What does it mean to be free?
The July issue of Columbia Magazine recently delved into that question. Managing editor Alton J. Pelowski offered the following statement. This is a weighty statement and requires reading through a couple times. I invite you to take the time to read and reflect on it.
Because the words "freedom" and "rights" are used frequently in public debate, it is critical for us to ask what precisely is meant by freedom and what is the source of human rights. What becomes clear, then, is that the secular culture has fundamentally different assumptions about human nature than does the Catholic Church. From the secular perspective, freedom is defined primarily in terms of self-determination and choosing between various options; rights are seen simply in terms of immunity from coercion; and both religion and society itself are thought of as a voluntary associations.
From the Catholic perspective, on the other hand, freedom involves the capacity to conform one's will toward what is good; rights are founded on human dignity and imply prior duties to God and to others; and our origin in God and relationship to others are inseparable from who we are as human beings . . .
If freedom is reduced to simply the assertion of the will and does not acknowledge God as its source and ultimate end, then the universality of human rights is inevitably replaced by the struggle for power of the strong over the weal. In response to this false freedom that characterizes the culture of death, Catholics are called to be witnesses of the abundant life and joy that true freedom brings to the world.