The Grand Inquisitor

Jul 3, 2018

[N]othing has ever been more insufferable for man than freedom!

Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Grand Inquisitor

As we approach Independence Day we should consider what it means to be truly free. When Saint John Paul II visited the United States in 1995, he said this:

Surely it is important for America that the moral truths which make freedom possible should be passed on to each new generation. Every generation of Americans needs to know that freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.

“Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” This definition does not resonate in a society that refuses to distinguish right from wrong or good from evil. Freedom is not only a God given right:

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Thomas Jefferson

But also a grave responsibility:

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” Abraham Lincoln

The “moral truths”, according to JP II, keep us grounded in the truth and create a universal code by which all people can live out their God given freedom. The truth is not what I want it to be but what God has revealed to us through his Son our Lord Jesus Christ. If we want to live in true freedom there is no other way than that which has been laid out by the Lord.

The CCC says this about man’s freedom:

God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and his own actions. “God willed that man should be left in the ‘hand of his own counsel,’ so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him.

Man is rational and therefore like God; he is created with free will and is master over his acts. Saint Irenaeus

The Catechism also states that: “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.” CCC 1733

Our Lord links liberation (freedom) particularly with knowledge of the truth; “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free” (Jn 8:32). Jesus is truth itself and when we abide in his word we are living in reality. Truth is not something that I can define on my own terms.

“The devil works to undermine the truths that make us free which is why we must resist those trends in our society that undermine the foundational building blocks of our culture, like marriage and family.

The Devil is famously called “the Father of Lies.” (John 8:44) We live in a culture that, in many ways, is built on a network of now accepted, logically interrelated lies that we have deliberately put into law, into private and public life, under the name of “rights.” We claim the freedom for ourselves to establish the distinction between good and evil. Abortion is built on a lie, as are gay “marriages” and euthanasia.

Most “aggressive” manifestations of evil in our world revolve around how we come to exist and what we are when we arrive here. We probably should not be overly surprised at this turn of events. A few days after the Irish abortion vote, the Prime Minister insisted that every public hospital must provide abortion. No exceptions.” Fr. James V. Schall S.J.

I write these things not to depress you or frighten you but encourage you. You would think that there is overwhelming support for these demonic cultural trends based on the popular media, but, the truth is that there many Americans who don’t like what is happening in our culture and we need to know that.

Let us pray for the courage and the grace to live this holy truth.

Happy Independence Day! Enjoy the the gatherings with your family and friends.


Fr. Jim

p.s. below you will find a video of the Grand Inquisitor. It is taken from the novel written by Fyodor Dostoevsky “The Brothers Karamazov”. Dostoevsky understands how difficult freedom truly is and he uses the temptation in the desert to demonstrate the very real obstacle of original and actual sin to true freedom. Remember that this is a story that is being told by one person to another to try and undermine the faith of the other. The thing that that impresses me about the story is how relative it is to time and place. We must never allow ourselves to be intimidated into silence.