Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

12/21/2013 (3 months 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."

Article Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

12/21/2013 (3 months 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 calls for your 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women:
That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.



Comments


More Living Faith

BREAKING THE RULES or IS HE? Pope Francis washes women's feet and those of undetermined religion Watch

Image of This year, Francis arrived at a center for the disabled and elderly in Rome. Francis kneeled down, washed, dried and kissed the feet of a dozen people, some in wheelchairs, other with grossly swollen and disfigured feet.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has shown little regard for rules in regards to his papacy. The latest controversy now surrounds his washing the feet of 12 disabled and elderly people, some of who were women and non-Catholics. The pre-Easter ritual, Pope Francis is designed to show ... continue reading


'Priestly joy is a priceless treasure,' Pope Francis says Watch

Image of The pope, presiding over the first of two Holy Thursday liturgies, blessed the oils that will be used in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, ordination and the anointing of the sick.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

If a priest wants to overcome moments of sadness, exhaustion and boredom, in addition to discovering his true identity, he must head for the exit sign, going outside himself to be with God and his people, Pope Francis said during the Chrism Mass at St. Peter's ... continue reading


Who's ready for the most historic canonization in modern history?

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Are you ready for the canonization of Pope John Paul II? Vatican officials are busy preparing for the historic canonization of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII. As they prepare, it's time for use to get ready as well. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - on April 27, a ... continue reading


Pope Francis encourages people to kiss crucifix and recite simple prayer Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis is encouraging people this holy week to pick up a crucifix, kiss it and recite the simple prayer: "Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Lord." He wishes to remind others that Christ's passion "isn't the happy ending of a beautiful fairytale, it isn't the ... continue reading


Pope Francis distributes Bibles, asks Catholics to perform acts of charity

Image of Bibles were handed out to all visitors regardless of their religious affiliation.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has given out tens of thousands of Bibles to people that he hopes they will keep and use daily. The gifts were distributed in St. Peter's Square following Mass. The gifts came with one string attached however, Pope Francis asked all people to perform an ... continue reading


Pope Francis' Wild Ride - Pope takes happy kids for a spin through St. Peter's Square Watch

Image of Pope Francis kisses Livio Bastianelli and Davide Maria goodbye after their lucky ride.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis gave to kids the ride of a lifetime by inviting them for a spin in the Popemobile around St. Peter's Square. The gesture continues to cement Pope Francis as a man of the people who is most comfortable with the throngs of faithful who seek his wisdom and ... continue reading


Seminary is not for those who do not wish to 'get on with life,' Pope admonishes Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In addressing the Pontifical Leonine College of Anagni, the Pope did not mince words. Pope Francis was forthright in saying that the seminary is not a refuge for those who have "psychological problems" or lack the courage "to get on in life." LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Pope Francis apologizes for abuse scandal, says Church deserves to pay Watch

Image of Pope Francis embraces a child in St. Peter's Square.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has made his strongest statement yet about the scandal of child abuse in the Catholic Church. Pope Francis made clear that victims of abuse deserved an apology as well as compensation for what they have suffered.  He reaffirmed that the Church will be ... continue reading


Pope Francis makes special plea, but is asking us - Are you listening? Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis continues to call for aid to the poor as the holiday season ends. The Holy Father has set a goal to eradicate global hunger by distributing food more equitably around the world and he has called on all faithful Catholics to help. It's a call that can't be ... continue reading


'The Devil is here, even in the 21st century,' Pope Francis warns Watch

Image of Life is a constant battle against evil due to the presence of the devil, Pope Francis said, admitting that even he

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The devil is very much alive in the 21st Century, Pope Francis warns, and he often takes the form of gossip. The pope confessed that he himself was tempted to gossip, and the faithful need to stay on their toes. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Speaking in the ... 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, Genesis 1:1--2:2
1 In the beginning God created heaven and ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 16:5, 8, 9-10, 11
5 My birthright, my cup is Yahweh; you, you alone, ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 28:1-10
1 After the Sabbath, and towards dawn on the first ... Read More

Reading 2, Genesis 22:1-18
1 It happened some time later that God put Abraham to ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 19th, 2014 Image

St. Alphege
April 19: Archbishop and "the First Martyr of Canterbury." He was born in ... 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