The human person knows by nature that there is a certain code by which he must live. Man also knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that he wants to be happy. As fallen human beings, we often sense a strain between the natural law and our innermost need for happiness. In the world today there are many moral theories that try to address this issue by divorcing freedom from truth, separating the actual acts of the human person from his moral status, or even by justifying intrinsic evil because “one’s own conscience” condoned it, or because it “fits” with one’s developing culture. All these issues show two very interesting and integral aspects of man’s character: 1) man is not at rest, but is anxiously seeking an answer to that voice calling, beckoning to him, whether he acknowledges God’s creative act in his life or not; and 2) man also necessarily recognizes (at least implicitly) that he is so aware of the necessity of fulfilling the natural law that he goes to great lengths to justify his position, clearly demonstrating that every person knows deeply in his heart that the need to live a good moral life is essential to our human nature. But in order to assess whether living the natural law really inhibits man’s freedom, we must first consider: what is his human freedom for, and how does man’s conscience function to determine what he will freely choose? Is moral truth merely relative, or does the conscience serve as a judge of a universal standard? If God created man in His own image and likeness, surely the natural law written in our hearts points us to the fundamental reality: man was created for the purpose of happiness, which he may obtain, if he but use his freedom to live in accordance with the truth.
In the world today, there are many theological theories that distinguish a man’s actions from his moral status, “detaching human freedom from its essential and constitutive relationship to truth.”
As St. Pope John Paul II wrote,
Indeed, something more serious has happened: man is no longer convinced that only in the truth can he find salvation. The saving power of the truth is contested, and freedom alone, uprooted from any objectivity, is left to decide by itself what is good and what is evil.
This kind of mentality sharply contradicts the human person, whom God created in perfect love and order with Himself. He who is Truth, desiring our happiness, created man to be happy when he lives in the fullness of his purpose, choosing to act in accordance with the right order of the natural law. Clearly, the idea that certain acts do not contribute to the person’s moral make-up because they are “pre-moral” is not in keeping with any of the teachings of Christ or the early Church: “The Apostles decisively rejected any separation between the commitment of the heart and the actions which express or prove it (cf. 1 Jn 2:3-6).” As both soul and body, man must live out what he believes, and not just merely acknowledge it. “In fact, body and soul are inseparable: in the person, in the willing agent and in the deliberate act, they stand or fall together.”
This becomes gravely relevant in considering that there are acts which, by their very nature, essence, and being, are contradictory to the human person, and are therefore intrinsically evil. For example, God alone is the Author of Life, and therefore the only One to be worshipped. The early Christians knew that the act of making offerings to a false god was thus intrinsically evil, and countless numbers refused even at the price of martyrdom. “They even refused to feign such worship, thereby giving an example of the duty to refrain from performing even a single concrete act contrary to God’s love and the witness of faith.” This recognition of objective moral truth, upon which the natural law is written in the heart of the human person, is the essence of how a man brings his purpose to fruition by choosing the good for which he was created, and therefore achieving ultimate happiness. Those who deny this fundamental need to recognize objective morality and intrinsic evil fall into the snare of self-deifying, where man becomes the author of his own morality and truth. “Such an outlook is quite congenial to an individualist ethic, wherein each individual is faced with his own truth, different from the truth of others.” But, “taken to its extreme consequences, this individualism leads to a denial of the very idea of human nature.” Such prevalent thinking as this has “led to a denial, in opposition to Sacred Scripture (cf. Mt 15:3-6) and the Church’s constant teaching, of the fact that the natural moral law has God as its author, and that man, by the use of reason, participates in the eternal law, which it is not for him to establish.” Man cannot be his own god, because he is a creature, created in the Divine Image. Man, living the natural law by freely choosing what he perceives through the judgment of his conscience as objectively good and refusing intrinsic evil, can fulfill who he is in his person, bringing peace to his restlessness as he takes his abode in God for Whom he was created.
The Church, therefore, teaches strict adherence to the moral law because this is the foundation of who man is; to deny the moral law is not to meet man in compassion, but in actuality it is to deny man himself. Thus, the Church reaches out with true charity, seeking the good of her children. “The Church is in fact a communion both of faith and of life; her rule of life is ‘faith working through love’ (Gal 5:6).” Man’s freedom is thus not to make up his own set of laws, but to fulfill that longing within him that urges him to do the good for which he was created. “Patterned on God’s freedom, man’s freedom is not negated by his obedience to the divine law; indeed, only through this obedience does it abide in the truth and conform to human dignity.” Thus, in obeying the moral law, there is this complete unity of faith and morals, freedom and truth, real life and compassionate love. True Christian faith, “which is not simply a set of propositions to be accepted with intellectual assent,” is “rather…a lived knowledge of Christ, a living remembrance of his commandments, and a truth to be lived out.” This vibrant relation with Jesus is the core and essence of morality for man. Faith is not about a lonely soul estranged from the actions of the body: “faith is a decision involving one’s whole existence. It is an encounter, a dialogue, a communion of love and of life between the believer and Jesus Christ, the Way, and the Truth, and the Life (cf. Jn 14:6).” In Christ, we are freed from the addiction of sin, and the power to choose what is good is restored to us. By perceiving the truth once again, our conscience can lead us forward to the happiness for which we long in achieving the fullness of a human person created in God’s image. Then, we may truly act with freedom, according to Our Lord, for “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
 Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendour (6 August 1993), §4.
 Veritatis Splendour, §84.
 Veritatis Splendour, §26.
 Veritatis Splendour, §49.
 Veritatis Splendour, §91.
 Veritatis Splendour, §32.
 Veritatis Splendour, §36.
 Veritatis Splendour, §26.
 Veritatis Splendour, §42.
 Veritatis Splendour, §88.
 Veritatis Splendour, §88.
 The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, (John 8:32), National Council of the Churches of Christ, 1971, accessed 30 July, 2016, https://www.biblegateway.com.