Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith Fournier

6/2/2016 (3 weeks ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

That which is chosen not only changes the world around the chooser, but changes the person who making the choice. In simple words, we become what we choose.

What we choose determines who we become. Choosing what is good changes the chooser, empowering him or her to proceed along the pathways of virtue and develop the habitus - or habits- which promote Christian character. The Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses human choice, action and freedom: The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to "the slavery of sin". (Cf. Rom 6:17) (CCC#1733)

Our Moral Life in Christ.

Our Moral Life in Christ.

Highlights

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

6/2/2016 (3 weeks ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: splendor of truth, Gospel of Life, veritatis splendour, evangelium vitae, Blessed John Paul II, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, moral life, morality, Catholic moral teaching, happiness, freedom, Deacon Keith Fournier


CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - Many people are looking for the path to happiness and freedom. We live in an age which espouses a notion of freedom of choice as a power to do whatever one desires without reference to any evaluative or objective norm outside of a self constructed individualistic compass. This view is evident in every behavior that treats the human person as some-thing to be used rather than some-one, a gift to be received. It does not free us, fulfill us or make us happy.

Catholic Moral teaching offers a unique insight which has enormous potential to engage a culture enamored with such a pursuit of self fulfillment - but enslaved by making choices which lead to emptiness,division and despair. It affirms that the very act of choosing places the person in a relationship with the object, or the subject, chosen. That which is chosen not only changes the world around the chooser, but changes the person who makes the choice. In simple words, we become what we choose.

Saint Gregory of Nyssa provided an insight concerning our choices in an ancient homily quoted approvingly by Blessed John Paul II in his masterful encyclical letter on the Moral Life, Veritatis Splendor   which means in English, The Splendor of Truth and is cited in the section on the Moral Life in the Catechism of the Catholic Church :

All things are subject to change and becoming never remain constant, but continually pass from one state to another, for better or for worse..Now human life is always subject to change; it needs to be born ever anew. But here birth does not come about by a foreign intervention, as is the case with bodily beings; it is the result of free choice. Thus we are, in a certain sense, our own parents, creating ourselves as we will, by our decisions".

What we choose determines who we become. Choosing what is good changes the chooser, empowering him or her to proceed along the pathways of virtue and develop the habitus - or habits- which promote Christian character. The Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses human choice, action and freedom:

The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to "the slavery of sin". (Cf. Rom 6:17) (CCC#1733)

Saint John Paul's beautiful Letter on the Moral Life, the Splendor of Truth, responded to the continuing call of the Second Vatican Council to re-root Catholic moral teaching within the Bible, which is the "soul of theology". (Dei Verbum #24)

In its first chapter, it provides an exegesis of the scriptures based on the Lord's encounter with the Rich young man within which it expounds a moral theology of choice. It was not the man's possessions which made him choose to say no to the Lord's invitation. It was his disordered relationship to them which impeded his freedom. They possessed him. He went away sad because he made the wrong choice.

From this encounter the letter develops its teaching on choice and authentic human freedom, explaining the proper development and formation of conscience in relationship to objective truth. It issues a strong reaffirmation of the Natural Moral Law.

Two years after The Splendor of Truth, John Paul released another Encyclical letter entitled Evangelium Vitae,The Gospel of Life, which continued his work of laying a firm foundation for a proper understanding of choice and the Moral Life.

In that letter he responded to the myriad of threats against the dignity of human life caused by the redefinition of the word freedom with a prophetic urgency.  He warned of what he called a "counterfeit notion of freedom". He positioned this counterfeit as the root cause of what he labeled the culture of death.

Under that phrase he coalesced all the current social evils; from abortion (which is always and everywhere intrinsically evil); to modern slaveries, (including pornography and drug addiction); to disdain for the poor and a cheapening of all life as well as the foreboding momentum toward a misguided use of new medical technologies; to active and passive euthanasia and the return of eugenics. 

Finally, in considering the moral life and human choice we should note the clear moral character of the teaching compiled within the magnificent Catechism of the Catholic Church released on the thirtieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, October 11, 1992.

Part Three of the Catechism, a section devoted specifically to a discussion of Moral theology is entitled Life in Christ. The Section treats the vocation of man to beatitude. It articulates a clear Moral theology of choice by considering the morality of human acts, the role of the passions, proper formation of the conscience, the cultivation of the virtues and the rejection of sin.

In its explanation of the morality of human acts, The Catechism offers a sobering insight concerning a wrong exercise of freedom: "Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself." It properly insists that authentic Human Freedom cannot be realized in decisions made against God and against what is good because it is "patterned on God's freedom."

Patterned on God's freedom, man's freedom is not negated by his obedience to the divine law; indeed, only through this obedience does it abide in the truth and conform to human dignity. This is clearly stated by the Council: "Human dignity requires man to act through conscious and free choice, as motivated and prompted personally from within, and not through blind internal impulse or merely external pressure. Man achieves such dignity when he frees himself from all subservience to his feelings, and in a free choice of the good, pursues his own end by effectively and assiduously marshaling the appropriate means. (VS #42)

The New Testament is filled with examples of the connection between what we choose and who we become. Two will suffice. We become adulterers when we look at a woman with lust (Mt. 5:28); what comes out of our heart (The heart is the biblical center where freedom is exercised, human choices are made and character is formed through choice) is what makes us unclean (Mk 7:14-23).

Freedom has consequences. The capacity to make choices is constitutive of our being human persons and reflects an aspect of the Imago Dei, the Image of God, present within us. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council wrote in their document on the Mission of the Church: Authentic freedom is an outstanding manifestation of the divine image within man. (GS #17)

Thus, it can be said that freedom has a moral constitution. Socially, it must be exercised in reference to the truth concerning the human person, the family, and our obligations in solidarity to one another and to the common good. That is why the fullness of authentic human freedom is ultimately found only in a relationship with the God who is its source and who alone can set us free. When we choose the truth which He reveals we find the fullness of freedom.

St. John 8:32 records these words of Jesus concerning this connection between freedom and truth, Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in him, "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."

In The Splendor of Truth. The late pope warned of  what he called the "death of true freedom". (#40)  This concern  is also addressed repeatedly in The Gospel of Life where he writes of freedom's "essential link with truth" and "inherently relational dimension." (#19)

In his later encyclical letter on Faith and Reason, Fides et ratio, he wrote: It is not just that freedom is part of the act of faith: it is absolutely required. Indeed, it is faith that allows individuals to give consummate expression to their own freedom. Put differently, freedom is not realized in decisions made against God.

For how could it be an exercise of true freedom to refuse to be open to the very reality which enables our self-realization? Men and women can accomplish no more important act in their lives than the act of faith; it is here that freedom reaches the certainty of truth and chooses to live in that truth. (#13)

All of this invites us to pause and reflect upon our own lives, and our own choices. What are we choosing and who are we becoming? Basil the Great was a monk, theologian, Bishop of the fourth century and friend of Gregory of Nyssa. He wrote a detailed Rule for Monks which contains another helpful insight into what we choose and who we become with which I will conclude:

Basil the Great: The ability to love is within each of us

Love of God is not something that can be taught. We did not learn from someone else how to rejoice in light or want to live, or to love our parents or guardians. It is the same - perhaps even more so - with our love for God: it does not come by another's teaching. As soon as the living creature (that is, man) comes to be, a power of reason is implanted in us like a seed, containing within it the ability and the need to love. When the school of God's law admits this power of reason, it cultivates it diligently, skilfully nurtures it, and with God's help brings it to perfection.

For this reason, as by God's gift, I find you with the zeal necessary to attain this end, and you on your part help me with your prayers. I will try to fan into flame the spark of divine love that is hidden within you, as far as I am able through the power of the Holy Spirit.

First, let me say that we have already received from God the ability to fulfil all his commands. We have then no reason to resent them, as if something beyond our capacity were being asked of us. We have no reason either to be angry, as if we had to pay back more than we had received. When we use this ability in a right and fitting way, we lead a life of virtue and holiness. But if we misuse it, we fall into sin.

This is the definition of sin: the misuse of powers given us by God for doing good, a use contrary to God's commands. On the other hand, the virtue that God asks of us is the use of the same powers based on a good conscience in accordance with God's command.

Since this is so, we can say the same about love. Since we received a command to love God, we possess from the first moment of our existence an innate power and ability to love. The proof of this is not to be sought outside ourselves, but each one can learn this from himself and in himself. It is natural for us to want things that are good and pleasing to the eye, even though at first different things seem beautiful and good to different people. In the same way, we love what is related to us or near to us, though we have not been taught to do so, and we spontaneously feel well disposed to our benefactors.

What, I ask, is more wonderful than the beauty of God? What thought is more pleasing and wonderful than God's majesty? What desire is as urgent and overpowering as the desire implanted by God in a soul that is completely purified of sin and cries out in its love: I am wounded by love? The radiance of divine beauty is altogether beyond the power of words to describe.

-----

Deacon Keith A. Fournier is the Founder and Chairman of Common Good Foundation and Common Good Alliance. An ordained minister of the Catholic Church, a Deacon, he works with Christians across confessionallines. He and his wife Laurine have five grown children and seven grandchildren, He is a human rights lawyer and public policy advocatewho has long been active at the intersection of faith and culture.Heserved as the first and founding Executive Director of the American Center for Law and Justice in the nineteen nineties and is Chief Counsel to the Common Good Legal Defense Fund. He is the Editor in Chief of Catholic Online, a senior writer for THE STREAM and a featured columnist for the Catholic News Agency.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copyright 2016 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for June 2016
Universal:
Human Solidarity: That the aged, marginalized, and those who have no one may findeven within the huge cities of the worldopportunities for encounter and solidarity.
Evangelization: Seminarians and Novices: That seminarians and men and women entering religious life may have mentors who live the joy of the Gospel and prepare them wisely for their mission.



Comments


More U.S.

The Vindication of Governor Bob McDonnell, Persevering Faith and the Friends of Job Watch

Image of Former Governor of Virginia Bob McDonnell emerges victorious at the US Supreme Court

By Deacon Keith Fournier

In 2014, the former Governor of Virginia, a genuine Catholic Christian named Robert "Bob" McDonnell, was wrongfully convicted of committing a federal offense while in office. Both as his friend and as a constitutional lawyer, I paid very close attention to the ... continue reading


Can YOU find 'super racist' message on this Red Cross poster? Watch

Image of Woman realizes pool safety notice for children encourages racism (Margaret Sawyer).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Margaret Sawyer noticed a Red Cross safety poster at a public pool in Salida, CO. She took a moment to take a closer look then internally shook her head at what she thought was an outdated guide - until she spotted it again at across town. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading


BREAKING: Supreme Court rules AGAINST women, still okay to kill girls, mothers in abortion mills Watch

Image of A abortion kills children. Why don't people understand this?

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The Supreme Court has ruled against the state of Texas, and women, deciding that abortionists do not need to follow common sense safety measures before killing babies, and sometimes their mothers. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - A liberal, 5-3 vote by the ... continue reading


No more white majority? US will soon see no majority race Watch

Image of The United States will soon be a country without racial majority within the next few decades (Alamy).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Adorable little babies born in the United States have no idea they are reshaping the nation. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to new population estimates from the Census Bureau, racial and ethnic minorities made up 50.2 percent of babies under 1-year-old ... continue reading


'Protests are a vital part of democracy': Freddie Gray case continues as another officer is found innocent Watch

Image of Freddie Gray was killed by police after they attempted to drag him into a police van (Gray family).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

When 25-year-old Freddie Gray's spine was nearly severed as he was dragged into a police van last April, the city of Baltimore erupted - and it might just flare up again. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - On April 12, 2015, Gray ran from officers when they attempted ... continue reading


Gallup survey finds less than 4 percent identify as LGBT Watch

Image of Less than 4 percent of the population is LGBT, but they command substantial political clout.

By David Drudge (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Less than four percent of U.S. adults consider themselves lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), a Gallup survey finds. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - According to a survey by Gallup, 3.9 percent of U.S. adults consider themselves LGBT. The number of ... continue reading


Supreme Court issues four rulings, do they affect you or someone you know? Watch

Image of The Supreme Court has issued rulings in four cases today.

By David Drudge (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The Supreme Court has issued rulings on four cases today. Those cases involve affirmative action, immigration, drunk driving laws, and repeat offender laws. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - The Supreme Court has issued rulings in four cases. Here are their ... continue reading


Faith and the Future: Build on the Rock of Jesus and Become the Church Militant Watch

Image of The Church is the rock of refuge and a safe harbor in an age which is being shaken.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

The use of the expression Church Militant as a description of the mission of the Church on earth used to be very common. However, for lots of reasons, including a possible misunderstanding of the term in this increasingly violent age, it has fallen out of use. It ... continue reading


Family feud results in one dead teen, violent altercation and a wild police chase Watch

Image of The car lost control, ending the 14-year-old girl's life (WJHL).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Three Washington County teens in Tennessee led police on a 15-mile police chase before a 15-year-old boy lost control of the vehicle, which then rolled and launched a 14-year-old girl through the windshield. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The unbelievable chase ... continue reading


'Keep your mouth shut': U.S. school union covers up child abuse Watch

Image of Three union representatives in New York state were recorded covering up child abuse (gracepapers).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

An undercover reporter used a hidden camera to record three New York state teacher union representatives defend everything from teachers using cocaine to child abuse. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Project Veritas has released three undercover union videos, each ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • Sister Cecilia Maria's smile stuns
  • Daily Readings for Wednesday, June 29, 2016
  • Daily Reading for Sunday, July 3rd, 2016 HD Video
  • Daily Reading for Saturday, July 2nd, 2016 HD Video
  • 'Stop shying away from death': Researchers claim dying patients ...
  • 'Your goodness is a place where I feel protected': Pope Francis ...
  • St. Peter: Saint of the Day for Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Amos 3:1-8; 4:11-12
1 Listen, Israelites, to this prophecy which Yahweh pronounces against ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 5:4-6, 6-7, 8
4 You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil, no sinner can be your ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 8:23-27
23 Then he got into the boat followed by his disciples.24 ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for June 28th, 2016 Image

St. Irenaeus
June 28: The writings of St. Irenaeus entitle him to a ... Read More