On the Fearful Fruits of False Freedom

In the Gospel for Wednesday’s Mass, Jesus says: Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. (Matt 7:15). Of course we first think of individuals when we see a verse like this. But the Lord’s teaching can, and should be applied also to philosophies.

One of the terribly destructive philosophies is a false notion of freedom. The sinful world, going all the way back to Satan’s deceit in the garden, thinks of freedom as being able to do whatever I please. In effect those who hold this, flaunt their false notion of freedom saying in effect, “I will do what I want to do, and I will decide if it is right or wrong. No one will tell me what to do.” It is freedom in the abstract, freedom for its own sake, rather than for the sake of being able to do what is right.

That this notion of freedom is false is evident from its fruits. For although many, in modern times, claim to march under the banner of freedom from being told what to do, it becomes clear that many of them end up it a terrible state of increasing slavery and bondage.

For this era when a false notion of freedom is exulted is also an era of increasing addiction to alcohol, drugs, pornography,  sex, and a general lack of self control.  And with greed and materialism, whatever we have is never enough. There is thus a bondage to things, a kind of incapacity to live without endless numbers of things and creature comforts. Therefore we also see increasing bondage to credit, both personally and nationally. We simply “cannot” stop our runaway spending. There is also an increasing lack of ability to make and keep commitments and many feel “compelled” to divorce, leave the priesthood and religious life.

None of this shouts the freedom that so many boast of. Rather there is evident, bondage, inability, compulsion, addiction, and an out of control quality to modern life.

You will thus know by its fruits that false freedom is not true freedom. It masquerades in the “sheep’s” clothing of liberty, but underneath it is the ravenous wolf of bondage. Many cry “Liberty!” when they really mean “libertine” and “licentious.” They are headed straight for bondage. St. Augustine said,

For of a perverse will, was a lust made; and a lust served, became custom; and custom not resisted, became necessity. (Confessions 8.5)

The Catechism also says,

The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to “the slavery of sin.” (CCC # 1733).

And thus we arrive at the definition of true freedom which is the capacity to obey God.

And what are the fruits of true freedom? An increasing liberation from the power of sin, the increasing capacity to do what is right and just by the power of God. True freedom brings greater self control, the ability to moderate one’s desires and have them submitted to right reason. True freedom brings serenity, for one’s life is in greater balance and harmony.

By true freedom,  the innumerable sorrows of false freedom listed above are largely avoided and one’s life is simpler, more focused, and one enjoys the results of a disciplined and reasonable life. Sorrows and suffering are not eliminated but are diminished for many of their sources in excess, addiction and compulsion are removed. True freedom ushers in, by God’s power, the life that Jesus Christ died and rose to give us.

So what do you want, the fake freedom of the world, or the glorious freedom of the children of God? (Rom 8:21)

9 Replies to “On the Fearful Fruits of False Freedom”

  1. Amen.

    exhibit a) America- post 1960. It’s fruit- corruption of more than half the world. After the decline of Communism, Capitalism unchecked with your (correct) definition of the new ideology of freedom, has ruined and continues to ruin more souls than ever before.

  2. @Will:
    If “Capitalism” includes considerable guidance and influence from government persons who subsidize banks into making mortgage loans to people who cannot afford to pay off the loans, and who provide financial rewards to the executives of govt-sponsored institutions (such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) for adopting unsound practices, then your definition may be accepted.
    Some attention should also be given to the philosophies of persons such as Norman Lear who were always “pushing the envelope” in showing adult females in immodest costumes, and popularizing sexual practices that used to be considered on the fringe. Next week a “comedy” celebrating bestiality. (Sarcasm intended; but who knows?)
    If material progress requires that some adults postpone immediate satisfaction for the sake of developing inventions that have long term benefits, the current US culture is, indeed, the downfall of civilization.

  3. the irony of all this is that as society becomes more “free” we lose the true freedom to practice our religion. We lose our parental rights when our teenage daughters become pregnant; our right to bow our heads in prayer at school; the right to speak the truth in our workplaces(“hate speech”); the right to give babies up for adoption to Catholic families or to real families for that matter.

  4. “And what are the fruits of true freedom? An increasing liberation from the power of sin, the increasing capacity to do what is right and just by the power of God. True freedom brings greater self control, the ability to moderate one’s desires and have them submitted to right reason. True freedom brings serenity, for one’s life is in greater balance and harmony.”

    Wonderful, Thanks very much for such a concise assessment.

  5. Great article, Monsignor. I agree with 100% of it.

    But I question how to best raise a child in this sinful world. I’ve seen many children raised in strict, moral families rebel to the point of succumbing to the very worst the world has to offer. At the same time, many children raised in families that are strongly Catholic but less strict (do not monitor every TV program the children watch, allow them to go out unsupervised with friends on weekend nights, etc.) seem to grow into morally responsible adults.

    In short, I agree completely with the indictment of today’s culture. But I’m not sure how to chart a course between protecting the young from its vices and empowering them to follow their own lights and steer clear of the abyss, which they must ultimately do of their own accord after they leave the house. I’m not one to compromise on moral issues but I have witnessed the way in which strict rules can foster rebellion that ends badly. Difficult to know how to proceed sometimes.

  6. Wonderful wake up call here. That quote from the Catechism (1733) so reminds me of one of my favourite quotes; John 8:31-34, which is often taken out of context by being incomplete which sometimes results in a worthy, but human, conclusion being added. The truth will make us free, but first it will make us angry. Often true but what about with the Divine conclusion, “31 To the Jews who believed in him Jesus said: If you make my word your home you will indeed be my disciples;32 you will come to know the truth, and the truth will set you free.33 They answered, ‘We are descended from Abraham and we have never been the slaves of anyone; what do you mean, “You will be set free?” ’34 Jesus replied: In all truth I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave.
    I’m “free” to jump of a 900 foot high cliff and there’s one only a few hours drive from here and, while I met be prevented from going there if law enforcement officers knew what I was up to, it is not guarded to keep self destructive people away. I imagine it would be quite a rush on the way down (like libertine sex, drunkeness, etc.) but hitting bottom wouldn’t be freedom; or at least living freedom.

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