Light and dark on the Devil’s chair, Shropshire. MMB.
St Irenaeus, in the second century, writes this on the relationship between our capacity for freedom and for evil:
The light does not force itself on any man against his will; nor does God constrain a man, if he refuses to accept God’s working. Therefore, all who revolt from the Father’s light, and who transgress the law of liberty, have removed themselves through their own fault, since they were created free and self-determining [Against Heresies ].
Origen, around the third century, says similarly: ‘It is laid down in the doctrine of the Church that every rational soul is possessed of free choice and will; and that it has to struggle against the devil.’
There is simply no way around it: we cannot possess our freedom by giving free reign to our every desire, no matter how selfish. Pope Emeritus Benedict has written,
[The human person] is called to greatness, but his freedom can allow the contrary temptation, that of wanting to be great over against God…. Sometimes we feel like saying to God, If you had made man a little less great, then he wouldn’t be so dangerous. If you hadn’t given him his freedom, then he should not be able to fall so far. And yet, we don’t quite dare to say it in the end, because at the same time we are grateful that God did put greatness into man.’