Tolerance - A Misunderstood Aspect of Ecumenism

I post for you a paper I have recently written for my Catholic Morality class:

“My friend gets drunk every weekend. I know it’s wrong, but what can I do about it? You know, if he’s going to do that, then that’s his problem—I shouldn’t have to do anything about it.” Sadly, statements such as this are heard all over our country today. In our culture, ‘diversity’ is praised and ‘tolerance’ is a popular buzzword. According to popular culture, to be ‘intolerant’ of anything someone else does, even if it opposes Natural Law, is a heinous crime against an individual’s freedom. According to popular culture, you should accommodate everyone else’s belief systems, even if they are opposed to Catholic morality, lest you be labeled intolerant and closed-minded.

A great many Catholics have a misunderstanding of a healthy and righteous ‘tolerance’ of others. Tolerance should not mean acceptance, nor should it mean a person is not obligated to correct another person’s wrongdoing. Steve Graves, of Catholic Answers, says in his article “In Defense of Apologetics,”

“Some Catholics and other Christians are uncomfortable with apologetics. They consider it contrary to the spirit of ecumenism and adopt a “go along to get along” attitude. Shouldn’t we just live and let live? This discomfort results from a misunderstanding of ecumenism. Ecumenism isn’t a policy of intellectual appeasement, nor does it demand that we overlook real differences.”

Rather, ecumenism and ‘tolerance’ requires that we respect others as individual human beings, for whom God has great respect, while fulfilling our obligation to “love one another; as I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13:34). Jesus’ love included harsh reprimands, conflict and sorrow, because He loved other people with a Divine Love. For Jesus, being liked by everyone did not matter; he wanted everyone to follow Him to God’s Kingdom, but He knew that doing so would involve loving correction and uprightness in faith and morals. In order to love others as Jesus loves us, we must care for not only ourselves, but also our brothers in this world, in order to lead them to Jesus.

Because loving others and following Christ sometimes necessitates reprimand and correction, Catholics today more than ever must stand strong in their faith and share this faith with others. This ‘sharing of faith’ does not equate to a blind acceptance of anything anyone else wants to do; it involves leading a Christ-like life of fidelity to God’s Word and true love for one another.