I’m excited to share the first question I received on this blog. Here it is:
Hey Fr. Rick!
The other day, I got into a discussion with a friend of mine about free will. It was my understanding that we, as human beings, have free will throughout our entire lives. Well, if I believe that life begins at the moment of conception, and I have free will my entire life, then it would follow that even when I was still in the womb, I still had free will.
My friend didn’t see how it was possible for a fetus to have free will, and when he challenged me on it, I realized I didn’t understand either. I’ve thought a little bit more about it, and the best thing I can come up with is this; just because a child in the womb doesn’t yet have an occasion to use his free will, doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have it. Am I at least on the right track? Or have I completely missed the mark?
C. from Newtown
Hi C., I think you are most definitely on the right track. Human beings are loaded with gifts from the Lord that develop over time. The cool thing is that they’re really endless, we’ll discover and develop more and more gifts as life goes on. Humans are conceived with free will but we won’t see the effects of that gift until some time well after birth. In fact, the Church estimates that seven years old is about the time when we need to begin to use our freedom responsibly. We call it the “age of reason” and usually introduce the kiddies to the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist at that time. Before that time, a baby or young child’s behavior is largely a product of their environment, reacting to especially their parents’ actions (or lack of action) in their lives. So, I think free will, along with the gift of reason and therefore the possibility of sin, kick in and can be seen around age seven, though both reason and freedom were gifts given at conception. Thanks for the question!