The intolerant often have a way of appearing reasonable. They appeal to some sort of value that they think everyone should agree with, frame the debate in this way, and then treat everyone who disagrees with their premises as being the hate filled ones. That’s the case in the editorial "Catholic Church infringing on personal lives | Guest Columns | San Francisco | San Francisco Examiner.” The allegation is Archbishop Cordlileone of San Francisco is infringing on the rights of individuals by insisting that people who serve in Catholic run institutions actually support (or at least not publicly oppose) the Church teaching to avoid misleading students about what is right and wrong. That’s entirely reasonable. The Catholic Church has always rejected the idea of education being compartmentalized. She believes that education needs an overall approach which teaches moral values—it’s not a case of just saying “learn these values at home."
So, the Church insists that if a person wants to work for a Catholic school, they need to avoid giving the appearance of rejecting the values of the Church. If one can’t accept that, they should look for another place of business. That’s common sense. If a fundamentalist Protestant school insisted that I sign an agreement that said I acknowledged the Bible as the sole rule of faith, I would have to reject that condition. If I lied and then was caught out promoting a view contrary to the group’s views, I would have no right to object to being fired.
However, we tend to have groups of activists seeking to force change on the Church. Where we believe that a behavior is not compatible with God’s commandments, these groups wrongly assume that these teachings are nothing more than unsavory political positions which can and should be changed. They attempt the "grassroots level” attempts to change the thinking of the youth in the hopes of converting them to their way of thinking.
In other words, when it is their own values in question, these activists insist that everyone respect the values of others. But when it comes to values they dislike, they refuse to respect those values, and call them intolerance. That’s a self contradiction. If one demands that everyone respect the values of others, that includes the views they dislike. If it’s wrong for us to judge their way of thinking, it’s wrong of them to judge our way of thinking. So, if their proclaimed value system is based on “tolerance,” they should practice what they preach and stop trying to force change on the Church.
Now sometimes a counter-charge arises here. That’s to accuse us of being hypocritical. They allege that because we’re not being tolerant of behaviors, we are being hypocritical. The problem is, we don’t claim a moral relativism or tolerating all views as equally valid. We believe all people are required to seek the truth and follow it. If a person refuses to seek the truth, or refuses to follow the truth once found, that is not a good thing.
That’s a perfectly rational view. We reject, for example, the idea that one human being is superior to another as false. Because of that, we reject ideas that allow one class of people to have power over another group of people because of their claim to greater importance. We reject racism because we believe all races are equal in the eyes in God. We reject abortion, because we deny that the unborn person is less of a person than the born person. Without this kind of thinking, a person would have nothing to say to the totalitarian except, “I dislike your system.” Here’s a thought exercise… imagine some group like the Nazis use the same arguments as modern activists to claim people have no right judge them. If you say, “tolerate unpopular views,” you have to tolerate them. If you believe some views are wrong and don’t have to be accepted, then you can morally oppose such views, providing the reasons you believe it is wrong.
The Church does provide her reasons for saying that things are wrong. But the response to those reasons is insults and labels (ad hominem attacks). Indeed, many people do not even know these reasons—they just assume that the only possible reason for opposing them is hatred. That’s ironic because refusal to consider any other possibilities is intolerance.
In addition to these attacks, we see such accusers trying to make the Church teaching seem to be in opposition to Pope Francis. In a particularly repugnant example, the San Francisco Chronicle takes Papal soundbites out of context and tries to make it sound like there is opposition. But the Pope has affirmed that when it comes to the Church teaching, he “is a son of the Church.” Indeed, he continues to defend the Christian understanding of marriage. So again, the tactic is to define things in such a way that makes any opposition look hateful—but it is false.
Keep that in mind as you encounter charges of bigotry against Catholics.