Charity and Tolerance

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Charity is a Christian virtue. The Gospel is full of examples of the charity that Christ showed those considered to be ‘unclean’ or ‘outcasts’. This is not to say that he was tolerant of their behavior. Christ, through His works and sermons, demonstrated an emphasis on redemption. Redemption is different from tolerance. Tolerance implies that He – and by extension – we as Christians should accept all behavior. This is a commonly held fallacy that is touted by what I refer to as ‘Revisionist Christians’…and it is far from the biblical truth and the Catechism of the Catholic church.

One of the most commonly misunderstood lessons is found in John 7:53. In this gospel passage, Christ is called to pass judgment on a woman who was a confirmed adulteress. For those unfamiliar with the story, Christ ‘wrote on the ground’. He then said “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” One by one, her accusers left. Often the revisionist with a liberal agenda likes to end the lesson there. Unfortunately, they neglect the heart of the lesson of this Gospel.

Then Jesus lifting up himself, said to her: Woman, where are they that accused thee? Hath no man condemned thee?
Who said: No man, Lord. And Jesus said: Neither will I condemn thee. Go, and now sin no more.

‘Go forth and sin no more.’ How convenient to neglect this part. Christ is not accepting her sinful behavior, He did what He came to earth to do – to forgive us our sins and show us the path to righteous living. As God, He forgave the woman for her sinful behavior and told her that she needed to avoid this behavior in order to remain in a state of God’s grace. Sin no more. Placing the emphasis on this last passage, we see the difference between tolerance and charity. He did not tell her that she didn’t sin, He forgave her by telling her that He would not condemn her. That is forgiveness, not acceptance.

Sin is something that is to be avoided, not tolerated. Luke explains this clearly:

Take heed to yourselves. If thy brother sin against thee, reprove him: and if he do penance, forgive him. And if he sin against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day be converted unto thee, saying: I repent: forgive him. – Luke 17:3-4, Douay Rheims

Can the lesson be any clearer to the reader?  Sin is something that we ‘reprove’  – not accept and tolerate. And Christ told us that we must continue to forgive the sinner in the hopes of winning their conversion. How could we change the hearts of those who are engaged in sinful behavior if we accept and tolerate the behavior? There is a maxim in the Citizen’s household – ‘hate the sin, love the sinner.’ This is the lesson of Luke 17.

John 5 shares a story of a man who was ill and could not walk to the healing waters.  Christ demonstrated the gift of Charity for us. He helped the man, taking pity on him. He healed him and then – once again – told the man

Behold thou art made whole: sin no more, lest some worse thing happen to thee.

What is the ‘worse thing’ that can happen? Sinning again. A key tenet of Catholicism is that we are all born into sin and we are all sinners; it is only through God’s grace that we can be washed clean again..and again.

The Catechism recognizes this precept when it conjoins us to be mindful of the model and teachings of Christ. It calls on Catholics to be mindful of ‘who is the head of the body we are members’  – again, can the message be any clearer?

Christian, recognize your dignity and, now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return to your former base condition by sinning. Remember who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Never forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of the Kingdom of God. (Catechism, #1691)

The Catechism again calls us to be mindful of sin and not to return to sinful behavior.

What is sinful behavior? The ‘seven deadly sins’ are still in effect; for those who have forgotten, they are envy, greed, sloth, pride, anger, gluttony, and lust. To them, the Vatican recently included others:

Certain violations of the fundamental rights of human nature through experiments, genetic manipulations…drugs, which weaken the mind and obscure intelligence; pollution; as well as the widening social and economic differences between the rich and the poor that "cause an unbearable social injustice." [and]…abortion and pedophilia.

the preceding was a statement from Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti of the Vatican Apostolic Penitentiary.  These are modern social ills that certainly need to be addressed by Catholics. But is accepting people who need our help who continue to live in a state of sin acceptable? No. We need to work to correct these social issues while rescuing people from their need – and their sinful state.

The Citizen has written about poverty in ‘The New Gospel of Wealth’  – I won’t repeat my observations here. The emphasis of this essay illustrates that Christ taught us to help the poor to rise up from their poverty and be able to support themselves. This gives them aid – and human dignity.

Our stance on homosexuality is equally clear. A couple of excerpts from the Catholic Catechism:

2351: "Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes."

2357: "Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, [140] tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."[141] They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved."

The first passage explains that sex between a husband and wife is more than an expression of lust, it is an activity that increases the intimacy and union of a man and wife and a potential act of procreation. Sex for the sake of slaking lust is sinful – even between a man and his wife. The second passage clearly discusses the sinful nature of homosexual actions.  Nowhere does the Catechism condemn the person – it condemns the act as sinful. Remember – hate the sin, love the sinner?

This essay is intended as an introduction to the concept of the difference between Christian charity and secular tolerance. The former is part of our calling as Catholics – and the latter is something that needs to be resisted…at all costs.

May God Bless you all!


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