Sep 8, 2012

"The Truth Will Set You Free." (Jn. 8:32)

  

Quote from the Youcat (Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church) on Freedom:
286 What is freedom and what is it for?

Freedom is the God-given power to be able to act of one's own accord; a person who is free no longer acts under the influence of someone else.
God created us as free men and wills our freedom so that we might decide wholeheartedly in favor of the good, indeed for the greatest "good"--in other words, for God. The more we do what is good, the freer we become.

287 But doesn't "freedom" consist of being able to choose evil as well?

Evil is only apparently worth striving for, and deciding in favor of evil only apparently makes us free. Evil does not make us happy but rather deprives us of what is truly good; it chains us to something futile and in the end destroys our freedom entirely.
We see this in addiction: Here a person sells his freedom to something that appears good to him. In reality he becomes a slave. Man is freest when he is always able to say Yes to the good; when no addiction, no compulsion, no habit prevents him from choosing and doing what is right and good. A decision in favor of the good is always a decision leading toward God.

288 Is man responsible for everything he does?

Man is responsible for everything he does consciously and voluntarily.
No one can be held (fully) responsible for something he did under coercion, out of fear, ignorance, under the influence of drugs or the power of bad habits. The more a person knows about the good and practices the good, the more he moves away from the slavery of sin. God desires that such free persons should (be able to) take responsibility for themselves, for their environment, and for the whole earth. But all of God's merciful love is also for those who are not free; every day he offers them an opportunity to allow themselves to be set free for freedom.

289 Must we allow a person to use his free will, even when he decides in favor of evil?

For a person to be able to use his freedom is a fundamental right based on his human dignity. An individual's freedom can be curtailed only if the exercise of his freedom is detrimental to the freedom of others.
Freedom would be no freedom at all if it were not the freedom to choose even what is wrong. It would violate the dignity of a man if we did not respect his freedom. One of the central duties of the State is to protect the liberties of all its citizens (freedom of religion, of assembly, and association, freedom of opinion, freedom to choose one's occupation, and so on). The freedom of one citizen is the limit to the freedom of another.

290 How does God help us to be free men?

Christ wants us to be "set free for freedom" (see Gal. 5:1) and to become capable of brotherly love. That is why he sends us the Holy Spirit, who makes us free and independent of worldly powers and strengthens us for a life of love and responsibility.
The more we sin, the more we think only about ourselves and the less well we can develop freely. In sinning we also become more inept at doing good and practicing charity. The Holy Spirit, who has come down into our hearts, gives us a heart that is filled with love for God and mankind. We avail ourselves of the Holy Spirit as the power that leads us to inner freedom, opens our hearts for love, and makes us better instruments for what is good and loving.
Quote from the Youcat on Conscience:
295 What is Conscience?

Conscience is the inner voice in a man that moves him to do good under any circumstances and to avoid evil by all means. At the same time it is the ability to distinguish the one from the other. In the Conscience God speaks to man.
Conscience is compared with an inner voice in which God manifests himself in a man. God is the one who becomes apparent in the conscience. When we say, "I cannot reconcile that with my conscience", this means for a Christian, "I cannot do that in the sight of my Creator!" Many people have gone to jail or been executed because they were true to their conscience.

296 Can someone be compelled to do something that is against their conscience?

No one may be compelled to act against his conscience, provided he acts within the limits of the common good.
Anyone who overlooks the conscience of a person, ignores it and uses coercion, violates that person's dignity. Practically nothing else makes man more human than the gift of being able personally to distinguish good from evil and to choose between them. This is so even if the decision, seen in an objective light, is wrong. Unless man's conscience has been incorrectly formed, the inner voice speaks in agreement with what is generally reasonable, just, and good in God's sight.

297 Can a person form his conscience?

Yes, in fact he must do that. The conscience, which is innate to every person endowed with reason, can be misled and deadened. That is why it must be formed into an increasingly fine-tuned instrument for acting rightly.
The first school of conscience is self-criticism. We have the tendency to judge things to our own advantage. The second school of conscience is orientation to the good actions of others. The correct formation of conscience leads a man into the freedom to do what has been correctly identified as good. With the help of the Holy Spirit and Scripture, the Church over her long history has accumulated a vast knowledge about right action; it is part of her mission to instruct people and also to give them directions.

298 Is someone who in good conscience acts wrongly guilty in God's sight?

No. If a person has thoroughly examined himself and arrived at a certain judgment, he must in any case follow his inner voice, even at the risk of doing something wrong.
God does not blame us for the objective harm that results from a wrong judgment of conscience, provided that we ourselves are not responsible for having a badly formed conscience. While it is quite true that ultimately one must follow one's conscience, it must likewise be kept in mind that people have swindled, murdered, tortured, and betrayed others on the basis of what they wrongly suppose to be their conscience.  

cardinal wilfrid youcat