Life in Christ
and responsibility for an action can be dimin-
ished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit,
inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors.
Every act directly willed is imputable to its author:
Thus the Lord asked Eve after the sin in the garden: “What is this
that you have done?”
He asked Cain the same question.
Nathan questioned David in the same way after he committed adultery
with the wife of Uriah and had him murdered.
An action can be indirectly voluntary when it results from negli-
gence regarding something one should have known or done: for example,
an accident arising from ignorance of traffic laws.
An effect can be tolerated without being willed by its agent; for
instance, a mother’s exhaustion from tending her sick child. A bad effect
is not imputable if it was not willed either as an end or as a means of an
action, e.g., a death a person incurs in aiding someone in danger. For a bad
effect to be imputable it must be foreseeable and the agent must have the
possibility of avoiding it, as in the case of manslaughter caused by a
Freedom is exercised in relationships between human be-
ings. Every human person, created in the image of God, has the
natural right to be recognized as a free and responsible being. All
owe to each other this duty of respect. The
right to the exercise of
especially in moral and religious matters, is an inalienable
requirement of the dignity of the human person. This right must
be recognized and protected by civil authority within the limits of
the common good and public order.
Freedom and sin.
Man’s freedom is limited and fallible. In
fact, man failed. He freely sinned. By refusing God’s plan of love,
he deceived himself and became a slave to sin. This first alienation
engendered a multitude of others. From its outset, human history
attests the wretchedness and oppression born of the human heart
in consequence of the abuse of freedom.
2 § 7.