“There Is No Freedom Without Truth”

As we Americans head into the 4th of July weekend, most of us will take a moment or two to reflect upon the founding of our great nation. There is always a cost to such freedom, and we know that our liberties were gained with great sacrifice.

It might seem odd to talk about St. John Paul II in regards to the 4th of July and freedom. After all, he was Polish. He was a pope, not a politician. However, this man knew the price of true freedom. He lived under the threat of death by the Nazis, saw his beloved Poland struggle under the jackboot of Communism, fought  to retain the Polish culture in a dangerous underground cooperative, and even had to be ordained a priest in secret. St. John Paul II knew the price of freedom.

He knew, as well, that there is no such thing as freedom without truth.

[I]n his first encyclical Redemptor Hominis (1979) John Paul II quoted the words of Christ, ‘You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’ He added: ‘These words contain both a fundamental requirement and a warning: the requirement of an honest relationship with regard to truth as a condition for authentic freedom, and the warning to avoid every kind of illusory freedom, every superficial unilateral freedom, every freedom that fails to enter into the whole truth about man and the world.’

Cardinal Avery Dulles once wrote, “The truly free person is one who does what is good out of love for goodness itself.” Freedom is not doing whatever one feels like doing; that leads to self-destruction, anarchy and pain. All it takes is one person to commit to the lifestyle of, “I’m going to do whatever I want” to cause damage. Take, for example, the image of a busy expressway. Three lanes of cars are rushing in one direction, three lanes of cars move in the opposite direction, divided by a barrier. But one person decides he does not wish to follow the “rules;” he does what he wants – he drives the wrong way, headlong into oncoming traffic. Has this man practiced freedom? No, he chose not to do the good; that is not freedom.

We are blessed to live in a nation founded upon Truth: that humans, created in God’s image and likeness, have rights endowed to them by God. These rights are not given to us by a king, an empress, a prime minister or any earthly ruler. Yet we are also seeing the unfortunate consequences of what happens when these truths are abandoned. St. John Paul II again:

If there is no ultimate truth to guide and direct political activity, then ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power . . . . In a world without truth, freedom loses its foundation and man is exposed to the violence of passion and to manipulation, both open and hidden. (Centesimus Annus, 46)

Our 4th of July holiday should be a wholehearted celebration of our wonderful nation. It should also be a time of prayer, that we, the people, recognize both truth and freedom and live our lives accordingly.