Friday, October 5, 2012

Broadmindedness, Tolerance, and Intolerance

One of my closest friends regularly refers to the idea from Ecclesiastes that there is nothing new under the sun.  It is so true.  As I was thinking about this blog about the consequences of misguided broadmindedness, I received an email which contained a quote from Bishop Fulton J. Sheen.  A little investigation about the original source document revealed that it was a quote from his 1932 book entitled "Moods and Truth." 
The reasons that I had for writing a blog on this subject has to do with the fact that my observations have led me to the conclusion that Western societies have engaged in self-destructive behavior by their misplaced view of this subject.  It has come to be called political correctness or pc but it has developed into a form of pc tyranny.  I will comment further in another subsequent blog but I don’t think that I can or need to express some key thoughts on the subject better than Bishop Sheen did some 80 years ago.  
The email that I received contained these quotes from this book regarding his assertion about the curse of broadmindedness: “America, it is said, is suffering from intolerance - it is not.  It is suffering from tolerance...Our country is not nearly so overrun with the bigoted as it is overrun with the broadminded.”

He writes further, “There is no other subject on which the average mind is so much confused as the subject of tolerance and intolerance. Tolerance is always supposed to be desirable because it is taken to be synonymous with broadmindedness. Intolerance is always supposed to be undesirable, because it is taken to be synonymous with narrow-mindedness. This is not true, for tolerance and intolerance apply to two totally different things. Tolerance applies only to persons, but never to principles. Intolerance applies only to principles, but never to persons. We must be tolerant to persons because they are human; we must be intolerant about principles because they are divine. We must be tolerant to the erring, because ignorance may have led them astray; but we must be intolerant to the error, because Truth is not our making, but God's. And hence the Church in her history, due reparation made, has always welcomed the heretic back into the treasury of her souls, but never his heresy into the treasury of her wisdom.

“The Church, like Our Blessed Lord, advocates charity to all persons who disagree with her by word or by violence. Even those who in the strictest sense of the term-are bigots, are to be treated with the utmost kindness. They really do not hate the Church, they hate only what they mistakenly believe to be the Church. If I believed all the lies that are told about the Church, if I gave credence to all the foul stories told about her priesthood and Papacy, if I had been brought up on falsehoods about her teachings and her sacraments, I would probably hate the Church a thousand times more than they do.

“Keeping the distinction well in mind between persons and principles, cast a hurried glance over the general religious conditions of our country. America, it is commonly said, is suffering from intolerance. While there is much want of charity to our fellow-citizens, I believe it is truer to say that America is not suffering so much from intolerance as it is suffering from a false kind of tolerance: tolerance of right and wrong; truth and error; virtue and vice; Christ and chaos. The man, in our country, who can make up his mind and hold to certain truths with all the fervor of his soul, is called narrow-minded, whereas the man who cannot make up his mind is called broadminded.

And now this false broad-mindedness or tolerance of truth and error has carried many minds so far that they say one religion is just as good as another, or that because one contradicts another, therefore, there is no such thing as religion. This is just like concluding that because, in the days of Columbus, some said the world was round and others said it was flat, therefore, there is no world at all.

“Such indifference to the oneness of truth is at the root of all the assumptions so current in present-day thinking that religion is an open question, like the tariff, whereas science is a closed question, like the multiplication table. It is behind that queer kind of broadmindedness which teaches that any one may tell us about God, though it would never admit that any one but a scientist should tell us about an atom.

It has inspired the idea that we should be broad enough to publish our sins to any psychoanalyst living in a glass house, but never so narrow as to tell them to a priest in a confessional box. It has created the general impression that any individual opinion about religion is right, and it has disposed modern minds to accept its religion dished up in the form of articles entitled: "My Idea of Religion," written by any nondescript from a Hollywood movie star to the chief cook of the Ritz-Carlton.
“This kind of broadmindedness which sacrifices principles to whims, dissolves entities into environment, and reduces truth to opinion, is an unmistakable sign of the decay of the logical faculty.”

Let me know what you think.

Let the light of our Lord shine upon you!

REM (Ray Makowski) Co-Founder, Director and Secretary-Treasurer


  1. Thank you for sharing this. As I was reading I was reminded of this passage, "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." Matthew 7:13-14 Thanks again !!!

  2. In trying to set my thoughts on paper, I realize that the word "tolerance" extends farther for me than for Bishop Sheen. If I am reading him correctly, the term "tolerance" or "broad-mindedness" should only extend to people and not to principles. I agree with that up to a point. However, I think where we may differ is that my nature is to tolerate both. By that I do NOT mean that I accept different principles into my own belief system. It means that I accept their right to "be" and do not attempt to shove my beliefs onto differing ideals. I don't become defensive or angry if someone else differs in beliefs/principles from my own. Each has a right to his/her own beliefs and the journey each is on. It does not threaten me or my core principles to have others think differently.

    However, I enjoyed reading your blog, Ray, and the nice memories of watching Bishop Sheen on TV as a child still make me smile. He was such a gifted speaker and frequently made a lot of sense in the "real world" as well as the "religious world". Thanks for bringing that sweet memory back home to me!