Saturday, October 12, 2013

One of my Favourite Quotations

"The Church is intolerant in principle because she believes; she is tolerant in practice because she loves. The enemies of the Church are tolerant in principle because they do not believe; they are intolerant in practice because they do not love."

The quotation is attributed to R├ęginald Marie Garrigou-Lagrange OP, the French theologian and Thomist. I can't say for sure that he actually wrote it.

Whoever said it, I think it's extremely profound.

One of the reasons I'm Catholic, one of the things that convince me of the truth of the Faith, is the mismatch between what the world says about the Church and what I actually see. The contrast always seemed utterly baffling to me, even when I had no thoughts at all of becoming a Christian.

I remember when I was walking home from picking up my Junior Cert results (an exam that Irish schoolchildren took at the age of fifteen, at that time), there was a Catholic priest standing in the middle of the street, shaking the hands of all the kids in school uniforms that passed (students getting their results got off early that day, so he would have known that anyone in uniform was in that boat). He said, "Well done" to each one, very pointedly not asking what results they'd achieved. I hadn't even thought enough about religion to call myself an agnostic at that time. I was entirely neutral, as far as I remember. But the little incident stuck in my mind-- along with many others. It seemed like such a gratuitous, disinterested act of kindness, such as I rarely saw before.

We often hear conservatives complain that we live in an "I'm OK-- you're OK" society. I don't actually believe that. I don't believe our society is liberal at all. I believe it is extremely harsh upon the sins of poverty, physical unattractiveness, unpopularity, eccentricity, loneliness, old age, naivety and shyness-- to name but a few. It is the world that is judgmental, not the Church.

The only voice I hear insisting upon the infinite value of every human being-- and I don't mean just now and again, pro forma, but reliably, perpetually, unfailingly-- is the voice of the Catholic Church.

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