The Problem with Tolerance
The Tolerance of Intolerance ...
... and the
Intolerance of Tolerance
precisely, do we understand by the notion of “tolerance”?
One dictionary defines it as follows:
“A fair, objective, and permissive
attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion,
nationality, etc., differ from one's own; freedom from bigotry.”
Quite reasonable, yes?
Well, no. Superficially it appears … just, even magnanimous.
Tolerance for one and all. What could be more fair?
Indeed, the very antithesis of tolerance is intolerance, a word most
often uttered as an epithet by the morbidly “correct” and which, in
fact, is even legally actionable in today’s multi-moral, multicultural
Now I must ask you a question: You maintain that you are a tolerant
person and that tolerance is a virtue (which you, of course, "correctly"
exemplify) that is necessary both to the polity and the person. You
are indignant, even outraged before any intimation of intolerance
— so much so, in fact, that you will not tolerate it.
You will agitate, demonstrate, and litigate against it. You will stamp
it out as a pestilence to an enlightened, democratic, and civil society.
You are fond of the saying that, “I disapprove of what you say, but
I will defend to the death your right to say it.” 1 Will
you, indeed? This, in many ways, is the signature of the problem.
“I will be tolerant of anything but intolerance.”
Another way of saying this is, “I am intolerant
Will you, then — or will you not — tolerate, even defend, my intolerance
of your intolerance of intolerance? In other words, will you tolerate
the one thing you categorically repudiate?
Let us look at some of the things we tolerate and do not tolerate. But
before we do, it is important to understand beforehand that (despite
your own exemplary instantiation of it) the notion of tolerance is not
univocal. That is to say, the notion of tolerance is articulated differently
through various cultural, political, historical, and religious prisms.
The Muslim understanding and practice of the notion of tolerance, for
example, vastly differs from our own, that is to say, from what we have
come to understand as tolerance in post-Christian Western culture. There
is no functional, or even logical absolute in our understanding of tolerance
that does not embroil us in contradictions. Tolerance does not possess
the apodictic nature of, say, our understanding of a Euclidean triangle
as a polygon that has three vertices and as many angles, the sum of
which always equals 180o. It is not a concept in the way
of mathematical or geometric models. Such deductive models are self-incorporated
and reflexive: their definition is in their proof and their proof is
in their definition. Agreed?
Logic, geometry, and mathematics are, in a sense, conceptual paradigms
of intolerance. One cannot have arrived at both a correct and incorrect
answer simply because it is polite (despite current education
theory). If you choose to believe that a triangle is a figure
whose boundary consists of points equidistant from a fixed center, while
I hold that such a configuration is a circle, one of us will be wrong.
You are certainly free to believe this absurdity, but it nevertheless
Catholic-Bashing as a Paradigm of Intolerance
The Catholic Church is now the most prominent
target for the charge of intolerance. So, in all candor, let us openly
ask the question: is the Catholic Church intolerant?
Of course it is! GOD HIMSELF IS!
What is more, the Church is intolerant of precisely those sorts
of behaviors of which God is!
Among them — especially in last 50 years — those that provoke the most
strident and abusive reproaches from a now militantly secularized society
concern areas of human sexuality; specifically, homosexuality in all
its evolving variants, contraception, cohabitation, pre-marital sex,
abortion, adultery, human-cloning, and bestiality.
The Church does not tolerate these behaviors. It deems them not simply
sinful, but gravely sinful. One cannot engage in any of
these behaviors and expect the approbation of the Church BECAUSE
one cannot engage in any of these behaviors and expect the approbation
Your contention, really, is with God Himself.
Neither secular society, nor many Catholics themselves (those unfortunate
Catholics who are the products of the complete dereliction and utter
distortion in “progressive” catechetical programs over the past half
century) understand the Church any more than they understand God. For
the most part, the prevailing view of the Church is based upon
a corporate enterprise model within a broad and differentiated market
economy comprised of shareholders who invest it, in this case, with
moral authority and in, turn receive dividends in power-sharing.
Not a Democracy
Is this the model of the Church? NO! The
Holy Catholic Church is not a democracy. Its laws and doctrines
are not the result of a consensus among its quarreling children; nor
do the laws and dogmas of the Church derive their moral authority by
means of popular or even majority vote. The laws and the binding
dogmas that define us as Catholics come from God, from Christ
Himself; they derive from the teachings of His holy Apostles, from Sacred
Scripture and from 2000 years of unbroken Tradition.
The Magisterium, or teaching authority
of the Church, is articulated in the Deposit of Faith — divinely
revealed truths that come to us, equally, from Sacred Scripture
and Tradition. We do not believe the teachings of the
Church because they are popular or because they have broad secular
consensus and accord with prevailing social norms. We are obligated
as Catholics to believe them ... and not simply those that accord
with our own personal inclinations, those with which we are comfortable,
or which we find pleasing to us — but all of them without exception.
Does that surprise you?
One is Catholic because
one believes in God and in what His Holy Catholic teaches, and practices
(or makes every effort to practice) what it teaches. Put another way,
because one believes in God and in what His Holy Catholic
Church teaches, and practices (or makes every effort to practice) what
it teaches, one is deemed a Catholic. If our religious convictions
happen to be popular or have broad secular consensus, and accord
with prevailing social norms, it is quite beside the point.
Social norms have nothing to do with my
being Catholic, although my being Catholic should exercise some
influence on secular norms. Why? Because that, too, is part of my being
Catholic: the mandate to openly profess Christ 4, to live
my life in Christ, and to eschew the world, the flesh, and the devil
as inimical to my life in Christ and to my ultimate happiness in Heaven.
While I must love my neighbor and refrain
from judgment, love of neighbor does not, in any way, obligate me to
be complicit (by either act or omission) in his sins because they are
approved by the state or endorsed by society at large. "Love the
sinner but hate the sin" — you have heard this, yes? In fact,
it is my obligation as a Catholic to raise my voice in protest against
the growing enormities of a militantly secular society, a society
intolerant of my Catholic Faith, and which would, were it possible
— in an act of violent intolerance — attempt to stamp it out
... as intolerant.
then, is no different from the intolerance expressed in competing and
incompatible ideologies such as secularism, militant feminism, and aggressive
homosexuality — even when they are irreconcilable. Each
of these ideologies is unwilling to tolerate the Church’s most fundamental
precepts, especially concerning human sexuality and life — just as the
Church cannot tolerate as moral the defining principles articulated
in these (most often complementary) ideologies. Upon what logical premises,
then, do such ideologies repudiate institutions (the Church, in this
case) as intolerant — which themselves are equally and reciprocally
intolerant? It is a circular argument.
I cannot, and ought not, be coerced to accept, think, believe, and act
upon what is in violation of my own conscience. Laws certainly can be
enacted (such as the “racial” laws of Nazi Germany codified as the Nuremberg
Laws beginning in 1935, the Penal Laws of 17th century Britain, or the
Sharia Law of Islam) and enforced — but the freedom of the individual
conscience cannot be coerced, no matter what measures are taken against
it. It may be socially and politically correct to endorse homosexuality,
radical feminism, abortion, contraception, bestiality, and militant
secularism — but to be "correct" is not to be moral. The
Nuremburg Laws were "correct" for 10 years ... but they were
not moral. The putative science of eugenics — espoused by Margaret
Sanger (the founder of Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider
in America — and borrowed from America 3 long
before it was considered and subsequently legislated in Nazi Germany
— endorsed these laws. There was scientific consensus. There
was popular consensus, both in America until 1977 and
Germany until 1945.4 In fact, it was this widespread
social and scientific consensus 5 that was the impetus
behind the unspeakable atrocities that followed. Such a state is ineluctably
a state of tyranny, the tyranny of social and scientific consensus —
which one encounters daily in the effort to stamp out any remaining
vestiges of Christianity in Western culture and the patrimony of Catholicism
In sum, if I am intolerant because I am a practicing Catholic, embracing
the authentic teachings of the Holy Catholic Church (with an
unbroken history of 2000 years), through my refusal to endorse agenda
deeply inimical to the Church, then you can no more insist that I be
tolerant of (endorse) behavior inconsistent with, and antagonistic to
the Church, than you — who claim to be tolerant — refuse to tolerate
the teachings of the Church as inimical to your own convictions.
Nor can such a state of affairs be remediated — at all! There can be
no “soul-searching”, no compromise and no dialectic that will coherently
reconcile these contradictions. The Church cannot (which is to
say, it is not within Her power or authority to) demur from the revealed
truths and divine mandates which are, in essence, nothing less than
Her raison d’être.
cannot change on these issues and will not go away. She has
an extraordinarily good history of surviving those who lay siege
to Her … and subsequently — or perhaps consequently — go by the
Evelyn B. Hall, an obscure early 20th century admirer of Voltaire,
who himself never said this, although it is often attributed to
him. It has become the mindless mantra of elitist progressives,
who, generally, will prefer to jail you — and if possible dismember
you — to defending you for dissenting with them.
2 "Going therefore, teach
ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of
the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all
things whatsoever I have commanded you."
(St. Matthew 28.19-20)
that shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father
Who is in Heaven." (St. Matthew 10:33)
4 While California had the highest number of
sterilizations, North Carolina's eugenics program which operated
from 1933 to 1977, was the most aggressive of
the 32 states that had eugenics programs. An IQ of 70 or lower
meant sterilization was appropriate in North Carolina. The North
Carolina Eugenics Board almost always approved proposals brought
before them by local welfare boards. Of all states, only North
Carolina gave social workers the power to designate people for sterilization.
"Here, at last, was a method of preventing unwanted pregnancies
by an acceptable, practical, and inexpensive method," wrote Wallace
Kuralt in the March 1967 journal of the N.C. Board
of Public Welfare. "The poor readily adopted the new techniques
for birth control." ibid.
5 "Extensive financing [for eugenics] by corporate philanthropies,
specifically the Carnegie Institution, the Rockefeller
Foundation and the Harriman railroad fortune. They were all
in league with some of America's most respected scientists from
such prestigious universities as Stanford, Yale, Harvard and
Princeton. These academicians espoused race theory and race
science, and then faked and twisted data to serve eugenics' racist
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yet you have kept My word, and have not denied My Name.”
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