Human freedom is the possibility of self-determination as opposed to dependence on the power and compulsion of others: negatively, "being free from " (a certain unfetteredness in relation to other things and to oneself: detachment, separation); positively, "being free to " (ability to dispose of other things and of oneself: power, dominion). Being human, freedom is never absolute and unlimited but relative and in many respects limited; but it is precisely thus that it displays its various levels and forms. Intellectual freedom (in contrast to more practical specifications of it, such as freedom of will, choice, decision, action) means in general terms freedom of the intellect, of thought, of the mind in general, and thus insofar as every man is a spiritual being, it is a capability and a right of every man; it has further the special meaning of the freedom of intellectuals, those whose work is principally of the mind, and is thus, insofar as such men are in the special service of truth and beauty, a capability and right precisely of scholars (working in the natural sciences and other intellectual fields), artists, and writers. Insofar as intellectual freedom is especially called for within a university, in teachers and students, in research, teaching, and study, it is called academic freedom (from Plato's school of philosophy in the grove of the hero Academus).
History. The whole history of the human mind is a history of the freedom of the mind, constantly realized anew in new historical situations and forms. But when freedom of the mind, intellectual freedom, appears as a program, a social and indeed political demand, a right of the individual person over against State, Church, and society, its history has to be seen against the background of something with a wider content, human rights, those inalienable rights, because inseparably bound up with the dignity of the human person, to recognition and respect for the essential conditions of its existence. The prehistory of these rights reaches back not only to the secularized ideas of the English and French enlightenment about natural rights, the right to freedom of conscience, of Calvinist inspiration, and scholastic natural law (Thomas Aquinas, Francisco de Vitoria), but right back to Greek antiquity (Stoa) and to the preaching of the New Testament (man as the image of god and as set free into the freedom of the children of God). Constitutional demands in this field, which had to some extent been asserted in England from the 17th century and largely implemented, were consolidated and given an explicit basis in natural law in the Bill of Rights of Virginia in 1776, the first specialized catalogue of universal human and civil rights (note especially article 1 on personal freedom and equality, article 12 on freedom of the press, and article 16 on freedom of conscience and freedom of religion). While the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, 1776, contains a sentence in general terms on the rights of man, the Déclaration des droits de l'homme of the French National Assembly, 1789, treats the matter at length; article 11 is of great importance in relation to this particular subject: "La libre communication des pensées et des opinions est un des droits les plus précieux de l'homme; tout citoyen peut donc parler, écrire, imprimer librement, sauf à répondre de l’abus de cette liberté dans les cas déterminés par la loi." Thence derive similar statements in all modern constitutions, including finally the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights: article 18—"Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance"; article 19— "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." Finally, there is the requirement laid down by Pope John XXIII in his encyclical pacem in terris: "By the natural law, every human being has the right to freedom in searching for truth and in expressing and communicating his opinions, and in pursuit of art, within the limits laid down by the moral order and the common good. And he has the right to be informed truthfully about public events."
Theological Basis. The Church, aiming to orientate itself by the gospel, has not less but more reason than the thinkers proceeding from the idea of natural law not only to set a theoretically high value on human freedom in every context but also to realize it in practice to the greatest possible extent. The gospel of Jesus Christ is meant, indeed, to bring man true freedom. But man cannot achieve it himself. Man in the concrete just does not live as the Stoics' sovereign being of pure reason, capable of following the law of reason, but finds himself constantly in bondage and fettered to the things and powers of this world and, above all, to himself: "For I do not do the good that I wish, but the evil that I do not wish, that I perform …. Unhappy man that I am! Who will deliver mefrom the body of this death?" (Rom 7.19, 24). God through Jesus Christ (Rom 7.25) helps man, the unfree, to cancel out his own slavish, sinful self and win a new, free self: "For freedom Christ has made us free" (Gal4.31; cf. Jn 8.36).
Thus the basis and origin of man's freedom does not lie in man himself, he being by nature the slave of sin, but in the freedom of God, the freedom of His grace setting man free in Christ. This freedom is made present by the Spirit: "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (2 Cor 3.17). Freedom from what and for what? Freedom from the slavery of sin for God's saving grace; from the oppressive compulsion of the Law for the gospel, the liberating message of God's reign and the salvation of man in faith and service of his neighbor; from the annihilating power of death for eternal life in God's glory, in the "glorious freedom of the children of God" (Rom 8.21). For the Christian who desires to be given this freedom, everything depends on his not wanting to dispose, by his own power, of himself but letting God, the liberator, dispose of him: in trusting faith and self-giving love for God and his fellow men.
The Church, as the community of these who are truly free in Christ, is by no means a colony on earth of citizens of heaven without interest in conditions in this world. Rather, it takes part, though with prudent detachment, in the trade and traffic of the world (1 Cor 7.29–31), rejoices with those who rejoice and weeps with those who weep (Rom 12.15). It is required to practice obedience toward secular authority (Rom 13.1–7) and be socially constructive itself by settling the various conflicts within it (1 Cor ch. 5–7) and building everything up in a love that is not limited to its own community, but is, in principle, without limits (1 Cor ch. 8–14). In this active love of neighbor in the world and for the world, which comes from the love of God, there is revealed the real and not merely notional freedom of Christians and of their Church (cf. Rom8.31–39). How far it goes is shown by Augustine's ama, et fac quod vis (love, and do what you will).
Precisely as being a gift from God, ever newly given, freedom is at the same time a task for man, to be ever newly conquered—not only in the world but also in the Church. It was necessary even in Paul's time for him to intervene energetically in the Church on behalf of freedom as lived by the individual person and individual group: against, for instance, the traditionalist legalism of the Jewish Christians, who wished to impose the prescriptions of their Law on the Gentile Christians (Gal), and against the arrogance of those who passed judgment on others' personal decisions of faith and conscience (Romans ch. 14; 1 Cor ch. 8 and 10). In all this, Paul never means unbridled willfulness, in which the individual, in simulated freedom, proposes himself as his own god, but true freedom, which is freedom in order (1 Cor 14.33, 40; cf. Rom 8.2). True freedom, coming from love, does not destroy but constructs, in the service of one's neighbor and of the community.
Historical Realization. The freedom of Christians and of the Church in the New Testament cannot simply be copied. Rather, it must be realized anew, historically, in new forms within each historical situation. Over and over again this will assuredly call for a struggle against lovelessness, servility, cowardice, power politics, force, hypocrisy, and, above all, against fear, and a struggle for a loving readiness for self-sacrifice, candor, courage, magnanimity, and tolerance. But this struggle takes different forms in the age of the Roman persecutions and in that of the Christian Byzantine Empire, in the theocratic High Middle Ages and in the time of the absolutist princes of the Enlightenment. In the present age, which is one not only of democracy but also of overt or covert totalitarianism in East and West, the manifold realization of freedom, and of intellectual freedom in particular, in the Church (and especially in theology) is of special importance. What is involved in intellectual freedom in the Church of today?
(1) Freedom of thought and research: the right to dedicate oneself without hindrance to the discovery of truth and to form a personal opinion or conviction in accordance with the results of research (freedom of opinion, freedom of conscience). (2) freedom of speech and teaching: the right, without hindrance, to put forward one's own scholarly opinions and convictions, in private and public (and especially in academic form). (3) Freedom to write and to publish: the right, without hindrance, to disseminate one's own scholarly convictions and opinions in written form (freedom of the press).
Practical norms: (1) The only norm in any intellectual activity must be, not an externally imposed law, but solely the truth; fear of the truth is unworthy of a Christian. (2) Every intellectual, in self-critical service of the truth, will be on his guard against premature conclusions and intellectual pride. (3) All fields of learning, and equally the authority of the State and the teaching authority of the Church, have to refrain strictly from overstepping their own frontiers. (4) For the good of one's neighbor and for the sake of the community (whether of State or Church) limitations of freedom are possible, but never according to the principle of totalitarianism: freedom as far as necessary, restraint as far as possible; but always according to the principle of subsidiarity, which applies in the Catholic Church: freedom as far as possible, restraint as far as necessary.
See Also: freedom, intellectual (in the church); intellectual life.
Bibliography: Liberté et vérité, ed. professors of the University of Louvain (Louvain 1964). "Reading on Book Selection and Intellectual Freedom 1954–1961," comp. r. w. gregory, American Library Association Bulletin 56 (February 1962) 145–49. m. feltin et al., Christianity and Freedom (London 1955). a. hartman, Bindung und Freiheit des katholischen Denkens (Frankfurt 1952). h. kÜng, The Council, Reform and Reunion, tr. c. hastings (New York 1962); "The Church and Freedom," Commonweal 78 (1963) 343–53; Freedom To-day (New York 1966). j. c. murray, We Hold These Truths (New York 1960). d. a. o'connell, Christian Liberty (Westminster, Md. 1952). k. rahner, Free Speech in the Church (New York 1959); Theological Investigations, v.2, tr. k. h. kruger (Baltimore 1964). Freedom and Man, ed. j. c. murray (New York 1965).