Dear friends and fellow European Christians,


The following is a summary of a chapter entitled “Towards a Correct Understanding of Freedom and Tolerance” by Rocco Buttiglione from the book „Exiting a Dead End Road. A GPS for Christians in Public Discourse“ published by Kairos Publications in Vienna.


Rocco Buttiglione is one of Italy’s most prominent politicians and philosophers, Professor of political science in Rom and Vice-President of the Chamber of Deputies. In 2004 he was nominated as European Commissioner but did not succeed due to a campaign of radical political groups opposed to his Christian views of family and modern society.


In his contribution to the book, he explains on the basis of the thoughts of Socrates, Max Scheler, St. Augustine, Immanuel Kant, Luther, Aristotle and the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI why freedom needs to be based on the search for truth and why real tolerance seems to evaporate from the public square. Find below a summary of his article and download the entire paper here.


Thank you for standing up for a Christian Europe and for praying with us!


Your Europe for Christ! – Team



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“Towards a Correct Understanding of Freedom and Tolerance” by Rocco Buttligione (summary)


The phenomenon of human freedom can be considered, similarly to the freedom of animals, as the ability to act according to nature. But humans, unlike all other creatures, are subject to the law of conscience, and can only be free when they obey to the inner voice of their moral conscience, which was described by Socrates for the first time as the world of values.


According to Rocco Buttiglione, “The world of values (the properly human world) is animated by the search for truth.” For man to be free, means to be able to act according to reason. Human freedom is defined in opposition to two different kinds of pressure: external coercion and internal pressure of the instinctual drives. We were born free, but also become free through the search for truth and the control of our passions.


Considering the complexity of human freedom we can speak of human freedom in two ways: the lesser freedom (the freedom of the flesh, freedom to do whatever you want), the greater freedom (the Christian freedom to do the good). And then we have the paradox of human freedom, “On the one hand freedom demands the absence of external coercion. On the other hand it requires the capacity to lead one’s own actions according to objective truth (…) Without objective truth, however, man cannot be free.”


Nowadays, when it comes to the devaluation of all values, freedom seems to be reduced only to the lesser freedom. Rocco Buttiglione explains that “if we lose the perception of the true meaning of freedom then we lose at the same time the ‘anthropological difference’, that is the element that constitutes the difference between man and all other animals, the greater freedom based upon the search for truth and the encounter for truth.”


Finally, the idea of freedom is directly connected to the idea of tolerance. The essence of freedom is freedom to tell the truth and the essence of tolerance: we must tolerate the freedom of the other of telling the truth or at least what in conscience she or he thinks to be true. But if there is no objective truth then force takes the place of truth and those who are more powerful also possess a larger share of truth.


Read here the full text by Rocco Buttiglione in English.


Towards a Correct Understanding of Freedom and Tolerance is a contribution to the publication Exiting a Dead End Road. A GPS for Christians in Public Discourse (2011, Kairos Publications, edited by Gudrun and Martin Kugler). You can buy the entire book as e-Book or hard copy – please find the description and the conditions here.