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Fulton J. Sheen, “America is Suffering From Tolerance”

September 3, AD2017

fulton sheen

My view is simple.  When I meet a person who says, “I am Catholic, but,…” it is my immediate conclusion that he/she is not Catholic. In matters of faith and morals, the Church has a reasonably long history of leading the flock.

Fulton J Sheen

Even though he died quite some time ago, what Fulton J Sheen has written tends to remain quite current and true. On his television program one evening, he looked into the camera and said rather forcefully,

“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.”

On another occasion, he explained the problem with simple broadmindedness. “Broadmindedness, when it means indifference to right and wrong, eventually ends in a hatred of what is right.”

Suffering from Tolerance?

As Catholics by and large, and as part of a larger Christian community, we are told to be tolerant and stand by as a female ( I would use the word “mother”, but that is the wrong descriptor) decides to have her preborn child killed since it is only a blob of parasitic cells which hold the promise of disrupting her life. There is a quote attributed to Ronald Reagan where it is reported he said, “It seems to me that the people in favor of abortion have already been born.”

We are told to be tolerant when a fellow, who may be a member of a tiny population of society ( well under 2% ), wishes to use a women’s restroom in which children, young women, teens, and nuns may be present, simply because he may feel he needs to be in touch with his female side that day.

Christians are told to be tolerant when a “couple” wishes to have their same-sex union celebrated. We are told that it is only right that as a result of a legal action a person’s shop is forced to close rather than supply a cake or make a dress, or any number of other reasons.

We are told to be tolerant as scientists cut and splice DNA to “correct” defects.  We are told that doctors, among others, should make the decisions when to end a person’s life.

I Am Proud to be Intolerant

“Tolerance is an attitude of reasoned patience toward evil … a forbearance that restrains us from showing anger or inflicting punishment. Tolerance applies only to persons … never to truth. Tolerance applies to the erring, intolerance to the error … Architects are as intolerant about sand as foundations for skyscrapers as doctors are intolerant about germs in the laboratory. Tolerance does not apply to truth or principles. About these things, we must be intolerant, and for this kind of intolerance, so much needed to rouse us from sentimental gush, I make a plea. Intolerance of this kind is the foundation of all stability.”  — Fulton J. Sheen

Equipped with this wisdom, I believe that Catholics must be intolerant in so far as evil or a disruption of moral teachings, and societal mores are concerned.  Failure to display intolerance becomes tantamount to a complete giving in, as Archbishop Sheen observed,

“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.”

While not necessarily emulating the movie “Network” and flinging the window open  to yell ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’” , we are called upon to correct our brothers in society and help them see that the current social order is a bit off center. As an example, how does it make any sense that any government should pay organizations to kill their pre-born citizens via abortion?

Aren’t Christians called to turn the other cheek? Aren’t they simply supposed to be meek and sheepish? To some extent perhaps, but, there are many instances where we are told to admonish, correct, or otherwise council our brothers when we see them in error.

Matthew 18:15 “If your brother* sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.

Galatians 6:1 “Brothers, even if a person is caught in some transgression, you who are spiritual should correct that one in a gentle spirit, looking to yourself, so that you also may not be tempted.”

1 Thessalonians 5:14-15  “We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient with all. See that no one returns evil for evil; rather, always seek what is good [both] for each other and for all.”

These and several other quotes tell us that we must correct that which is wrong, but, we must do so with love and not with hate. Failure to correct our brothers ( society in general ) is the first step down the slippery slope which will end potentially with the loss of any religion at all.

“A religion that doesn’t interfere with the secular order will soon discover that the secular order will not refrain from interfering with it.” — Fulton J. Sheen

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Dan and his bride, his gift from God, have been married over 50 years, and they have recently moved to East TN to reduce the distance to family. He is a 4th degree Knight, is active in the Society of St Vincent de Paul, and several other ministries. He has been listed in the "Who's Who Directory of Global Business Leaders".

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  • Deoacveritatimyfaithsustainsm

    You might think that that Fulton Sheep’s word are appropriate now in days BUT YOU ARE WRONG!!!! AND SO ARE THOSE WHO THINK LIKE YOU!

    Today that we have a racist, a sociopath, and a pathological liar a in the White House awakening hate in people because they think being white automatically makes them superior than other races I DARE to say that even Bishop Fulton Sheen would be appalled by you using his words in such a time.

    Yes the Church is going through a crisis in many areas but we have a wave of hate and division right now because that RACIST in the White House is the looked upon by white supremacists.

    Pretty soon we can have a wave of hate and violence not only in the U.S. but around the world where some countries which think that their predominantly white color is under threat.

    Unfortunate people copy cat all the bad.

    Those who only think of abortion as a crime so is the death of people who can be attacked and even kill for not being the right color or from the right country, or simply for being poor and dark.

    Racism is a sin and some Catholics particularly in the extreme right or “traditonalists” Catholics do have racists tendencies.

    May the good Lord help us!

    Many of the very elect or who think they might be the elect because of their corservatism could be very well the ones who are deveived.

    • DLink

      I hope this comment is a example of willful ignorance. I would hate to think there many people with all this vitriol in their bile, very unhealthy. Many people found Obama to be an unsatisfactory person also but the difference in his case is that he open espoused immoral actions and was fortunate enough to have a compliant media provide him cover. The left is quite willing to tolerate all manner of evil, perversion and aberrant behavior but to be remonstrated for sin is simply not to be permitted (see Berkley et al.). A sad situation for tolerance.

  • RWDave

    This is an excellent article to help with my ethics class this semester. Thank you! Bishop Sheen is a personal hero of mine…what genius!

  • captcrisis

    No one’s asking you to agree. We just want you to let other good-hearted people live their lives in ways that do not harm you.

    Your gay sister is not hurting you by getting married to her long-time girlfriend — but she will be hurt if gay marriage is again outlawed. Transitioned gender people are not hurting you by using the bathroom they identify with — but they might risk being assaulted if they go to the other one. As for abortion, those women don’t think that the fetus is a fully formed human life. For centuries the Catholic Church didn’t think so either.

    • Shaune Scott

      The article is not about “hurt’. It is about proper correction of error.

    • Cynthia Millen

      Agree with you, Shaune. And when we are denied the right to correct those errors, vilified for attempting to do so, and our children are force-fed those errors, society is irreparably harmed. We not only have the right to speak truth: it is our duty.

    • captcrisis

      You don’t have the “right” to ban gay marriage. You can try, via the democratic process, to get it outlawed again, but a large majority of even church-going Catholics will disagree with you.

    • Shaune Scott

      No faithful can support so-called “homosexual marriage”. “Church-going” and “faithful” are not always synonymous.

    • RWDave

      A majority doesn’t decide truth.

    • M B

      Society has a right to ban anything that is harmful to society itself specially to its Children.
      ….as for “the large majority” of church-going Catholics who disagree..”

      “The Holy Catholic Church condemns, rejects and anathematizes all who think opposed and contrary things, and declares them to be aliens from
      the Body Body of Christ, which is the Church ( Pope Eugene IV, The Council of Florence, 1441)

    • RWDave

      Indeed. So much error!

    • captcrisis

      It seems oblivious to the hurt that it would cause.

    • Shaune Scott

      It’s called tough love.

    • captcrisis

      No, it’s called being oblivious to the hurt it would cause.

    • RWDave

      No, it’s called using reason and logic, which oftentimes means that a little pain can stop much worse in the future, as well as trumping emotion.. Example: Your little boy is about to chase a ball into a busy street. A swat on the behind now means he learns to avoid danger in the future. Yup, it hurts a bit now, but not near as much as his funeral after being hit by a car.

    • Shaune Scott

      Better some pain now than eternal separation from God.

    • Rocky Carr

      Hurt is necessary. The Truth hurts, I just had a flu shot…

    • Phil Steinacker

      EVERYONE suffers hurt in life, whether self-inflicted, inflicted by others intentionally or not, and/or by the impact of events external to us, our families, friends, or social group.

      Tell us again about the “right” to be exempt from disappointment or hurt.

    • ace

      Go google the Didache and then try and convince of your error. From earliest times there was condemnation of abortion…

    • texasknight

      I hope and pray that you will allow The Holy Spirit to lead you back to the narrow path before it is too late. May God give you His peace.

    • George Cameron

      Part of the problem is that “good-hearted people” aren’t content with simply living their lives in the manner that suits them. Their so-called “community” insists that the rest of us embrace their lifestyle and indoctrinate children with their ideals.

    • They first and foremost hurt themselves and all those whom they claim to ‘love’ and all who sincerely love them beginning with God and his Son Jesus who suffered and died to clean up and raise fallen creation and so that we may have Love eternal.

    • M B

      Yes indeed!! everyone aware or not is affected and hurt by these vile lies which are forced on us.
      By distorting and changing what is sacred and good (the union between man and woman), and by twisting the concept of family which God our Father has instituted for the purpose of bringing forth new life, we indeed corrupt our hearts and minds, and corrupt the most vulnerable of us, our children.

      ” The corrupter of families will not inherit the Kingdom of God. A man so foul will depart into unquenchable fire; and so also will anyone who listen to him”
      “If they who do this things according to the flesh suffer death ( spiritual death), how much more if a man corrupts by evil teaching the faith of God ?( for the sake of which Jesus Christ was crucified?)
      St.Ignatious ( A.D. 107)

    • Rocky Carr

      You’ll be Lucky if you make it to purgatory!

  • Birgit Atherton Jones

    Excellent compilation of timely truths by an esteemed shepherd. Thank you for a relevant essay.

  • Robin Warchol

    Shows what a prophet he was. Thanks for the article, great quotes!

  • Ann Hesenius

    Wow…Is this ever – sadly – pertinent to our situation today in America.

  • Great and apt words from a great man of God. May he not lose his reward.