The light of faith purifies the perception of human freedom

From Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor (1993):

The human issues most frequently debated and differently resolved in contemporary moral reflection are all closely related, albeit in various ways, to a crucial issue: human freedom.

Certainly people today have a particularly strong sense of freedom. As the [Second Vatican] Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom Dignitatis Humanæ had already observed, “the dignity of the human person is a concern of which people of our time are becoming increasingly more aware”.52 Hence the insistent demand that people be permitted to “enjoy the use of their own responsible judgment and freedom, and decide on their actions on grounds of duty and conscience, without external pressure or coercion”.53 In particular, the right to religious freedom and to respect for conscience on its journey towards the truth is increasingly perceived as the foundation of the cumulative rights of the person.54

This heightened sense of the dignity of the human person and of his or her uniqueness, and of the respect due to the journey of conscience, certainly represents one of the positive achievements of modern culture. This perception, authentic as it is, has been expressed in a number of more or less adequate ways, some of which however diverge from the truth about man as a creature and the image of God, and thus need to be corrected and purified in the light of faith.55

52 Declaration on Religious Freedom Dignitatis Humanæ, 1, referring to John XXIII, Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris (April 11,1963): Acta Apostolicæ Sedis [AAS] 55 (1963), 279; ibid., 265, and to Pius XII, Radio Message (December 24,1944): AAS 37 (1945),14.
53 Declaration on Religious Freedom Dignitatis Humanæ, 1.
54 Cf. Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis (March 4, 1979), 17: AAS 71 (1979), 295-300; Address to those taking part in the Fifth International Colloquium of Juridical Studies (March 10, 1984), 4: Insegnamenti VII, 1 (1984), 656; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation Libertatis Conscientia (March 22, 1986),19: AAS 79 (1987), 561.
55 Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 11.

Veritatis Splendor 31

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