Religious people complain that tolerance as a general norm liberates the libertine but restrains everyone else. In response, the modernists say that religious people are not really being restrained at all, and that they are permitted to struggle against evil all they want, but that this struggle is merely being limited to the private domain of their own inner lives. They cannot ‘foist their beliefs on others’. In other words, as Christians we are not being stifled in the least, only forced to keep our spiritual work to ourselves so as not to interfere with anyone else’s liberty. This is much like how secularism ‘tolerates’ religion by saying that religious expression is acceptable only insofar as it does not have a say in public policy. You may pursue spiritual development via religious means, but you may not do this in or through public spaces, or by public funding, and certainly not via the letter of the law.
This attitude betrays certain assumptions about man and about evil that need to be investigated and verified. Where is moral evil truly situated? How is it communicated? And if it needs to be confronted at all, is it possible to deal with it in a merely private manner? In other words, if we only pursue morality and religion privately, are we still pursuing them at all? Are these things of a nature that can be confined in such a way? And on the other hand, if there is a such a thing as evil, is it of a nature that it can be confronted privately and not publicly?
We should remind the reader that although our central question pertains to moral evil, there is not always a clean division between the moral, the metaphysical, and the physical, and the universality of evil in its supra-moral aspect is what determines our understanding of evil at the moral level.
At the risk of becoming repetitive, we are seeking to understand evil as a matter of human experience and in the context of human relationships, which on the broadest level means understanding evil as a practical, personal, and interpersonal problem. This means our emphasis is mostly, but not exclusively, on what Catholicism calls moral evil. With that in mind, let us proceed.