Tolerance and Intolerance

A few weeks back The Catholic Gentleman posted an excerpt from a 1932 book by Bishop Fulton Sheen called Moods and Truths. If you want to read the entirety of it at once please do because it is astounding in its clarity. I’ve broken it into some smaller pieces and am going to be posting it among my other quotes from recent readings here.

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There is no other subject on which the average mind is so much confused as the subject of tolerance and intolerance. Tolerance is always supposed to be desirable because it is taken to be synonymous with broadmindedness. Intolerance is always supposed to be undesirable, because it is taken to be synonymous with narrow-mindedness. This is not true, for tolerance and intolerance apply to two totally different things. Tolerance applies only to persons, but never to principles. Intolerance applies only to principles, but never to persons. We must be tolerant to persons because they are human; we must be intolerant about principles because they are divine. We must be tolerant to the erring, because ignorance may have led them astray; but we must be intolerant to the error, because Truth is not our making, but God’s. And hence the Church in her history, due reparation made, has always welcomed the heretic back into the treasury of her souls, but never his heresy into the treasury of her wisdom.

The Church, like Our Blessed Lord, advocates charity to all persons who disagree with her by word or by violence. Even those who in the strictest sense of the term-are bigots, are to be treated with the utmost kindness. They really do not hate the Church, they hate only what they mistakenly believe to be the Church. If I believed all the lies that are told about the Church, if I gave credence to all the foul stories told about her priesthood and Papacy, if I had been brought up on falsehoods about her teachings and her sacraments, I would probably hate the Church a thousand times more than they do.

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