There is no other subject on which the average mind is so much confused as the subject of tolerance and intolerance. Tolerance applies only to persons, never to principles. Intolerance applies only to principles, never to persons.
Venerable Fulton Sheen
Our culture promotes tolerance seemingly above all else. We are told we must be more “inclusive,” to have an open mind and make certain no one feels “marginalized” lest we commit the ultimate sin of intolerance! The end result of this culture’s misunderstanding of tolerance is that we must separate love and truth, as if one could stand without the other. True charity is tolerant of truth alone; never error. Correction of error, not tolerance of it, is a duty imposed by true charity.
The Spiritual Works of Mercy, instruct the ignorant, admonish the sinner, to counsel the doubtful do not exist in a world of tolerance because to acknowledge the reality of sin or ignorance or doubt implies that truth exists, that there is a right and a wrong. This world would rather have us offend the Creator than offend a creature. Yet, in not “offending” a creature (with truth and in love) we do them harm as Saint Basil reminds us:
“Reprimand and rebuke should be accepted as healing remedies for vice and as conducive to good health. From this it is clear that those who pretend to be tolerant because they wish to flatter-----those who thus fail to correct sinners-----actually cause them to suffer supreme loss and plot the destruction of that life which is their true life.”
We are seeing this debate of truth versus tolerance play out in our courts, our schools, our churches, our families. Same-sex “marriages”, abortion “rights”, health care mandates, etc. Promoters of tolerance promise a utopian, all-inclusive society. But as Christians we are called to more than just an all-inclusive co-existence. We are called to love. And love cannot tolerate a lie. It can tolerate a liar, but not a lie. (If you have one of those “Coexist” bumper stickers on your car, rip it off!)
Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross tells us, “Do not accept anything as love which lack truth. Do not accept anything as truth which lacks love. One without the other is a destructive lie”
Make no mistake the tolerance the culture is thrusting on us is destructive and it is a lie. This false tolerance leads to subjective truth and a relativistic culture that ignores truth. This is relativism, which contends that nothing can be in error because nothing is true. And there is where we are headed, to some degree where we already are. What is the end game for those who promote tolerance above all else? It is the destruction of religion. From Alice von Hildebrand, “Under the banner of tolerance, intolerance will achieve a diabolical victory, if no one religion is allowed to claim that it possesses the fullness of revealed truth. Once the notion of truth is eliminated, religion loses its legitimate meaning.”
Read carefully, if you will, the following quote from Venerable Fulton Sheen and then say a prayer for our country and its leaders – that we might all be more intolerant.
America, it is said, is suffering from intolerance—it is not. It is suffering from tolerance. Tolerance of right and wrong, truth and error, virtue and evil, Christ and chaos. Our country is not nearly so overrun with the bigoted as it is overrun with the broadminded. . . . Tolerance is an attitude of reasoned patience toward evil, a forbearance that restrains us from showing anger or inflicting punishment. Tolerance applies only to persons, never to truth. Tolerance applies to the erring, intolerance to the error. . . . Architects are as intolerant about sand as foundations for skyscrapers as doctors are intolerant about germs in the laboratory. Tolerance does not apply to truth or principles. About these things we must be intolerant, and for this kind of intolerance, so much needed to rouse us from sentimental gush, I make a plea. Intolerance of this kind is the foundation of all stability.
Taken from his 1931 essay “A Plea for Intolerance”