The Word on the Week


Tolerance used to mean the stance which, while disagreeing with another’s views, guarded the right of those other views to be heard.

Since the passing of the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act, 1989, purporting to outlaw intemperate speech, its meaning has changed.

The new tolerance insists that disagreeing with another’s views and saying they are wrong, is intrinsically intolerant.

So who was it who spoke out of line? Bishop Philip Boyce of Raphoe! Speaking at Knock shrine last August said the Church was being attacked from the outside “by the arrows of a secular and godless culture”. The other remark to which offence was taken referred to the believer’s future hope.

These comments were too much for a Humanist who has been able to get the Garda to send a file to the Department of Public Prosecution.

Of course this new meaning of intolerance is irrational. The Labour Party does not agree with the Shinners. Marxists don’t agree with Capitalists. Humanist’s don’t agree with Christian’s.

Each pair may acknowledge some commonalities, but on many fronts they differ. Yet each tolerates the other if each insists that the other has equal right to speak and convince others of their position.

What has the Bible to say about this new definition of tolerance?

John the Baptist would have been caught by the Act. Commenting on the Religious of his day coming to him for baptism he said, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” – and these people were repenting as a result of his preaching!

The Lord Jesus Christ also used this expression of double-tongued people, “You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”

And to those Religious whose fathers had silenced the prophets in their day he said, “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?”

(St Matthew Chapters 3, 12 & 23).

Ironically their only hope of escape was not to pass some “politically correct” law to control language but to put their faith in the One who everything that was written about in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled. ”Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations…and for us today…. beginning from Dublin” (St Luke 22v44/7 paraphrased).