Democracy and religion  

The following is a translation of an article which appeared in the French newspaper Le Figaro for 6/7 October 2007 -

Pope Benedict XVI criticises "the majority of a moment"

The Vatican:      Benedict XVI strongly criticised, yesterday, democratic systems which adopt, in the name of a majority, laws which are contrary to those of God and of nature. He was receiving at the Vatican the members of the International Theological Commission, which is preparing a document on natural law.

For the pope, a democratically elected majority does not have absolute legitimacy to legislate on ethical questions:
"The ethical content of the Christian faith is not imposed externally to conscience. It is a norm which has its basis in the very nature of man. The majority of its citizens, the majority of a moment [cannot be] the definitive basis for civil law."

The German pope knows that "history demonstrates very clearly that the majority can be wrong".
Once more, he has criticised relativism which pretends "to guarantee tolerance and respect" whilst weakening "the democratic order" and feeding "the crisis of human civilisation". Benedict XVI respects the secularity of the state in its economic and social choices but as regards abortion and euthanasia, morals and ethics it is fundamentally the law of god which ought to be followed.        


This, from the leader of a Church which, in its wisdom, gave us the Inquisition and which simply moved priests guilty of the crime paedophilia to another parish where they could start their abuse all over again. It is a Church which in the glory days of the Holy Rome Empire approved of and encouraged very many wars between neighbouring countries. These views are from a pope who in his previous post did his best to stop priests working in South American dictatorships from practising or preaching ‘Liberation Theology'. This Pope does not accept, unlike his predecessor and former boss, that Evolution is ‘more than a hypothesis', and consistent with Christianity, but supports the intellectually barren idea of Intelligent Design. This is from a Church which is just one of many and is part of just one of many religions in the world, all of which are at each other's throats. Clearly we would want such a man to decide for us in the name of his god what we should and should not do.

Democracy may not always arrive at the right answer, but then it never promised to. At election time, people will speak in favour of policies on the basis of what they believe will be for the best for society. No sensible democrat, however, will ever say that the election of a government will certainly give all the right answers. Essentially, it is a means of trying policies out in the knowledge that, at worst, a government can be changed when most people think that it is giving the wrong answers. As Churchill put it, "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried.".  When it is allowed to work, however, It does give us the right to choose for ourselves how we will live, rather than being dictated to by megalomaniacs such as Stalin, Hitler or Mugabe or by theocrats claiming infallibility, whether Popes or Mullahs.

Is it too much to ask that the Church should finally, and with humility, accept that "history demonstrates very clearly" that the Church, too, can be wrong?


Home      A Point of View     Philosophy     Who am I?      Links     Photos of Annecy