Newman on The Problem of Religious Toleration

            Newman has a marvelous sermon on Religious Toleration, in which he lambasts members of the present Church (19th century England) for simply presenting God as “merciful” and not as “severe and just.” He notes that many are tempted simply to present a rosy picture of the faith and of the costs of discipleship. Why? Because men speak well of us, men don’t confront us, when we do so. When we do so, we are confronted, condemned, left out, persecuted. Thus, those who wish to please become effeminate: The Castrate the Church. I quote the great Cardinal:

            Regarding thus “the goodness” only, and not “the severity of God,” no wonder that they ungird their loins and become effeminate; no wonder that their ideal notion of a perfect Church, is a Church which lets every one go on his way, and disclaims any right to pronounce an opinion, much less inflict a censure on religious error.

            But those who think themselves and others in risk of an eternal curse, dare not be thus indulgent. Here then lies our want at the present day, for this we must pray,—that a reform may come in the spirit and power of Elias. We must pray God thus “to revive His work in the midst of the years;” to send us a severe Discipline, the Order of St. Paul and St. John, “speaking the Truth in love,” and “loving in the Truth,”—a Witness of Christ, “knowing the terror of the Lord,” fresh from the presence of Him “whose head and hairs are white like wool, as white as snow, and whose eyes are as a flame of fire, and out of His mouth a sharp sword,”—a Witness not shrinking from proclaiming His wrath, as a real characteristic of His glorious nature, though expressed in human language for our sakes, proclaiming the narrowness of the way of life, the difficulty of attaining Heaven, the danger of riches, the necessity of taking up our cross, the excellence and beauty of self-denial and austerity, the hazard of disbelieving the Catholic Faith, and the duty of zealously contending for it. Thus only will the tidings of mercy come with force to the souls of men, with a constraining power and with an abiding impress, when hope and {290} fear go together.

2 thoughts on “Newman on The Problem of Religious Toleration

  1. Toleration seems to be the great tool of the modernists. Most people don’t know the definition of the word. I also believe that another great tool in the modernists arsenal is dialogue.

    1. That bad use of X is made does not mean X is bad. It means some people use it badly. This goes for both toleration and dialogue, evangelization and ecumenism. Some people evangelize with anger; that might be proselytization. Some people evangelize with charity and zeal and truth; that is what we should do and what should under no circumstance be called proselytization. Salvation is at stake!

      Ecumenism is working for the full communion of all Christians. Who could not want that? Of course, some mistakenly think that means watering down, abandoning dogma. That is nothing but modernistic nonsense. But we should work for the return of the lost to the one sheepfold.

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