ing the faith."—I Tim. vi, 20.
Our Divine Saviour frequently compares His Church to a field and Himself to the sower who went out to sow good seed. He has indeed cultivated this field in the bloody sweat of His brow and sown the seed of His divine doctrine and of His grace. His labors were well repaid by the splendid harvest which He reaped in the faith of the first Christians, and in the holiness of the martyrs, confessors and virgins. But "his enemy came and oversowed cockle among the wheat and went his way" (St. Matt. xiii, 25).
The cockle is not only sin, but also error. This cockle will remain in the field of God, the Church, until the end of time. It is, therefore, the height of injustice to doubt the truth and sanctity of the Catholic Church because, forsooth, a few of her children, and even some of her priests and bishops, have been guilty of heresy or of crime. For the very reason that the Catholic Church is God's field, the wheat and the tares must grow side by side, until the time of the harvest, the day of general judgment comes. But in spite of the fact that the cockle and the wheat grow in the same field, the Church retains her truth and holiness. Her doctrines and sacraments sow only
wheat; the enemy sows the cockle.
Our Divine Saviour Himself tells us that the cockle is spared until the time of the harvest only because of the wheat. Because of the good Christian, God spares the sinner; because of the true believer, He spares the infidel and the heretic. God waits patiently until they be converted, or until they die, when He will reward them according to their deeds. The wheat is, therefore, the greatest benefactor of the cockle. It is on account of His faithful followers that God tolerates scoffers, sinners, heretics and infidels. The godless should, therefore, thank God on their knees that there are still so many faithful on earth.
However, still another truth makes itself manifest in this parable of the wheat and the tares in the field of God. Just as the sower cannot tolerate the cockle in his field, so the Church cannot tolerate the cockle, namely sin and falsehood.
Her zeal for the truth and for the salvation of souls compels her to be intolerant of error under what guise soever it may appear, but for the sinner and the erring she is merciful and compassionate, and she prays for them. We must never forget that weeds will always be weeds and wheat always wheat. Weeds can never become wheat, unbelief can never be placed on the same footing with faith, sin and crime can never claim equal rights with Christian virtue, and for all of them the day of the harvest will come, when the cockle will be cast into the fire and the wheat will be gathered into the granary of heaven.
I will endeavor to show you today what is really meant by religious intolerance.
O Jesus, assist us with Thy grace!
1. We frequently hear in our day the mass of unthinking men, especially her enemies, accuse the Catholic Church of intolerance against all those who profess a belief different from her own. What do we mean by intolerance? We can have a true and a false conception of its meaning. Our enemies give it the false interpretation; we will try to explain its true meaning.
In its true conception, my dearly beloved, religious intolerance is the solemn avowal that God alone can give mankind the true religion and reveal those heavenly truths which are absolutely necessary for eternal salvation. Every child can understand this. Hence religious intolerance condemns every religion and doctrine that does not come from God, that has its origin in the vagaries of the human mind, and must by that very fact be false and detrimental to the salvation of souls.
In this meaning God Himself must be intolerant, if we may so express ourselves. He cannot tolerate that man change the eternal truths and precepts to suit his fancy, or that he adore strange gods. God in His infinite love and mercy can never reward eternally those men who willfully transgress His divine law, who mutilate His divine truths, or who completely throw off the allegiance they owe Him. On the contrary His infinite justice demands that He inflict everlasting punishment on them. If God did not do so, He would thereby admit that He is not the only true God, that His commandments are not necessary and that His truths are not required to obtain eternal life. Who will dare utter such blasphemy? Therefore, even on the part of God, there must be a necessary and essential intolerance.
But even man is intolerant, and he cannot be otherwise without surrendering the rights that belong to him by nature or condition. No ruler can allow his subjects to alter or abrogate his laws at pleasure, nor can he permit them to decide for themselves whether they will obey the laws of the land or not. Whither would such a state of affairs lead us? To the ultimate overthrow of every duly constituted authority, and to boundless license. Public order and the security of life and property demand that all those responsible for the enforcement of the law be intolerant, that is, punish all law-breakers and disturbers of the
No father can allow his children to gainsay his commands, ridicule his admonitions, or repudiate their obligations. He must be intolerant in all these matters. No teacher can permit his pupils to maintain the opposite of what he has taught them, or to uphold their personal opinions as the only correct ones. No good could result from such a method, and so the teacher also is obliged to be intolerant. The same condition prevails between master and ap-which God raises before the world against religious indifference and infidelity. The cross tells us that God abhors every religion which He has not revealed to man, and that the infinite justice of God will punish all those who refuse to accept the grace and the doc-trine of the divine Redeemer, or who falsify them according to the caprices and the desires of their hearts. God is obliged to hate and punish sin and religious error, because He is infinite holiness and eternal truth. If God were indifferent to them He would thereby deny His own essence and being. If it be true that it is a matter of little consequence whether we possess the true faith and the true religion or not, why then did God not spare His only begotten Son, but give Him up to the ignominious death of the cross?
Again, who can doubt the infinite love, and mercy of Jesus toward all men, but especially sinners and the erring? And yet how intolerant Our Divine Saviour was of every deliberate error and contradiction in matters of revealed truth. How often and emphatically He pronounced judgment against all those who will not believe. "He who does not believe is already judged." "If he will not hear the Church let him be to thee as the heathen and the publican."
St. John, the disciple of love, writes :
" Whosoever revolteth and continueth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. . . .If any man come to you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into the house, nor say to him, God speed you" (II St. John i, 9). But he also gives the reason for this. "He that believeth not the Son, maketh him a liar, because he believeth not in the testimony which God hath testified of His Son" (1 St. John v, 10).
3. And in fact, my dearly beloved, what other purpose did the Saviour have in view when He came into the world, than that of raising the human race out of the pit of infidelity and idolatry into which it had fallen, by means of the truths which He brought from heaven, and leading it back to God and salvation? If it were a matter of such complete indifference to what religion or religious error we give allegiance, is it not true that the Incarnation of Christ and His public ministry would be entirely superfluous? But who will dare to make so blasphemous an assertion? Since without Jesus there can be no truth, no eternal life, it follows that Our Divine Saviour was obliged to condemn openly every teaching that did not proceed from Him and, was for that very reason dangerous to the salvation of souls. Today, as always, He must be intolerant of every false religion that can only lead to perdition. For this alone "is eternal life," says Our Divine Saviour, "that they know Thee the only true God and Him thou hast sent, Jesus Christ." To be indifferent to religious error and to be tolerant of every false doctrine is equivalent to a denial of the veracity of God and of His revelation.
The Church then, cannot permit false teachings to arise; she must be intolerant. Just as God hates and punishes falsehood, so must the Church combat and condemn heresy, because she is the kingdom of truth. If she did not do so, or was lax in the accomplishment of this plain duty, she could no longer be the kingdom of God and of redemption on earth. She would be untrue to her vocation and fail to attain the purpose for which she was instituted, that is, to be the teacher of the human race, and she would thus accomplish her own annihilation. Indeed, if she also were indifferent, if she also asserted the equality of truth and falsehood, of revelation and heresy, if she also maintained that it mattered little whether one were Catholic or Protestant, Turk or Jew, she would be the first to deny the necessity of Redemption and of the true faith and likewise of the true Church. Can anyone imagine for a moment that the Church could ever subscribe to a doctrine so monstrous and at the same time so suicidal to herself ? She is, therefore, obliged by the very nature of things, and in justice to the Redeemer and to herself, to be intolerant of error.
4. There are two further reasons why God Himself, Our Lord and Saviour, and, consequently, the Church must necessarily exercise this true intolerance, namely, the salvation of souls and the removal of temporal disturbance and evils. As a matter of fact, what would become of mankind if proud or unbelieving individuals might with impunity transform the religion of Christ, curtail His doctrines or abolish His commandments? The Church cannot tolerate so reprehensible a course without betraying the sacred trust reposed in her by Jesus Christ, Grace and eternal life depend on the integrity of the faith, and therefore she could not tolerate any tampering with it without committing the most frightful treason against humanity and the salvation of souls. What would become of the unity of Catholic faith, of the sacraments, of divine worship, whither would Christianity have drifted if the Church had not constantly combated and condemned heresy? Hundreds of heresiarchs have sprung up in the course of nineteen centuries. Each one attacked a different dogma of the Church, each one asserted that his position was the correct one, each one arrogated to himself the right to teach the Church, the pillar and the ground of truth. Is, then, the Church to yield and be tolerant of heresy and thus betray Jesus Christ and the souls she was instituted to save? Any child can see that such a thing is radically impossible. The Church is obliged to be intolerant of error.
Teachers of heresy, at the expense of their fellowmen, seek only to satisfy their pride, ambition, and passions, and to sow divisions, discord and hatred. I do not speak here of those who have been led into error, of those who without any fault of theirs have been born and reared in heresy. They are deserving of our compassion, our love and our prayers. But I speak of those who knowingly and deliberately disseminate false doctrines. Such as these know perfectly well where they obtain the seed that they sow in the field of the Church. They know well that the doctrine which they try to spread by craft and violence is naught else than but the fabric of their own brain. They know that they are in conflict with the faith of the Catholic Church. They know that they are assailing Our Divine Saviour in His commandment and in His person—in His command to hear the Church, and in His person that has promised to abide forever in His Church.
Do you think, my dearly beloved, that it is proper for the Church to say nothing about these presumptuous practices of the teachers of error? Should she quietly abandon the Catholic faithful to temptation and thereby expose them to the danger of eternal perdition? Who will expect the Church to be so recreant to her duty? In such a case she would cease to be the true Church of Christ, she would no longer be the mother of the faithful, she would degrade herself to the level of her betrayers. In good sooth, the Church can never do this! Hence, as a warning to her children, she must exclude all heretical and godless men from her pale, she must condemn heresy. A father must exclude from the bosom of his family every person, every book that threatens to corrupt the morals of those who are entrusted to his care; the teacher must eradicate every evil influence from the midst of his pupils; a prince, a ruler must banish from among his people every element of disorder. This must be done lest misfortune and ruin overtake the family, the school, or the nation. So must the Church drive out heretics from among her children. She owes it to the Saviour, she owes it to herself, and, most of all, she owes it to the faithful, so that on the one hand they may recognize the false doctrine and, on the other, they may not lose their souls.
5. There is a still more cogent reason why the Church should excommunicate heretics. The experience of centuries teaches us that heretics have always and everywhere been the cause of terrible discord, of revolt, of persecutions against Catholics and of bloody wars. It has been thus from the time of Arius in the third century down to the days of Luther, who sowed the seeds of the Thirty Years' War in Germany, with all its attendant horror and ruin. No country where heresy has gained a foothold has ever remained at peace; it has either been rent asunder or has gone completely to ruin. Poland, Germany, France, Austria are sad examples of this. Protestant countries in our day furnish an apt illustration of the bitterness with which the Church is hated and of how little justice and fair play a Catholic may expect when his religious convictions come into conflict with the prejudices of his fellow citizens.
Is then, my dearly beloved, the Catholic Church,that has lived through nineteen centuries with all their happenings and knows the heart of man only too well, is she to look quietly on while heresies arise, and extend to them the tolerant hand of welcome? She cannot and must not do so, because of the salvation, the tranquillity, the welfare of the nations. She must be as uncompromising towards error as the father is towards the seducers of his children, or the ruler towards the rebels who incite his people to revolution.
Let the enemies of the Catholic Church accuse her of intolerance as much as they please. This uncompromising attitude of the Church toward the seducers of her children shows a large measure of wisdom, justice and mercy. She thus proves her right to the title of true kingdom of Jesus Christ, for her divine Founder can tolerate no revolt against His teaching and His commandments. The Church cannot give up the most precious heritage of Jesus Christ for the sake of a few proud or vicious men. Love as well as truth, obliges her to proclaim to all that the Catholic faith is the only true faith, and that he who lays a sacrilegious hand upon it attacks eternal truth itself, and that for him there is no hope of salvation unless he do penance and return to the faith. She is the Church of the martyrs, the Church of the holy Fathers, of the confessors and virgins and of all the saints. She has never to the present day hesitated to suffer and to shed her blood for the sake of her faith. She cannot, therefore, hesitate to defend the faith against the teachers of error, and declare them the enemies of her children, yea, even of the human race, and cast them out of her midst.
And we who are anxious to obtain everlasting life must be intolerant of ourselves, of our sins and shortcomings, we must cast them off, weep over them and flee from them. The deposit of faith has been kept intact in the Church until the present day because she has never entered into compromise with error. We too can maintain ourselves in grace, and in the faith by waging a relentless war against sin and falsehood, and thus we shall live to see the happy day when God Himself will forever separate the cockle from the wheat, and in recompense for our sturdy resistance against error and sin, will receive us into the realms of everlasting bliss. Amen.
The Beauty and Truth of the Catholic Church, Vol. I, Imprimatur 1911