Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

12/21/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The tolerance advocated by secular liberalism is no virtue, though the liberals act as if it were one.

In vaunting tolerance as the public virtue par excellence, secular  liberalism really re-defines tolerance from how it was traditionally understood.  In fact, the tolerance advocated by secular liberalism is so counter to traditional notions of tolerance that the philosopher Don DeMarco states this substitution for one form of tolerance for another has engendered "acute tolerance confusion."

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

12/21/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: liberalism, secular liberalism, tolerance, natural moral law, John Rawls, St. Thomas Aquinas, Andrew M. Greenwell


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - Moderns pride themselves on being non-judgmental.  This, we are led to believe, is a socially progressive characteristic.  Of course, all this fits in well with that greatest of all liberal personal and civil virtues--tolerance. 

We might point out, however, that in vaunting tolerance as the public virtue par excellence, secular liberalism really re-defines tolerance from how it was traditionally understood.  In fact, the tolerance advocated by secular liberalism is so counter to traditional notions of tolerance that the philosopher Don DeMarco has stated that this substitution for one form of tolerance for another has engendered "acute tolerance confusion."

The tolerance advocated by secular liberalism is no virtue, though the liberals act as if it were one.  From a classical perspective, tolerance it is not a virtue in and of itself, and so tolerance "must be combined with the virtue of prudence if it is to be exercised properly," explains DeMarco.

Traditionally, therefore, tolerance was always regarded as governed by the virtue of prudence.  Thus tolerance as classically understood was perfectly compatible with a view of the world that believed in objective right and wrong. 

For example, in the Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas Aquinas recognized that, in some instances, promulgating and enforcing civil laws that prohibited certain vices would result in a greater overall evil to the common good than would legal toleration of those vices. 

The common good or good of the community is the end of all law.  For this reason, St. Thomas urged that human laws must not seek to proscribe all vices, but ought to prohibit only those vices "that are to the hurt of others, without the prohibition of which human society could not be maintained," and those vices "from which it is possible for the majority to abstain." (ST IaIIae, q. 96, a. 2

Elsewhere, he is even more concrete.  Those in authority, St. Thomas states, "rightly tolerate certain evils, lest certain goods be lost, or certain greater evils be incurred" in an effort to extirpate the vice through force of law.  He ends his analysis with a striking quote from St. Augustine's De Ordine: "If you do away with harlots, the world will be convulsed with lust."  (ST IIaIIae, q. 10, a. 11)

In being tolerant, a person or public authority is, in a sense, even acting like God.  "Although God is all-powerful and supremely-good," St. Thomas observes, "He allows certain evils to take place in the universe, which He might prevent."  The reason God allows these evils is that "without them, greater goods might be forfeited, or greater evils ensue."

That is traditional tolerance.  But this is not liberal tolerance.

In fact, traditional tolerance is considered by secular liberals to be a form of intolerance.  That is why John Rawls, in his influential text A Theory of Justice--Liberalism's Bible--excoriates St. Thomas for not having "even a limited tolerance."

The unbelieving and liberal Rawls really has the hubris to think, at least in this regard, to be more enlightened--indeed personally and politically more virtuous--than St. Thomas.

In Rawls's eyes, it is not "even a limited tolerance" to tolerate prostitutes to ply their trade, as St. Thomas might where the community is not sufficiently virtuous, because it would be worse for the common good entirely to extirpate the vice.  It is intolerant so long as you continue to hold the belief that prostitution is wrong.  Similarly, it would not "even a limited tolerance" to allow homosexuals the liberty to sodomize in private, so long as you continue to hold that homosexual activity is evil.

Liberal tolerance demands much more from us than just tolerance of an evil justified by reference to the common good.  To please liberalism, we must not only bite our tongue, as traditional tolerance might be characterized, we must bite it off and spit it out.

Jesus taught that we must conform to the natural moral law and not vice versa.  And he taught it with one of the more vivid images of the New Testament: "If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell."  (Matt. 5:29)

Liberals teach the exact opposite of Jesus.  For Jesus, the soul is more important than the eye.  For liberalism, the eye is more important than the soul.  That is why secular liberalism is so offensive to anyone with a modicum of authentic morality.  This, generally, is why conservatives tend to be anti-liberal.  This is particularly why Catholics--who believe in an objective moral order--must be opposed to secular liberalism.

Liberalism says that the natural moral law--which it would call a "comprehensive moral doctrine"--must conform to it.  It must be said to not exist, and least in any significant concrete way.  So in liberalism, you don't pluck out your eye, you pluck out the notion of "sin," and it is the notion of sin that you "tear out and throw away." 

Liberalism doesn't care if we have a lot of people in sin.  All it cares about is that we all have our eyes--equality--and that we have them to sin with if we wish--liberty. 

Liberal tolerance therefore demands from us a concession, a change of heart which traditional tolerance never did.  Actually, in asking for this concession, this change of heart, liberalism wants possession of our souls.  Therefore, this concession, this change of heart is without question evil, even demonic.  Only God has the right to our soul.  Liberalism--a false god--does not.

To please modern secular liberalism, he who wants a public role or wants to avoid ridicule must give up notions of an objective moral order--of objective right and wrong, of objective "better" and "worse,"--and he must adopt, at least in the public square, moral relativism.  He or she must, in short, become a practical--if not theoretical--moral relativist.  This explains phenomena such as Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi.

That fundamental demand that secular liberalism makes of its devotees is what makes it fundamentally incompatible with Christianity and what makes it evil.

When truth is made relative as it is with secular liberalism, then anything can be justified by reference to liberalism.  Everything is measured by its utility to liberalism.  So Scripture (or the Catholic Social Doctrine, for that matter)--which a liberal would normally disdain--can be invoked if it helps or advances the cause of liberalism. 

For this reason, even the most secular liberal is quick to invoke Scriptural warrant against the Christian who dares suggest that some external act or omission is--from an objective moral standpoint--evil.  It is one Scripture every liberal seems to know: "Judge not, lest you be judged."  (Matt. 7:1)

I certainly would want to be the last to quarrel with our Lord's words.  In fact, because I do not quarrel with our Lord's words but want to understand them as the Lord intended, I quarrel with the modern liberal use--or, rather, abuse--of them. 

We might point out two of the more flagrant abuses.

First, whatever Jesus intended in those words, He certainly never advocated moral relativism by them.  We are in no way prohibited by these words from taking public opinions that certain acts are intrinsically evil.  We are in no way prevented from being loud and uncompromising about it, either. 

There is nothing in the Gospel that says we cannot call a sin a sin.  Nothing.

The words that are the favorites of liberals are part of Matthew's presentation of Jesus' sublime moral teachings found in his Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus says, in no uncertain terms, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. . . . Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called lease in the kingdom of heaven."  (Matt. 5:17-19)

Obviously, these words recruited by the left in no way abrogated the commandments.  So, if I state publicly that homosexual activity, or adultery, or divorce and remarriage, or sex before marriage, or lying, or greed, or secular liberalism as a political theory is intrinsically evil I have in no way violated the letter or the spirit of the Lord's injunction: "Judge not, lest you be judged."

Second, I find the liberals who abuse these words are not even consistent in their abuse of them.  In other words, they are hypocritical in their abuse.

If one is not allowed to judge something as evil, then it follows that one is not allowed to judge something as good.  Assuming, then, the liberal abuse of the Scripture, if I am not allowed to say, for example, that homosexual sexual activity is an intrinsic evil to be proscribed, then the liberal is not allowed to say that homosexual sexual activity is a good to be encouraged or a good to be protected.

Yet though the liberals use the "judge not, lest you be judged" Scripture to squelch opposition, they never use it against themselves to squelch themselves or to squelch laws that protect what they want and enforce them against their opponents. 

They abuse Scripture, and they are rank hypocrites.  So, next time you hear that liberal unpack those precious words of our Lord to justify his or her sins or his or her policies, bring out the Old Bard who spoke about Old Scratch:

The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart.
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!"


Shakespeare, "Merchant of Venice," Act I, sc. 3.

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2015
Universal:
That political responsibility may be lived at all levels as a high form of charity.
Evangelization: That, amid social inequalities, Latin American Christians may bear witness to love for the poor and contribute to a more fraternal society.



Comments


More Living Faith

No school days for working children

Image of

By Tony Magliano

It's that time again when adults take off to celebrate Labor Day, and kids head back to the adventures a new school year. But for millions of children worldwide the adventures of a new school year remain but a dream. Sadly, these children will never learn to read or ... continue reading


Catholic lawmakers asked by Pope to rally for pro-life, immigrants and persecuted Christians Watch

Image of The Holy Father was presented with a document by lawmakers outlining their commitment to promoting life in their respective nations, especially in areas of abortion, Christian persecution, and migration.

By Ann Schneible, CNA/EWTN News

On Sunday, Pope Francis urged Catholic legislators to be protectors of human life, calling them to "be strong" against a throwaway culture marked by Christian persecution, and the rejection of the unborn and migrants. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - The pontiff ... continue reading


Will Pope Francis' visit end in disaster? Residents say organizers don't have their act together Watch

Image of Mayor Nutter unveils the 'I'll Be There' campaign to encourage shop owners to stay open during the papal visit.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Philadelphia residents are stressing over the upcoming Papal visit, and for good reason. Preparations for the visit appear ad hoc and are being poorly communicated to the community, according to locals. LOA ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Will Pope Francis' visit to ... continue reading


Bishop Melki, executed after he refused to convert to Islam in 1915 has been beatified Watch

Image of Pope Francis earlier this month confirmed Bishop Melki's beatification saying he was killed in hatred.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Martyred during the Assyrian Genocide in 1915, Bishop Melki is on the road towards sainthood with his beatification this past weekend. Killed in Gazarta during the sayfo, or "putting to the sword" of Syrians in 1915, he was killed after he refused to convert to ... continue reading


For the first time we can see how BEAUTIFUL the 'real' Saint Rose was. Scientists have reconstruct her likeness Watch

Image of According to the news site Peru Catolico, the researchers said the reconstruction shows she was

By CNA/EWTN News

The face of the first saint of the New World may be better known than ever; thanks to a team of scientists, that has analyzed the skull of Saint Rose of Lima. Lima, Peru (CNA/EWTN News) - Scientists from the University of Saint Martin de Porres in Peru and the ... continue reading


Quest for God is modern world's biggest challenge, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI says Watch

Image of The Ratzinger Schuelerkreis will gather Sept. 28-30 to discuss the theme set them by their former professor.

By Andrea Gagliarducci, CNA/EWTN News

Benedict XVI considers the quest for God to be contemporary society's foremost challenge, according to one of the emeritus Pope's former students, who has organized the annual meeting of Ratzinger's students to discuss that very topic. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN ... continue reading


Changing your HEART, not just behavior is a vital part of conversion process, Pope Francis says Watch

Image of

By Elise Harris, CNA/EWTN News

In his Sunday Angelus address Pope Francis said that merely obeying the rules isn't enough to make us holy, but that if we truly want to serve God our conversion has to be deeper, changing the heart. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - "It's not exterior things which ... continue reading


Pilgrimage with Pope Francis - THIRD STATION - St. Joachim, patron of fathers

Image of St. Joachim, pray for us!

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Welcome to the third station on our virtual pilgrimage to Philadelphia with Pope Francis ahead of the World Meeting of Families. Let us pray! About St. JoachimBy tradition Joachim and Anne are considered to be the names of the parents of Mary, the Mother of God. After ... continue reading


Priest to lead pilgrims on 104 mile walk to see Pope Francis in Philly - Here's how you too can make a pilgrimage Watch

Image of Pilgrims in Scotland make a Good Friday trek burdened with crosses. Many Catholics around the world still make pilgrimages, even if they are the work of just a day.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An intrepid group of about 20 pilgrims will be making the 104 mile walk from Baltimore to Philadelphia to attend Mass with Pope Francis. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "Remember, our Lord walked to all of his appointments," Fr. John J. Lombardi told Catholic ... continue reading


Atheists force portrait of Jesus out of Kansas public school Watch

Image of The portrait of Jesus that has been on display at the school since the 1950s.

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Local residents in Chanute, Kansas expressed anger after the atheist group Freedom From Religion Foundation successfully filed a petition for the removal of a portrait of Jesus Christ, which had been hanging for over 60 years in a Kansas public school.   ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Colossians 1:1-8
1 From Paul, by the will of God an apostle of Christ ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 4:38-44
38 Leaving the synagogue he went to Simon's house. ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 2nd, 2015 Image

St. Ingrid of Sweden
September 2: Born in Sknninge, Sweden, in the 13th century, St. Ingrid lived ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter