The fact that we are also able to choose not to act as we see we should is a necessary condition of our moral freedom. But in that case, we must account for the good that we fail to do and for the evil that we commit. Our sense of moral accountability needs to be reawakened if our society is to survive as a civilization built upon justice and solidarity.
Freedom is not simply the absence of tyranny or oppression. Nor is freedom a license to do whatever we like. Freedom has an inner logic that distinguishes and ennobles it: Freedom is ordered to the truth, and is fulfilled in humanity’s quest for truth and in humanity’s living the truth.
In a technological culture in which people are used to dominating matter – discovering its laws and mechanisms in order to transform it according to their wishes – the danger arises of also wanting to manipulate conscience and its demands. In a culture that holds that no universally valid truths are possible, nothing is absolute. Therefore, in the end – they say – objective goodness and evil no longer really matter. Good comes to mean what is pleasing or useful at a particular moment. Evil means what contradicts our subjective wishes. Each person can build a private system of values.
Conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a person, where we are alone with God. In the depths of our conscience, we detect the moral law, which does not impose itself upon us, but which holds us to a higher obedience. This law is not an external human law, but the voice of God, calling us to free ourselves from the grip of evil desires and sin, and stimulating us to seek what is good and true in life.
To claim that one has a right to act according to conscience – but without at the same time acknowledging the duty to conform one’s conscience to the truth and to the law, which God Himself has written on our hearts – in the end means nothing more than imposing one’s limited personal opinion on others.
So let us remember: it is only by listening to the voice of God in our most intimate being, and by acting in accordance with its directions, that we will reach the freedom we yearn for. As Jesus said, only the truth can make us free. And the truth is not the fruit of each individual’s imagination. God gave us intelligence to know the truth and the will to achieve what is morally good. He has given us the light of conscience to guide our moral decisions – and, above all, to love good and avoid evil.
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