What is Freedom?
April 21, 2013 Freedom is the ability to choose an action, not because I am afraid of what they will do to me (violence), not because I am afraid of what they will say about me (human respect), not because I am overpowered by my evil tendencies (vices, addictions), not because I serve Mammon, the idol of riches (greed); freedom is to choose an action only because of my desire of happiness, of my true good. "This is good for me: so be it". I want it, not "they". It is my free decision, not a "necessity" imposed by my body. I decide to do this because this is truly good for me. What is good for me, indeed, implies always the good of my brothers and sisters.
Freedom is this mastery over our acts, to be free from the influence of other interests that are not in accordance with our true happiness.
1. Responsibility and Freedom
"Freedom makes man responsible for his acts to the extent that they are voluntary. Progress in virtue, knowledge of the good, and self-restraint enhance the mastery of the will over its acts" (1734). "Responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, violence, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors" (1735). "Every act directly willed is imputable to the person who did it. An action can be indirectly voluntary when it results from negligence regarding something one should have known or done: for example, an accident arising from ignorance of traffic laws" (1736).
"An effect can be tolerated without being willed by its agent; for instance, a mother's exhaustion from tending her sick child. A bad effect is not imputable if it was not willed either as an end or as a means of an action, e.g., a death a person incurs in aiding someone in danger. For a bad effect to be imputable it must be foreseeable and the agent must have the possibility of avoiding it, as in the case of manslaughter caused by a drunken driver" (1737).
"Every human person, created in the image of God, has the natural right to be recognized as a free and responsible being. All owe to each other this duty of respect. The right to the exercise of freedom, especially in moral and religious matters, is an inalienable requirement of the dignity of the human person. This right must be recognized and protected by civil authority within the limits of the common good and public order" (1738). This limitation comes from the fact that it is not licit, in the name of religion, to disturb or destroy the true and common good of the peoples.
2. Human Freedom in the Economy of Salvation
Sin is possible. "In fact, man failed. By refusing God's plan of love, he deceived himself and became a slave to sin. This first alienation [break with God] engendered a multitude of others [break with ourselves, with our neighbour, and with creation]" (1739).
"The exercise of freedom does not imply a right to say or do everything". Man is not "an individual who is fully self-sufficient and whose finality is the satisfaction of his own interests in the enjoyment of earthly goods. Moreover, the economic, social, political, and cultural conditions that are needed for a just exercise of freedom are too often disregarded or violated. Such situations of blindness and injustice injure the moral life and involve the strong as well as the weak in the temptation to sin against charity" (1740). For example, social injustice and moral corruption in the media are a temptation to sin. There are many threats to the true freedom in the culture.
"By his glorious Cross Christ has won salvation for all men. He redeemed them from the sin that held them in bondage. "For freedom Christ has set us free." (Gal 5:1)" (1741). The grace of Christ makes us freer: "as Christian experience attests especially in prayer, the more docile we are to the promptings of grace, the more we grow in inner freedom and confidence during trials, such as those we face in the pressures and constraints of the outer world" (1742).
Freedom is that inner strength that makes people able to hold to their faith in front of death, in front of sufferings, in front of persecution. Nothing can subdue them, nothing can force them. It is the inner strength that keeps a mother loving despite every difficulty. It is to be the master of your own decision against the world. A man is free when an earthquake cannot move him, but his decision can move the world. To be free is to be the lord of yourself, subject only to God, not out of fear, but out of love. Freedom is something beautiful, but it is not easy to conquer. It is a treasure, but it is not cheap. May God grant us this freedom. The freedom to embrace him and to love him above all things.