(an excerpt from Saint John Paul II’s “Love and Responsibility“)
Love consists in a commitment of freedom because, after all, love is self-giving, and to give oneself means precisely to limit one’s freedom on account of the other person. The limitation of one’s own freedom would be something negative and unpleasant, but love makes it something positive, joyful, and creative.
Freedom is for love. Freedom that is unused, not employed by love, becomes precisely something negative—it gives man a sense of emptiness and unfulfillment. Love engages freedom and fills it with what the will clings to by nature: it fills freedom with the good.
The will tends to the good, and freedom belongs to the will, and therefore freedom is for love, for through love man most fully participates in the good. This is the essential basis for the primacy of love in the moral order, in the hierarchy of virtues, and in the hierarchy of the healthy longings and desires of man. Man longs for love more than for freedom—freedom is the means, whereas love is the end.
The formation of a true conscience, because it is founded on the truth, and upright, because it is determined to follow its dictates without contradictions, without betrayal and without compromises, is a difficult and delicate undertaking today, but indispensable.
Unfortunately, many factors hinder this undertaking. In the first place, in the current phase of secularization, called post-modern and marked by disputable forms of tolerance, not only is the rejection of Christian tradition growing, but distrust for the capacity of reason to perceive the truth also distances us from the taste for reflection.
According to some, for individual conscience to be unbiased it must free itself both from references to tradition and those based on human reason.
Hence, the conscience, which as an act of reason aims at the truth of things, ceases to be light and becomes a simple screen upon which the society of the media projects the most contradictory images and impulses.
One must be re-educated to the desire to know authentic truth, to defend one’s own freedom of choice in regard to mass behaviour and the lures of propaganda, to nourish passion for moral beauty and a clear conscience. This is the delicate duty of parents and educators who assist them; and it is the duty of the Christian community with regard to its faithful.
Concerning the Christian conscience, its growth and nourishment, one cannot be content with fleeting contact with the principal truths of faith in infancy, but a programme of accompaniment is necessary along the various stages of life, opening the mind and the heart to welcome the fundamental duties upon which the existence of the individual and the community rest.
Only in this way will it be possible to prepare youth to comprehend the values of life, love, marriage and the family. Only in this way can they be brought to appreciate the beauty and the sanctity of the love, joy and responsibility of being parents and collaborators of God in giving life.
“Morality means choice. Choice means priorities. Priorities mean a hierarchy. A hierarchy means something at the top, a standard. That is the greatest good. If you have no greatest good, you have no hierarchy of goods. If you have no hierarchy, you have no priorities. If you have no priorities, you cannot make intelligent choices. If you cannot make intelligent moral choices, you have no morality.”Dr. Peter Kreeft, “Making Choices: Practical Wisdom for Everyday Moral Decisions”
(from a letter by Pope Francis in 2015)
One of the serious problems of our time is clearly the changed relationship with respect to life. A widespread and insensitive mentality has led to the loss of the proper personal and social sensitivity to welcome new life. The tragedy of abortion is experienced by some with a superficial awareness, as if not realizing the extreme harm that such an act entails. Many others, on the other hand, although experiencing this moment as a defeat, believe that they have no other option. I think in particular of all the women who have resorted to abortion. I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision. What has happened is profoundly unjust; yet only understanding the truth of it can enable one not to lose hope. The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented, especially when that person approaches the Sacrament of Confession with a sincere heart in order to obtain reconciliation with the Father.