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An "Education to Freedom"

Deacon Keith A Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC

John Paul II spoke to all Christians last week, from Slovakia, and his message is a sobering and important one:


"In our days, many baptized Christians have not yet made their faith their own in an adult and conscious way," the Pope said today when celebrating an outdoor Mass before 150,000 people.... They call themselves Christians and yet they do not respond in a fully responsible way to the grace they have received; they still do not know what they want and why they want it..." This is the lesson to be learned today: An education to freedom is urgently needed....

Especially in the family, parents must educate their children to a correct freedom, so as to prepare them to respond properly to God's call... . The family is the nursery where the little plants, the new generations, are nurtured. In the family, the future of the nation is forged."


An authentic vision of freedom is one of the great themes, or "hermaneutics", of this Popes extraordinary teaching. A "hermeneutic" is a lens through which one views something. This extraordinary Christian leader views the current global challenges facing Christianity through the lens of authentic or counterfeit notions of freedom.

In his monumental work "The Gospel of Life" he warns of a "counterfeit notion of freedom" that he clearly sees at the root of what he has properly labeled the contemporary "culture of death." By using that phrase he has coalesced all the evils, from abortion to modern slaveries like pornography and drug addiction, to disdain for the poor and a cheapening of all life which has sustained capital punishment (no longer justified to protect the common good of society) and the growing trends toward euthanasia and eugenics. They all participate in a utilitarian view wherein people are used as instruments and property rather than seen as images of God, irrepeatable gifts, with inalienable rights and dignity.

He also warns of what he calls a "promethean attitude", embraced by individuals and embraced by groups, states and regimes that see the person as something to be used rather than as a gift. This attitude becomes institutionalized in what the social teaching of the church refers to as "structures of sin" that are rooted in and propelled by a view of freedom as raw power over others, especially the most vulnerable. This notion of freedom as some contrived "right" to do whatever one chooses without reference to what is true, moral or in keeping with our obligations in solidarity, leads to what he rightly warned of as "the death of true freedom" in that extraordinary encyclical letter

In his letter, the "Splendor of Truth" he further develops this extraordinarily important "hermeneutic" and positions it in a magna carta on the moral life. He brilliantly articulates the path to authentic freedom through the proper understanding of and exercise of the freedom to choose the good. Frankly, the profound insights of this letter reveal the stuff that families, communities and nations can be built and rebuilt upon. Contrary to what many, even Catholics think, these "Encyclical Letters" (the word simply means "circulating" and was coined in the first centuries of the Church when these letters were literally circulated) contain extremely relevant insights not just for Christians or 'religious" people but for all people. After all, no-one owns truth, it has a claim on us.

How desperately we need this "education in freedom."

He spoke this profound message concerning an education in freedom from Slovakia, before an image of Mary, the mother of the Lord, to whom he is so profoundly devoted. She is a model of the ultimate exercise of freedom. Through her "Fiat", her freely chosen surrender of love to God's invitation, brought heaven to earth and earth to heaven. True freedom still does. Forty years ago that image of Mary had been removed from the same site when then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev visited the city. His message was decidedly different.

Two diametrically opposed messages and two different symbols spoke from the same place in Slovakia.

The first, an icon of Marxist-Leninism, only one of the failed ideologies of the bloody twentieth century, characterized by movements, right and left, that embraced and proclaimed a false view of freedom; a symbol of a tyranny wherein a counterfeit promise of freedom led to enslavement and killing fields - all in the name of creating a "new man" and a utopian State.

The second, an icon of Jesus Christ, who still proclaims to the men and women of all the nations of the world that freedom is found at a cross of true love and progresses on a path of repentance and forgiveness; that we can "know the truth and the truth will set us free". Here is the real question. Are we listening? Will we, who are joined through baptism to that Body of Christ which carries on the great redemptive mission, hear this giant in Peters' chair? Will we educate ourselves in freedom and rise up to set the captives free? Freedom is, after all, our mission.

This frail but powerful lion in the Chair of Peter is calling those who belong to the one who is Freedom, Jesus Christ, to choose the truth and give ourselves away so that the world may be set free! How will we respond?

Today I, like millions of others, rose to read the newspaper filled with crisis. The world again teeters on the brink of responding to the siren songs of counterfeit notions of freedom, right, left and in between. False visions of man, some profanely dressed up in pseudo- religious language, lead many to horror and bloodshed. False visions of freedom as a "right" to do whatever one chooses in a moral vacuum multiply, propelled by a false libertarian notion of the autonomous self as the measure of all things. A plague of license masquerading as liberty is entrenched in a counterfeit notion of "morality" that is actually a thinly disguised "new" paganism.

How desperately we need this education in freedom!

The West, with all of its promise of freedom, still flirts with "economism." This is a phrase used in the social teaching of the church to refer to an instrumentalist materialism devoid of an understanding that the market was made for man not man for the market; a market economy wherein the poor are forgotten. This engine of freedom that is the dynamism of the market economy (which could be such a force for good if humanized and expanded to offer participation to all men and women) teeters on the brink of what the Pope rightly labeled a "savage capitalism"..

Statist regimes, now demoralized from within, are throwing off any vestiges of their Christian history and soul, even in their new constitutions, and racing toward the "promethean attitude" of which John Paul II warned in the "Gospel of Life."

The last vestiges of the twentieth century's flirtation with the counterfeit of Marxist ideology have so isolated themselves that they seem hidden in the cave of ignorance while still armed with the weapons of a potential nuclear holocaust. And then there are those in the east who hide in caves in a repulsive notion of being "freedom" fighters, insidiously plotting murderous tirades in an insane aberration of dedication to some pseudo-religious world view.

Is it any wonder that this frail, now wheel chair bound representative of Christ on earth, urgently calls for an "education in freedom"?

When I read this powerful message I decided once again that I will do all that I can to educate myself, my family (after all, as the Pope said so profoundly " The family is the nursery where the little plants, the new generations, are nurtured. In the family, the future of the nation is forged.") as well as my little portion of the Lords Church (that wonderful Body of Christ on earth, the "seed and beginning of the kingdom" as the Council fathers so beautifully proclaimed) to a freedom rightly understood.

Your Catholic Voice, through our educational mission, is dedicated to helping Catholic Christians "cultivate their faith" so as to "activate their voice". Sadly, few Catholics even know that this Pope has written such profound insights into what is really happening in our world. They consider "encyclicals", "apostolic exhortations" and "apostolic letters", the domain of clergy or theologians and somehow irrelevant to the "real world". Yet within these teachings we find the path to authentic freedom and the true hope for any national and international recovery.

The social teaching of the Catholic Church contains a framework of principles which can lead this "education in freedom". These principles are not true because they are Catholic; they are Catholic because they are true. There is a world yearning for truth and waiting to be born again. This Polish Pope understands freedom and invites into the mission of the Third Millennium.

After his message, two young people gave the Holy Father a handwritten copy of the New Testament. They spent two months writing the text and the final words were written by Cardinal Jan Chryzostom Korec, who had spent 12 years in prison under the tyranny of communism. These words, symbolized and embodied by Pope John Paul II, in both his life and his courageous leadership, helped to bring down that wall in Berlin, a symbol of one past counterfeit notion of freedom.

Now, in the twilight years of his service to the Church and the world, these two young followers of Jesus Christ, facing the new contemporary counterfeits of freedom, must have given this warrior Pope hope that the truth still sets free, that his tireless service has borne lasting fruit and that the Springtime of the Church he has proclaimed will come because the world that God so loves that He gave His only Son is in good hands. Will we do the same?

It is time for that education in freedom to begin.


Deacon Keith Fournier is a constitutional lawyer, a graduate of the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University, Franciscan University of Steubenville and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. He is one of the founders of the Your Catholic Voice Movement and the President of the Your Catholic Voice Foundation.

Your Catholic Voice is a movement to promote faithful citizenship based on the fundamental truths of the Catholic Church relating to Life, Family, Freedom and Solidarity. For information go to Your Catholic Voice


Your Catholic Voice Foundation VA, US
Deacon Keith Fournier - President, 757 546-9580



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