WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online):
With most of the children out of school, that wonderful time we
call summer is now upon us. In only a couple of weeks we will
celebrate that unique American holiday, the Fourth of July. Our
focus as a Nation turns increasingly to that that precious word
- FREEDOM - which has informed this experiment in ordered
liberty called the United States of America.
We see threats to freedom gathering everywhere
around us like stormclouds. Recently, thousands around the
United States gathered to Stand up for what this Nation has
properly called the First Freedom, Religious Freedom. The
Catholic Bishops of the United States have called for a
Fortnight (14 days) of Prayer for Freedom.
There is no word which echoes more passionately
within the heart than that word freedom or evokes a deeper
response. This Nation was founded by men and women who
experienced threats to freedom's promise and potential and
responded to them with heroism. It has beckoned from its birth
to all who hear freedom's invitation to come and see what true
compelling words written by Emma Lazarus are engraved on the
pedestal of the Lady Liberty in New York's Ellis Island: "Give
me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses, yearning to
breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send
these, the homeless, tempest tossed, I lift my lamp beside the
lamp still shines beside that golden door. However, that light
is being diminished by counterfeit notions of freedom which fail
to recognize its source, comprehend its promise, accept its
obligations or believe in its potential to build a better
One of the
architects of the freedom undertaking which brought down the
Berlin Wall at the end of the last century, Blessed John Paul II
wrote, "Human freedom belongs to us as creatures; it is a
freedom which is given as a gift, one to be received like a seed
and to be cultivated responsibly. It is an essential part of
that creaturely image which is the basis of the dignity of the
for freedom is present in all men and women. It is the hunger of
the human heart. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians
Christians, "For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and
do not submit again to the yoke of slavery." (Gal. 5:1) The Lord
Jesus Christ called us along the path to freedom with this
promise, "If you remain in my word, you will truly be my
disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set
you free." (John 8:31, 32)
The struggle of our age is
being waged over the meaning of freedom. It is a contest with
extraordinary implications. Almost every contemporary concern
that we face can be positioned within this struggle. As
Christians, we know that freedom has a specific meaning. Viewing
it within that context is the only way we will obtain the
desired result of happiness and human flourishing.
How one defines human freedom will influence the
way that he or she views almost everything. Freedom has
consequences. Our choices have the capacity to not only change
the world around us, but they make us to be the kinds of persons
to make choices is what makes us human persons. What we choose
either humanizes us further or leads us, ultimately, into
slavery. The capacity to choose reflects the "Imago Dei", the
Image of God, present within every human person.
As the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council in
the Catholic Church wrote in their document on the Mission of
the Church in the Modern World, "Authentic freedom is an
outstanding manifestation of the divine image within man." (Gaudium
et Spes, "Joy and Hope", 17)
We should listen closely to the contemporary
voices using the word "freedom". What do they mean when they
speak the word? We need to heed the voices of authentic freedom.
Two voices tower above all others. They proclaim
the truth concerning human freedom and its essential connection
to truth. They remind is of freedom's obligations to view the
other as another self. Those two voices come from Blessed John
Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
To a growing number of Christians, young and old,
from every community and confession, as well as to many other
people of faith and good will; they are being recognized as
prophetic voices. The authentic vision of human freedom they
proclaim is exposing contemporary counterfeit notions of
Pope Benedict XVI warned of a
"dictatorship of relativism" at work in the secularist age. The
antidote is the message of authentic freedom which insists that
there is such a thing as truth, which can be known through the
exercise of reason. Freedom must be exercised in relationship to
truth. Otherwise, it is illusory and will lead to new forms of
slavery and anarchy.
2005 he spoke to an assembly of families: "Today's various forms
of dissolution of marriage, free unions, trial marriages as well
as the pseudo-matrimonies between people of the same sex are
instead expressions of anarchic freedom which falsely tries to
pass itself off as the true liberation of man,"
This "anarchic freedom" is
what Blessed John Paul referred to as a "counterfeit" notion of
freedom. It leads to something he warned of in his encyclical
letter "The Gospel of Life" as the "death of true freedom"
According to the Pope this was Blessed John Paul
II's mission, "when, in face of all attempts, apparently
benevolent, in the face of erroneous interpretations of freedom,
he underlined in an unequivocal way the inviolability of the
human being, the inviolability of human life, from its
conception until natural death."
interpretations of freedom" and proclaiming the full truth
concerning freedom is now our task as as Christiansof the West.
In one of his seminal works entitled "Introduction to
Christianity" Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
wrote: "one could very well describe Christianity as a
philosophy of freedom."
Philosophy deals with the existential questions.
The men and women of this age are asking the fundamental
questions men and women of every age have asked. They hunger for
truth and they yearn to be free. They will never be satisfied
without God, who is the source, author and way to freedom
because he is the source of all that is true and good.
The contemporary neo-pagan age has become
intoxicated on the wine of a false notion of freedom as a raw
power over others who are weaker. An example of the sophistry
which accompanies all of this is the illusory claim of a "right"
to do whatever one wills, including taking the lives of our
first neighbors in the womb and calling it a "choice".
On May 8, 2005 Pope Benedict opined concerning
legal abortion and creeping euthanasia: "The freedom to kill is
not true freedom, but a tyranny that reduces the human being to
slavery." The new slavery of this age is its treatment of human
persons as property to be used and disposed of at will.
By calling what is always wrong a "right",
contemporary men and women are being bound by the chains of
their own self delusion, materialism and nihilism; imprisoned by
the lie of what Pope Benedict called "anarchic freedom."
To an age enamored with so many false concepts of
freedom the Catholic Church proclaims the unchangeable truth
that some "choices" are always and everywhere wrong - choosing
them does not make one free, rather it erodes authentic human
freedom and leads to slavery and tyranny.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses
the wrong exercises of human freedom reminding us of the
extraordinary implications of our use of our power to choose:
"Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is
love itself." (CCC, 1861.)
Freedom is not about the fact that we can choose
but about how and what we do choose. This is what truly matters.
Authentic Human Freedom will never be found in decisions that
are made against God and against the Natural Law.
The struggle of this age is
between anarchic freedom and authentic freedom. The future of
the West hangs in the balance.