Michael Gaynor
Some things are intolerable
By Michael Gaynor
October 16, 2010

Tolerating the intolerable is a vice, not a virtue.

Kudos to Zack Boren, a captain in the Army JAG Corps who works as a defense attorney for soldiers at Ft. Hood, Texas and author of "The Limits of Tolerance: 'To Kill a Mockingbird' at 50" (http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2010/09/16/the-limits-of-tolerance-to-kill-a-mockingbird-at-50/).

Boren appreciates that not everything should be tolerated.

Mahatma Gandhi claimed, "Intolerance betrays want of faith in one's cause."

That's not necessarily true.

Whether or not it's true depends upon what one's cause is and what is not tolerated.

Boren: "Many people read To Kill A Mockingbird as the story of a Christ-figure who suffered unjust oppression because of his moral stand. But tolerance can go too far. The book is really about the ultimate failure of a good man to stand up to evil because he underestimated evil. If the church does the same, we have missed the point of To Kill A Mockingbird."

Not tolerating public scandal and sacrilege does not "betray[] want of faith in one's cause."

Tolerating public scandal and sacrilege betrays a lack of fidelity to one's faith.


"Certainly Atticus [Finch, the hero of To Kill a Mockingbird] shows impeccable character and courage as a lawyer.... Atticus passionately defended a case despite the moral opprobrium he knew he would garner....

"But the tolerance theme is not so straightforward. In the end, Atticus fails to do precisely what he teaches his children. After the trial of Tom Robinson, the evil Bob Ewell approaches Atticus, spits in his face, and tells the lawyer he'll get him if it takes the rest of his life. Atticus dismisses Ewell as nothing to worry about. Even after Ewell threatens a defenseless widow and attempts to burglarize the judge's house, Atticus still sees no threat. He ultimately fails to understand the danger posed to his children by a coward with a knife, a grudge, and a little alcohol. As a result, his children are nearly murdered. No one else is fooled by Ewell. The sheriff understands Ewell's cowardly nature perfectly. The judge sits reading with a shotgun on his lap. With a few stinging threats, Mr. Dias runs Ewell off from threatening the widow. Even Aunt Alexandra, by no means the most prescient of characters, predicts that he will try to pay off his grudge. It is only Atticus, adrift in his world of unimpeachable lawyering, who fails to see Ewell for who he is, proclaiming in the novel's denouement that he can't conceive of a man who'd try to kill children. He should have seen it coming. Atticus's attitude illustrates the limits of moral tolerance and the courage required to stand up to evil, demonstrated by Boo Radley."

The Roman Catholic Church has its Atticus's distributing Holy Communion to pro-abortion "Catholic" politicians like Nancy Pelosi instead of refusing them as required by canon law.

Canon 915 provides that "[t]hose... who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.'"

Canon 915 protects the Holy Eucharist and prevents the public scandal that would result from ineligible persons receiving Holy Communion.

As I wrote in an article posted at www.catholiconline.com on May 25, 2004:

"Bishops who are reluctant to embarrass prominent politicians need to recall that Jesus had no patience for those moneychangers in the Temple. Protecting the sanctity of the Temple was His paramount consideration then. The protection of the Holy Eucharist must be the bishops' paramount consideration today.

"Averting public scandal is vital. As St. Thomas Aquinas long ago explained, a distinction 'must be made' between secret and open sinners, and 'Holy Communion ought not to be given to open sinners when they ask for it.'"

Tolerating the intolerable is a vice, not a virtue.

© Michael Gaynor


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Michael Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member... (more)


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