Catholics is, of course, a moral possibility (I married a Protestant who later converted). However, a prom is also a public event at a school, so the behavior there reflects on the behavior that would be taken by all students as normative. Courting a non-Catholic at a young age is an enormous burden on a person whose Catholic character is not yet completely formed. It is in fact a burden on any age. I find it completely natural and wholesome for the school to advise against that. Note that this has nothing to do with tolerance of non-Catholic because courtship is an act of positive election of a partner rather than tolerating an external error.
2. That Jews (or conscious adherents to any other than Christianity religion) cannot go to heaven is a Catholic dogma: extra ecclesiam nulla salus. To tolerate a Jew is to seek to convert him because that is the greatest act of love you can do toward him. We are saved by our works, so a Jew (again, or any other non-Christian) who does works in imitation of Christ is a convert to Christ and so dies within the Church and no longer as a Jew. It would be uncharitable and therefore counterproductive to begin your witness to a Jew by pointing out how he is otherwise going to hell, even more so that his salvation will likely occur primarily through his works with faith hopefully to follow, but certainly a clear catechism on the subject done at a Catholic school should be Catholic and not any other kind.
3. One should prefer a politician whose views on the public service are enlightened by Catholic values. Was the advice to vote for Kennedy blindly or simply to have a bias toward a fellow Catholic? Again, this is about a positive election and not tolerance of Catholic Democrats.
Same story...different day.
P.S. The classes were taught by our Chaplain...not the nuns.
I also attended a Catholic all-girls high school, and NOTHING you mentioned was ever taught to us by the nuns. As far as Jews never going to heaven, we were taught the opposite. As far as voting for Kennedy, it was a matter of conscience to vote for the man whom you believed to be most in line with the Constitution.
You said “we are saved by our works..”.
We are saved by the Grace of God.
My tagline is an example - it instructs those who see the freeloaders to let them know what they are doing is wrong, but to do it with love so they can be ashamed of themselves. Too much of society has removed the shame. I'm not sure that "resisting evil" is quite appropriate - Jesus told us to resist not evil and I believe its' because we are incapable of being effective - our real job is to carry the Word and Good News of the Gospel - He will take care of Evil when the time comes; just as promissed.
“So of the 7 billion people alive today, assuming all Christians and very few non-Christians go to heaven, where do the rest go?”
Of all humanity, over all the ages, it will be this way: some will go to heaven, others may enjoy a state of being for those not acceptable enough for heaven but not so sinful as to deserve hell (i.e. what has traditionally been called Limbo). For the rest, hell awaits them.
If annakex is preaching extreme prejudice, than Jesus must be one hateful bigot.
If the “Church” had some faults, that is if the “Church” promulgated error or sin, we have every reason to reject it because it contradicts itself as one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. The error here lies in the telling: the Church is the Body of Christ, the goodness of all its adherents from Christ’s time—not the accumulation of beliefs, behavior or misinterpretations of some of its practioners. Individual members, priest, nuns, bishops, cardinals have sinned or otherwise misled the faithful; and some popes have led less than exemplary lives, but not one has been contradicted or overruled by a successor in matters of faith and morals. Thus, even if all the old nun-stories are true (which I doubt), it doesn’t matter. Catholicism, like math or English or chemistry or medicine, can be and often is inadequately or incorrectly taught. That misteaching can’t represent or disqualify the whole subject.
As you say, official teaching is accessable.
However, getting back to the article, tolerance is not and never has been a Christian virtue. The author confuses tolerance with charity while neglecting the Works of Mercy, Corporal and Spiritual.
I don’t know what “extremely prejudice” means, but what is “ridiculous” in my post?
Indeed we are, by grace alone, which is the only source of our faith and our good works:
 ...God, (who is rich in mercy,) for his exceeding charity wherewith he loved us,  Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together in Christ, (by whose grace you are saved,)  And hath raised us up together, and hath made us sit together in the heavenly places, through Christ Jesus.  That he might shew in the ages to come the abundant riches of his grace, in his bounty towards us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God;  Not of works, that no man may glory.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus in good works, which God hath prepared that we should walk in them.
And this is how we are actually saved or condemned:
 And when the Son of man shall come in his majesty, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit upon the seat of his majesty.  And all nations shall be gathered together before him, and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats:  And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left.  Then shall the king say to them that shall be on his right hand: Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in:
 Naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me.  Then shall the just answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and fed thee; thirsty, and gave thee drink?  And when did we see thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and covered thee?  Or when did we see thee sick or in prison, and came to thee?  And the king answering, shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.
 Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry, and you gave me not to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave me not to drink.  I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you covered me not: sick and in prison, and you did not visit me.  Then they also shall answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to thee?  Then he shall answer them, saying: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it not to one of these least, neither did you do it to me.
 And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting.
Our good works are the basis of our judgement. A Jew will be judged by his works done in imitation of Christ, and a Christian, -- by his.
Thank you. I have more hateful bigotry where that one came from...
I agree, good post. Said better than me.
Tolerance: The last and only virtue of the completely immoral society.
Thanks, but I spoke too fast. Lacking the virtue of Prudence (Queen of the Virtues)and the gift of humility, I attacked Pope Benedict, who appears to have written this article. I should have gone to the site first—not that it would have changed my mind on the notion of tolerance, but I’d probably have objected less stridently. The only excuse here that I can think of is that tolerance, as we know it in America and in the English language generally, translates somewhat differently into German and Italian. Everything that is commanded of us in charity the pope cites in his definition of tolerance. But charity never accepts or allows evil to flourish. Tolerance, in our culture, does.