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Inaugural: Which way for Freedom?

By: Deacon Keith A. Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC

"There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.... Freedom, by its nature, must be chosen, and defended by citizens, and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities. And when the soul of a nation finally speaks, the institutions that arise may reflect customs and traditions very different from our own. America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way....

We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul."

George W. Bush, January 20, 2005

Like millions throughout the world, I just heard President George W. Bush deliver the fifty fifth Presidential Inaugural address. It was extraordinary.

Now, it is time to seriously examine its implications. I write as a patriotic American who loves this Nation. I also write as someone who genuinely appreciated this Inaugural address.

However, there are very real questions we must ask now ourselves as a Nation. Among them, what does freedom mean and how is it to be exercised?

In his encyclical letter entitled "The Gospel of Life" Pope John Paul II warned of a "counterfeit notion of freedom." He views this counterfeit "freedom" as the root cause of what he has labeled the "culture of death." In using that phrase, "culture of death", 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 misguided use of technologies to destroy life, active and passive euthanasia and the return of eugenics.

All of these evils find their roots in a utilitarian worldview that sees human persons as instruments and property, rather than images of God, unrepeatable gifts, with endowed, inalienable rights. He warns of what he calls a "Promethean attitude" that is being embraced by individuals, groups, states and regimes, which view the person as some "thing" to be used rather than someone to be received as a gift.

This attitude has become institutionalized in "structures of sin" that are rooted in - and propelled by - a view of freedom as a raw power over others, especially the most vulnerable, and as the "right" to do whatever one chooses.

This notion of freedom as some "right" to do whatever one chooses without reference to what is true, moral or in keeping with our obligations in solidarity, will lead to what he called "the death of true freedom."

In this Nation that we love, we must face some very hard facts. False ideas of freedom as a "right" to do whatever one chooses in a moral vacuum are being propelled by a false notion of the autonomous self as the measure of all things. A plague of license masquerading as liberty has characterized these mistaken notions of "freedom." Freedom has been reduced to a notion of doing whatever one "chooses", including the intentional killing of children in the womb. It has been ripped from its true meaning. This idea of "choice" as a "right" to do what is wrong, never promotes true freedom. It inevitably leads to profane forms of slavery and could bring about the demise of the entire system of rights which is the basis of our free society.

It has been thirty two (32) years since the infamous U.S. Supreme Court Decision of Roe v Wade which consigned an entire class of Americans to the status of property. Like millions, I have prayed, marched and worked tirelessly for life. I have also gone to the U.S. Supreme Court, as a human rights lawyer, to defend pro-life protestors. I will gather with thousands next week in Washington DC to mourn the thirty second "anniversary" of the worst fruit of this counterfeit notion of freedom.

America has hidden the intrinsic evil of killing innocent human life in the first home of the whole human race, the womb, behind the language of "freedom of choice" for far too long. Some choices are always and everywhere evil and wrong. They should not be called "free". They are criminal, even if not currently deemed to be so in the positive law. It is time for an end to legalized abortion, period. That is only the beginning.

There are other examples of the counterfeit notion of freedom resulting in social ills:

Our Courts give legal protection to the commercial trade in pornographic images that turn the bodies of women and men into objects to be used for self centered deviate sexual gratification. This is not freedom. True freedom is promoted when a society recognizes that the whole person, body and soul, is an image of God. Such a truly free society protects and esteems the dignity and beauty of sexual relations within the stable bond of heterosexual marriage and builds itself upon the natural fruit of that bond, the family. Instead, this society uses the police power of the State, through the judicial branch, to protect even child pornography under a misguided notion of free speech. It must end.

In this last year we witnessed the erosion of the institution of marriage and an assault against the family, led by extremists who have misused courts and public officials. Relying on a counterfeit notion of "freedom", the proponents of this new Cultural Revolution have as an explicit goal giving those who engage in protracted promiscuous, non-unitive, non-procreative deviate sexual acts, between men and men and women and women, equal legal status with authentic marriage. If this goal is achieved, this counterfeit of "marriage" would then be "protected", with the power of the State. The Judges, who found a "right" to abort a child in some "penumbra" of the Constitution, could find new "rights" to "protect" those who do what is wrong. Unchecked, the effect could be the demise of true marriage - the plan that is written in the natural law for human fulfillment, flourishing and the continuation of the human race - as well as the erosion of a healthy social fabric. It must not stand.

We are in a struggle for the very definition of the word freedom in this Nation we love - right at a time when our President has inspired us to achieve freedom's highest goals and to serve other Nations by helping them to find and fulfill its promise.

Human freedom is a "good" of the person which must be exercised in relationship to truth and in conformity to an objective moral order. The exercise of freedom is to be placed at the service of the person, the family and the common good. Freedom is not an abstract concept. The fulfillment of the call and vocation to the right exercise of human freedom is found in the free choice of the good and the free gift of self to others in love.

Only an authentic exercise of human freedom will lead us along the path to human fulfillment as well as to building a truly just social order. Choosing the good and the true is the core of what constitutes true freedom. Only human persons can be free because only human persons have the capacity to make choices.

This all has implications on the application of the Presidents inspiring call to freedom on the individual, the family, the community, the society and in our international relations as a Nation.

It is time to reflect on this fine Inauguration speech.

As a Nation, we must now answer the question "Which way for freedom?"


Deacon Keith Fournier is a Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia. He is a graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University and the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Law. A Human Rights Lawyer and public policy activist, Deacon Fournier is the author of seven books. His eighth, "The Prayer of Mary: Living the Surrendered Life" will be available in the spring from Thomas Nelson. He is the Senior Editor and Correspondent for Catholic Online.


Third Millennium, LLC VA, US
Deacon Keith Fournier - Deacon, 757 546-9580




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