Freedom in Society

Archbishop Ullathorne in his book Endowments of Man enumerates three freedoms which individual human persons possess: “A man is corporally free in proportion to the space over which he can freely move. . . . He is mentally free in proportion to the breadth and elevation of the sphere of truth in which he can think. He is morally free in proportion to the grandeur and elevation of that justice to which his will can conform its actions.”

Moral freedom has both an interior and an exterior component. He states in his Groundwork of the Christian Virtues: “Our external conduct is the weather-glass that indicates the interior temper and condition of the soul.”

On our conduct in society, he writes: “Whatever be a man’s conduct in political or social life, all men judge of that conduct by certain moral principles of right and wrong. If that man is not a Christian, they judge his words and actions by the natural moral law, by the law of natural human conscience; but if he be a Christian, then his conduct towards his fellow-man and towards his country is also judged by the Christian law. Thus it is a maxim of the common law of England that Christianity is part and parcel of it. And as both the natural and the Christian law are lights of the conscience, and laws which a man carries in his breast, both resting on the authority of God, and making us accountable to His Divine Majesty, so both these laws are of a religious character, and the Church at all times authoritatively expounds and enforces them. Thus, the Ten Commandments belong both to the natural and the revealed law. (Pastoral Letter of March 23, 1865)

Finally, he offers this sobering thought: “If we read history by the light which the prophets of Scripture throw upon it, we shall find that nations and countries have been generally punished in the very point on which they most prided themselves, and on which they relied for security and permanence.” (Advent Pastoral Letter of 1879)

Quotations from Michael F. Glancey, Characteristics From the Writings of Archbishop Ullathorne (London: Burns & Oates, 1889).

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