This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

Purposive freedom

Freedom is neither an end nor an absolute. Its legitimacy is contingent on its vector—on how it is directed—and any formulation that divorces it from its directional aspect also destroys its validity. The Second Vatican Council put it thus:

“God willed to leave man in the power of his own counsel, so that he would seek his Creator of his own accord and would freely arrive at full and blessed perfection by cleaving to God.”[1]

In saying this we acknowledge not only that freedom has a direction, but we acknowledge also its proper goal, which is communion with God.[2] These characteristics temper the mentality, all too prevalent today, that in order to consider ourselves free we must also consider ourselves separate from the influence of our fellows. On the contrary, authentic freedom “is acquired in love, that is, in the gift of self.[3] Likewise it balances a second tendency of the same mentality, which would prefer a freedom almost without limits and which is also contrary to the Catholic understanding of the matter:

“That freedom is real but limited: its absolute and unconditional origin is not in itself, but in the life within which it is situated and which represents for it, at one and the same time, both a limitation and a possibility. Human freedom belongs to us as creatures; it is a freedom which is given as a gift, one to be received like a seed and to be cultivated responsibly.”[4]

[1] GS, 17.

[2] VS, 86.

[3] VS, 87.

[4] VS, 86.

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