Roman Catholic Church and democracy
Democracy is a political regime where citizens elect representatives
and control the power. They are no longer individuals submitted
to arbitrariness but have become responsible individuals. Alternatively,
persons living in communities take care of their future, individually
and collectively and subscribe to a social contract. The ballot
expresses this contract and allows the controlling of it.
In the past the Church has been suspicious of people's liberty
and responsibility. It has changed and today it considers that
free participation to public affairs and to the election of governing
bodies is closely related to the very nature of humans. Recently
the French Conference of Bishops stated that democracy is the
most humanizing model of government.
Why the Church does not apply this type of organization to itself?
The given answer is because the Church is not a democracy. Surely
no political regime, a monarchy or a democracy, can take into
account the Church as a Society of salvation and spiritual gifts,
of which Christ is the only Lord and Master. However its organization
is mainly derived from the model of monarchy.
Although the Church is not a democracy like the others, it has
to work in a democratic way. This is because of the way it organizes
its functioning one sees something of its spiritual reality.
There is a strong correlation between the democratic values and
the evangelical values. The principles of liberty, equality and
fraternity don't at all contradict the Gospel. Democracy is not
anarchy, a democratic people is not a formless mass, obedient
to its impulses, it gives itself rules of action. Laws and Constitutions
strictly depend on ethical requirements: don't base ultimately
human relationships on violence and force. For the baptized people,
the democratic request is essential to fraternity. Christian's
communities are recognized as a people of brothers and sisters
called together by the same Father. The origins of the Church
are apostolic, then collegial; these origins keep the Church
at a distance from any monarchy. Holy Spirit is fully given to
all the believers' members of the communities and not only to
a few privileged individuals, this is the foundation of the responsibility
of every body at all levels. Even parity between men and women,
so much emphasized in our modern democracies, is not unfamiliar
to the Gospel where it is said that women were also following
Jesus. They had important functions in the early Church; they
receive the same baptism than men, with the same rights.
Too often we imagine that in a democratic Church, the people
will replace God. But in a democratic society nobody is supposed
to own the power, it is in the hands of representatives, for
a limited time and in a symbolic mode. Nobody has an immediate
access to the truth; we come close to it only through discussion
and getting in touch with each other. In a democratic church,
nobody can put himself in the place of the One who is founding
the truth. Its place has to be left empty otherwise it is the
reign of an idol.
The Church cannot be confined to a past where monarchic principles
were thought to be better adapted to the good of its government.
The Church is directly concerned by the call for democracy and
it is a question of its own credibility.