Thursday, August 09, 2007

Freedom of "Consciences"

What follows is a lengthy quote from St. Josemaria Escriva on freedom:

Throughout my years as a priest, whenever I have spoken, or rather shouted, about my love for personal freedom, I have noticed some people reacting with distrust, as if they suspected that my defense of freedom could endanger the faith. Such faint‑hearted people can rest assured. The only freedom that can assail the faith is a misinterpreted freedom, an aimless freedom, one without objective principles, one that is lawless and irresponsible. In a word, licence. Unfortunately, this is what some people are advocating, and their claim does indeed constitute a threat to the faith.

This is why it is inaccurate to speak of freedom of conscience, thereby implying that it may be morally right for someone to reject God. We have already seen that it is in our power to oppose God’s plans for salvation. It is in our power, but we should not do so. If someone adopted this attitude deliberately, he would be sinning, by breaking the first and most important of the commandments: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart’.

I defend with all my strength the freedom of consciences, which means that no one can licitly prevent a man from worshipping God. The legitimate hunger for truth must be respected. Man has a grave obligation to seek God, to know him and worship him, but no one on earth is permitted to impose on his neighbour the practice of a faith he lacks; just as no one can claim the right to harm those who have received the faith from God.

Our Holy Mother the Church has always spoken out in favour of freedom and has always rejected fatalism, both in its ancient and more modern versions. She has pointed out that each soul is master of its own destiny, for good or ill: ‘and those who have been true to the good will go to eternal life; those who have committed evil, to eternal fire’. (Friends of God, 32-33)


This quote speaks to the heart of what This Liberal Blog is all about. I believe, as did St. Josemaria, that human freedom is one of the most important issues in relating the Christian faith to modern Western culture.

I think he is saying that freedom of "consciences" is to be advocated while freedom of "conscience" is not because the issue should be distinguished as a political one in the first case and a personal one in the second.

On a large scale, we have no right to legislate faith. At one time this was done, and this will be discussed in due time. Freedom of "consciences" is absolute.

On a personal scale, we do not have absolute freedom to judge for ourselves. We will all be judged according to our faithfulness to the truth, as it was presented to us.

1 comment:

pjdm said...

As JPII elaborated in Veritatis Splendor, freedom is living according to the good. There is no love without law, nor is there freedom without good.

Our first parents illustrated this truth all too well by freely choosing to transgress God's law, the way of good, winning for all of us enslavement to domination, lust, and ultimately death. The whole Exodus story is an historical metaphor of this spiritual slavery that comes from freely choosing sin. And every society illustrates this each time they freely reject the good in favor of selfishness, eventually necessitating enslavement to a police state.

Freedom is created for something (the good), but can not be realized until we are free from something (sin). Even freedom of conscience is lost by choosing evil. How many consciences have deadened due to freely choosing a sinful lifestyle? Only with an open heart and the light of faith can one see the true good. By looking at the Church from the outside it's difficult to comprehend serious evils such as contraception, in vitro fertilization, and homosexual acts. Only from the inside of God's house, which is Christ, can one see the truth. Experiencing freedom is dependent on choosing the good, which is dependent on knowing the truth. Truth to goodness to freedom, all from grace.

PJ