An Accusation.—Tolerance is the first duty of the citizen as regards religious matters; but "the Roman Catholic Church, if it would be consistent, must be intolerant."—Tschackert.
The Answer.—According to Christ's teaching, the first duty of a man living in a community is not tolerance, but love of his neighbor. A pharisaical doctor of the law once asked Him, tempting Him: Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets" (Matt. xxii. 35-40).
Justice and love are the two first duties of a man to his fellow-men. Tolerance is nowhere mentioned in the law. Mere tolerance does not go far enough. The Catholic Church does not merely tolerate her erring brethren. She loves them with a divine charity—and that is more than tolerance. "Tolerance" is the catchword of genuine liberalism, which manages to put up with an obnoxious fellow-citizen, but knows nothing of charity. But a distinction must be made in the matter of tolerance. Catholics are not intolerant of the erring, but toward their error there can be no such thing as tolerance.
"We can not compromise with error. What is false we can not call true, any more than we can call black white. When, therefore, the Catholic Church combats error and champions truth, she only follows the example of Christ and does what every right-thinking man will acknowledge to be just.
Dogmatic tolerance is self-contradiction. How can a Church that professes to be a teacher of truth say to the thinking world: "If you believe in the Trinity, in the divinity of Christ, and in the sacrament of Penance, well and good. If you don't believe in them—again well and good—for I can't be intolerant"? A Church which is the custodian of revealed truth can not compound with error; and any church—no matter what elements of truth it may retain, or what good it may do to men—any church which is seen to throw the mantle of a false charity over all vagaries of opinion within its pale is proved thereby not to have the hall-mark of Christian orthodoxy. In this connection the Catholic Church stands quite alone—and is thereby proved to be the one faithful custodian of the doctrine revealed by Christ.