The virtue of tolerance.

Author:Griese, Donald H., II
Position:Correspondence - Letter to the Editor

It was a surprise to read Richard John Neuhaus' assertion that "tolerance is a virtue" (While We're At It, January), since several arguments can be made refuting the idea.

First, the Catechism of the Catholic Church calls upon us to always be filled with this or that virtue, each of which is clearly described and discussed. Tolerance is not on the list. To the contrary, we are called upon to be sometimes intolerant in the face of unjust laws ([subsection] 1903, 2242). It is worth noting that Catholic teaching never admonishes us to be unwise, intemperate, pitiless, cowardly, weak, or otherwise non-virtuous in any way.

Second, tolerance must always be directed towards, and supportive of, wrong things only, to the exclusion of good things. This is a characteristic unknown to virtuous acts. It is impossible to "tolerate" good things, for good things are welcomed and embraced rather than tolerated. Virtue exists for the Good; tolerance exists for the sake of the wrong.

Third, there are indeed times and situations requiring us to reluctantly tolerate wrong things, but we must not be misled to believe that the tolerance itself is the virtuous act. Tolerance, like war, is at best a necessary evil. The virtuous acts in such cases are those that sustain us as we tolerate, or fight, the evils at hand, and would include serenity, patience...

To continue reading