Document 2



Jan H. Walgrave

Person and Society (Pittsburg: Duquesne U.P., 1969) pp. 145-175


1. The principle of solidarity

2. The principle of subsidiarity

3. The principle of tolerance

4. Conclusion

We have analyzed the ethical nature of man as the per­son who makes society and the ethical nature of the earthly community of persons that results from it... Still to be explained are the general principles that express and unfold our under­standing of the ethical nature proper to the human community...

The fundamental social principles we shall now discuss are most general.  They follow from the essence of the human community and are applicable to every community in which man as man, that is, as a personal whole, is involved...

The general socio-ethical principles express in human judgments our ideas about the ethical nature of the human community... This community is an or­ganized cultural community, incarnate in an economic struc­ture and directed to a loving community of persons.

Culture, incarnate in the community=s body, is a realm of means directed to the absolute end, viz., the loving community of persons.  The common good of that community is the total good of the persons in the personal community.  The general welfare, or the just ordering of the economic goods and the objective cultural values, belong also to the common good as an order of means that are indispensable to the personal community which is to be realized in and by man=s earthly bodily being...  This we must keep carefully in mind in order to realize that the general socio-ethical principles are nothing but judgments expressing our ethical view of the incarnated community of persons in the form of general imperatives.

For, as socio-ethical imperatives, they would have no place in a pure personal community considered in the abstract and free from an economic incarnation in a cultural community.  Of course, incarnation is required in order that a community of persons be able to exist as something human.  Whenever there exists any form of social life in a world of culture, our socio-ethical principles come into force because of the com­munity of persons with its absolute value and obligatory character.  For this reason the imperative of love itself is not a socio-ethical principle.  Love is the all-embracing fun­damental ethical attitude of persons toward other persons.  It is the ultimate ethical absolute, and every authentic moral imperative is implicitly contained in it.  Socio-ethical im­peratives are specific ethical imperatives that express and translate the demands of love with respect to the social do­main.  The fundamental attitude of love expresses itself in a multitude of activities which man exercises by his body in a world of nature and culture that is pre-given as his social environment.  Those activities take on specific forms and lead to struc­tures by which man is taken up into many kinds of social units.  The whole of those structures constitutes the social domain.  Socio-ethical principles are principles that regulate the relations between different groups or between persons and groups...

As for the num­ber of socio-ethical principles that can be distinguished, we accept three.  Love demands that we serve the integral per­sonal good of the others in a disinterested way. lt is in this that its proper act consists.  In man=s concrete earthly exist­ence, this service leads to the formation of social structures that are directed to mutual assistance.  The ethical impera­tive that prompts the formation of such groups is the principle of solidarity.  But love requires also, and precisely because of the end-value of the other=s personal good, that we respect his freedom and responsibility as much as pos­sible, not only in the exercise of group activities but also in the person=s life and expression of his most intimate convic­tions.  To this requirement correspond two ethical impera­tives, which not infrequently go somewhat together, namely, the principle of subsidiarity and the principle of tolerance.

1. The principle of solidarity

Much could be said about the term and concept of Asolidarity.@ The word is derived from the Latin juridical termAin solidum,@which means that each of the persons in a group is responsible not only in part but for the whole.  The word later was used in a wider and more general sense to signifv various ways of mutual dependence or belonging together.

As early as 1707 Adam Ferguson, in his Essay on the History of Civil Society, pointed out that the differential division of labour gives rise to a solidarity between those who are involved in a single process of work according to various skills and functions.  The term was later adopted in de­scriptive sociology to signify the various structures from which active unity of purpose arises.  Thus E. Durkheim, in his De la division du travail (1893)...

Only a short step further was necessary to arrive at the ethical notion of solidarity in the sense of an obligation to Atogetherness.@  As early as 1840, Pierre Leroux attached that ethical meaning to the term Asolidarité@ when he wrote in De l=Humanité that it is an obligation of mutual assistance, based on the idea that the community of which one is a member forms a whole...

Between the two world wars a social doctrine called Asolidarism@ was developed in the Catholic world; its principal theorists were H. Pesch and G. Grundlach.  They started from the idea that man=s existence is by its very nature social and that society, likewise, can exist only in and by men who live and act in a conscious way...

Because of certain historical connotations, the term Asolidarism@ has lost much of its popularity since World War II.  APersonalism@ is now the preferred expression.  Both views follow the same general line of thought, but they do not coincide perfectly, at least in the sense that personalism was born from a deeper insight into the ethical nature of man and presents a more developed form of pre-war solidarism.  Hence there is a significant difference in the terms Aper­sonalism@ and Asolidarism.@ Personalism does not base so­ciety on ontological solidarity as on its fundamental principle, but on the nature of man as man, that is, as a person who is for himself an ethical task, a vocation which he must realize himself as a person by living for others.  Man as man is an ethical being, determined by the vocation of love.  For this reason the individual person=s orientation to the loving com­munity of persons constitutes the fundamental principle of the personalistic theory of society...

In our opinion the idea of solidarity can be conceived in a clear and pure way only if we do not start from an ontological situation but from the ethical character of the person.  Undoubtedly, a most im­portant principle is expressed in the statement that man, prior to any conscious act, already finds himself in society and can exist only in and through it, just as society is a reality only in and through him.  We have repeatedly stressed this principle in the preceding pages.

However, that solidarity is not the ultimate foundation of social ethics.  This foundation lies in the ethical nature of the person who can realize and fulfill himself as a person only in a total activity that is disinterestedly directed to the good of others.  What comes first in the order of understand­ing is not existence through the community, but existence for the community.  The ultimate basic explanation is not given by ontological Atogetherness@ but by Atogetherness@ in the metaphysico-ethical sense.  We say Ain the metaphysico-ethi­cal sense@ because man=s ethical destiny for the loving com­munity expresses most profoundly the metaphysical nature of man, the mystery of the person.

Thus the fundamental principle of personalism offers the ultimate basis for the justification of the socio-ethical principle of solidarity.  Solidarity is the ethical bond that unites men in a social task: in the very exercise of his part-function, every member, as a rational and moral being, consciously accepts care and responsibility for the whole. he experiences his task as a contribution to the whole and, therefore, in its exercise he adjusts himself entirely to the demands of the whole.

The principle of solidarity states that when the individual faces a necessary task which he cannot properly accomplish by himself, he may count upon the orderly help of others for the fulfilment of that task.  In other words, when a fellow-man faces a task which is necessary or useful for his personal well-­being, but which he is unable to accomplish alone, we are obliged to help him to the best of our possibilities.  The first formula starts from the person=s need of assistance.  It is an AI-formula@: AI need you, hence it is my right.@  The second formula starts from a person=s obligation to help.  It is a Ayou-formula@: AYou need me, hence it is my duty.@ These formulae complete each other.  They merge in a Awe-­formula@: AWhere we, that is, all men on earth, are faced with a task which no one man is able to achieve alone, we are solidarily (in solidum) obliged to assist one another to accomplish that task in a common effort.@

In the concrete situation of life on earth, this solidarity means, on the part of the community, an obligation to foster or create, within its historical possibilities, all organizations and undertakings that are necessary or useful to supply the members with the material and spiritual goods required for the satisfaction of their individual wants and the fulfilment of their personal vocation... It is impossible for man to satisfy his biological needs and achieve his personal culture if he is left to himself.  He needs the help of others.  The principle of solidarity is socio-ethical insofar as the obligation to form proper social organs for the mutual assistance of the com­munity and all its members weighs upon the members Ain solidum@ But insofar as it regulates the exercise of the dynamic function of justice by responsible authorities, it is a general and supreme juridical principle.  The principle of solidarity is the guiding socio-ethical norm of social jus­tice, as we have explained above.

The ultimate foundation of the principle of solidarity is the ethical nature of man which, as we have said in our central thesis, means that man can attain the perfection of his manhood only in being for others.  The attitude of love demands that we disinterestedly serve the personal good of the other and, hence, that we apply ourselves to fulfill all the conditions that are necessary for the attainment of that personal good.  In our earthly community the union of persons can be pursued only through our bodily existence in a cultural community.  This implies that all are solidarily responsible for the creation of the social structures which can best serve to satisfy the material wants of the individual and the cultural needs of the person in his self-formation.  Thus the principle of solidarity is directly aimed at the realization of the general welfare, the best possible order of justice, which in turn is ultimately directed to the common good of the community of personsloving unity of persons.

2. The principle of subsidiarity

The principle of subsidiarity intrinsically complements the principle of solidarity.  The principle of solidarity is the dy­namic principle governing the creation and development of social structures.  It gives concrete expression to the spirit of the saying AOne for all and all for one.@  The principle of subsidiarity adds a certain reservation, a certain condition, which also flows immediately from the ethical nature of man, namely, that one must allow the community to construct and develop itself with the greatest possible freedom.  This principle presupposes that the universal community has an essentially organic structure, that the persons are at first in community with one another in smaller groups, especially the family, but afterwards are taken up, in various ways, into larger communities, which ultimately integrate into the universal community.  The principle of subsidiarity main­tains then that, in the process of constructing an organic community, both the smaller particular groups and the individual persons must be accorded as much freedom as is permitted by the general welfare.

Thus we see that the principle of subsidiarity is the prin­ciple of social freedom of movement.  As a general principle that applies to all earthly societies, including the family, it is a socio-ethical principle.  Insofar as it binds the authorities in their efforts to realize a just legal order, it is a general juridical principle that is sometimes formulated in slogans such as: AAs much freedom as possible, as much constraint as is necessary.@  The principle of subsidiarity must inspire especially the exercise of distributive justice in the sense we have defined above.

In Catholic socio-ethical doctrine, the idea of subsidiarity has been raised to the rank of the leading social principle, especially under the influence of Pius XI=s Quadragesimo Anno.  In this encyclical the Pope deplored that the individual­istic spirit has led to the destruction of the rich, natural texture of associations that existed between the individual and state organization.  On that occasion he formulated theAsubsidiarii@ officii principium, i.e., the principle accord­ing to which the state must fulfill a Asubsidiary@ function with respect to the family and organically developed social life.  According to the Latin meaning of that term, it is a function similar to that of reserve troops in time of war; in other words it has to come to the rescue, help out where regular troops are inadequate.  AJust as it is wrong to with­draw from the individual and commit to the community at large what private enterprise and industry can accomplish, so too, it is an injustice, a grave evil and a disturbance of right order for a larger and higher organization to arrogate to itself functions which can be performed efficiently by smaller and lower bodies.  This is a fundamental principle of social philosophy, unshaken and unchangeable, and it retains its full truth today.  Of its very nature the true aim of all social activity should be to help individual members of the social body, but never to destroy or absorb them.@[1]

It is necessary to make a clear distinction between the living com­munity that maintains a definite bond with the state, and the state itself.  The latter by means of powerthat is, legisla­tion, command and sanctionconstructs, protects and main­tains a legal order of justice in a measure which is beyond the community=s free development...  The justly exercised use of force by the state is necessary to prevent unbridled and unjust violence of person against person and group against group, Athe war of all against all@... The state is also indispensable for fostering the construction of community life according to the demands of solidarity.  To protect freedom and to foster the projects and tasks of solidarity or to help in the realization of those tasks: these are the twofold functions of the state.  This Pius XI had already clearly expressed in his encyclical on Christian education: AThe function therefore of the civil authority residing in the state is twofold: to protect and to foster, but by no means to absorb the family and the individual, or to substitute itself for them.[2]

The capital sin of the state is always that of simply identifying itself with the human community and thus claiming that it is the ultimate end within this world.  The state then tries to realize itself perfectly according to the logic of its own means.  It then claims to have the task of regulating every­thing by means of legislation, orders and force.  This leads logically to the desire to regulate the whole man, his whole life, even his thoughts and feelings, and fix them in a state­-imposed mould.  But a system of law and force that lays claim to the whole man in every respect is precisely the idea of the totalitarian state, just as a kingdom of absolute freedom in complete, unforced harmony would be the realization of heaven upon earth, so a successful totalitarian state which has the whole man in its power would be the best image of hell upon earth.  Such a state would not only be the Aanti-­Christ@ but also the Aanti-man.@

For this reason it is necessary to make a sharp distinction between the living community and the state, and to cling to the principle that the state has, with respect to the human community which it contains, the function of a servant.  The state must protect and defend freedom and always foster it.  For, to the extent that the state helps the community to develop the institutions and structures that enable men to win material and moral freedom according to the demands of solidarity, to that same extent the state also takes away the reasons that make its intervention necessary.  In the measure in which it is successful in this task, the state eliminates itself as an apparatus of power and lightens its coercive and re­pressive functions. ln this sense good politics is an education to freedom...

Freedom that creates the proper climate of love and of perfect communion is an aspect of the absolute good.  The intervention of the higher in the lower, which limits the freedom of a person or of an association of persons can be justified only on the basis of the demands of freedom itself.  When, because of mankind=s immoral tendencies, the free play of liberty is directed against the development of free life by its repression of the others= freedom or by sloth, disunity and disorder, then a superior power must intervene in the name of freedom itself in order to protect and foster it.  Thus it follows that the principle of subsidi­arity has absolute and universal validity in the realm of the person: as much freedom as is permitted by the common good, and only as much coercion as is demanded by the common good, which, ultimately, is but the good of free­dom itself.  This principle is universally valid.  In the first place, it applies to the state with respect to all groups and persons that live within its territory.  It is also applicable to every community within the state in relation to partial groups and persons that are organic parts of the larger community.

We are now able to formulate the principle of subsidiarity with full clarity and to explain its relation to the principle of solidarity.  It will perhaps be best to use the analogy of education, for the principles regarding the person are analogous to one another on every level we may wish to consider.

Above all, the educator places himself disinterestedly at the service of his pupil=s personality development.  With a disinterested desire to serve, he becomes solidary with his pupil in the latter=s task of self-formation, which the pupil certainly cannot achieve by himself.  For this reason he puts at the disposal of his pupil all the means that are necessary for that self-formation.  He helps him by word and action; but he would be going counter to his own intentions if he were to do for his pupil what can be useful and formative for the latter only if he does it in free self-activity...

This is the principle of solidarity.  In the con­struction of the community, however, the relationship of the groups to the members, and of the higher and larger groups to the lower and more restricted groups, must be conceived in such a way that the former help the latter in the fulfillment of their task.  This is the positive aspect of the principle of subsidiarity.  The help must be given in such a way that the others are aided precisely in developing them­selves by free self-activity within the larger group; and they are subject to coercion only when, and to the extent that, they are acting contrary to the common good of the higher community.  This is the negative aspect of the prin­ciple of subsidiarity.

The ultimate ethical idea that justifies the principle of subsidiarity is the same as that which forms the basis of the principle of solidarity.  It is the imperative that makes man a man and defines his ethical nature.  This imperative reads: ALet there be a community of persons,@ which is the same as saying: ALet personality be.@  For the Aact@ that consti­tutes the personality as a perfect personality is love, which is also the Aact@ that constitutes the community of persons.  Love disinterestedly wills the good of the other and finds objective joy in the realization of this good.  But the good that is willed by the lover and in which he experiences un­selfish joy, is the personal good of the other, the realization and fulfilment of the latter=s personal value.  Now this is a value which the loved one cannot receive passively from the lover, but which he must realize actively from and through himself.  The good of the person is a good that, by definition, can be acquired only by the person=s freedom.  For this reason the method of love in the service of the other is one of assistance and invitation.  It makes the lover supply to the other the means that enable him to realize himself.  It appeals to his freedom, promoting him to tend to the goal by self-activity.  Love, then, respects, demands and fosters the other=s freedom.

Accordingly, the ethical imperative of love, worked out intelligently in the social reality of our earthly existence, un­folds in two ways.  On the one hand, it becomes the principle of solidarity, the socio-ethical obligation of developing the auxiliary organs required by the community to the extent that they are technically possible.  On the other band, it leads to the principle of subsidiarity, the socio-ethical demand that, within the organization of society, the broader and higher groups complement the world of the smaller and lower groups, without going beyond this subsidiary role...

Sound politics that understands its Asubsidiary@ role realizes that the free and spontaneous initiative of the citizens must be respected, encouraged and supported when they try to realize more appropriately adjusted structures of life and institutions.  It must try to provide room and possibilities for that free initiative, without which man suffo­cates and becomes petrified in passively served organizations.  The state must intervene in lower associations and take over their tasks only when the necessary initiative is wanting in them or when they are incapable of executing the necessary projects.  It must impede and restrain private initiatives only when and to the extent that these work against the general welfare of the free ethical community.

What concretely corresponds to the demands of sub­sidiarity in each particular historical situation, must be de­termined in each case by what we have designated in our general plan as the Athird phase@ of reflection upon the community.  In every case, however, it should be evident that the civil authorities, according to the situations, should allow more freedom at one time and less at another... The fundamental problem here is always the moral situation and the moral education of the people.  It is only with morally free persons that a free community of citizens can be constructed in an orderly way.

3. The principle of tolerance

The principle of solidarity is the most general ethical prin­ciple that guides the development of community forms in which persons help one another in their biological and human formation and in which they live their personal community life as earthly human beings.  The principles of subsidiarity affirms that in this project of solidarity, which extends to the whole organically constructed community, the various groups must help and complement their sub-groups and ultimately their members in their self-activity without ab­sorbing or oppressing them.  It is necessary to allow as much initiative and freedom to the persons in their individual and social development as are permitted by the demands of the general welfare.

Granting and respecting the other=s freedom goes so far that the existence of divergent convictions about life, on the basis of which diverse groups or members plan and develop their existence in the world and in the community, does not per se cancel the demands of solidarity and subsidiarity.  This point is affirmed by the principle of tolerance.  In its most general formulation this third principle, like the first two, applies to a larger domain than the purely social realm.  It regulates also the individual relations of man to man.  As we saw above, in the pedagogical relation the educator exercises in an eminent way with respect to his pupil the general solidarity and subsidiarity to which love invites man in relation to his fellow-man.  Tolerance is likewise primarily an attitude of person to person.  It maintains solidarity and subsidiarity in earthly coexistence, even where profound differences in conviction and opinion separate human beings from one another.

Tolerance is an attitude of a person or group of persons toward another person or group insofar as these are Adiffer­ent.@ The Aotherness@ in question does not arise from natural differences, such as race or temperament, nor from unimportant differences in opinion, but is based on more profound differences of conviction concerning the ultimate questions of existence, concerning that which man ultimately accepts as the fundamental truth and value.  From such a difference follows a different interpretation of existence, hence a divergent project of life that expresses itself in personal and social activities and conduct.

The ethical attitude which a person must take with respect to another person who differs from him in his view of the world and of life is called Atolerance.@ The term Atolerance@ signifies a rather secondary aspect of the attitude in question.  It means that we let the other act freely in his being ­different, not for opportunistic reasons, but on the funda­mental ethical grounds that we respect the other=s inviolable character as a person.  Thus the primary aspect of that attitude is something positive, viz., to respect the freedom of the persons.  The fact, however, that men adhere to different convictions and opinions in the most fundamental questions of life, is an evil.  The ideal good would be the unity of all in the acknowledgment of the true and the real good.  I can­not rejoice when I see that others do not share a conviction of life which I consider true and good.  If I did rejoice I would not be convinced of my view.  Thus I take upon myself a painful burden when I make the noble gesture of wholeheartedly letting my fellow-man be free to follow his own conviction.

Tolerance is not confined to letting the other adhere interiorly to a different conviction.  It also leaves him free to live according to that conviction, that is, to express it in word and conduct and to form social organizations with those who share the same opinions.  For man is one, his life is an inferiority that expresses itself in outward behaviour.  The latter is the outer side, so to speak, of the former; and, because man is an incarnate spirit in the world, the outer side is indissolubly connected with his inferiority.  It would be pharisaical and insincere if we wished to limit tolerance to interior convictions only.

Tolerance means to let another act freely.  Negatively it means that we abstain from any kind of coercion, physical or moral, by which we might make one who thinks differently change his conviction or prevent him, as existing in this world, from following his own way of life.

The ultimate ethical foundation of tolerance is love.  The person is by definition a being who owns his life as some­thing proper to him, as something of himself.  By the fact that God created him, he has received his life in his own keeping.  He himself is responsible for it.  As a person, he can lead his own self-responsible life only from and by his own innerly guided freedom, that is, as guided by his conscience.  Conscience, by its very definition, is strictly personal, untouchable and inviolable.  Conscience can guide man=s life only in the light of convictions which man adheres to with personal conviction.  Any other kind of life is unreal, untrue, and hence unworthy of the person.  Now love puts itself at the service of the total personal good of the other, and this personal good is by definition a good that the other can recognize and strive for only in full freedom.  As a consequence, respect for the other=s freedom is an intrinsic condition that must of necessity be present in every loving orientation to the other.

A Christian receives particular enlightenment about this matter from his faith.  God has revealed Himself to the Christian as love.  In His method of salvation through the prophets and Christ, He has given the most pure example of tolerance.  Respect for freedom belongs essentially to God=s method of vocation.  When the God of love calls, He shows the utmost respect for human freedom.  He per­mits even the possibility that man will opt for the decisive and eternal rejection of God that is essentially included in his God-given freedom.

At the same time, it follows that tolerance does not ex­clude the apostolic zeal of an active invitation.  On the con­trary, in a man of conviction tolerance is an inner condition that accompanies his inviting attitude.  Tolerance and zeal are two mutually complementary attitudes which love im­poses on the strongly convinced mind in man=s dealings with those who think otherwise.  Because I desire the other=s personal good, I desire also that he may participate in the truth and the value which so convincingly animate my conscious life.  I will for the other the true and highest personal good, and this includes the recognition of truth and authentic value.  But precisely because it is personal, this good cannot be acquired by the other except in full freedom.  That is why I fully respect his conscience and conviction.  To this must be added that a man must look upon every attempt to force his conscience as an attack upon his being a person.  He will naturally react to such an attack by antipathy for the person or group which has attacked him; and he will also be prompted to dislike the cause which they serve and the belief which leads them to act in that intolerant way.

This reaction is not only a fact of experience but a psychological law flowing from man=s awareness of his per­sonal value.  Intolerance, then, goes counter to the very intention of love which desires to meet the other in a community of truth.  Tolerance, on the contrary, does not act like a brake on the tendency of love, but is rather a con­dition that is favourable for its exercise.  This additional reflection helps to show that love is the essential foundation of tolerance.

Accordingly, tolerance does not exclude zeal for one=s own conviction, the apostolic, missionary spirit, or a mili­tant defence of one=s faith.  The only thing which tolerance demands in those matters is that no means be used which are not in harmony with the respect we must have for the conscience and the inviolable dignity of our fellow-man.

We may also use this occasion to eliminate the prejudice that the believer, the man who is absolutely convinced that what he believes about the ultimate questions of life is true, is incapable of being tolerant.  On the contrary, only someone who has a rock-fast conviction can tolerance reach perfect nobility and beauty.  Conviction is the driving force of the mind.  A firm but authentic conviction is the very best cli­mate for mental health; uncertainty and doubt are a sickness of the mind.  The lack of all conviction is equivalent to death.  In order that one may be tolerant in the full sense of the word, he must realize on the basis of his own experience what it means to have a conviction and cherish it.  Only then will he be able to realize what the other=s convic­tion means to the one who thinks differently.  Only then will he be fully aware of the value that he respects in the other by his tolerance.

It is true, of course, that believers through mistaken zeal have often been intolerant.  However, it is no less true that the most chivalrous battles between men who thought dif­ferently, but discoursed with one another in mutual trust, respect and friendship, have given expression to some of the most sublime manifestations of magnanimity recorded in human history...

The same ethical foundation on which the principle of tolerance rests also defines and justifies its necessary limita­tions.  Virtuous tolerance is least of all a limitless laissez faire.  The love that invites us to serve the objective good of our fellow-man asks us at the same time not only to respect the other=s freedom but also to protect that freedom against all unjust and violent attacks.  No matter how one of our fellow-men may subjectively try to justify an attitude of in­tolerance, by which he believes he has the right to oppress the free utterances of opinion and conviction of his fellow ­men, tolerance by its own inner logic sees itself obliged to offer opposition to it.  He who accepts respect for the human person as a guide of conduct, must accept all the imperatives that follow from it according to the circumstances.  The same motive that inspires his tolerance obliges him to offer relentless resistance and opposition to intolerance.  Precisely in virtue of the principle of tolerance there is, therefore, something which the tolerant man can never tolerate, namely, that others would follow a plan of life which does harm to the freedom of their fellow-men.  With such persons the tolerant man must not only speak and argue, but he is also obliged to counteract their violence as much as possible and prevent the propaganda of ideologies that preach such violence.

Hence tolerance does not exclude every ideological battle that is fought with the weapons of force.  Freedom in our earthly community of persons is a universal condition of the common good.  As such, it must take away from the members of that community all freedom to combat freedom.  Liberty, as belonging to the common good, excludes every action of particular freedom that is directed against freedom.  Those who are responsible for the common goodthis includes fundamentally all citizens and formally the bearers of author­ity in the communitymust repress the expressions of parti­cular freedom that are directed against the right of liberty of members, whatever might be the ideological reasons offered for those expressions.

After this fundamental clarification of tolerance it is not difficult to determine its implications as a socio-ethical prin­ciple.  According to this principle, every society must prac­tice tolerance in the above-explained sense with respect to its members and the subordinate groups existing in it, as well as toward coordinated groups existing side by side with it.  The difficulties begin only when the principle is applied to various kinds of human societies.  For the application of this socio-ethical principle is not only limited interiorly by the duty of opposition to active intolerance, but also by the fact that certain societies are based on the common acceptance of particular convictions.  Hence it is necessary to make, first, a distinction between what we may call, in a broad sense, Anatural@ societies and others that originate through a special institution.  Societies are Anatural@ if they are based on the very nature of man, either primarily as in the case of the family, or secondarily as in that of the state.

Wherever man appears in nature, he is in some way connected with a family.  This connection can be unicellular as in the ordinary family, multi-cellular as in the Ajoint family@ whose members may live together or scattered, and it can even extend to a clan or a tribe.  The closer man is to pure nature, the more the family is the principal or even the ex­clusive form of community.

The state is only a secondary natural community.  It is characterized by authority or the exercise of institutional power, and it appears only later in mankind=s historical development...  Nevertheless, the creation of the state seems to be inevitable in the development of the human community. That development eventually reaches a stage where the unity, within which men depend on one another economically and culturally, is so all-embracing and the problems are so manifold and difficult, that an orderly prolongation and development of the life of the community is possible only under the guidance of an institutional organization of power.  In this sense the state is a secondary natural form of society.  It is also secondary in the sense that it can ethically justify its existence only insofar as it is necessarily required for the good of the homogenous or mixed community of peoples that constitute the domain of its authority.  The state exists for the sake of the community that has organically developed from the family, which is the primary natural community.

It is proper to natural societies that they are not per se based on some common view of the world.  However, though rooted in nature, they are associations of men whose ex­istence is a task directed to the fulfilment of an ideal mean­ing of life.  For this reason it is normal that their social activity should be guided by a common view of life.  The fact that, e.g., grown up children come to a different view of life than that of the family in which they were born and raised, or that in a religiously homogeneous nation there develop minorities of people who think differently, is a source of unrest and dangerous tensions for those communities.  These tensions can become salutary only if those societies= members listen to and act upon the invitation to tolerance involved in the new situation, and thus reach a higher de­gree of humanity.  Men generally do not rise to higher achievements except by victories of the spirit over the diffi­culties that present themselves in historical situations.  Spiritual division, however, is never a good in itself, al­though in mankind=s long historical progress it may be prac­tically a necessity for the purification of the soul.  But the ideal remains unity of the human community of persons in truth.

Regarding tolerance in natural societies, we can say in general that it is simply obligatory; hence its only limita­tions are those imposed upon tolerance by its own nature.  There is, of course, growth in ethical consciousness during mankind=s historical development.  It is only in our own time that the full ethical range and import of tolerance has begun to enter into the conscience of the world.  This we must take into account when we judge the past and some of the situations that still exist in our present world...

The tolerance of public power in respect to the citizens and associations existing in the state, is called Acivil tolerance.@ It is exer­cised in the laws, regulations and activities of the civil power as such.  That the civil power must obey the demands of tolerance in the exercise of its authority follows from the fact that the state is by its very nature subsidiary with respect to the living natural community whose juridical order it maintains and defends by the exercise of power.  Now tol­erance is a fundamental ethical principle of that natural society, hence the state is obliged to obey its demands.  The state has no commission to teach or force any view of the world and life upon its citizens.  Its task is to protect the freedom of the citizens and social groups according to justice and, within the limits of law, to foster the development of those objective cultural means that will enable the citizens to strive in a spirit of solidarity for the fulfilment of their human task of life according to the ideals of their consciences.  It is the duty of the state to be impartial with respect to the spiritual divergencies of its citizens and to distribute the burdens and benefits among the various groups according to the demands of distributive and social justice.

From the ordinary family the natural community complex spreads out into ever widening circles of associations to embrace the whole of mankind... Within that growing natural society, the free choice of men brings all sorts of economic, cultural and religious associations into being by institution.  The state itself came into being by an act of institution but, given certain circumstances, it is a necessary form that organizes the complex whole of natural society.  That is why we called the state a secondary natural society.  Accordingly, within the natural complex that is organized as a state in one of its many forms, there arise all sorts of societies through insti­tution for the pursuit of specific purposes.

Among these institutions there are some whose common good is a value to which one can direct oneself only in virtue of a particular world view or of particular ideas concerning society.  Special mention must be made of religious associations, such as Christian churches and religious orders, or ideological  societies, such as the American Humanist Association.  Man does not belong to those societies by nature, in virtue of his birth, but by an act of free choice.  He continues to be a member because he con­tinues to be inspired by the same conviction that justified his joining those societies.  He can leave such a group whenever he wishes without thereby ceasing to be a member of the natural community to which he belongs by nature... A problem arises for some Christian communities from the position that one becomes a member of their church through baptism.  But baptism is a sacrament of faith, and a man who is mentally mature does not remain a member of the Church in virtue of his baptism if he renounces it by a conscious rejection of the faith.  A mature Catholic remains a member of his Church only in virtue of a free assent of faith.

In purely conventional societies, to which man can belong only through his free choice and because of some cony to which he is bound and in which he binds himself to others, there can be no question, of course, of tolerance regarding the view of life that belongs to the binding faith of the group. To remain in such a group and participate in its internal activities one must adhere to and profess the common faith of the group.  If one of the members publicly attacks a con­viction that belongs to the binding foundation of the group, the latter has the right and often even the obligation to condemn and, if the member persists, to express publicly the expulsion of that member through the voice of its leaders.  We do not mean, of course, that the leaders have the right to use physical or moral force against the member to make him recant his new conviction.  For instance, the society is not permitted to order that he be deprived of the means necessary for his personal life because the natural community, by virtue of natural solidarity, owes those means to all persons that are living in its fold.  A society based on a con­viction may only deny him its own specific means, the means that are directed to the special purpose which derives its meaning from the conviction on which it is based.  This is done, for instance, by the Catholic Church, when it denies someone its sacraments..

It is also evident that a religious order based on the vows of religion cannot retain and suffer to remain in itself a member who publicly attacks the value to which those vows tend... Let us however insist that a most generous tolerance must reign also in those instituted communities with respect to all the points which, within a particular community, belong to the domain of free opinion.  For example, it would be contrary to the ethical imperative of tolerance if a Church authority proclaimed condemnations and excommu-nications for theological or other opinions which are not very clearly in opposition to the truth which is entrusted to the church as a fundamental belief of the community.  This should be evident to a Christ­ian.  For the new law, as St. Thomas expressed it, is Athe law of perfect freedom@ because it does not impose anything on its members that is not really obligatory for salvation.[3]

4. Conclusion

The three socio-ethical principles we have discussed must not only be distinguished but also understood in their unity and their interconnection.  They are not only radically one, as different socio-ethical expressions of the one ethical abso­lute of love, but are also connected with one another in their practical exercise and in their orientation to one and the same goal, the realization of the common good...

In principle, persons belonging to diverse confessions can work together in all associations whose aim is not conditioned by their own faith...  Catholics, Protestants, Jews and humanists can, in principle, cooperate with perfect freedom and soli­darity in institutions or associations directed to economic, social, and political purposes or to the exercise of science, art and other cultural activities...


[1]Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno, A.A.S., vol. 23 (1931), p. 203; On the Reconstruction of the Social Order (translation) America Press, 1938, New York, p. 23.

[2]Divini lllius Magistri, A.A.S., vol. 22 (1930), p. 63; transla­tion, Christian Education of Youth, Paulist Press, N.Y., p. 16.

[3]Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 108, a. 1, c. and ad 2.