Thoughts on Tolerance

I have never met Msgr Charles Pope, but his article on tolerance is very interesting. Please read it for yourself, but I have provided a few quotes with emphasis added.

Toleration — from the Latin tolerare: to put up with, countenance or suffer — generally refers to the conditional acceptance of or non-interference with beliefs, actions or practices that one considers to be wrong but still "tolerable," such that they should not be prohibited or constrained... [I]t is essential for the concept of toleration that the tolerated beliefs or practices are considered to be objectionable and in an important sense wrong or bad. If this objection component (cf. King 1976, 44-54) is missing, we do not speak of "toleration" but of "indifference" or "affirmation."

In effect tolerance involves putting up with something we consider wrong or displeasing but not so wrong that we must move to constrain it. Tolerance does NOT mean we approve of something as good. This essential point is often glossed over by those who often demand that tolerance mean approval, and that to disapprove of something makes one “intolerant.”

Msgr goes on in the article to discuss how tolerance is essential in our imperfect world but that it must have limitations.

[T]here are limits to tolerance. There are just some things in human relationships that are "deal breakers." There are things that cannot be tolerated. For example serious and persistent lies breach the trust necessary for relationships and such behavior is not tolerated reasonably. Behavior that endangers one or both parties (either physically or spiritually) ought not be tolerated and often makes it necessary to end relationships or establish firm boundaries. ... We do not permit people to drive on sidewalks, run red lights or drive in the left lane of a two way street. Neither do we permit breaking and entering or the violation of legitimate property rights.

Our culture has a tendency to misunderstand what it mean to be tolerant. Often times those who call a "wrong" what it is are labeled incorrectly as intolerant. The article also discusses the ever changing views of where the limits of tolerance stands. The article gives some examples related to the topic of abortion and homosexuality.

The article is concluded with an interesting point on "ownership" of tolerance.

Opponents of traditional Christians often claim the high ground of tolerance for themselves. But the paradoxical result of this is a holier-than-thou attitude and an increasing intolerance of Christian faith by the self-claimed tolerant ones. Legal restrictions of the proclamation of the Christian faith in the public square are increasing. Financial exclusion of Catholic Charities from Government money used in serving the poor are becoming more common as well. In other parts of the world where free speech is less enshrined, Catholic priests and bishops are being sued and even arrested for "hate speech" because they preach traditional biblical morality. None of this sounds very tolerant. Our opponents need not approve of our beliefs but they ought to exhibit greater tolerance of us, the same tolerance they ask of us.

Now my only point of contention with the article is the last underlined statement "...the same tolerance they ask of us." The "they" can refer to many different groups in our current culture, but as this article pointed out earlier... those groups tend not to practice tolerance but instead indifference.
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