Obj. 1. It would seem that freedom is not the capacity to choose rightly, but the capacity to choose rightly or wrongly. For if one can only choose rightly, then one is not free to choose wrongly; hence one is predetermined to do right, which is incompatible with the capacity to choose.
Obj. 2. Moreover, the Apostle says: “Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more” (Romans 5:20). That holds for human beings, who ex hypothesi enjoy some measure of freedom. But if freedom were only the capacity to choose rightly, then nobody could actually sin; for an actual sin is a free choice to do wrong. But the sin that abounds is actual sin; ergo etc.
Obj. 3. According to the Gospel, all will be judged by God on the Last Day according to their deeds, so that the Son of Man will praise “the sheep” on his right and condemn “the goats” on his left (Matthew 25: 31ff ). But if freedom were only the capacity to act rightly, then no actual sin could be a free act. And by general agreement, nobody can be reasonably held to account for an act that is not free. Therefore, “the goats” could not be justly condemned, which would be incompatible with divine justice.
On the contrary, St. Anselm defines freedom of choice as “the power to preserve rectitude of will for its own sake” (DLA 3). Such a power can only be exercised by acting rightly. Ergo, freedom of choice entails only the capacity to act rightly.
I answer that
freedom is the capacity to choose rightly for at least one relevant reason, without being predetermined to do so by any factor(s) beyond one’s control. For if freedom always and necessarily included the capacity to choose wrongly, then neither God nor the blessed in heaven (the beati) would be free, which is contrary to fact. But God and the beati do makes choices for relevant and good reasons, without being predetermined to do so by any factor beyond their control. And this could not be otherwise. For “whoever sins is a slave to sin,” whereas “the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32), and there is no falsehood in God and the beati.
Nonetheless it must be conceded that, in via as opposed to in patria, humanity in general suffers from the effects of original sin, such that even though no particular actual sin is inevitable for any given human bieng capable of free choice, some-or-other such sin is inevitable for such people. But from this it follows only that our freedom is imperfectly developed and requires divine grace to reach its proper perfection.
Reply Obj. 1. If somebody is predetermined to do only right, it does not follow that they are predetermined to only one morally acceptable course of action. That would only follow if they were predetermined to just one course of action by factors beyond their control. But nobody suggests that freedom is compatible with that kind of predetermination.
Reply Obj. 2. That sin abounds shows that freedom is often wrongly exercised. But ex hypothesi, freedom so exercised is not fully developed, just as a toddler learning to walk often stumbles and sometimes falls. But it is unreasonable to define the capacity to walk as including the capacity to stumble and fall. In general, then, it is unreasonable to define a power by the errors made in its immature state. And the same thus holds for freedom.
Reply Obj. 3. By divine grace, one is enabled to choose to be transformed into one who will be as gloriously free as God and the beati. But since, in via, our freedom is immature, it is always possible, even when offered grace, to exercise freedom wrongly so as to remain a slave to sin. If one dies in that state, then one will merit condemnation for the resulting deeds.