Too often when we make decisions or form opinions we tend to focus on what is best for us, rather than what God expects of us or what is best for the common good. We think that we are free to do what we want, without considering how our freedom affects those around us.
Bishop Arthur Serratelli of the Diocese of the Diocese of Paterson, NJ stopped by Morning Air® to help us understand what freedom is, what it isn’t, and how we can use our freedom to serve the common good in a selfie society.
“What has happened in our society is we have really lost the sense of what justice is, and that there is a higher standard,” Bishop Serratelli said. “Once God has been marginalized, once society adopts a totally secularistic attitude toward life, all of a sudden freedom becomes diminished. It’s not based on justice, it’s not based on what God expects us to do for others.”
One of the negative effects of an individualistic society is a warped idea of freedom, in which we become more focused on what we want rather than a sense of justice. The paradox, as Bishop Serratelli explained, is that this individualistic view of freedom actually makes us less free.
“Freedom is the ability to choose the good,” he said. “We are made for the good, because ultimately we were made for God. And we are most free when we choose what is right, we are most free when we choose what is good. When we sin, we are turning away from the good and we become enslaved.”
“Freedom really is not about ourselves, it is about God and it is about others,” he continued. “It’s about relating to God and others in the way that God Himself intends. Freedom is tied into the virtue of justice, and that’s tied into the common good.”
But when we hear people say, “It’s a free country!” it’s typically not a reminder that we live in a country in which we are free to choose the good. It typically is used to justify a me-first mentality. Bishop Serratelli explained why that is, saying, “I think what has happened is that our country has always been a country of rugged individualism. But today the fact that for many people God is on the margins or doesn’t exist, the controls on what freedom really means has turned into license. It’s what I want, what I want to do.”
“Freedom means to choose the good, but the good that is not just what I want, not just what pleases me, but what is good for the dignity of the human person and the good of others. Today our society has moved away from that, and freedom has basically degenerated into license.”
So does that mean all hope is lost? That our society will continue to spiral into selfish and licentious behaviours? Bishop Serratelli said that some trends among young people point us toward hope.
“I think more and more people are becoming aware, and I think more people are getting back to basic rights,” he said. “Research shows that more and more young people are coming back, are looking for God, and I think once the trajectory is set in the right direction, people will make the right decisions and will truly understand what freedom is.”
Listen to the full conversation below: