Masonic Toleration: The Masons promote a principle of toleration regarding ideas. That is, relativism teaches them to be tolerant of ideas divergent or contrary to their own. Such a principle not only threatens the Catholic position of objective truth, but it also threatens the respect due the Church's teaching office.
- Freemasonry is highly selective regarding the specific truths that it explicitly puts forth as universally true. These are ideas like the notions that it is good to seek truth, that it is good to promote brotherly love among humanity, and that it is good to give relief to those who suffer. These are, of course, publicly known to be explicit values promoted by Freemasonry. Some other values and truths are promoted explicitly but confidentially within the Fraternity; these may be found, for example, in the three degree lectures.
- Freemasonry presents some truths only symbolically (as in the degree rituals), and exhorts the individual Mason to ponder these and discover their meanings for himself.
- When it comes to differences of religious and political opinion, Freemasonry promotes toleration, from a position of respect, specifically in order to strengthen the bonds which tie Masons together. (Consider the working tools of a Master Mason.)
- The Catechism urges respect, even for non-Christian religions. In a section titled "The Social Duty of Religion and the Right to Religious Freedom" (paragraphs 2104-2109), the Catechism makes reference (par. 2104) to a "sincere respect" that should be shown to different religions. In the course of using this phrase, the Catechism makes reference to Nostra Aetate, the "Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions" (promulgated by the Pope in 1965), an important document emerging from the Second Vatican Council, or Vatican II; for background, see here. Nostra Aetate, in turn, presents a fascinating message of respect and toleration for religions very different from Catholicism. Specifically mentioning Hinduism and Buddhism in one location (section 2, second paragraph), this Declaration states: "The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though different in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men." Later on (section 3, first paragraph), the Declaration notes, "The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems," several of whose teachings the Declaration singles out for approbation.
- The Catechism specifies that it is the duty of each Catholic to show 'respect for the human person' (pars. 1929-1933). This involves "the duty of making oneself a neighbor to others and actively serving them" (par. 1932), and the Catechism notes that "this same duty extends to those who think or act differently from us" (par. 1933, emphasis added); this would seem to be the essence of toleration.
- In discussing the balance between freedom and responsibility, the Catechism states that the right to religious freedom must be respected. "The right to the exercise of freedom, especially in moral and religious matters, is an inalienable requirement of the dignity of the human person. This right must be recognized and protected by civil authority within the limits of the common good and public order" (par. 1738; emphasis in original). "The right to the exercise of freedom, especially in religious and moral matters, is an inalienable requirement of the dignity of man" (par. 1747). (See also pars. 1906-1907.)
- The Catechism states that religious discrimination must be eradicated. In a portion titled "Equality and Differences Among Men" (pars. 1934-1935), the Catechism quotes from section 29, paragraph 2 of a document known as Gaudium et Spes (promulgated 1965): "Every form of ... discrimination ... on the grounds of ... religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God's design." As it happens, Gaudium et Spes, the "Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World," is considered one of the major accomplishments of Vatican II; for background, see here.