Chapter 3: Freedom and the Moral Act




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Chapter 3: Freedom and the Moral Act

OUR MORAL LIFE IN CHRIST

1. Introduction to Freedom and the Moral Act (pp. 54–56)

ANTICIPATORY SET

 

A fifteen year old boy became an atheist because he did not believe anymore that God existed. He was sad that life was meaningless and that death would mean the end of him forever. For a while, he was consoled by the thought that because there was no God, there also was no moral law and he could do anything he wanted. The ironic thing he discovered was that nothing seemed to be worth doing anymore.

 
  • Write for a few minutes on what you think of this teen’s experience.



1. Introduction to Freedom and the Moral Act (pp. 54–56)

BASIC QUESTIONS
  • What is true freedom?

  • What is the difference between freedom of indifference and freedom of excellence?

  • What are the two motives for living a Christian moral life?

  • What is the relationship between moral action and freedom?

 

KEY IDEAS
  • True freedom is not doing whatever you want but doing what you ought.

  • Freedom of indifference is choosing between contraries, usually good and evil. Freedom of excellence is the power to act freely in the pursuit of human perfection and everlasting joy.

  • Love and fear of consequences are respectively perfect and imperfect valid motivations for obeying the moral law.

  • Good moral actions make us freer; bad moral actions make us a slave to our sin.



1. Introduction to Freedom and the Moral Act (pp. 54–56)

FOCUS QUESTIONS

 

What is at the very heart of the human person’s exalted place in creation?

It is the freedom to make moral choices, or “free will.”

 

What is a common misunderstanding of free will?

The idea that free will is “the freedom to do whatever one wants” is erroneous.

 

What is the authentic meaning of free will?

It is “freedom to do what one ought.”

 

Why did God endow us with this freedom?

We can willingly choose to return his love and love others as he has loved us.

1. Introduction to Freedom and the Moral Act (pp. 54–56)

FOCUS QUESTIONS

 

What are reasons Christians try to live a moral life?

Love of God and neighbor is a perfect motivation for living a moral life. Fear of the consequences of immoral actions is an imperfect but still valid motivation.

 

What gives freedom to a Christian?

Good moral actions make us freer; bad moral actions make us a slave to our sin.

1. Introduction to Freedom and the Moral Act (pp. 54–56)

GUIDED EXERCISE

 

Focused reading on the paragraph about Servais Pinckaers (p. 54) based on the following question:
  • What are the two types of freedom Pinckaers distinguishes?



1. Introduction to Freedom and the Moral Act (pp. 54–56)

GUIDED EXERCISE

 

Perform a paragraph shrink on the paragraph beginning “Even for the most devout believer...” (p. 55).

1. Introduction to Freedom and the Moral Act (pp. 54–56)

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT

 
  • Study Questions 1–6 (p. 69)

  • Practical Exercise 10 (p. 71)

  • Workbook Question 1

  • Read “The Moral Life” through “The Moral Act” (pp. 56–58)



1. Introduction to Freedom and the Moral Act (pp. 54–56)

CLOSURE

 

Free write for five minutes on what you consider the most attractive idea presented in this lesson.

1. Introduction to Freedom and the Moral Act (pp. 54–56)

ALTERNATIVE ASSESSMENT

 

Discuss the following questions:
  • Which form of freedom do you think is more attractive to most people: the freedom to do whatever you want or the freedom to do what you ought?

  • Which one do you think is ultimately more fulfilling?



2. Moral Life and The Moral Act (pp. 56–58)

ANTICIPATORY SET

 

Identify in writing one moral act you have already performed today and one act that does not qualify as a moral act. Explain why the act was either a moral act or not a moral act.

2. Moral Life and The Moral Act (pp. 56–58)

BASIC QUESTIONS
  • Why are human beings necessarily moral agents?

  • What is the nature of the moral act?

KEY IDEAS
  • Every human person faces moral decisions, has the necessary free will to make moral decisions, and is morally responsible for his or her own moral acts.

  • A moral act involves both deliberation and choice, has a moral content, and affects the character of the person who acts.



2. Moral Life and The Moral Act (pp. 56–58)

FOCUS QUESTIONS

 

What is some of the evidence that morality is a universal struggle?

Literature, philosophy, history, and the development of law testify that morality is a universal struggle at the very core of human experience.

 

What does it mean to say every person has the necessary free will to make moral decisions?

Every person has the ability to choose what is good and right or what is evil and wrong. Every person has the natural law written in his or her heart so he or she knows good from evil.

Why is a person responsible for his or her actions?

The interplay between the mind, which evaluates the choices set before us, and the will, which makes the choice, makes us responsible for our actions.

2. Moral Life and The Moral Act (pp. 56–58)

GUIDED EXERCISE

 

Perform a paragraph shrink on the excerpt from Aristotle’s Politics (p. 58).

2. Moral Life and The Moral Act (pp. 56–58)

GUIDED EXERCISE

 

Think/Pair/Share on the following question:
  • Given that every moral act takes us closer to or farther from God, why is Confession such a great gift?



2. Moral Life and The Moral Act (pp. 56–58)

FOCUS QUESTIONS

 

What is a moral act?

Any action that results from a deliberate choice between good and evil or between different degrees of goodness is a moral act.

 

What is not a moral act?

Any thoughtless, unpremeditated act is not a moral act. Acts taken under duress or threat of force are not moral acts. Purely physical acts like breathing are not moral acts.

2. Moral Life and The Moral Act (pp. 56–58)

FOCUS QUESTIONS

 

What do moral acts do to the person who commits them?

They express and determine the good or evil of the person who performs them.

 

What is the cumulative effect of our moral acts?

They form character, either leaving us better or worse off, closer to or farther from God.

2. Moral Life and The Moral Act (pp. 56–58)

GUIDED EXERCISE

 

Think/Pair/Share on the following question:
  • When can a physical act like yawning be a moral act?



2. Moral Life and The Moral Act (pp. 56–58)

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT

 
  • Study Questions 7–14 (p. 69)

  • Practical Exercises 1–2 (p. 71)

  • Workbook Questions 2–7

  • Read “Knowledge and Moral Responsibility” and “How Ignorant Are You?” (pp. 58–60)



2. Moral Life and The Moral Act (pp. 56–58)

CLOSURE

 

Write a paragraph summarizing why we are moral agents and what makes our acts moral.

2. Moral Life and The Moral Act (pp. 56–58)

ALTERNATIVE ASSESSMENT

 

Turn to and read Practical Exercise 1. Respond for five minutes in writing. Then discuss how different society would have to be if people were not responsible for their actions.

3. Knowledge and Moral Responsibility (pp. 58–60)

ANTICIPATORY SET

 

Rank the following four moral acts based on the responsibility of the persons who commit them as determined by their level of knowledge. Put the least responsible person first and the most responsible person last.
  • A lawyer who commits perjury.

  • A lone witness to an auto accident who injures a victim by giving improper first aid.

  • A six year old who lies about not having homework.

  • A medical resident who gives a wrong prescription after working thirty six straight hours.



3. Knowledge and Moral Responsibility (pp. 58–60)

BASIC QUESTIONS
  • What is the relationship between knowledge and moral responsibility?

  • What should one who has moral doubts do?

  • What is the difference between vincible and invincible ignorance?

 

KEY IDEAS
  • Knowledge and moral responsibility are related in that the more knowledge one possesses the more morally responsible one is for his or her actions. This is why well formed Christians have the greatest moral responsibility. Knowledge increases the virtue of a good action, and ignorance decreases the sinfulness of a bad action.

  • If one has a doubt about the morality of an action, he or she has an obligation to resolve it by gathering more information.

  • Vincible ignorance is when we do not know something we ought to know. Invincible ignorance is when we do not know something impossible for us to know. One is not morally culpable for acts performed when one is invincibly ignorant.



3. Knowledge and Moral Responsibility (pp. 58–60)

FOCUS QUESTIONS

 

Why is everyone accountable for his or her behavior?

Every individual has, at minimum, an innate grasp of the standards of correct behavior.

 

Why do Christians have a greater responsibility for their moral behavior than others?

An adult is more responsible for telling a lie than a child because the adult ought to know better. Similarly, a Christian ought to know what he or she should do better than others who have not received Christian moral formation.

 

What do we have the obligation to do if we suspect an action might be wrong?

We have the obligation to resolve that doubt by gathering correct information.

3. Knowledge and Moral Responsibility (pp. 58–60)

FOCUS QUESTIONS

 

How can knowledge make an act more virtuous?

Knowledge can increase the goodness of the act. For example, if I give to a charity out of a desire to look good, I am not as virtuous as if I give because I understand that it is good to give to charity and this particular charity is a good cause.

 

How does ignorance exonerate one from culpability?

Partial ignorance lessens the moral culpability of an evil act. Complete ignorance completely removes moral responsibility.

3. Knowledge and Moral Responsibility (pp. 58–60)

GRAPHIC ORGANIZER

 

Use the following table to clarify factors that lessen or remove moral fault.

3. Knowledge and Moral Responsibility (pp. 58–60)



3. Knowledge and Moral Responsibility (pp. 58–60)

GUIDED EXERCISE

 

Write a one sentence definition for vincible ignorance and invincible ignorance.

3. Knowledge and Moral Responsibility (pp. 58–60)

GUIDED EXERCISE

 

Think/Pair/Share on the following question:
  • Just because a person is not morally responsible for something he has done, does that lessen the harm that resulted? Give an example.



3. Knowledge and Moral Responsibility (pp. 58–60)

FOCUS QUESTION

 

Why is the analogy of the deer hunter in the woods a good analogy of the need to resolve doubts?

If the hunter simply fires into rustling bushes, he might shoot another hunter.

3. Knowledge and Moral Responsibility (pp. 58–60)

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT

 
  • Study Questions 15–20 (p. 69)

  • Practical Exercises 3–4 (p. 71)

  • Workbook Questions 8–13

  • Read “The Gift of Human Freedom” through “Several Aspects of Human Freedom” (sections a–d) (pp. 61–63)



3. Knowledge and Moral Responsibility (pp. 58–60)

ALTERNATIVE ASSESSMENT

 

Revisit the Anticipatory Set of this lesson. Would you revise your ranking in light of what you have learned?

4. The Gift of Human Freedom and Aspects of Human Freedom (part one) (pp. 61–63)

ANTICIPATORY SET

 

Read Supplementary Reading 1 (p. 67), the selection from “Walden Two” by B. F. Skinner. Try to explain what is wrong with Skinner’s argument that denies freedom.

4. The Gift of Human Freedom and Aspects of Human Freedom (part one) (pp. 61–63)

BASIC QUESTIONS
  • What is the relationship between freedom, love, self giving, and self mastery?

  • Why does human freedom become perfect when it is directed toward God?

  • What limits human freedom?

  • What is the relationship between freedom and responsibility?

 

KEY IDEAS
  • To truly love as Christ loves involves the gift of oneself to another. To give oneself, one must have freedom. To be free, one must have self mastery.

  • Human freedom attains its perfection when it is directed toward God.

  • Human freedom is limited to what is good and to the unique circumstances of each individual’s life.

  • There is no such thing as a freedom that is independent of responsibility.



4. The Gift of Human Freedom and Aspects of Human Freedom (part one) (pp. 61–63)

FOCUS QUESTIONS

 

Why must love, by its very nature, be freely given?

Love, by its nature, is a gift of oneself to another. If it is taken or required, then it is no longer a free gift.

 

Why does self giving require self mastery?

The self giving that is real love is often hard and requires overcoming laziness, selfishness, sensuality, stinginess, and so on.

 

What is an example of abuse of freedom leading to slavery?

Someone who watches Internet pornography loses his or her freedom not to watch pornography and not to regard sexuality in a perverse way. Someone who is always giving in to anger becomes an angry person who reacts to every setback with anger rather than patience or a sense of humor.

4. The Gift of Human Freedom and Aspects of Human Freedom (part one) (pp. 61–63)

FOCUS QUESTIONS

 

How are weaknesses, temptations, and temperaments, which affect our behavior, radically different from being conditioned or predetermined in our behavior?

The first three affect our behavior and are part of the human condition. Being conditioned or predetermined in our behavior are denials of human freedom, doctrines to be rejected.

 

What do sincerity, authenticity, and being at peace with oneself mean?

Sincerity is really meaning what you say. Authenticity means really being who you are. Being at peace means accepting yourself for who you are and what you have chosen.

 

According to St. Paul, how is every person a “slave” to someone or something?

We can be either slaves of sin, which leads to death, or slaves in obedience to the moral law, which leads to eternal life.

4. The Gift of Human Freedom and Aspects of Human Freedom (part one) (pp. 61–63)

GUIDED EXERCISE

 

Think/Pair/Share on the following question:
  • How does human society show its belief that we are responsible for our actions? List several examples.



4. The Gift of Human Freedom and Aspects of Human Freedom (part one) (pp. 61–63)

FOCUS QUESTIONS

 

What limits human freedom?

Freedom is limited by what is good and by our individual circumstances.

 

How is freedom part of our human nature?

Freedom is a gift God gave us when he created our human nature and is something for which we can be grateful.

4. The Gift of Human Freedom and Aspects of Human Freedom (part one) (pp. 61–63)

GUIDED EXERCISE

 

Think/Pair/Write/Share on the following question:
  • Freedom means the right to choose. If Christians are supposed to choose God’s will, then how can one say that Christians are truly free?



4. The Gift of Human Freedom and Aspects of Human Freedom (part one) (pp. 61–63)

GRAPHIC ORGANIZER

 

Complete the following table to “deconstruct” the paragraph beginning, “Free will is a powerful gift...” (p. 62).

4. The Gift of Human Freedom and Aspects of Human Freedom (part one) (pp. 61–63)



4. The Gift of Human Freedom and Aspects of Human Freedom (part one) (pp. 61–63)

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT

 
  • Study Questions 21–29 (pp. 69–70)

  • Practical Exercises 5–8 (p. 71)

  • Workbook Questions 14–20

  • Read “Several Aspects of Human Freedom” (sections e–g) through “Conclusion” (pp. 63–66)



4. The Gift of Human Freedom and Aspects of Human Freedom (part one) (pp. 61–63)

CLOSURE

 

Write a paragraph summarizing the relationship between freedom, love, self giving, and self mastery.

4. The Gift of Human Freedom and Aspects of Human Freedom (part one) (pp. 61–63)

ALTERNATIVE ASSESSMENT

Work in small groups to analyze the following poem:

Batter my heart, three person’d God; for you

As yet but knock; breathe, shine, and seek to mend;

That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend

Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.

I, like an usurp’d town, to another due,

Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.

Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,

But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.

4. The Gift of Human Freedom and Aspects of Human Freedom (part one) (pp. 61–63)

ALTERNATIVE ASSESSMENT (cont.)
  • What is the speaker asking God to do in terms of the speaker’s freedom?

  • Is the speaker’s idea of Christian freedom in agreement with the Catholic notions presented in this lesson?



5. Aspects of Human Freedom (part two) (pp. 63–66)

ANTICIPATORY SET

 

Work with a partner to identify what Peter Kreeft means by being “condemned to freedom” (Supplementary Reading 2, p. 67), then write individual notes to God on how you feel about being required to have “the responsibility of making moral choices and living with the results.”

5. Aspects of Human Freedom (part two) (pp. 63–66)

BASIC QUESTIONS
  • What is the origin of moral evil?

  • What is the relationship between grace and freedom?

  • How does the moral law enhance freedom?

 

KEY IDEAS
  • The origin of moral evil is the free decision of man to reject God's moral law.

  • God’s grace, which makes it possible for us to follow his plan, is not imposed on us but must be freely received.

  • The moral law enhances our freedom by giving us self control, which increases our dignity. Perfect freedom is expressed in the ability to make and carry out correct moral decisions.



5. Aspects of Human Freedom (part two) (pp. 63–66)

GUIDED EXERCISE

 

Focused reading of the passage from Veritatis Splendor 35 (p. 64) using the following Focus Question:
  • What is wrong with the “current” idea that the individual determines truth?

 

Follow up by discussing the following question:
  • What is the correct relationship between moral truth and freedom?



5. Aspects of Human Freedom (part two) (pp. 63–66)

GUIDED EXERCISE

 

Reread section (e) “God Respects Our Freedom” (p. 63) and work with a partner to build a concise argument for why it is man, not God, who is responsible for human evil.

5. Aspects of Human Freedom (part two) (pp. 63–66)

FOCUS QUESTIONS

 

Why did Christ die for our sins?

He died so every person might enjoy the fullness of freedom and reach everlasting life.

 

What are the effects of the graces we receive through the Sacraments?

Through the grace of God, the person is enlightened about how to follow Christ and strengthened to perform actions that fulfill God’s plan.

5. Aspects of Human Freedom (part two) (pp. 63–66)

FOCUS QUESTIONS

 

Does grace diminish freedom?

No. Grace helps us to see the truth more clearly and gives us the strength to conquer our passions, so we can gradually align our will with God’s will.

 

How do we align our will with God’s will?

By obeying the promptings of grace, we grow in inner freedom and confidence.

 

How is man radically different from the rest of living creation on earth?

Only man can forge his destiny for good or evil.

5. Aspects of Human Freedom (part two) (pp. 63–66)

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT

 
  • Study Questions 30–35 (p. 70)

  • Practical Exercises 9, 11 (p. 71)

  • Workbook Questions 21–24



5. Aspects of Human Freedom (part two) (pp. 63–66)

CLOSURE

 

Pick one of the regimes or ideologies of death, hatred, or falsehood that we examined in Lesson 1 of Chapter 2 and write a paragraph explaining why it would be wrong to blame what was done on God.

5. Aspects of Human Freedom (part two) (pp. 63–66)

ALTERNATIVE ASSESSMENT

Much of what we have looked at in this chapter has to do with the desire of some people to make their freedom the most important value.

The other side of the coin is for people to willingly choose a lack of freedom. Donne’s poem, Batter My Heart, Three Person’d God asks God to overcome the speaker’s own freedom.

Get into groups of three or four to discuss Practical Exercise 11 on man’s (occasional) desire to have God limit his freedom.

The End



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