Skip to main content
Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

“Genuine freedom is sustained by human relationships, embedded in social history, and ultimately supported by the loving presence of God.”

David Hollenback, SJ, Georgetown University

Created Freedom Under the Sign of the Cross

Square 360x360
Freedom, Country, and Catholicism

The United States lives and dies by freedom. And, for the last years, it is dying by freedom. Americans have invoked freedom to refuse masks and vaccines in a viral pandemic; to refuse to pay health insurance and to free-load on the health care system; to lie and say that no one has the truth anyhow. How does the country recover and renew its core value? One surprising place to turn is Catholic theology, which is known for an emphasis on social justice but also has rich resources for re-imagining the meaning of freedom. In Catholic thought, freedom is really freedom: the ever-present possibility of self-transcendence. But freedom is also rooted in the body, in history, in community, in the good, and in God. Only by thinking of freedom as both self-transcendence and as situated can Americans respond to the challenges from the pandemic to racism that are now sapping the nation’s soul.

Created Freedom Under the Sign of the Cross: A Catholic Public Theology of Freedom for the United States (Pickwick 2022)

In this groundbreaking book, DeCosse takes on the destructive libertarian logic behind America's wrong turn into vaccine refusal; AR-15 ownership; and hoarding wealth. In its place, he argues on behalf of a Catholic public theology that recognizes the dignity of each person's freedom and the fulfillment of that freedom in community.

“DeCosse superbly indicts the way Americans use ‘freedom’ to legitimate a value-free exercise of personal privilege. . . . In the end, he makes the compelling case for a more socially valid, embodied, and equitable grasp of freedom that can empower us, individually and collectively, to responsibly pursue our goals as a people. A well-done and much-needed work.”  —James F. Keenan, SJ, Boston College

Learn More / Purchase the Book


View directly, or right-click to save a copy.

About the Author: David E. DeCosse

David E. DeCosse is the Director of Religious and Catholic Ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California. He is the creator and co-editor of a series of books on conscience and Catholicism and has written for publications ranging from Theological Studies to the National Catholic Reporter.

Read DeCosse's Bio

Related Articles and Media

David DeCosse, director of religious and Catholic ethics, published in the National Catholic Reporter.

Gravestone for the year 2018 under or nearby which the cremated remains of 1,780 persons who died unclaimed are buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Boyle Heights.  Photo by David DeCosse

David DeCosse, director of religious and Catholic ethics, published in the National Catholic Reporter.

A protester wears an Uncle Sam outfit at a demonstration against COVID-19 vaccination mandates, Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Many of those who invoke freedom to refuse mask and vaccination mandates also support using government power to restrict the freedom of businesses to require masks or vaccinations for employees and customers.

Freedom, a pillar of American values, will play an important role in the 2020 election.

For More Information

The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics staff and affiliated scholars can provide commentary and background information for media on a variety of issues pertaining to religious and Catholic ethics.

For commentary and background information about these or other topics in applied ethics contact Joel Dibble, Senior Director, News and Public Relations at