In our modern “sophisticated” world we are told that everyone has the right to believe as he/she wishes. We must accept that everyone may hold a different opinion on any given topic, because (with the exception of what is deemed scientific fact) opinion is all there is. There is no objective truth; but truth is entirely subjective. In other words, everyone has a right to his/her own opinion.
The statement is true, as far as it goes. Everyone does have a right to his/her own opinion. No one, however, has a right to his/her own facts. Facts simply are what they are, no matter what anyone thinks about it. Technically-speaking, error has no rights.
Now you might be sitting there thinking, “David, you just contradicted yourself. You said everyone has a right to his/her own opinion. If error has no rights, then how can anyone have the right to be in error?”
God created each person with free will. While He has a purpose for each one of us, our love and obedience to God must be freely given. We must choose to either fulfill the purpose for which God created us, or we can choose to become slaves to our own passions, desires, etc. Each person possesses his own free will. He is, therefore, free to use this will as he chooses. If one chooses to believe what is false, that is his right.
Error itself, however, is a completely different story. Error itself-precisely because it is false, and therefore, stands in direct opposition to the Truth, which is the source of all creation-has no rights at all. It does not even have the right to exist. The individual who possesses free will has a right to choose error, but error itself has no rights.
The reason for this is that the creature (angel or human) possessing free will is created by God. Hence, they have a right to be wrong, if you will. Error, however, is not created by God. God is pure Truth. Truth can not be the source of error. This being so, God can not be responsible for the existence of error.
In fact, one might argue that error doesn’t even really exist (in the truest sense of the term). Error is nothing more than the absence of truth. Just as darkness is the absence of light. Where there is light, there is no darkness. Where there is truth, there is no error.
One might here make the point that truth and error sometimes do co-exist. For instance, someone might tell a story that is based on truth, but which is greatly elaborated, and contains many details which are false. This would seem to indicate truth and error can co-exist. Such is a false conclusion.
The elements of an elaborated story that are true, are true. Those parts contain no error. Those parts of an otherwise true story that are elaborations, or flat-out falsifications, are not true. The overall story is true. Even some of the details are true. Those that are false, however, are false, and not true. Truth may be lacking in some details, but the overall story is true. Hence, truth and error do not co-exist.
Since error is a negative, in fact, truth and error can not co-exist. Error is nothing more than a lack of truth. Anything which does not have its source in truth (and error most assuredly does not have its source in truth, since the two are diametrically opposed) can not exist. This is because all things which positively exist have their existence from God Who is pure Truth.
Error is a distortion of the truth. Hence, error does not have its source in Truth. Error, properly-speaking, can not be said to have any real source. It is merely a distortion of, or a casting aside of, truth. Thus, error has no rights.
In summary, every person is created by God. God is pure Truth. God gives us rational beings free will. We can choose to use our free will to fulfill God’s plan for us, or we can choose to enslave ourselves to our own flawed nature. In other words, everyone has the right to be wrong.
Everything that is not truth is error. Error, precisely because it is opposed to truth, can not have its source in truth. Hence, God did not create error. In fact, nothing created error, because error is a negative. Negatives do not truly exist. Negatives are nothing more than the absence of positivity. Since God is Truth He can not be the source of what is false. In other words, error can not come from God. Since all creation has its source in God, anything not having its source in God does not truly exist. Something that does not exist can not possess any rights. Indeed, in the case of error, there is nothing which may possess rights.
Peace in Christ,
David J. Pollard
American Catholic Solidarity