In his encyclical letter on the value and inviolability of human life titled Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II sums up the belief of our Catholic faith in regard to the sanctity of life: “To claim the right to abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia, and to recognize that right in law, means to attribute to human freedom a perverse and evil significance: that of an absolute power over and against others. This is the death of true freedom.”
In our materialistic and self-centered society, there are more versions of truth than can be counted. We as a society desire the truth, the freedom revealed through truth. People say “The truth will set you free.” Why, then, do so many people stray from the truth about the value of human life and make up their own version of what is true?
In America today, abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia (all the intentional killing of an innocent person) are viewed as “rights” of people more powerful than the victims. Pope John Paul II speaks of this power when he says “When man usurps this power, being enslaved by a foolish and selfish way of thinking, he inevitably uses it for injustice and death. Thus the life of the person who is weak is put into the hands of the one who is strong; in society the sense of justice is lost, and mutual trust, the basis of every authentic interpersonal relationship, is undermined at its root.” Freedom is viewed by our modern society as being able to do whatever you want, whenever you want – even if that means harming another person. But Pope Leo XIII tells us in the encyclical Libertas that “The true liberty of human society does not consist in every man doing what he pleases, for this would simply end in turmoil and confusion, and bring on the overthrow of the state; but rather in this, that through the injunctions of the civil law all may more easily conform to the prescriptions of the eternal law.”
True freedom, as Pope John Paul II said in Evangelium Vitae dies when we no longer follow God. True freedom dies when we decide we can do whatever we want. True freedom dies when we abandon God and follow our own whims apart from the truth. When we claim this right to do whatever we want, and attribute our choices to freedom, we ignore the fact that good and evil exist. As Pope Leo XIII said “One thing, however, remains always true – that the liberty which is claimed for all to do all things is not, as we have often said, of itself desirable, inasmuch as it is contrary to reason that error and truth should have equal rights.”
No one can deny that good and evil exist. But, if freedom means we can do whatever we want, that means we are giving ourselves power over judging what is good and evil. We attribute the same rights to good as to evil. Should good and evil really be viewed as equals? No, they should not. One is right, and one is wrong. But when people don’t realize this, they push God out of the way., making way for themselves as the sole ruler over other people’s actions. Pope John Paul II said “The end result of this is tragic: not only is the fact of the destruction of so many human lives still to be born in their final stage extremely grave and disturbing, but no less grave and disturbing is the fact that conscience itself, darkened as it were by such widespread conditioning, is finding it increasingly difficult to distinguish between good and evil in what concerns the basic value of human life.”
Pope Leo XII explains what true freedom really is: “The nature of human liberty, however it be considered, whether in individuals or in society, whether in those who command or those who obey, supposes the necessity of obedience to some supreme and eternal law, which is no other than the authority of God, commanding good and forbidding evil.” The truth does set you free, but only if you follow what is eternally true. Just because a human person claims a right to abortion or euthanasia does not make it right. As Pope John Paul II told us, “No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make it licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church
Committing evil and making up versions of the truth does not make us free. As Jesus told us “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is slave to sin.” By claiming the right to abortion, euthanasia, or anything contradictory to natural law, we do not set ourselves free. Freedom does not consist of making up false truths to suit our lifestyles. Freedom can only exist when we live by the very truths revealed in our hearts through our intrinsic knowledge of Christ’s eternal law.
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