Rich Lowry

Pope John Paul believed in the connection between truth and freedom. One school of thought ? generally, liberal secularist ? has held that truth is a threat to freedom: If there is only one true way, it will inevitably squash freedom. Another school of thought ? associated with religious reactionaries ? believes that freedom represents a threat to truth because it will lead to moral relativism. The pope rejected both arguments.

The secularist view misses that freedom is grounded in truths, in the God-given dignity of man as a rational creature and in our fundamental equality. This is why the pope could say, "God created us to be free." If the idea of freedom is detached from these truths, it has no secure ground, because the strong will inevitably attempt to dominate the weak unless checked by moral truths (see slavery or segregation or communism).

The reactionary view is mistaken too, because freedom, properly ordered, is not a threat to truth. Freedom shouldn't be understood as moral anarchy, which makes freedom impossible. Truth narrows our choices. In Pope John Paul's thought, truth makes dictatorship impermissible, but also abortion and exploitation of the poor ? they all offend against human dignity.

The pope's views had a real-world test in Eastern Europe, where a commitment to truth undermined a system based on lies; a recognition of the fundamental imperatives of human dignity exposed rank injustice; and religious belief made it possible for people to brave the threats of a police state. It was Pope John Paul's faith, in turn, that gave him the convictions, the courage, and the optimism necessary to shepherd this revolution to fruition. When the chips are down, give me a freedom-loving man of faith every time.


Rich Lowry

Rich Lowry is author of Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years .
 
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