suffering from tolerance

Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen was a prolific writer, commentator, moral theologian, and philosopher as well as a bona fide television star. His weekly television show Life is Worth Living was amazing not only for being carried on ABC from 1952 until 1957 and on other networks under different titles until 1968 but for being the most widely-viewed religious series in television history, averaging over ten-million viewers every week. All this despite the fact that the show, shown only in black and white and hosted by Bishop Sheen, consisted mainly of he in his clerics speaking to the camera discussing moral issues of the day from an clearly Catholic perspective.



Often quoted, he once observed that “America, it is said, is suffering from intolerance – it is not. It is suffering from tolerance. Tolerance of right and wrong, truth and error, virtue and evil, Christ and chaos. Our country is not nearly so overrun with the bigoted as it is overrun with the broadminded.”

Archbishop Sheen was never reticent to speak out bluntly and forcefully even if it engendered controversy for as he once stated, “The refusal to take sides on great moral issues is itself a decision. It is a silent acquiescence to evil. The Tragedy of our time is that those who still believe in honesty lack fire and conviction, while those who believe in dishonesty are full of passionate conviction.”

Many today may find it puzzling that Bishop Sheen would suggest that we are “suffering from tolerance” and yet he was exceedingly perceptive in his observation, an observation that came from understanding the impact and the dangers of subjective moral relativism, the philosophy espoused by Baruch Spinoza.

Spinoza asserted that the “government inculcates into its citizens the belief that the chief of all the virtues is tolerance—the affirmation of everyone’s right to believe anything he wants as long as he behaves himself in public. To put the principle in a form that’s familiar to us, dogma is subjective. What people believe is entirely a personal matter. What matters is whether they disturb the peace or physically hurt someone else.”[1] It is this so-called right to believe in God in whatever manner each and every person so chooses that has ultimately removed the church from the public square and it is the belief in the individual right that actually creates the need for the secular state. “The more that right is believed and acted upon, the more we need the secular state to protect our right to believe what we want, against other people’s conflicting religious beliefs.”[2]

Spinoza espoused a philosophy of subjective relativism which directly contradicts objective truth. Religious freedom, liberty, as viewed by the church is deeply rooted in the understanding that the greatest human desire is to seek the highest truths. In other words, the right to seek the truth (the church’s view) is not the same as the right to define the truth in whatever way one desires (Spinoza’s view.)

Our “silent acquiescence” is both frighteningly obvious and undeniably revealing. We should never forget the words of Edmund Burke who wrote “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”



[1] Benjamin Wiker, Ph. D., Worshipping The State: How Liberalism Became Our State Religion, March 25, 2013, Regnery Publishing.
[2] Ibid.

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.