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John Paul II and the Culture of Death*

Red Apple

  Bioethics in Law & Culture                                                                                                                        Summer  2022       vol. 5  issue  3

Steven Meyer, S.T.D.

Assistant Professor

Theology, University of St. Thomas 

The recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade is a cause for much rejoicing. The Court decided 5-4 that the U.S. Constitution does not confer the right to abortion. It seems as if the decision is an answer to decades of prayer, rallies, education, charitable work, and lobbies for all the causalities inflicted by legalized abortion. This historic decision now puts the decision of abortion at the State and Congressional level. The Guttmacher Institute provides an interactive map of the states with their policies and access after Roe.[i] The map shows a fragmented America.


The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement declaring it a historic day. “America was founded on the truth that all men and women are created equal, with God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This truth was grievously denied by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized and normalized the taking of innocent human life. We thank God today that the Court has now overturned this decision. We pray that our elected officials will now enact laws and policies that promote and protect the most vulnerable among us.”[ii]       


Steven Millies, professor of Public Theology and Director of the Bernadin Center at Catholic Theological Union, has, I think, correctly pointed out that: “Roe’s reversal won’t quell the cultural anger. Scorched – earth politics will linger for a long time… Dobbs will intensify the divisive cultural argument, not end it.”[iii] To his point, the immediate response of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) was to reference a Supreme Court as gone “rogue.”[iv] She appeared on late night television to speak of how the highest court in the nation is now delegitimate.[v] Senator Elizabeth Warren openly called for crisis pregnancy centers to be shut down because they torture women.  


A simple stroll through mainstream media today reveals that we are being mentally hit with a barrage analogous to what the military calls a strike package. Many online articles are about the justice and rights for women being lost. For example, this one is about the negative impact on women in sports.[vi] Some are emotional testimonials from well-known women about their abortion stories.[vii] There are informative articles on how to obtain abortion pills through the mail.[viii] There are student testimonials about not wanting to go to college in a state with abortion bans.[ix] And then there are testimonials about both men and women voluntarily undergoing sterilization as a form of protest.


These stories and the adamant fight for abortion rights have a theological blueprint laid out by Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Evangelium vitae (The Gospel of Life, henceforth EV).[x] This work popularized the notion of a culture of life and culture of death in regard to the differing mindsets that lead to pro-life and anti-life legislation and attitudes. It is addressed to all people of good will because the protection of human life is a universal human issue. It is a work of prophetic humanism. The encyclical states that in every social medium today there are powerful forces working to justify and promote abortion and euthanasia, peddling a plan of eugenics, and promoting immoral experiments on human embryos—all portrayed as services to humanity. For this essay I would like to simply sketch out what John Paul II calls the culture of death.


In EV, or elsewhere, John Paul II does not define the culture of death with a propositional definition. As a phenomenologist his method is to describe features, and then to repeat those features with more depth in other places. He depicts the culture of death as having four “roots” leading to an anti-life mentality. (cf. EV 19-24) These are:

  1. a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of a human person.[xi] (EV 19)

  2. a false understanding of freedom or choice as action uncoupled from truth and responsibility.[xii] (EV 19-20; 96)

  3. Thirdly these two errors flow from “The eclipse of the sense of God and of man inevitably leads to a practical materialism, which breeds individualism, utilitarianism and hedonism.”[xiii] (EV 23, his italics)

  4. This lowering of the transcendent horizon gives rise to the blurring of right and wrong in moral conscience.[xiv] (EV 4; 21; 24)


The Concept of Culture

Before examining these four roots, it might be helpful to address the topic of culture in his thought. It is well known that before becoming pope, Karol Wojtyla expressed culture in poetry and writing plays to sustain Poland’s Catholic culture in the context of Nazi and Soviet Marxist occupations. From an early time in his life, he developed an interest in the intersection between faith and culture. During the second Vatican Council (1962-1965), Wojtlya participated as a bishop. He  was active in the drafting of Gaudium et spes on the topic of culture. As pope he set up a pontifical Council for culture. He does not have a singular essay or book devoted to the relationship between the church, Christ, and culture but his ideas are here synthesized thanks to the work of the late American Avery Cardinal Dulles, to whom some of my notes are indebted.


John Paul developed a theology of culture that can be overlapped with Vatican II’s teaching on the theology of the laity. Laypersons must, according to the dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium,  “engage in temporal affairs in order them according to the plan of God” (LG 31). The concept of temporal affairs is developed in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et spes when it speaks of marriage and family, culture and work, and politics and international life.[xv]


In the Apostolic Constitution on Catholic universities, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, John Paul II names specific criteria for the evaluation of a culture:

  1. a culture contributes to the meaning and freedom of the human person.

  2. a culture gives a sense of responsibility and an openness to the transcendent.

  3. a culture gives respect to the values of the family, which is the primary unit in every culture.

  4. “In the end, therefore, it should be asked: does a given cultural development enhance all the dimensions of human existence, perfecting all the capacities that are distinctively human?”[xvi]


In his philosophical essays on Marxism, he believed that culture goes beyond political and economic factors. Culture is “the self-expression of the human spirit and is essentially oriented to truth, goodness, and beauty…. Whenever we engage in a truly human action… We not only produce an external effect but simultaneously modify ourselves. The essence of praxis consists in the self – realization of the acting subject, who at the same time renders the nonhuman environment in some way more human.”[xvii] Religion is the transcendent aspect of culture. “At the heart of every culture lies the attitude a person takes toward the greatest mystery: the mystery of God.… When this question is eliminated, the culture and moral life of nations are corrupted” (CA 24).”[xviii] The problem is that the spiritual void produced from the elimination of God leads to the collapse of the cultural forces that instill this vacuum. For John Paul II, the decline in the cultural influence by Western civilizations is rooted in a crisis of truth. “An objective vision of the truth is often replaced by a more or less spontaneous subjective view. Objective morality gives way to individual ethics, where each person seems to set himself up as the norm.”[xix] His vision seems consistent with what one author calls The Progressive Virus.[xx]  


The Misunderstanding of the Person

As mentioned earlier, the first root of the culture of death is a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of a human person. (EV 19) John Paul II’s understanding of the human person is showcased in his work titled Original Unity of Man and Woman: Catechesis on the Book of Genesis, reprinted and usually taught as the “Theology of the Body.” In sum: every human person is created in the image of God, this is where rights are derived. Humans are made for communion with God and with others. When these relationships are damaged there are consequences. The human person is an embodied spirit and meant for eternal life. Humans are Biblically commanded to be stewards of life, the world, and all the life in the world. Because humans are stewards of all life, John Paul II believed that the Catholic Church should be for a universal humanism that transcends all individuals in all groups.


At the beginning of what is called “modern” philosophy, Rene Descartes (d. 1650) famously posited a duality of two principles, mind and matter. It has created the problem of the relationship between the body and the soul. We might analogously think in terms of a car (body) to the driver (soul) or the ghost to the shell, or even about the continued existence of the soul after the body has died. For Descartes, the real entity is the conscious “I” who claims awareness. Are we really spiritual substances dwelling in bodies? Benedict XVI in Deus Caritas Est (2005) gives a negative answer. “… it is neither the spirit alone nor the body alone that loves: it is man, the person, a unified creature composed of body and soul, who loves.”[xxi] As John Paul II points out, if the consciousness who can say “I” is exaggerated then persons in comas, the unborn, those with severe mental handicaps, and those in vegetative states would no longer qualify as human persons.[xxii] As a sexual being, if the body and soul are separate then the body can be treated as an appendage to the soul and can be exploited, depersonalized, manipulated and treated as a “thing”.[xxiii] 


A very important principle in the thought of John Paul II is the concept of freedom. Freedom is more than lack of restraint. It is more than free will or the ability to choose one thing over another. It is both, of course, but more. Freedom is that which makes us to be in God’s image. Every act that turns us away from being in God’s image is freely chosen.  But is in reality, it is a form of slavery. A culture of death is rooted in the misunderstanding of human freedom. In Evangelium vitae John Paul continues a theme from Veritatis splendor (henceforth VS), in that freedom is truly free only with  “its essential link with the truth” (EV 19.5). Freedom is articulated by reflecting on the words of Jesus, “…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)[xxiv] For John Paul II “These words contain both a fundamental requirement and a warning: the requirement of an honest relationship with regard to the truth as a condition for authentic freedom, and the warning to avoid every kind of illusory freedom…”[xxv] For John Paul II, free actions are not necessarily acts of freedom. When human action is uncoupled from accountability to the truth it amounts to being less free.[xxvi]


Authentic freedom is exercised in light of the Eternal law. John Paul II understands Eternal Law like St. Augustine as “…the reason or the will of God, who commands us to respect the natural order and forbids us to disturb it.” (VS 43) John Paul II is consistent with St. Thomas Aquinas who taught Eternal law as Eternal Law is recognized externally by us, or through experience of objective reality, in the natural order of things. It is experienced and recognized internally by us through conscience. John Paul II develops under natural law the participation of the person as acting agent in Eternal law. Eternal law can be recognized externally in faith through God’s Revelation. The Decalogue of the Covenant of Mt. Sinai and the Beatitudes of the New Covenant he cites as explicit examples. About this great divorce between the recognition of the Eternal law as root of truth and thus freedom, Cardinal Francis George makes an observation in regard to Planned Parenthood vs Casey (1992). He writes, “The majority of the justices determined that “The majority of the justices determined that “at the heart of liberty [freedom] is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” What we see here, with breathtaking clarity, is the complete eclipse of truth by freedom and hence the subjectivizing of any and all moral, metaphysical, or religious claims.”[xxviii]

A God originated notion of freedom found either externally or internally is rejected in today’s world. This rejection goes back to some Enlightenment era philosophers who wished to stress the purity of human reason for the sake of personal autonomy. Religious values, commands, or norms were depicted as heteronomous. This means they controlled the mind and limited human freedom. A theocratic government, or even a religiously influenced government—the facts are that all governments were religiously influenced or explicitly religious up until modernity—would be no place for the flourishing of human reason. The argument is sound on its face, since it can be shown that many theocratic forms of government, or societies where one religion ruled all the people, limited personal freedoms, and personal rights. Ludwig Feuerbach (d. 1872), a sort of spiritual father to Karl Marx, takes this a step further. Religion for Feuerbach is not the discovery and articulation of an Eternal law but the articulation of the nature of man himself which is the ultimate absolute. For G.W.F. Hegel (d. 1831) God is depicted as a slave master and enemy who imposes a law resulting in humanity’s self-alienation. These thinkers pave the mental road for a religion-free notion of freedom.


Obedience to the truth of eternal law either in exterior or interior discovery is not heteronomy or self-alienation. John Paul II rejects the idea of a slovenly humanity groveling before a God who is just a self-projection of inner consciousness. Fundamentally because this misunderstands the nature of God and man as beings in a loving relationship. God is depicted to both Jews and Gentiles as a loving Father who in his providential goodness seeks out a covenant relationship. This relationship is entered through the obedience of faith. While faith makes demands, it is not enslavement but an elevation of human nature towards fulfillment of its potential. Faith as an obedience is exemplified by Abraham’s action of trusting in God’s promises, as well as the Blessed Virgin Mary’s yes to God’s request.


St. Paul never claims that freedom is for the sake of doing whatever you want. “My brothers, remember that you have been called to live in freedom—but not a freedom that gives free rein to the flesh. Out of love, place yourselves at one another’s service.” (Galatians 5: 13) True freedom, found “where the Spirit of the Lord is” (2 Corinthians 3:17), is freedom from sin in Jesus Christ to liberate us for service to others as images of him. (cf. Matthew 25) This is freedom for which Christ set us free—to be a gift for others. This is a “law of the gift” when give of ourselves freely, we imitate God’s image in us, and we become more truly ourselves as God intends us to be. “Those who love God serve him freely, and in giving that service they enhance their freedom.”[xxix]


The Eclipse of God

Unfortunately, the rise of a secular mentality, the separation of daily action from the calling of God to live in accordance with the Eternal law, is a normative way of life for members of the Church who inhabit secularized cultures. As Thomas Howard puts it, secularism infects the modern Christian mind into believing “…that everything is explainable…there are no “divine mysteries” [hence] …Christians often find it difficult to keep alive any notion at all of mystery, or of the hallowed….”[xxx] Charles Taylor in his book A Secular Age reminds the reader that one can be born into our world today and never be truly exposed to a practicing religion. The further one travels back in history, says Christopher Dawson, the more one finds religion and belief in God intimately connected to everyday life.[xxxi] Our age needs to be understood as something mysterious in the long term plan of God’s Providence where “one day is as a thousand years.” (2 Pet. 3:8; cf. Ps 90:4)


This gets us to the third root of the culture of death, “the eclipse of the sense of God and of man, typical of a social and cultural climate dominated by secularism.” (EV 21.1)[xxxii] This analogy, the solar eclipse, can be found in the work of existential philosopher Martin Buber. Buber’s book Eclipse of God is, on one level, an argument against a Nietzschean “death of God” mentality.[xxxiii] For Buber, God is the great “Thou” to our human “I.” We might live as God does not exist, but doing this does not change God who, like the sun, has an objective radiance of being. God as the object of faith is not an opinion. The eclipse of God is, as Pope Benedict XVI puts it, really a crisis of faith in Christ’s radiance. This crisis can be linked to a decline in sexual morality, family life, religious vocations, and the work of evangelization.[xxxiv]


The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen gentium, famously begins not with the Church but with, “Christ is the light of nations”.[xxxv] The patristic analogy to this being, “the Church is like the moon, all its light reflected from the sun.”[xxxvi] The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et spes (GS) contains an important theological anthropology claiming only in communion with God can we find the proper meaning of human dignity. One section of GS identifies eight types of modern denials of God under the category of atheism which lead to errors in understanding human nature (GS 19). Surprisingly it also admits that modern atheistic errors are, partly, the fault of members of the Church. Some Christians, both historical figures, and figures of today, give counter-witness to the Gospel. Counter-witness occurs  through moral and political scandals, improper presentation of the Gospel contents, and open disunity/fighting between and among professing Christians.[xxxvii] The Christian response today should be to always reveal and not to conceal the true face of God to the world.[xxxviii] Scandalous behavior is not restricted to visible Church leadership. The laity have a particular vocation as bearers of the Church to the world of secular affairs. Their witness and words should let the Gospel shine.[xxxix] Cardinal Francis George once noted that “The greatest failure of the post-Vatican II Church is the failure to call forth and to form a laity engaged in the world politically, economically, culturally, and socially, on faith’s terms rather than on the world’s terms…”[xl]


Darkening of Conscience

The fourth and final root of the culture of death concerns the darkening of conscience. To continue the eclipse analogy, when it is dark it is difficult to see things as they are. John Paul II believes that the eclipse of the sense of God has led to “…conscience itself, darkened as it were…is finding it increasingly difficult to distinguish between good and evil in what concerns the basic value of human life.” (EV 4.) “When conscience, this bright lamp of the soul (cf. Mt 6:22-23), calls "evil good and good evil" (Is 5:20), it is already on the path to the most alarming corruption and the darkest moral blindness.” (EV 24).

Conscience is not an opinion, feeling, whim, or assertion apart from God’s law. Conscience has an objective side which is the reasoned recognition of God’s law in the depths of the human heart. “In the depths of his conscience man detects a law which he does not impose on himself, but which holds him to obedience. Always summoning him to love good and avoid evil, the voice of conscience can when necessary speak to his heart more specifically: 'do this, shun that'. For man has in his heart a law written by God. To obey it is the very dignity of man; according to it he will be judged (cf. Rom 2:14-16)”. (VS 54; GS 16) Conscience has a subjective side, the free-willed decision of the person to act or not to act in any given concrete circumstance. One problem is the subjective side of conscience is the only part of it acknowledged.


It is common today to hear of following one’s conscience and openly ignoring, disagreeing, disobeying, or maligning Church teaching. The freedom of following conscience is half of the truth divorced from God’s law so as to be a lie. We are legislatively being “…like gods who know what is good and what is bad.” (Genesis 3:5) The subjective judgment of conscience confirms what the heart already knows when it discovers the Divine law. John Paul II puts it like this, “…the Magisterium does not bring to the Christian conscience truths which are extraneous to it; rather it brings to light the truths which it ought already to possess.” (VS 64)[xli] Cardinal John Henry Newman in his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk aptly defends the dignity of Christian conscience as personal freedom bound to the authority of the Magisterium. Conscience, while subjective, has a responsibility to follow the authority of God who creates and implants his law within the heart that recognizes his laws under the impulses of grace. This theocentric notion of conscience is found in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Within the Catholic tradition the Magisterium assists in conscience formation and confirms truths from natural law discoverable by reason.


“John Paul II’s treatment of conscience is very similar to that of John Henry Newman in his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk. Like Newman, he denies that conscience is a power that exempts us from all higher authority and authorizes us to do what we please. On the contrary, it is a stern monitor that requires us to seek out what is truly good. Far from dispensing us from authority, it impels us to seek out the best authoritative guidance we can get. The pope quotes Newman to the effect that “conscience has rights because it has duties.” (VS 34) The freedom of conscience is, as the pope expresses it, freedom in the truth, but never freedom from the truth (VS 64).”[xlii]

John Paul II in Veritatis splendor says that the freedom to act in conscience is never freedom ‘from’ the truth but always freedom ‘in’ the truth. (cf. VS 64) Because it is subjective it is not a law unto itself, it is not the freedom from authority or against authority. It is the freedom to act in truth. “…the splendor of truth which enlightens consciences, the clear light which corrects the darkened gaze,…” (EV 6) The darkening of conscience is a result of complex forces for John Paul II. It begins with a breakdown in human culture itself leading to a kind of epistemological skepticism towards truth and ethics and a misunderstanding of the proper meaning of a human person (theocentric orientation is lost). We are increasingly a society of individuals who become isolated with their problems. These problems are further exacerbated by things like poverty, anxiety, financial stresses, living with pain, and violence towards women, etc. (cf. 11)



Opposed to a culture of death is a culture of life. This is nothing less than the Gospel itself which is really a person who invites us into a relationship. "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (Jn 10:10). (cf. EV 1) For John Paul II the culture of death is nothing less than decay because of sin. It is the movement towards a disintegration of human nature. The culture of death can be found introduced into the story of the Garden of Eden in Genesis. Our first parents misunderstood their nature, used free choice to grab what was not theirs, hid from God, and skewed their natural use of reason to discern the good. They justified their actions when questioned by God Himself.


A culture of life is one of hope, it involves all members of the Church, and it is especially important for the laity since their domain is properly the secular fields such as law, politics, and medicine. A culture of life should have the traits of the new evangelization: it should connect faith with culture, respect the freedom and dignity of persons, use all means of social communication, and be both ecumenical and inter-religious in dialogue.[xliii] It should incorporate personal and communal prayer as well as fasting (cf. EV 100).


We conclude as John Paul II does, in commenting that The Blessed Virgin Mary serves as a model, a type of antidote, to the culture of death’s roots given her actions in Scripture. John Paul II chose March 25 to publish EV, the Feast of the Annunciation (cf. Luke 1:26-38), nine months before December 25. Mary’s free response to God allows the pre-existent Divine Word to take flesh within her. Her obedience shows a proper understanding of human nature, a freedom in conformity with the Truth, a permeation of God in her life and proper recognition of right from wrong. Evangelium vitae read through the lens of the Annunciation reminds us that the culture of life is in service to the King of the Kingdom of God, who first appeared as an unborn child.


* Parts of my article are reproduced from my previous essays for the Society of St. Sebastian with permission.


[i] Interactive Map: US Abortion Policies and Access After Roe | Guttmacher Institute (last accessed July 15, 2022).

[ii] USCCB Statement on U.S. Supreme Court Ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson | USCCB (last accessed July 14, 2022).         

[iii] Steven Millies, Religion News article:

Will overturning Roe finally allow Catholics to pursue a consistent ethic of life? ( (last accessed July 14,

 2022). He highlighted these exact passages in his Twitter account.

[iv] Ocasio-Cortez: Supreme Court has ‘gone rogue’ | The Hill ; (last accessed July 15, 2022)

[v] See clip from her Twitter,  Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Twitter: "“The Supreme Court is actively delegitimizing itself. The President, Congress & the Supreme Court are supposed to be 3 coequal branches. And when any one of those branches overreaches its authority, it is the responsibility of the other to check the overreach of that authority.”" / Twitter

[vi] This is how overturning Roe v. Wade impacts the sports world ( (Last accessed July 15, 2022)

[vii] This is just one example. Jennifer Grey reflects on her abortion post-Roe: ‘I’d always wanted a child. I just didn’t want a child as a teenager’ ( (last accessed July 15, 2022)

[viii] (last accessed July 15, 2022)


abortion-bans-2022-07-11/ (last accessed July 15, 2022)

[x] For an introduction to Evangelium vitae, see J. Michael Miller, C.S.B., editor, The Encyclicals of John Paul II (Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor Press, 2001). The full text of EV can be found online at the Vatican website:

[xi] For a succinct explanation of how John Paul II understands the error and a human person, see Richard A. Spinello, The Genius of John Paul II: the Great Pope’s Moral Wisdom (Lanham, MD: Sheed & Ward, 2007), 57-88.

[xii] For an excellent synthesis of how John Paul II understands the connection between truth, freedom and responsibility, see Avery Cardinal Dulles, “John Paul II and the Truth about Freedom” First Things online edition (August 1995),

[xiii] For a systematic survey of the effects of a secular mentality on understanding a human person and culture in John Paul II, see Steven J. Meyer, “A Theocentric Vision of Culture in John Paul II”, Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: An International Journal of Interdisciplinary and Interfaith Dialogue XXIX No. ½ (2017): 71-90.

[xiv] To see how EV is part of evangelization, see Eduardo J. Echeverria, “A Great Springtime for Christianity,” in John Paul II and the New Evangelization: How You Can Bring the Good News to Others, eds., Ralph Martin and Peter Williamson (Cincinnati, OH: Servant Books, 2006), 288-95.

[xv] See Avery Cardinal Dulles, The Splendor of Faith: The Theological Vision of John Paul II  (New York: Herder & Herder 2003) p. 153.

[xvi] Dulles, The Splendor of Faith p. 156.

[xvii] Dulles, The Splendor of Faith p. 156; see John Paul II “The problem of the Constitution of culture through human praxis” in Person and Community (Peter Lang 1993).

[xviii] Dulles, The Splendor of Faith p. 156-7. 

[xix] Dulles, The Splendor of Faith p. 159. From his address in Coimbra, Portugal Address, article 6.

[xx] Anthony Napoleon, The Progressive Virus: Why You Can’t Permit It To Go Forward (Virtualbookworm: College Station, TX 2012)

[xxi] Benedict XVI, Deus caritas est, article 5. For the full text see:  

[xxii] In Evangelium vitae John Paul writes, “We can find them in an overall assessment of a cultural and moral nature, beginning with the mentality which carries the concept of subjectivity to an extreme and even distorts it, and recognizes as a subject of rights only the person who enjoys full or at least incipient autonomy and who emerges from a state of total dependence on others. But how can we reconcile this approach with the exaltation of man as a being who is "not to be used"? The theory of human rights is based precisely on the affirmation that the human person, unlike animals and things, cannot be subjected to domination by others. We must also mention the mentality which tends to equate personal dignity with the capacity for verbal and explicit, or at least perceptible, communication. It is clear that on the basis of these presuppositions there is no place in the world for anyone who, like the unborn or the dying, is a weak element in the social structure, or for anyone who appears completely at the mercy of others and radically dependent on them, and can only communicate through the silent language of a profound sharing of affection.” (EV 19) See also EV 60.

[xxiii][xxiii] Cf., Evangelium vitae 32.

[xxiv] Cf., John Paul II, Veritatis splendor 31-34; the full text can be found here:

[xxv] John Paul II, Redemptor hominis 12;; see also Avery Dulles, “The Truth About Freedom,” p. 129-30.

[xxvi] In the history of theological thought, from Tertullian through modern Popes, the freedom, that is the free will of the person, has been promoted and defended despite certain arguments for determinism and the fact that humans are fallen in nature and susceptible to error.[xxvi] St. John Damascene taught “The image of God in man means intellect, free will and power over oneself.”[xxvi] This image is badly damaged by the action of Adam who chooses what is pleasing to the senses over what he knew with his reason. The result of his freely willed act is a crippling his freedom and his meriting this defect for human nature. One aspect of the Good News is that Christ restores the image of God in us. As the New Adam he merits the graces to assist in becoming free once again. This is why St. Paul says that “Christ sets us free for freedom.” (Gal 5:1) Sin is another way to say that we abuse our freedom using our free will. By sinning we become less free.

[xxvii] Veritatis Splendor 43.2.

[xxviii] Francis Cardinal George, The Difference God Makes: A Catholic Vision of Faith, Communion, and Culture (New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 2009) p. 49.

[xxix] Dulles, Splendor of Faith, p. 190 from Karol Wojtlya, “The Personal Structure of Self-Determination” in Person and Community pp. 187-95.

[xxx] Thomas Howard,  Hallowed Be This House: Finding Signs of Heaven in Your Home (San Francisco: Ignatius Press 2012) p. 15.

[xxxi] Christianity and European Culture: Selections from the Work of Christopher Dawson Edited by Gerald J. Russello, (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1998) p. 171.

[xxxii] See Steven Meyer, “The Gospel of Life and the Roots of the Culture of Death”; ibid, “The Culture of Death and the Person,”; “Evangelium vitae and the Truth About Freedom,”

[xxxiii] This point is made by Robert M. Seltzer in the introduction. See Martin Buber, Eclipse of God: Studies in the Relation Between Religion and Philosophy (New York: Humanity Books, 1999). The original text was published in 1952.                         

[xxxiv] In his address to the Pontifical Council for the Family he again uses the image of the eclipse of God to speak of the current crisis of the family which undercuts the effectiveness of evangelization.

[xxxv] Lumen gentium article 1.

[xxxvi] Catechism of the Catholic Church article 748.

[xxxvii] See Gaudium et spes, 19-21; see also the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2125.

[xxxviii] John Paul II, General Audience

[xxxix] Gaudium et spes 36 says, “Moreover, let the laity also by their combined efforts remedy the customs and conditions of the world, if they are an inducement to sin, so that they all may be conformed to the norms of justice and may favor the practice of virtue rather than hinder it.”

[xl] Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., The Difference God Makes: A Catholic Vision of Faith, Communion, and Culture (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Co, 2009) p. 180.

[xli] Steven J. Meyer, “The Darkening of Conscience”

[xlii] Dulles, The Splendor of Faith p. 192.

[xliii] For traits of the new evangelization in John Paul II, see Avery Cardinal Dulles, Evangelization for the Third Millennium (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2009), 30-41. 

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