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How John Paul II reminded us that liberty and truth are inseparable

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the late John Paul II’s birth, it’s worth underscoring that one theme which permeated his pontificate from its beginning to the end was that of truth.

Many remember Pope John Paul II as playing a crucial role in Eastern Europe’s liberation from Marxist tyranny. But he also insisted that liberty needed to be grounded in and guided by the truth knowable via reason and faith. If freedom and truth become separated—as they most certainly have in many people’s minds in our own time—we not only end up with an unhealthy and dangerous association of liberty with moral relativism. We also open the door to those who claim that the truth is whatever the most powerful or the loudest say it is.

This idea was most thoroughly explored by the late pope in what I regard as his important encyclical, Veritatis Splendor [The Splendor of Truth] (1993). But the particular implications of this theme for the economy and the relationship between economics and culture were discussed at length in John Paul’s 1991 social encyclical Centesimus Annus.

At a 1996 conference sponsored by the Acton Institute, the Jesuit priest and theologian Avery Dulles (the convert son of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and nephew of CIA director Allen Dulles) delivered a paper which, in my estimation, was particularly incisive in its treatment of Centesimus Annus’s analysis of the relationship between liberty, truth, culture and the economy. Entitled “Centesimus Annus and the Renewal of Culture” and later published in the Journal of Markets and Morality, the theologian who would later be made a cardinal by John Paul II in 2001 underscored that if market economies are not rooted in a culture that took philosophical and religious truth seriously, economic life can generate some decidedly mixed results.

Read more at Acton

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