RE ATAR Unit 4: the concept of freedom from a religious perspective


Personal Freedom

While the individualists argue for absolute freedom from moral authority and consumerists argue for more choices and the accumulation of power to choose. The Catholic Church argues that moral relativity and absolute freedom misses the point of a proper understanding of true freedom. In truth, it does not matter so much how many choices we have or how much power we have to choose, rather the question is whether the individual possesses the interior strength to do the right thing. A person does not become freer by having the choice to sin or do evil; a person does not truly lose their freedom in marrying one person and dedicating their life to them; or lose their freedom in settling into one jobThe artist is not constrained by the limitations of his/her medium; in fact the limitations of their medium is the very conditions that permit them to be an artist. In the same way, moral laws are not limits that constraints and take away freedom, but exist to increase the human capacity to attain true freedom. 


St Pope John Paul II critique the sub-culture that is based on hedonism as a disregard of 'a correct understanding of the human person' (along with the natural human rights, obligations and responsibilities) and a 'balanced hierarchy of values'. While there is nothing wrong with a moderate lifestyle that seeks good experiences and enjoying the pleasures of life, hedonism as a philosophy of life is self-destructive, since self-seeking is existentially not the answer to happiness. While hedonism provides short-term happiness, it will leave a void in individuals since pleasure and experience is not the purpose of human life. The purpose of human life is to know, love and serve God by discovering one’s vocation; making a gift of self for a higher cause and serving othersHappiness is the by-product of choosing the self-less life that is and lived as a service to God and others. 

In the same way, St Pope John Paul II explains, consumerism alienates man from his true self, which can only be attained by self-transcendence and self-gift. It needs to be said that being a consumer is not wrong or evil, it is the consumerist philosophy of life which causes a person to be a glutton and materialist that is wrong. The vice of gluttony or avarice in consuming material things as the means of finding happiness and meaning in life, causes a person to be inordinately attached to things as oppose to love, service or justice. In this way the vices of consumerism is an obstacle to the human freedom oriented to genuine love. If every person is ‘to be a gift of self’ to love and be loved, then true freedom lies in the freedom from internal pressures and vices. 


The Catholic teachings and rituals can transform individuals to find true freedom. An individual who is damaged by hurt and negative experiences due to vices or immorality, will find it harder to make a gift of themselves or to receive the gift of someone else. A person caught in addiction or unrestraint anger or depression, would again, lose their power to be truly free to love and be loved. The Good News that Jesus offers, of redemption and reconciliation provides people with an opportunity to find freedom. The graces of the sacraments heal and strengthens the individual from internal pressures and encourages the promotion of virtues and self-control. The Church is God’s way of helping people find true freedom and fulfilment.

Freedom In Society

Catholic teachings and values related to freedom exists to promote the common good, instead of restricting people’s freedom, it actually provides the fertile ground for true freedom. The Church’s main contribution to the political order is ‘precisely her vision of the dignity of the person revealed in all its fullness in the mystery of the Incarnate Word’ (CA, 47). A disordered consumption of natural resources and irresponsible destruction of the environment and the creation of ‘structures of sin’ that impede human development. Justice is the state of social harmony in which the actions of each person best serve the common good. The way society is organised is either just or unjust, fair or unfair. Justice is the virtue in which a person gives to God and others what is due to them. In order to build a strong society, all people must work together to promote the common good for all. It is this common good "the sum total of social conditions [that will] enable individuals, families and organisations to achieve their own fulfilment more fully and easily" (GS 26, 74; CCC 1877-1948).  


In a similar way, the Church’s teaching on Natural Law morality promotes the moral integrity of individuals and the family for the good of society. A society based on moral relativism will erode the moral strength of individuals and will lead to further repercussions on the breakdown of the family and society. Since natural law governs all humans as the only way to flourish and find greatest freedom, it is necessary for governments to debate and discuss on how to best apply objective morality for society. John Paul II argues that, without a natural law morality, society will quickly start to dismantle the very basis of its democratic form of government and become merely a power game. As history have demonstrated, "a democracy without values easily turns into open or disguised totalitarianism" (CA 46-7). A culture, he describes, which does not put a proper veneration for each and every human person, will inevitably regard human life as expandable. The contemporary culture which puts maximising individual pleasure seeking as an end is ultimately a culture of death. 

Why go to Confession

The Sacrament of Reconciliation


Sacrament of Penance is a ritual practice in which Catholics can find forgiveness of sins through the Church. 


History and explanation: 

Jesus Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance on the day of His resurrection when, entering the Supper Room, He solemnly gave His Apostles the power of remitting sin. Jesus Christ gave His Apostles the power of remitting sin thus: Breathing upon them He said: "Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven; and whose sins you shall retain they are retained."(John 20:23). The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, "in imparting to his apostles his own power to forgive sins the Lord also gives them the authority to reconcile sinners with the Church" (CCC 1444). 

Precept of the Church: The reception of the sacrament is necessary for individuals who have committed a mortal sin after Baptism, in order to restore the individual to the state of grace (CCC 1874). Every Catholic must receive the Sacrament of Penance at least once a year, however the Church promotes the frequent reception of the sacrament from weekly to monthly depending on the individual.  

Ways in which the Church practices the Sacrament of Penance – First, Second and Third Rites of reconciliation. Most Churches offer the First Rite of Reconciliation (personal and private) every Saturday. The Second Rite exist for a community to confess. This occurs in the context of a Liturgy of the Word, which includes readings, community prayers and examination of conscience. Individuals then go to the confessionals privately and absolution. At the end the community gathers and is dismissed collectively. The Third Rite of reconciliation is reserved for times of emergency or war where individuals are not able to attend private confessions and are given a general absolution.  

Key Elements:

  1. Contrition – or sorry for sin requires the penitent to at least have the intention to be sorry for sin (CCC 1452-3). He or she will need to examine their conscience for mortal sins. There must also be a resolution to avoid sinning again. 

  1. Confession – telling the priest of their sins. “All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession” (CCC 1456) 

  1. The matter of the sacrament is the sins committed by the penitent after Baptism. 

  1. The form of the sacrament are the words of the priest saying: “I absolve you from your sins.” 

  1. Satisfaction- or penance is the ‘making reparation for the damage due to sin’ – through certain actions or prayers prescribed by the priest. 

  1. Absolution- “by the priest's sacramental absolution God grants the penitent 'pardon and peace'" (CCC 1424). Catholics believe God forgives the person (penitent) through the priest (acting in the person of Jesus).  


Its purpose and grace: 

  1. It restores sanctifying grace by which all sins (mortal & venial) are remitted. It revives the merits of the good works and help the person against falling into sin again. 

  1. Removal of guilt (due to sin) and clears the conscience (peace of conscience). (CCC 1424) 

  1. Restores relationship with God and Church (others). (CCC 1424) 

  1. Allows the person to follow God’s Will (vocation) in their lives (through developing a deeper relationship with God).