Arriving now at the subject of freedom and its role in the social teachings of the Church, we can begin by repeating a saying of St. John Paul II: “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” Within this simple motto is a treasure-trove of meaning.
First, that freedom should not be understood merely as the arbitrary exercise of the individual’s will, but that it consists in the ability to direct one’s will toward a certain end—the good. This means that freedom is purposive, which is to say teleological. But even if we acknowledge the nature of freedom as having a specific direction, we immediately run up against another question: how is one to know which direction is right? We then come to understand how knowledge is a necessary prerequisite to the healthy exercise of freedom. We finally realize why man is the only “free” creature—because freedom requires intelligence and the choice to act in accordance with the truth gained thereby. Here lies the essence of human responsibility. Man can be free because he can seek truth, adhere to it, and act upon it.
 St. John Paul II’s words are worth citing in greater depth, as he is speaking in America and to Americans: “One hundred thirty years ago, President Abraham Lincoln asked whether a nation ‘conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal’ could ‘long endure’. President Lincoln’s question is no less a question for the present generation of Americans. Democracy cannot be sustained without a shared commitment to certain moral truths about the human person and human community. The basic question before a democratic society is: ‘how ought we to live together?’ In seeking an answer to this question, can society exclude moral truth and moral reasoning? Can the Biblical wisdom which played such a formative part in the very founding of your country be excluded from that debate? Would not doing so mean that America’s founding documents no longer have any defining content, but are only the formal dressing of changing opinion? Would not doing so mean that tens of millions of Americans could no longer offer the contribution of their deepest convictions to the formation of public policy? Surely it is important for America that the moral truths which make freedom possible should be passed on to each new generation. Every generation of Americans needs to know that freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” Homily given at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore on October 8, 1995, 7.