Authentic freedom affirms the rights inherent to man as a creature made in God’s image

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

Only God, the Supreme Good, constitutes the unshakable foundation and essential condition of morality, and thus of the commandments, particularly those negative commandments which always and in every case prohibit behaviour and actions incompatible with the personal dignity of every man. The Supreme Good and the moral good meet in truth: the truth of God, the Creator and Redeemer, and the truth of man, created and redeemed by him. Only upon this truth is it possible to construct a renewed society and to solve the complex and weighty problems affecting it, above all the problem of overcoming the various forms of totalitarianism, so as to make way for the authentic freedom of the person. “Totalitarianism arises out of a denial of truth in the objective sense. If there is no transcendent truth, in obedience to which man achieves his full identity, then there is no sure principle for guaranteeing just relations between people. Their self-interest as a class, group or nation would inevitably set them in opposition to one another. If one does not acknowledge transcendent truth, then the force of power takes over, and each person tends to make full use of the means at his disposal in order to impose his own interests or his own opinion, with no regard for the rights of others. . . . Thus, the root of modern totalitarianism is to be found in the denial of the transcendent dignity of the human person who, as the visible image of the invisible God, is therefore by his very nature the subject of rights which no one may violate — no individual, group, class, nation or State. Not even the majority of a social body may violate these rights, by going against the minority, by isolating, oppressing, or exploiting it, or by attempting to annihilate it”.155

Consequently, the inseparable connection between truth and freedom — which expresses the essential bond between God’s wisdom and will — is extremely significant for the life of persons in the socio-economic and socio-political sphere. This is clearly seen in the Church’s social teaching — which “belongs to the field . . . of theology and particularly of moral theology”156 — and from her presentation of commandments governing social, economic and political life, not only with regard to general attitudes but also to precise and specific kinds of behaviour and concrete acts.

155 Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus (May 1, 1991), 24: Acta Apostolicæ Sedis [AAS] 83 (1991), 848-849; cf. Leo XIII, Encyclical Letter Libertas Præstantissimum (June 20, 1888), Leonis XIII P.M. Acts, VIII, Romæ 1889, 224-226.
156 Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (December 30,1987), 41: AAS 80 (1988), 571.

Veritatis Splendor 99

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