The Catholic Letter

A Commentary on Catholic Catechism Articles

Catechism Paragraph 160

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On Freedom And Slave Labor

To be human, "man's response to God by faith must be free, and... therefore nobody is to be forced to embrace the faith against his will. The act of faith is of its very nature a free act." "God calls men to serve him in spirit and in truth. Consequently they are bound to him in conscience, but not coerced... This fact received its fullest manifestation in Christ Jesus." Indeed, Christ invited people to faith and conversion, but never coerced them. "For he bore witness to the truth but refused to use force to impose it on those who spoke against it. His kingdom... grows by the love with which Christ, lifted up on the cross, draws men to himself."

I've never seen more misinformation in the secular world (and even within the Church community) on a subject than on the question of freedom and faith.  Do a Google on "the Spanish inquisition" and you're bound to come up with page after page on how the Church imposed it's faith on the faithless.  I'm not going to try to set that right-I don't have the time, patience, or even inclination to combat the secular media's war against Catholicism.  There are many others fighting this battle, and I won't belittle their efforts with a half-hearted attempt.

But what I will do is comment on the real nature of freedom when it comes to faith... and how it differs from the freedom to follow a specific set of practices.  For example, we can have ‘faith' in a God who wishes to punish evil.  But we can't, in ‘practice', walk around just punishing anyone who does evil.  Faith and practice are different, and while we must form a society that respects different faiths, this catechism paragraph is not implying that we cultivate the practice of evil-even when it comes disguised as freedom.

The freedom addressed in this catechism paragraph does not spill into civil order and authority.  Nor does it enter into the domain of culture.  This is a very simple statement, claiming that faith, in and of itself, must be a free choice.  The inner beliefs of a man must be his own.  God gave us a free will, and we are not above God.  What God has set free, let no man put in chains.

But God did not give us the freedom to act without consequence.  Folton Sheen once said, "Only God can forgive. Nature never forgives."  God, while He may allow us freedom of the mind, has created a great number of natural laws that limit us physically.  If we put our hand into a fire, we will get burned (regardless of what we believe).  Similarly, when we pay no attention to the moral laws he gives us, we end up in trouble.  Licentiousness leads to sexual addiction and venereal disease.  Gluttony leads to eating disorder and obesity.  Laziness leads to poverty.  Pride leads to relationship problems.  The list goes on.

What God has done, was give us a working model for our own civil laws.  While we can never force someone to believe in something, we can form our laws to promote the moral health of the culture... thus promoting the emotional, mental, and physical health of those citizens.

We might say that a man is free to love whom he will (male or female).  This would support the real spirit of freedom.  But in supporting a culture of life, there's nothing wrong with saying he cannot have sex with anyone but his wife.  Such a law would protect his family (or other families, depending on the case) from division (and the children involved from a host of struggles).  It would protect the society from the spread of diseases.  It would protect young women from being rejected from society because of a premarital pregnancy.

Our culture now has a false sense of freedom, and the consequences of this misinterpretation aren't too hard to see.  The real problem is, people don't seem to be learning from the mistakes.  We went from contraception to abortion.  We went from divorce to same-sex marriage.  Every time our culture claims to step forward in the progress of human freedom, our common sense takes a step back.  If taken to the extreme of this ludicrous idea, we would end up as animals--with no laws at all to set boundaries, and no understanding of physical or moral consequences.

This creates another situation--one I think is fast approaching, but is difficult to see.  This creates a nation full of infidels, who are not capable of being taught.  Or at least, who have lost their self-identity as rational beings.  This creates a nation full of people who can only be trained--the way we would train a dog or a horse.  It creates a nation full of people who are VERY easily oppressed.

Thus we can see why it would benefit both big business and big government to promote this false idea of freedom.  More money, and more power.

Some may scoff at these ideas.  If so, just take a look at third world countries, where moral fiber is not established or enforced by civil authority.  One thing that all such nations have in common is this: they've all become countries where the people have become a group of slave-laborers.