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Without Truth, Freedom Remains Imprisoned

Interview with Msgr. Vitaliano Mattioli

ROME, NOV. 15, 2004 (Zenit) - A well-know theologian warns that when freedom does not take truth into account, the former ends by being imprisoned.

This is the central concept expressed by Msgr. Vitaliano Mattioli, professor of the Pontifical Urban University and vice president of the Pontifical Institute of St. Apollinare, in his latest book entitled "Imprisoned Freedom" ("Liberta Imprigionata"), published this year by Segno Publishers.

In this interview with us, Msgr. Mattioli explains the main topic of his book, the relationship between truth and freedom.

Q: Why did you choose this title for your book?

Msgr. Mattioli: For some years I have wished to write something on this argument. I am noticing in people a tendency to make negative choices that imprison them. By considering human freedom as "anarchy," the individual does not free himself but chains himself: he imprisons his freedom.

Man is no longer "lord" of himself; his erroneous conception of life and existence leads to his destruction. I analyze some of these symbolic chains in the central part of the book. In the end, they all stem from a position that is not new, but that reappears every now and then throughout the centuries: to go about life as if God did not exist.

Hence the sub-title: "Essay on Human Self-Destruction." How can this disaster be avoided? Immediately, the figure of Christ emerges, the only one capable of giving back to man his original freedom.

Q: In "Veritatis Splendor," the Holy Father stresses that there is no freedom without truth, an affirmation that the Church's Magisterium repeats continually. What can you tell us in this respect?

Msgr. Mattioli: Man has severed the binomial "freedom/truth." He has desired to obfuscate the truth about God, no longer considering him the Creator and the origin of all good, the principle of being, and the giver of all existence.

By removing the transcendent God, Promethean man emerges. Another truth is negated here: the truth about man. Being a creature, he feels himself creator. By denying a creator God, he has set himself to manufacture man. Negating a legislator God, man has become his own law. Hence the ethical State.

By denying these truths, freedom has also been abrogated, not only from the individual but also from the political point of view. When the human person stands on a pedestal, after having dethroned the divinity, the person is considered god, but not a God father, but a God master, the dictator. Human rights are no longer taken into account. Man reduces himself to life in a great prison. Thus, he also loses his existential freedom.

By abrogating God, man considers himself absolved and then abandons himself to his own passions. He himself, no longer acts but his unhealthy whims and appetites are the ones that dominate and control him. Having reached this point, man is capable of any aberration.

The reason the Church's Magisterium insists so much on the defense of this binomial is not only because it wishes to indicate a Christian view of life, but to prevent man, any man, from destroying himself.

Q: The present situation in Europe is an example of the contradiction between truth and freedom. In the name of greater respect for the secular state and religious freedom, reference to the Christian roots of Europe was rejected. What are your thoughts on this?

Msgr. Mattioli: In my book, when speaking of a third chain, the "secularist mentality," I analyze the difference between the secular state and the secularist state. Already Pius XII was not afraid to accept without reservations "a healthy secularism of the state." Secularism accepts religious pluralism and sees it as an enrichment.

In a speech in Assisi (Oct. 15, 2004), Marcello Pera, president of the Italian Senate, said that "secularism is a principle of autonomy, tolerance, respect for confessions, creeds, and philosophies."

Instead a state that denies the religious reality, or considers that it belongs only to the subjective sphere, is a secularist state. Hence the fact that religious life has no citizenship in the secularist state, which necessarily transforms itself into an ethical state.

Europe would like to consider itself secular although in fact it is becoming secularist. This is the reason for its obstinacy in not recognizing the Christian roots in the constitutional preamble.

According to Marcello Pera, "secularism is the opposite. At times, an ideology becomes a religion that can even become a blind, obtuse, and dogmatic." Perhaps, this secularist religion, more than all else, explains the neglect of the Christian roots of Europe in the Preamble of the Treaty." On this point, Europe is beginning to manifest an intolerance that is worrying.

Q: In the name of a freer concept of the family, we are witnessing a desire to extend the latter also to homosexual couples, allowing them even to adopt children. What is your opinion?

Msgr. Mattioli: A premise I wish to insist on: absolute respect towards people who are in these situations. Having said this, the recognition of homosexual couples is one of the consequences of having opted for a secularist State.

When anarchy replaces freedom (possibility to act in conformity with right reason), everything is licit. I am my own law and I must succeed in having the state justify, legislatively, my desires.

The family has always been considered a union between a person of the masculine sex and one of the feminine sex, recognized by society. The objection is not about the individual option of two persons but about the pressure on legislative institution to make this choice natural and, therefore, legitimate.

Even more so if it is about the adoption of children by these couples. All of psychology does no more than confirm the urgency of the masculine and feminine figure in the child's education. Here, instead, it is about obliging the legislator to take a direction that goes against all the healthy principles of nature and the most obvious conclusions of science, in regard to the balanced development of the human being.

Whim also prevails here. The unconditional satisfaction of any desire, fruit of egoism and the lack of seeking the good of the other.


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