man’s freedom is limited and fallible

Saint Irenaeus wrote that “Man is rational and therefore like God; he is created with free will and is master over his acts.”[1] Much of current scientific thought, quite to the contrary, would deny the existence of the divine and thus call into question the remainder of just such a statement. If there is no God, then it follows that man could not be a creature of a non-existent God and therefore not bound by any law instituted outside human construct. “Without its Creator the creature simply disappears… If God is ignored the creature itself is impoverished.”[2] Without God, free will becomes meaningless for the sole purpose of free will is so man “might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him.”[3]

Freedom is never free

Freedom is never free

What is commonly assumed to be free will or freedom is quite simply the ability to act as one would please without considering the merits of one’s action. Any limitation or restriction placed upon one’s desires is contra-freedom and unjustified, including any duty or responsibility that should be demanded by such an act. Such freedom must be unencumbered for it to be truly free.

Unfortunately, despite the evident popularity of such a notion of free will, nothing could be further from the truth. “The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to the slavery of sin.”[4] Freedom to do anything one should desire, without considering whether the act is a good act or an evil act, is not freedom but mere mindless, amoral, irrational conduct.

Freedom makes man responsible for his acts to the extent that they are voluntary.”[5] But doesn’t that mean that freedom isn’t completely free? That is exactly what it means. Freedom isn’t free, contrary to what Janis Joplin professed when she sang “freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose. Nothin’ ain’t worth nothin’ but it’s free.”[6] The truth is that man’s freedom is both limited and fallible. There is no such thing as unlimited freedom; we have no inherent right to do whatever we desire, whenever we desire it, without regard for the consequences.

God left man ‘in the power of his own counsel’ (Sir 15:14) that he might seek his Creator and freely attain perfection. Attaining such perfection means personally building up that perfection in himself. Indeed, just as man in exercising his dominion over the world shapes it in accordance with his own intelligence and will, so too in performing morally good acts, man strengthens, develops and consolidates within himself his likeness to God.”[7]

What should be increasingly apparent is that much of our current understanding of and epistemology concerning freedom and free will are abjectly and objectively foreign to anything approaching what is true. Created by God with free will, our freedom is limited to performing morally good acts which bring us closer to the image and likeness of God.


[1] St. Irenaeus, Adv. Haeres. 4, 4, 3: pg 7/1, 983.
[2] Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, §36.
[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1730.
[4] CCC §1733.
[5] CCC §1734.
[6] Janis Joplin, Bobby McGee.
[7] Pope Saint John Paul II, Veritas Splendor, Encyclical Letter, §39, August 6, 1993.

Deacon Chuck

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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