Pastoral Letter to the Catholic People of New Zealand for the United Nations Year of Tolerance

17 Aug 1995 | JUSTICE

Introduction
The United Nations Year of Tolerance challenges the Church to renew its commitment to the Gospel in a spirit of openness to truth and goodness wherever they can be found.

Tolerance is about the search to find goodness in the other person's life, and truth in their words. It is about passing from conflict and antagonism to working with others in the pursuit of a common goal.

Christ's command to us was that we love each other as we love ourselves. This means learning to recognise the other person as another self. Christian tolerance then becomes the respect and love we show for the dignity of every individual, who, being made in the image of God and redeemed by Christ, is our brother or sister.

The Family
Many factors cause tension within the home. Today's parents and grandparents were brought up in an age vastly different from that of their children. All generations have much to contribute to one another, but different attitudes and perspectives easily generate tension and a lack of communication. Today more than ever we all need a willingness to understand and listen to the other person.

A growing number of wives and mothers are finding fulfilment in work outside the home. Husbands and fathers are being called upon to have a more active concern for the care of their children and the household. Children are being faced with greater choice of lifestyles. The media are constantly bombarding families with values which are alien to our Christian faith. We need each other's tolerance, as well as discernment and support, if we are to face these issues creatively and honestly.

The truly tolerant family is not the one where "anything goes" without challenge or reproof. It is one where each member tries to understand the others' legitimate ideals, aspirations and abilities, and seeks to support and encourage them. This tolerance we allow others is modelled on God's tolerance towards us.

Society
Our nation is at last seeking to put right the relationship between the two partners of the Treaty of Waitangi. Many of us now realise that we have been living in a situation of injustice against Maori, much of which continues today. Likewise, we still find intolerant and hostile attitudes towards people of other races who have made their home in our country.

Fortunately, there are also many examples of cooperation and warm mutual acceptance among culturally diverse New Zealanders. Such attitudes flourish, for example, in those schools and colleges where students are assisted to understand and value each other's culture.

In New Zealand today we are not sure sometimes just how tolerant we should be of others' lifestyles and behaviour. In some cases the common good of society may require our forbearance of ways of living that as a Church we know to be wrong. However, tolerance is not giving way to that kind of moral indifference and false sense of personal freedom which loses sight of the difference between right and wrong.

Likewise, it is not tolerance, but injustice and neglect, which allows growing numbers of our countrymen, women and children to live without the minimum resources needed for a decent life.

True tolerance demands respect for the dignity of others. This applies in a special way to those who have no public voice to defend themselves. For this reason the Church will always speak out in defence of the human rights of the unborn, and the rights of the dying for adequate care and treatment as they approach the moment of their natural death. Abortion and euthanasia are threats to our society, which must be resisted.

It is particularly apparent in our time that intolerance easily becomes the seedbed of strife and war within and between nations. However, the outlawing of apartheid and the institution of democracy in South Africa, the laying down of arms in Northern Ireland, and the easing of tensions between Israelis and Palestinians are hopeful signs that tolerance is increasingly being seen as a value in human relations.

The Church
Within the Church there are tensions between those who felt more comfortable with the Church as it used to be and those anxious for the Church to adjust further to the contemporary world. Some groups and movements in the Church are received with antipathy by others.

From the beginning of the Church's history it has been like this. St Paul tried to restore peace by recalling the human body's need for all its various organs to illustrate the Church's need for the varied gifts of all its members.

Our unity in the Body of Christ is the witness we are meant to offer others. Our tolerance - the willing acceptance of all that is true and good in ourselves, in others and in creation - is an indispensable step towards that unity.

We appeal to you, our sisters and brothers, to encourage an attitude of tolerance in your homes, parishes and all the communities you belong to. Finally, we ask our loving God to bless all our efforts, and to make us better images of the Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord.

Invitation to Prayer
God of the ages, God of the nations, widen our vision beyond the narrow confines of our little worlds and divided communities, to embrace the horizons of knowledge and love that span all boundaries.

There is no man or woman, youth or child, from whom I cannot learn something.

Each person, young or old, of whatever race or calling, is your own unique creation.

You, God of love, made each one of us, endowed us with human dignity, but gifted each of us with our unique personality, unique physical and mental characteristics, because you loved us.

To all of us you have said: "I have loved you with an everlasting love."

You speak to us in everything and everyone...in wind and wave, forest and lake, mountain and river, in the young while yet in the womb, and in the aged during the evening of life.

Spare us from failing to see you in the face of every man, woman or child we shall ever meet.

Too often we do not recognise you in the goodness of your creation.

Too often we fail to see you in the faces of certain people because their skin is coloured differently.

Too often we do not appreciate the views of those who are older, yet their vision may be deeper and wider than our own.

Too often we do not comprehend the view of those who are younger. Yet their vision may be fresher, bolder, more courageous than our own.

Too often we do not appreciate the views and the customs of those whose culture is different from our own. Yet different cultures penetrate your goodness and beauty, your wisdom and knowledge, from angles we have never seen or known before.

We could learn to know more and love more from the cultures of others.

Instead, too often we recognise your beauty and goodness in limited colour, in restricted goodness, and in views narrowed by stereotype and prejudice, and fear of losing what might have been unjustly obtained.

Deepen our understanding of one another's needs, especially in this time of widening inequality, declining social morality and professional ethics, weakening family ties, rising violence and increasing alienation.

Help us to temper a concern for private rights and individual choice with a sense of solidarity with one another.

We ask this through Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever.

Amen.