Freedom and Truth
Fragment of the document produced by the Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. It belongs to article two: The human person of the Compendium of Social Doctrine of the Church.

Author: François-Xavier Nguyên Cardinal Van Thuân, President of the Pontifical Council Justice and Peace | Source:

48. The moral question, to which Christ answers, cannot dispense with the problem of freedom, it is more and it considers it central, because there is no moral without freedom: "Man can be converted to good only in freedom" (GS, N. 11). But which freedom? The Council in the face of those contemporaries of ours who "both defend" freedom and who "seek ardently", but who "often cultivate it in a bad way, as if it were lawful all as long as they like, even evil"-presents true freedom: "the True freedom is an eminent sign of the divine image on man. For God wanted to "leave the man in the hands of his own decision" (cf. If 15, 14), so that it seeks without constraints to his Creator and, adhering to him, arrives freely to the full and happy perfection "(GS, N. 17). If there is the right to be respected in the way of the search for truth, there is even before the moral obligation, grave for each one, to seek the truth and to follow it once known. 

(Veritatis Splendor, N. 34) 


49. Freedom in its essence is inner to man, connatural to the human person, distinctive sign of his nature. The freedom of the person finds, in effect, his foundation in his transcendent dignity: a dignity that has been given to him by God, his Creator, and that orients him to God. Man, since it has been created in the image of God (cf. Gn 1, 27), is inseparable from freedom, from that freedom that no external force or urgency can ever wrest and that constitutes his fundamental right, both as an individual as a member of society. Man is free because he has the power to determine according to the true and the good. 

(Message from World Peace Day, 1981, No. 5) 


50. Jesus Christ comes to the encounter of man of all times, also of our times, with the same words: "You shall be the truth and the truth will deliver you" (Jn 8, 32). These words contain a fundamental demand and at the same time a warning: the demand for an honest relationship with regard to truth, as a condition of genuine freedom; and the warning, in addition to the avoidance of any apparent freedom, any superficial and unilateral freedom, any freedom that does not deepen the whole truth about man and the world. 

(Redemptor Hominis, N. 12) 


51. But freedom, is not only a right that is claimed for oneself, is a duty that is assumed face to the others. To truly serve peace, the freedom of every human being and every human community must respect the freedoms and rights of others, individual or collective. She finds in this respect her limit, but also her logic and her dignity, because man is by nature a social being. 

(Message from World Peace Day, 1981, No. 7)


52. The exercise of freedom does not imply the right to say and do anything. It is false to conceive man "subject of that freedom as a self-sufficient individual who seeks the satisfaction of his self-interest in the enjoyment of worldly goods" (Libertatis Conscientia, N. 13). On the other hand, the economic and social, political and cultural conditions required for a fair exercise of freedom are too often unknown and violated. These situations of blindness and injustice have imposed moral life and placed both the strong and the weak in the temptation to sin against charity. In departing from the moral law, man attacks his own freedom, binds himself, breaks fraternity with his fellows, and rebels against the divine truth. 

(CIC, N. 1740) 


53. However, in the innermost part of the human being, the Creator has printed an order that human consciousness discovers and commands to observe strictly. Men show that the precepts of the law are written in their hearts, witnessing their conscience (Rom 2, 15). On the other hand, how could it be otherwise? All of God's works are, in effect, a reflection of his infinite wisdom, and the more luminous reflection the greater the absolute degree of perfection they enjoy (cf. Sal 18, 8-11). 

(Pacem in Terris, N. 5) 


54. In God's designs, each man is called to promote his own progress, because every man's life is a vocation given by God for a particular mission. Since its birth, it has been given to all, as a germ, a set of aptitudes and qualities to make them fruitful: its flowering, the result of the education received in the own environment and of the personal effort, will allow each one to orient itself towards the destiny, that it it has been proposed by the Creator. Endowed with intelligence and freedom, man is responsible for his growth as well as his salvation. Helped, and sometimes hindered, by those who educate and surround him, each one always remains, whatever the influxes that are exerted upon him, the principal architect of his success or of his failure: by only the effort of his intelligence and his will, every man can grow in humanity, be worth more, be more. 

(Populorum Progressio, N. 15) 


55. Finally, by consummating the work of redemption on the cross, in order to acquire the salvation and true freedom of men, he completed his revelation. He testified to the truth, but he did not want to impose it by force against those who contradicted him. For his kingdom is not imposed with violence, but is established by giving witness to the truth and paying heard, and grows by the love with which Christ, raised on the cross, draws men to himself (cf. Jn 12, 32). 

(Dignitatis Humanae, N. 15) 


56. Finally, true freedom is not promoted either in permissive society, which confuses freedom with the license to make any choice and which proclaims, in the name of freedom, a kind of general amorality. It is to propose a caricature of freedom to pretend that man is free to organize his life without reference to moral values and that society is not to ensure the protection and promotion of ethical values. Such an attitude is destructive of freedom and peace. 

(Message from World Peace Day, 1981, No. 7)


57. The Church also does not close its eyes to the danger of fanaticism or fundamentalism of those who, in the name of an ideology with pretensions of scientific or religious, believe that they can impose on other men their conception of truth and good. It is not of this nature the Christian truth. By not being ideological, the Christian faith does not aim to frame in a rigid scheme the changing socio-political reality and recognizes that the life of the man develops in the history in diverse and not perfect conditions. The Church, therefore, by constantly ratifying the transcendent dignity of the person, uses as its own method the respect of freedom. 

(Centesimus Annus, N. 46) 


58. Democracy cannot be maintained without a shared commitment to certain moral truths about the human person and the human community. The fundamental question of a democratic society is: "How should we live together?" In trying to answer this question, can society exclude moral truth and reasoning? Every generation... needs to know that freedom is not to do what we like, but to have the right to do what we should. Christ asks us to keep the truth, because, as he promised us, "You shall have the truth and the truth will make you free" (Jn 8, 32). Depositum Custodi! We must preserve the truth, which is the condition of true freedom, and allows it to reach its fullness in goodness. We have to keep the deposit of divine truth, which has been transmitted to us in the Church, especially with a view to the challenges posed by materialistic culture and permissive mentality, which reduce freedom to debauchery. 

(John Paul II, Homily in Baltimore, nn. 7-8) 


59. It is not only lawful to disregard from the ethical point of view the nature of the man who has been created for freedom, but this is not even possible in practice. Where society is organized by reducing arbitrarily or even eliminating the scope in which freedom is legitimately exercised, the result is the disorganization and progressive decline of social life. 

(Centesimus Annus, N. 25) 



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