by Abbot Joseph
[You can read this at Word Incarnate or continue below.]
Jesus is intolerant. What? How can I say such a thing? After reading the Gospel accounts of his associating with prostitutes and tax-collectors, how can I say He is intolerant? I only say it because it is true. I also truly say He is merciful, which is something quite other than being tolerant. In our liturgy we often call the Lord “the Merciful One” or “the Compassionate One,” but He is never called “the Tolerant One.”
Tolerance, as the term is widely applied today, signifies the degeneration of the moral sense of an individual or a society. This is because the distinction between good and evil is ignored or belittled. One ought, however (in a different use of the term), be willing to tolerate another’s honest opinions or even personality quirks, as long as there is no sin involved, simply out of charity and patience. But the tolerance that is demanded of us by the secular media, government, and society, and even some religious figures, is something else. It is turning a blind eye toward evil, and these champions of tolerance end up employing a double standard by being brutally intolerant of anyone who points this out or who speaks the truth about Christian morality.
Aside from the explicit agendas of those who knowingly promote evil under the guise of tolerance, the phenomenon of this “secular virtue” indicates a loss of the sense of sin. This is why Jesus is merciful but not tolerant: He knows what sin is and calls it by name. He is completely intolerant of all evil, but He will forgive it all, because He is merciful. Yet here’s the rub for today’s advocates of tolerance: they have to repent in order to receive the Lord’s mercy. This they do not wish to do, for then they would have to admit that they had done something wrong. And that takes the wind out of the sails of their promotion of immoral agendas.
It has been said that after Vatican II, the faithful were invited to believe in a merciful God rather than a just or (I shudder to say) “judgmental” God. But those who think that the pre-Vatican II God and the post-Vatican II God bear little resemblance to each other do not really want a merciful God after all. They want a tolerant one.
See what has happened. Has Vatican II declared that fornication is no longer a sin, abortion no longer a sin, homosexual activity no longer a sin, disregard for the laws of the Church no longer a sin? Of course not. Nothing has changed in the moral order. God will still forgive these sins when we sincerely repent of them, and He will still punish us for them if we don’t. So it isn’t that God has suddenly become merciful as the times have changed. The advocates of today’s “evolved” morality have just decided that sin is no longer sin. Therefore (though they won’t put it this way), God doesn’t need to be merciful anymore, only tolerant.
A priest in El Paso, Texas, gained some notoriety not long ago by writing a few newspaper columns in which he explained and defended the Church’s teaching on homosexual behavior. Even the mayor of the city became publicly indignant, asserting that his city was one that expressed “tolerance and diversity,” so bigots like this anachronistic priest ought not make themselves heard in the public square. There was a gay-rights activist on hand (an ex-Catholic, as he himself admitted), who said that he expected that the Church would teach love and forgiveness, and not discrimination and intolerance. But he made the mistake of saying “forgiveness,” which the Church does teach and readily practices, but one can forgive only someone who has done something wrong. Did he make an unconscious slip? Was a remnant of the grace of his Catholic baptism rising up through the ashes of his conscious rebellion? Was he accidentally saying that gays seek forgivenessfrom the Church for what they do? I’m sure he wouldn’t admit that, though the Church is merciful and would gladly forgive—but the Church is not “tolerant” and so will not call evil good and will not accept the specious arguments of those who try to justify or rationalize their sin.
This is one of the great tragedies of the present age. Many of those who still believe in God at all insist that God is merciful, yet it is not mercy they seek. What they seek is a redefinition of sin (or the jettisoning of the concept altogether) in order to suit their own preferences, so as to relieve themselves of all accountability for their actions. They want a God made in their own image, who is tolerant of their behavior, not a God who reveals eternal and immutable truths, and who expects us (because He gives us the grace) to live accordingly. Mercy requires repentance, and repentance entails change, so it is that they do not want mercy because they do not want to repent because they do not want to change.
So we ought to be clear that God is not tolerant, but He is merciful. He does not turn a blind eye to evil, but calls it what it is—yet He forgives it when we repent. No sin is beyond the reach of God’s infinite mercy, but when one is so “enlightened” as to deny that sin is sin (though this is spiritual blindness), then Jesus’ words apply: “But now that you say ‘we see,’ your guilt remains” (Jn. 9:41).
Let us not be deceived by those who refuse to tolerate our intolerance of evil, those who try to hide sin behind the cloak of “diversity,” those who want to “live and let live,” although “letting live” in many cases means not caring if people go to eternal death in Hell. But let us, in imitation of Christ, extend the offer of mercy to intransigent sinners, encourage their repentance and their acceptance of the true faith that promises eternal life. It is a sad commentary on our times when people choose tolerance instead of mercy, for it is only mercy that triumphs over judgment (James 2:13). As for those who promote sin in the name of tolerance, they need to “know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, [yet] they not only do them but approve those who practice them” (Rom. 1:32). May God have mercy on them, and lead them to repentance and salvation!