Catholic Church's Understanding of Freedom

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The Catholic understanding of freedom bestows a judicious response to an innumerable number of social pressures which contradict it. From a Catholic perspective, all people are vested with a free will, giving them the ability to choose good and discard bad. If people use this freedom correctly and choose good, they will ultimately achieve long-term happiness, one of the most basic human yearnings. This is quite the opposite to the secular understanding of freedom, which states ‘if it feels good, do it’, incorrectly implying that choosing bad may actually be good in some cases. Three social pressures which challenge the Catholic understanding of freedom includes the mass media, peer pressure and the use of pornographic material. The Catholic Church responds to these pressures through Commandments, moral principles, beatitudes, and the teachings on virtues.

The mass media often promotes certain social values, attitudes and expectations that are not necessarily life-giving, often restricting people from achieving freedom in their lives and violating some of God’s most basic moral principles. According to the Catholic Church, “The mass media can give rise to a certain passivity among users, making them less than vigilant consumers of what is said or shown” (CCC, par. 2496). This means that the media often forces people into accepting immoral things as the ‘norm’, virtually removing a level of consciousness from them as they feel obliged to follow what is portrayed to them. The Catholic Church recommends that in order to avoid these pressures, “users should practice moderation and discipline in their approach to mass media” (CCC, par. 2496). This tells us, that, due to the manipulating capabilities of the media, people should limit the amount of time viewing media sources and ensure that when they do, they are disciplined in understanding whether something they are shown is morally right or wrong behavior in order to live a devout Christian life of freedom. Celebrities in the media often portray an image which many people often adopt in their lives in the hope of being seen as ‘cool’ or ‘popular’. In 2015, Donald Trump, the person of whom many Americans look up to as their leader, mocked a disabled reporter on live television. According to the Washington Post (2017), “‘You’ve got to see this guy’, [Donald Trump] said before jerking his arms spastically”. Although some people may be able to easily recognize that this is immoral behavior and avoid it in their lives, others may be confused by moral principles and think that it is ‘cool’, replicating it in their lives in an attempt to become more popular. This directly violates Genesis 1:26, which states that humans were created in God’s own ‘image’ and ‘likeness’. This ultimately prevents people from achieving freedom on the basis that they are trying to lead a life which belongs to someone else, and the fact that they will regret these immoral things later in life, leading them to a life of miserable isolation and unhappiness.

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Peer pressures can prevent people from attaining freedom in their lives as it discourages them from making their own choices and rather encourages them to follow others, ultimately preventing them from being their own person. These pressures are often placed on people with certain criteria of what is cool or popular. This often includes things such as fashion: what people should wear and how they should present themselves. The Catholic Church responds to these pressures by saying that people should exercise modesty in such situations, because “modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies” (CCC, par. 2523). Modesty involves staying true to oneself and being your own person, allowing people to avoid the pressures of others and give them the strength to live a free life. The Bible also tells us that “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29), and Solomon, the son of David, says, “My child, if sinners entice you, do not consent” (Proverbs 1:10). Therefore, according to the Catholic Church and its teachings, we must refrain, through the use of the virtue of modesty, from all peer pressures in order to live a life of freedom.

The use of pornographic material can ultimately result in the loss of freedom in the consumer as it encourages addictive behaviors and can stir strong feelings of lust in them, one of the seven deadly vices, violating some of God’s most straight forward moral principles and preventing a free life. According to a survey carried out by Huffpost (2014), 50% of religious men and 20% of religious women stated that they were addicted to pornography, quite a disturbing statistic for the freedom of these individuals. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells: “Pornography consists in removing real of simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity as it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors and the public). It is a grave offence. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials” (CCC, par. 2354). Pornography can stir strong feelings of lust in its users and lead them to decadence as they begin to treat others as sex objects rather than human beings. The Catholic Church teaches that “purity of heart brings freedom from widespread eroticism and avoids entertainment inclined to voyeurism and illusion” (CCC, par. 2525). This correlates to the sixth beatitude: “Blessed are those who are pure in heart, for they shall see God’s face”, as those who are pure in heart are able to see all that is good in life and avoid evil. The Catholic Church also teaches us that pornography directly violates the sixth and ninth commandments of God (“You shall not commit adultery”; “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife”), as participants are exploiting the bodies and sexual expression of others for their own pleasure, rather than for the unitive and procreative purposes of marriage.

In order to achieve freedom, the Catholic Church teaches that people must use their free will to destroy any internal or external pressures which may influence the way that we behave and reduce our ability to live a free life. People who do so will ultimately lead a life of long-term happiness, eventually uniting themselves with God the Father in Heaven. People must ensure that when they are in search for this freedom that they do not follow the secular understanding ‘if it feels good do it’, as this may result in them giving way to strong emotions influenced by social pressures and make a bad decision. Although these decisions may feel good in the short-term, they will indefinitely lead to regret, unhappiness and an absence of freedom later in life. The mass media, peer pressures and pornographic material are examples of these social pressures which violate the Catholic understanding of freedom. The Catholic Church responds to these pressures through the Commandments, moral principles, teachings on virtues and the beatitudes. Saint Paul tells us that in order to protect our freedom, we must “…not be conceived; bad company ruins good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

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Catholic Church’s Understanding of Freedom. (2023, September 08). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 20, 2024, from
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