October 8, 2017

Venerable Fulton Sheen on Tolerance

Archbishop Fulton Sheen

"What is tolerance? Tolerance is an attitude of reasoned patience toward evil and a forbearance that restrains us from showing anger or inflicting punishment. But what is more important than the definition is the field of its application. The important point here is this: Tolerance applies only to persons, but never to truth. Intolerance applies only to truth, but never to persons. Tolerance applies to the erring; intolerance to the error.

America is suffering not so much from intolerance, which is bigotry, as it is from tolerance, which is indifference to truth and error, and a philosophical nonchalance that has been interpreted as broad-mindedness. Greater tolerance, of course, is desirable, for there can never be too much charity shown to persons who differ with us. Our Blessed Lord Himself asked that we 'love those who calumniate us, for they are always persons,' but He never told us to love the calumny.

In keeping with the Spirit of Christ, the Church encourages prayers for all those who are outside the pale of the Church and asks that the greatest charity be shown towards them. Charity, then, must be shown to persons and particularly those outside the fold, who by charity must be led back, that there may be one-fold and one Shepherd. Shall God, Who refuses to look with an equally tolerant eye on all religions, be denied the name of 'Wisdom' and be called an 'Intolerant' God?

The Church is identified with Christ in both time and principle; She began thinking on His first principles and the harder She thought, the more dogmas She developed. She never forgot those dogmas; She remembered them and Her memory is Tradition. The dogmas of the Church are like bricks, solid things with which a man can build, not like straw, which is 'religious experience' fit only for burning. The Church has been and will always be intolerant so far as the rights of God are concerned, for heresy, error, and untruth affect not personal matters on which She may yield, but a Divine Right in which there is no yielding. The truth is divine; the heretic is human. Due reparation made, the Church will admit the heretic back into the treasury of Her souls, but never the heresy into the treasure of Her Wisdom. Right is right even if nobody is right; and wrong is wrong if everybody is wrong....."

Excerpted from Old Errors and New Labels, [Ven.] Fulton J. Sheen, ©1931.

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