Since today is Independence Day, the Fourth of July, and the conclusion of this year’s Fortnight for Freedom here in the United States of America, I found it strikingly appealing to focus on what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches on Freedom. With the religious freedom decision handed down from the Supreme Court this week and other cases that are being found just as unjust as the Hobby Lobby case, this quick lesson will also cover religious freedom and the importance it plays for all of humanity.
Although the Supreme Court gave us a favorable ruling for religious freedom, we must continue to stay steadfast in prayer and conviction. This is not the first time the Catholic Church has found herself facing persecution. What her enemies don’t understand, nor they seem to realize, is that history has shown us one simple fact – the more you persecute the Church, the stronger we become. As Tertullian said, “The blood [of martyrs] is the seed of Christians.”
Remember: Don’t lose hope, because in the Big Picture of Salvation History, we have won. Stay focused on Jesus Christ and the Church and remain in constant prayer. Play an active role in civic duties, make your voices heard, and participate as a civil and patriotic citizen. Simply, be Catholics in the public square.
With this being said, let’s examine briefly the teachings of the Catechism on Freedom –
CCC 1743: “God willed that man should be left in the hand of his own counsel (cf. Sir 15:14), so that he might of his own accord seek his creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him (Gaudium et Spes 17 § 1).
CCC 1744: Freedom is the power to act or not to act, and so to perform deliberate acts of one’s own. Freedom attains perfection in its acts when directed toward God, the sovereign Good.
CCC 1745: Freedom characterizes properly acts. It makes the human being responsible for acts of which he is the voluntary agent. His deliberate acts properly belong to him.
CCC 1746: The imputability or responsibility for an action can be diminished or nullified by ignorance, duress, fear, and other psychological or social factors.
CCC 1747: The right to the exercise of freedom in religious and moral matters, is an inalienable requirement of the dignity of man. But the exercise of freedom does not entail the putative right to say or do something. *See below for more detail*
CCC 1748: “For freedom Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1).
For a more extensive explanation on Man’s Freedom, please read CCC 1730-1742.
Focusing specifically on Religious Freedom, the Catechism teaches…
CCC 2106: “Nobody may be forced to act against his convictions, nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience in religious matters in private or in public, alone or association with others, within due limits [italics added].” This right is based on the very nature of the human person, whose dignity enables him freely to assent to the divine truth which transcends the temporal order. For this reason it “continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it.”
CCC 2107: “If because of the circumstances of a particular people special civil recognition is given to one religious community in the constitutional organization of a state, the right of all citizens and religious communities to religious freedom must be recognized and respected as well.”
CCC 2108: The right to religious liberty is neither a moral license to adhere to error, nor a supposed right to error, but rather a natural light of the human person to civil liberty, i.e.; immunity, within just limits, from external constraint in religious matters by political authorities. This natural right ought to be acknowledged in the juridical order of society in such a way that it constraints a civil right [italics added].
CCC 2109: The right to religious liberty can of itself be neither unlimited nor limited only by a “public order” conceived in a positivist or naturalist manner. The “due limits” which are inherent in it must be determined for each social situation by political prudence, according to the requirements of the common good, and ratified by the civil authority in accordance with “legal principles which are in conformity with the objective moral order.”
Our freedom, and specifically our religious freedom, should always be focused on and acted towards the common good of society. Freedom helps us grow in virtue, responsibility, and integrity.
As we celebrate our Independence Day here in the USA, let us continue to understand and keep hold to the freedom that God Almighty has given to us through the Natural Law; let us also continue to stay focused and convicted through prayer that the freedoms we have been given in this country continue, especially the freedom of religion. We pray all of this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.