PODCAzT 143: Fulton J. Sheen – “In the face of this false broadmindedness, what the world needs is intolerance.”


With a biretta tip to my friend Fr. Heilman at Roman Catholic Man, this PODCAzT welcomes today’s guest Ven. Fulton J. Sheen.  We will hear his

Plea for Intolerance

… yes, you read that right.

It seems appropriate to read this in the wake of Amoris laetitia.

Sheen’s text is in a book given its imprimatur in 1931!  They had a lot of the same problems we have, because the Devil is always at work, but that was a different time, I’ll tell ya’.  Pius XI was gloriously reigning….

You can immediately tell that what Sheen is addressing was already a problem in 1931, at least 85 years ago.  I would submit that, though Sheen concerns himself with “America”, his comments reach far beyond America now.

In the PODCAzT I have bits and pieces of popular hits from 1931 as well as a clip from Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto which came to us in … guess which year.  Also, to get you into the mood and the era, salted through are clips of voices and moments from 1931 (except for the brief intro to Sheen’s radio show The Catholic Hour which is actually from 1943).

(There is a super bit – among many – starting about 15:00!)

Below is a taste of a deeply edited version of Sheen’s original piece with my emphases and comments.  I, on the other hand, read the whole thing in the PODCAzT unedited, so it has some references that folks in 1931 would have found current but which some of you might not grasp.  Here’s the edited version…

America, it is said, is suffering from intolerance. It is not. It is suffering from tolerance: tolerance of right and wrong, truth and error, virtue and evil, Christ and chaos. Our country is not nearly so much overrun with the bigoted as it is overrun with the broad-minded. The man who can make up his mind in an orderly way, as a man might make up his bed, is called a bigot; [Sound familiar?  Watch the nightly news!] but a man who cannot make up his mind, any more than he can make up for lost time, is called tolerant and broad-minded. [Indeed… “nuanced… thoughtful…”.]

A bigoted man is one who refuses to accept a reason for anything; a broad-minded man is one who will accept anything for a reason—providing it is not a good reason. It is true that there is a demand for precision, exactness, and definiteness, but it is only for precision in scientific measurement, not in logic. The breakdown that has produced this natural broad-mindedness is mental, not moral.  [That’s 1931.  Today, I think it’s both mental and moral.  We are in serious trouble now, after decades of the dumbed-down education at least two generations have received. On top of that habitual sin, especially of the carnal variety, makes you stupid.  Add dumb to stupid and we wind up with a real problem.] The evidence for this statement is threefold: the tendency to settle issues not by arguments but by words, the unqualified willingness to accept the authority of anyone on the subject of religion, and lastly the love of novelty. [Fulton J. Sheen… prophet.]

The science of religion has a right to be heard scientifically through its qualified spokesmen, [God, save us.] just as the science of physics or astronomy has a right to be heard through its qualified spokesmen. Religion is a science despite the fact the some would make it only a sentiment. Religion has its principles, natural and revealed, which are more exacting in their logic than mathematics. [!] But the false notion of tolerance has obscured this fact from the eyes of many who are as intolerant about the smallest details of life as they are tolerant about their relations to God.  [Sound familiar?]

Another evidence of the breakdown of reason that has produced this weird fungus of broad-mindedness is the passion of novelty, as opposed to the love of truth. Truth is sacrificed for an epigram, the Divinity of Christ for a headline in the Monday morning newspaper. Many a modern preacher is far less concerned with preaching Christ and Him crucified than he is with his popularity with his congregation. A want of intellectual backbone makes him straddle the ox of truth and the ass of nonsense, paying compliments to Catholics because of “their great organization” and to sexologists because of “their honest challenge to the youth of this generation.” Bending the knee to the mob rather than God would probably make them scruple at ever playing the role of John the Baptist before a modern Herod. [Get this…] No accusing finger would be leveled at a divorce or one living in adultery; no voice would be thundered in the ears of the rich, saying with something of the intolerance of Divinity: “It is not lawful for thee to live with thy brother’s wife.” Rather would we hear: “Friends, times are changing!” The acids of modernity are eating away the fossils of orthodoxy.

Belief in the existence of God, in the Divinity of Christ, in the moral law, is considered passing fashions. [In a way, this is the Kasperite approach: truth and how we interpret even Christ’s words in Scripture depends on the needs of the time, changing needs.  Philosophy is displaced by politics.] The latest thing in this new tolerance is considered the true thing, as if truth were a fashion, like a hat, instead of an institution like a head.

The final argument for modern broad-mindedness is that truth is novelty and hence “truth” changes with the passing fancies of the moment. [As I was saying…] Like the chameleon that changes his colors to suit the vesture on which he is placed, so truth is supposed to change to fit the foibles and obliquities of the age. The nature of certain things is fixed, and none more so than the nature of truth. Truth may be contradicted a thousand times, but that only proves that it is strong enough to survive a thousand assaults. But for any one to say, “Some say this, some say that, therefore, there is no truth,” is about as logical as it would have been for Columbus who heard some say, “The earth is round”, and others say “The earth is flat” to conclude: “Therefore, there is no earth.” Like a carpenter who might throw away his rule and use each beam as a measuring rod, so, too, those who have thrown away the standard of objective truth have nothing left with which to measure but the mental fashion of the moment.

The giggling giddiness of novelty, the sentimental restlessness of a mind unhinged, and the unnatural fear of a good dose of hard thinking, all conjoin to produce a group of sophomoric latitudinarians[Wow!] who think there is no difference between God as Cause and God as a “mental projection”; who equate Christ and Buddha, and then enlarge their broad-mindedness into a sweeping synthesis that says not only that one Christian sect is as good as another, but even that one world-religion is just as good as another. The great god “Progress” is then enthroned on the altars of fashion, and as the hectic worshippers are asked, “Progress toward what?” the tolerant comes back with “More progress.” All the while sane men are wondering how there can be progress without direction and how there can be direction without a fixed point. And because they speak of a “fixed point”, they are said to be behind the times, when really they are beyond the times mentally and spiritually.

In the face of this false broadmindedness, what the world needs is intolerance. The world seems to have lost entirely the faculty of distinguishing between good and bad, the right and the wrong. There are some minds that believe that intolerance is always wrong, because they make “intolerance” mean hate, narrow-mindedness, and bigotry. These same minds believe that tolerance is always right because, for them, it means charity, broadmindedness, and American good nature. [Remember, that was 1931 and this applies beyond America.]

[NB] What is tolerance? [What is “real” tolerance.] Tolerance is an attitude of reasoned patience toward evil and a forbearance that restrains us from showing anger or inflicting punishment. But what is more important than the definition is the field of its application. The important point here is this: Tolerance applies only to persons, but never to truth. Intolerance applies only to truth, but never to persons. Tolerance applies to the erring; intolerance to the error.  [Get that?  Do you hear an “Amen!”?]

America is suffering not so much from intolerance, which is bigotry, as it is from tolerance, which is indifference to truth and error, and a philosophical nonchalance that has been interpreted as broad-mindedness. Greater tolerance, of course, is desirable, for there can never be too much charity shown to persons who differ with us. [Or to persons who have gotten themselves in to serious problems in life, with the marriages and moral lives and rapport with the Church and sacraments.] Our Blessed Lord Himself asked that we “love those who calumniate us, for they are always persons,” but He never told us to love the calumny.

In keeping with the Spirit of Christ, the Church encourages prayers for all those who are outside the pale of the Church and asks that the greatest charity be shown towards them. Charity, then, must be shown to persons and particularly those outside the fold, who by charity must be led back, that there may be one fold and one Shepherd. Shall God, Who refuses to look with an equally tolerant eye on all religions, be denied the name of “Wisdom” and be called an “Intolerant” God?  [Let’s talk about fallen away Catholics and people in “irregular” situations.]

The Church is identified with Christ in both time and principle; She began thinking on His first principles and the harder She thought, the more dogmas She developed. [Beautifully put.] She never forgot those dogmas; [… sigh…] She remembered them and Her memory is Tradition. The dogmas of the Church are like bricks, solid things with which a man can build, not like straw, which is “religious experience” [That, friends, is the Kasperite approach.] fit only for burning. The Church has been and will always be intolerant so far as the rights of God are concerned, for heresy, error, and untruth affect not personal matters on which She may yield, but a Divine Right in which there is no yielding. The truth is divine; the heretic is human. [NOTA BENE…]Due reparation made, the Church will admit the heretic back into the treasury of Her souls, but never the heresy into the treasure of Her Wisdom. Right is right even if nobody is right; and wrong is wrong if everybody is wrong.

The attitude of the Church in relation to the modern world on this important question may be brought home by the story of the two women in the courtroom of Solomon. Both of them claimed a child. The lawful mother insisted on having the whole child or nothing, for a child is like truth—it cannot be divided without ruin. The unlawful mother, on the contrary, agreed to compromise. She was willing to divide the babe, and the babe would have died of broad-mindedness.  [So, too, immortal souls?]

There’s a lot more, folks.  Enjoy the PODCAzT.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Nan says:

    I knew that Fulton Sheen was on tv in the 50s; he must’ve recycled material through the years as I have a book of essays from his tv show, “Life is Worth Living,” one of which is on tolerance.

  2. Pingback: A Plea for INTOLERANCE – by Venerable Fulton J. Sheen |

  3. Sofia Guerra says:

    ooRAH! A brilliant post and podcast to keep to reference when we think we are defeated.
    Thank you Venerable Sheen… and thank you Father Zuhlsdorf!
    Just when things look the most bleak, we have our holy priests to lift us up.
    I met Venerable Sheen on the street jn NYC as a small child. I WILL NEVER FORGET IT…My Dad bent over to pick up something he had dropped and went to hand it to him. Those blue eyes looked at my Dad and myself as he thanked us. I watched my Dad’s eyes well up as he kissed his ring on Sixth Ave. He blessed us both and then he spoke with my father. When he left he patted me on the head and winked.
    As he walked away, my Dad turned to me ad said you were just blessed by a Saint to be. That’s the day I started loving Fulton J Sheen. He has helped me much throughout my life and for that I am grateful.
    He still is helping us through Father Zuhlsdorf! Oh, the beauty of the Church!

  4. Andrew D says:

    I was studying the homily at Mass today thinking if I would have anything to contribute to your Sunday post about the good things we heard. Well, nothing I heard today (it was a good homily BTW) comes anywhere close to this eternal masterpiece from the late Fr. Sheen. This week ended for me on a horrible note: My employer (a Fortune 1000 company) put out a press release condemning the State of North Carolina and signed that letter penned by the cultural terrorists at the “Human Rights Institute” and “Equality NC” which included other CEO signatures. (For anyone who hasn’t heard, NC passed a law forbidding men from using women’s public restrooms and showers and vice verse. This had to be done because the City of Charlotte passed an ordinance mandating such facilities be open to all on the basis of “gender identity” – a green light for rapists, pedophiles and general perverts.) I spoke my mind and was pretty much slapped down. I am now actively looking for another job and am cancelling my business with the other companies who are picking on North Carolina. It’s so hypocritical because many of these companies – including my employer – do business with China and all the muslim countries that imprison and execute gays, lesbians and trannies. This NC law doesn’t even mention gays, lesbians or even transgenders in the bill’s text. I know I’ve digressed but the whole point is that “tolerance” in today’s world is anything but tolerant: it’s rapidly becoming terror and intimidation against God, His Church, morality and common sense. Father Sheen’s homily is what all of us who must resist this evil need to hear. Thank you Father Z!

  5. benedetta says:

    This is fantastically good and so right now, Fr. Z, thank you for posting this for us!

    I myself have been ruminating these last couple days on the macabre spectre that has gone down with its finishing touch or finale or knockout just announced. Betraying the sacred truth and willingly foregoing the valuable and important Catholic value, so needed in our times, to humanitarianism and a humanism that protects rather than slaughters developing life, the iconic Catholic campuses hosted shills for big establishment abortion, a sacred cow of establishment partisan politics in our era, at places which are to be venues for higher education offering a Catholic perspective –highly reasoned and considerate in its own right — in these past couple weeks.

    Thus bullied into silence and submission, the old celibate and not so boys at the universities looked the other way so that the road to Rome is paved for Bernie to go and make it a fait complet with his triumphant papal bullying of his “perspective” that we need more and not less abortions of vulnerable human life in this country and for all times, regardless of the genocide, the holocaust, the horrible trade off to greed and power that it represents.

    In the same week, the other presidential candidate of that one party which silences the voice of encouragement and faith in humanity and human life, had the audacity to state plainly that fetuses are persons who do not have a right to live, all of them, slated for slaughter, happily so, in her book, and in the establishment of her party, unless for some reason someone decides to permit it to live again after making the greed is good versus let them live utilitarian analysis, which more and more to the tune of trillions ends up giving the death sentence to the child. Whole generations have been thus wiped out in our times.

    So, the notion of loving the calumniator but not the calumny rings terrifically true today. Pundits say that Bernie’s big stunt will unlikely yield a meeting with Pope Francis, even if Bernie says he is a “big fan”, because Bernie’s position on loving the slaughter of infants in the womb, and more of it, is so unpalatable that he ranks up there with the world’s reigning oligarchs and ruling class who say let them eat cake while the baby dies. Even if the USA’s pocket supporters at ND & Gtown give him and his repugnant views a pass.

    Catholicism stands for some things. Some inviolable and important things. Things that matter. And we need to be intolerant about defending these, our shared universal values. Because humanity depends on it, right now.

  6. benedetta says:

    Even if, in these dark and violent times, in some places Catholic there are those who would not defend Jesus, we are still right to defend humanity as a whole:

    “For God did not send His son to condemn the world, but to save it.”

    “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly.”

  7. Giulio says:

    We are helping the small Italian publisher Fede&Cultura to reprint some books of Venerable Sheen translated in Italian. “The Priest is Not His Own” is the first result http://www.fedecultura.com/p/vetrina_30.html#!/Il-sacerdote-non-si-appartiene/p/62551332. Hope you can help spread the news so the venerable will be more known outside US: I know there are a bunch of Italian readers of fr.Z’s blog.

  8. 1931… and still quite relevant today at the bargain. Yes, a true prophet. It also demonstrates that the Church was in a bad state (or at least had its share of problems) long before 1962. I have no reason to think that “many a modern preacher” refers only to non-Catholic preachers.

  9. jameeka says:

    Thank you, Reverend Father Zuhlsdorf—I hope and trust that Blessed Bishop Sheen appreciates your reading!

    Good timing too, and I liked your commentary at the end.

  10. Semper Gumby says:

    Fulton Sheen and jazz- great Podcazt. Prophetic indeed. Nice touch with the violin Fr. Z.

    For many these days “the giggling giddiness of novelty” has become an addiction. This addiction, along with the worship of Progress, and the Dictatorship of Tolerance (couldn’t pass on a little BXVI there), is turning our society and culture into a dysfunctional high school.

    Loitering near the restrooms are the sophomoric pushers of gender deviancy, dispensing novel identities from their rolled-up and spittle-flecked Sandwich Bags of Progress. Over in the locker rooms are “free spirits” snapping the Wet Towel of Perversion at all who dare say with St. John Paul: “sex is not the sum of your being, you have a soul.” And in the Chemistry Lab, dispensing Marxist poison from a fancy Beaker of Democratic Socialism, is the Wise Teacher- who then fires up the Bunsen Burner of No-Parental-Notification Abortion.

    Anyway, the breakdown of reason of which Sheen spoke leads to the breakdown of the family. To paraphrase the book title of one of the presidential candidates: It Takes a Village to Raise a Pagan.

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