Please join us this Sunday, January 14 for our ongoing TMC Student Brunch Discussion after the 9 am Mass at St. Vincent de Paul. We will meet at the Panera across Buffalo Speedway from the church in the Randall’s parking lot at around 10:15 am.
For this discussion, it was suggested that we explore what the Church teaches about tolerance and diversity, especially as we encounter others who do not share our Catholic faith in everyday situations. We have all had the experience of meeting someone who has very different values or contrary views about what is good and acceptable behavior and what is not, views that are sometimes in clear opposition to what the Catholic Church teaches as conforming to God’s will and the true human good. On the one hand, we are called to love everyone as our neighbor, even those ‘foreign’ and different from ourselves, and on the other, we are called to ‘make disciples of all nations,’ and share the truth we have found, especially the Way, Truth and Life that is Jesus Christ. The Catholic approach to diversity does appear vexing, especially in the day-to-day informality of our social interaction, not to mention educational or clinical contexts.
What the Church teaches about dealing with differences of values developed in terms of religious diversity in a political context as a question of the relationship between church and state. This teaching was presented authoritatively in the Vatican II document Dignitatis Humanae (link here). But, there is the very practical problem of living out this teaching, and not necessarily in an explicitly political context, but just at the level of sharing a meal or interacting with a classmate, neighbor or family member.
The political dimension religious diversity was critical in the founding of the United States and a “separation between church and state” was written into the First Amendment of the Constitution. This American understanding of religious freedom has colored how our society approaches not only religious diversity, but differences of morality and lifestyle. Thus, there is the growing social expectation that religious or ethical views ought not to be ‘imposed’ on others, but that everyone has a civil obligation, not only not to restrict or reject others who are different, but to embrace and celebrate differences.
This attitude of diversity and acceptance seems to conflict not only with Catholic morality, but the Church’s claim to teach the truth about God and human nature.