Catholic Social Teaching and Authentic Human Freedom
- the freedom to pursue initiatives of an economic, social, or political nature.
Naturally, these freedoms are not exercised in vacuo, in a vacuum. They are exercised in communio, within a community. For this reason, they must be exercised within the matrix of a "'strong juridical framework,' within the limits imposed by the common good and public order, and, in every case, in a manner characterized by responsibility." (Compendium, No. 200)
There are some places where freedom cannot go, where it may not enter. For there are places where one goes from freedom to unfreedom, from true freedom to what are just elusive shades and shadows of freedom. Freedom will recognize those limits, and therefore it will "refuse what is morally negative, in whatever guise it may be presented." Freedom accordingly includes the "capacity to distance oneself effectively from everything that could hinder personal, family, or social growth." (Compendium, No. 200) This suggests that freedom is found only in virtue, and never in vice. "Only a virtuous people," wrote Benjamin Franklin unerringly, "are capable of freedom."
In short, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines it (§ 1731): "Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility. By free will one shapes one's own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude."
The Compendium summarizes its view of freedom in this manner: "The fullness of freedom consists in the capacity to be in possession of oneself in view of the genuine good," which, of course ultimately is God, "within the context of the universal common good." (Compendium, No. 200)
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law, called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at email@example.com.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Freedom, Andrew Greenwell, Esq., social doctirne, social teaching, compendium, liberty, justice, personal freedom
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