Catholicism and Human Decency


I am a convert to Catholicism who entered the Church in 2005. In my nine years as a Catholic I have met a lot of different kinds of Catholics, from the pious to cafeteria catholics, from traditionalists to radicals. One thing I have noticed over time is that some Catholics can be a bit harsh with their rules. I have found that when someone doesn’t fit in with the teachings or rules of the Catholic Church, Catholics can be quick to condemn and ostracize. Does anyone else think there is sometimes a lack of tolerance in Catholicism? Now, when I say tolerance I don’t mean moral relativism or religious relativism. What I mean is more a sense of decency where basic human decency requires a certain level of politeness and respectfulness even for those who are different from oneself. I find this lacking sometimes.

Do the teachings of the RCC demand the kind of decency and tolerance I am speaking of?

On this website, I notice that the problem of personal scrupulosity is greater than I first thought. Many are harder on themselves with rules than with others in their lives.
That said, there will always be those who believe that the Standard of their Catholic faith should be worn with great certainty, often on their sleeve. And good on them, as long as they maintain the respect for others that our faith demands.
Personally, I find less personal invective against others in the Catholic community than I do in the evangelical churches with their organised, almost- hatred for the Catholic faith.
Firm opposition to error and a commitment to our Faith expressed through love and respect for all others searching for God has always been the standard of our Faith to which we should aspire.

Charity demands that we know and understand that each soul is somewhere along their path to God. We are not all at the same point, as much as we would like “others” to be. As well, God sees their hearts, and they may be well ahead of us in His eyes. If we see someone who displays an apparent lack in their spirituality, how dare we try to lead or inspire them unless we first go to work on ourselves?

I find that reading The Imitation of Christ is very helpful to humility - recalling that a lack of humility lead to man’s fall from grace, and that I would have sinned exactly as Adam did.

We are called to handle all our dealings with humility and respect, but not at the expense of the truth. Unfortunately, many people view being corrected as a personal attack, and therefore regard anyone who corrects them as rude or overbearing. If the people you speak of are condemning the individuals, then they are in the wrong. If, on the other hand, they are properly condemning immoral activities, then they are in the right, so long as it’s done with the proper respect.

I end with the conclusion taht the OP is not trying to be an antagonist in his inquiry; so limiting my statement-since the OP only did not give too much evidence and example; so what is the context-even so one might experience something-and feel alienated/or you know? think about -to be alienated by one own behavior (not saying that is the case)/then there is the sensitivity issue of the individual/group dynamics (every one agrees or disagrees)/ a dinner table family conversation gone mad…but, at the end of the day, there is the ‘dinner’ of the eucharist…i can relate to your post, the OP seems to want to give ‘them’ the benifit of the doubt…my impression is formed in that i can bring up an obvious point, limited to myself, which at the time made sense-and if the priest listening-hears some bit of spiritual need-the civility is there-later , years later, i might look back and see that his counter point to mine is a good one/ the art of argumentation is important/ but yea, diversity in the catholic church is broad…about 25 years ago,as a beginning catholic-i got the impression that new cars, nice clothes, a career-was not only status symbol of church goers at mass,.a class- being hopeful to fall into it, fit in, dove tail into the same…this did not really happen/-i failed to be exactly like them, and was wrong in trying (in that context)… i , being personal example, must reflect, in hindsight, that day of my old car breaking down, parked on the side of the road/then, many cars passed…and i was observing :“Hey wasn’t that so and so who is driving to mass?.” as catholics were passing me to get to mass/ so ‘fairness’ is something so complex to the human psychic that it has to be taken up with the lord/ two quandries happen…(1)-if i could not pray-the issues of unfairness verses fairness continues-(2)if i quit church due to a disagreement, given perhaps an answer but presented in an less civil approach by a person in the church…then i am frustrated…the solution is to approach God…with fairness issues…well next, as i do want to be of help, consider the ‘glue’ and mortar that holds the people of God together, as the invisible is the Holy Spirit-billions of prayers go to him per hour,.double check me here, but i think the Holy SPirit grieves…well hope that helps, God Bless (PS OP-you don’t need to be told you are scrupulus-it might be taken as an accusation-instead do not esteem yourself by accusations, rather, at the moment of prayer, listen to God , He grieves for ‘them’ He loves all)

Yes, different Catholics are different. One would think politeness would be the norm. It is Church teaching and it is Biblical. However, over the decades, Catholics and non-Catholics have been exposed to more and more impolite behavior in public and in the media. I work in the media, and I have watched movies and TV shows become ruder and cruder. What used to be totally unacceptable behavior is considered average or even normal by too many. Look at many internet forums. Many are rude and crude and intolerant about whatever.

Unfortunately, I think some who expect politeness in daily life and don’t get it, develop a negative and judgmental attitude even toward their fellow Catholics. To put it another way, for some it is hard to be polite because all they get is impolite back-talk or have learned to be rude and impatient from those around them. Pope Benedict tells us how we should treat others:

I have watched politeness disappear in general over the decades. Offenses to human decency are presented to us daily through the media, including music. Profanity, partial or full nudity, immodest clothing, a feeling that guilt, sin and shame mean nothing anymore. ‘It’s my life and I’ll live it my way.’ OR “I’ll be Catholic for an hour in Church and then go back to living in the world,” or as one priest on Catholic Radio put it: “Too many Catholics are living like pagans.”

This is today’s reality and we need to be polite, decent, civilized human beings with self-discipline. We need to prepare for getting those rude and judgmental statements. Sometimes, I think we should be polite even if we get a rude reply. That is, unless the person just blurts something out and walks away.

Human decency requires respect for all. A polite attitude toward all. I was raised to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ But I’ve seen too many kids that don’t show respect for their parents in public. Not all, but enough to make me wonder why the parent is putting up with it. And there’s this anti-parent, anti-family attitude as well. I actually heard the following from someone who was about to become an adult: “When I turn 18, I don’t gotta listen to you anymore!”

The home is the first place for education and sometimes, parents model behaviors in front of their children that go against human decency. But much damage has been done to the family over the last 40 years to the point that some Catholics are home-schooling their children.

Hope this helps,

I would say that Catholicism demands decency, but I am not sure about tolerance. For example, I have been receiving materials from a well known Catholic college, which operates with the permission of the local bishop, and it requests a donation. Now, I am questioning whether or not it would be wrong to contribute to this Catholic school because:

  1. They have been showing the filthy play V-monologues regularly for a number of years.
  2. They have invited planned parenthood to give talks and conferences at their school.
  3. They have photos of recent weddings of alumni, with hearty congratulations and best wishes. It seems nice, except when you see that there are photos of same sex weddings. Are we supposed to be congratulating this?
  4. For their graduation ceremonies, they have invited well known pro-abortion speakers.
    Now, should I be tolerant and donate to this Catholic school? Is that the right thing to do - to donate and to show tolerance?

I agree with everything you say here. I would add that the growth of social media has also contributed to lack of courteous interaction. Even on CAF, it’s easier to be combative than it is face to face with a person.

Media such as Twitter just make it a lot more tempting, and easier, to be negative, sarcastic, and narcissistic.

Here is the Catholic view of what the media/world tells us is tolerance.

I suggest you schedule a phone call and talk to the person who needs to hear all of the above. I also think you should speak with your Bishop or Archbishop and politely present the facts.

Given what you’ve written, I would state that while I understand different people have different views, that clear violations of Church teaching are occurring in a Catholic school. Stand up for the truth.

God bless,


I wrote a letter to the clergyman in charge of the Catholic college and he wrote back saying that academic freedom must be respected. Is it Ok to donate and should I have tolerance for academic freedom at Catholic colleges?

Welcome to the human race. :shrug: Not trying to be glib, but that’s pretty much part of the human condition that Our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross for isn’t it?

I don’t lose much sleep over those who are like that, in part because I am generally pretty busy keeping my own soul in some semblance of order. (with mixed success I might add)

To expect all of us to be alike or on the same page is kinda unrealistic. I often find myself very unhappy with the human race and then I make the mistake of wandering in front of a reflective surface and usually say, “Oh crud…I’m one of them. My Jesus have mercy.”

One has to sort of watch and see where people are at in their journey of faith before trying to share faith with them. Our Lord knew the hearts of people, but sadly, we do not have that advantage.

I have found that when I encounter a difficult person that silently going to prayer while dealing with them helps tremendously…if nothing more than not allowing me to go off on them or respond in kind.

:thumbsup: Absolutely correct. The anonymity of the internet has indeed led to a lower standard of personal courtesy and charity which I believe has seeped into the overall fabric of our society. I suspect this is more the case in the more developed and 1st world countries than the lesser ones because fewer people have internet access. :shrug:

From Pope John Paul II:

"13. Since the objective of a Catholic University is to assure in an institutional manner a Christian presence in the university world confronting the great problems of society and culture(16), every Catholic University, as Catholic, must have the following essential characteristics:

"1. a Christian inspiration not only of individuals but of the university community as such;

"2. a continuing reflection in the light of the Catholic faith upon the growing treasury of human knowledge, to which it seeks to contribute by its own research;

"3. fidelity to the Christian message as it comes to us through the Church;

“4. an institutional commitment to the service of the people of God and of the human family in their pilgrimage to the transcendent goal which gives meaning to life”(17).

“14. “In the light of these four characteristics, it is evident that besides the teaching, research and services common to all Universities, a Catholic University, by institutional commitment, brings to its task the inspiration and light of the Christian message. In a Catholic University, therefore, Catholic ideals, attitudes and principles penetrate and inform university activities in accordance with the proper nature and autonomy of these activities. In a word, being both a University and Catholic, it must be both a community of scholars representing various branches of human knowledge, and an academic institution in which Catholicism is vitally present and operative”(18).”

From Pope Francis:

The pope called for Catholic institions like Notre Dame to embrace an ethos of “missionary discipleship.”

"Essential in this regard is the uncompromising witness of Catholic universities to the Church's moral teaching, and the defense of her freedom, precisely in and through her institutions, to uphold that teaching as authoritatively proclaimed by the magisterium of her pastors."

Francis also urged Notre Dame to resist efforts to undermine the university’s witness to the faith.

"It is my hope that the University of Notre Dame will continue to offer unambiguous testimony to this aspect of its foundational Catholic identity, especially in the face of efforts, from whatever quarter, to dilute that indispensable witness. And this is important: its identity, as it was intended from the beginning. To defend it, to preserve it and to advance it!" 

I hope this provides guidance regarding supporting institutions that provide a diluted witness.


I hear you! Forget sexy! Bring chivalry back!

However, I also think it depends on personality types. Some people are more blunt. Some are more sensitive. Some are shy, some extroverted. Hot-blooded/cold-blooded. Etc. Some people think Catholics are terrible Christians because of the way they drive in the parking lot. I just think there are bigger fish to fry. I feel like we live in a world of two extremes: say every nasty thing that comes to your mind, or be so vague that you say nothing at all. We, being Catholic, need to bring balance to the Force. :wink:

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