Catholicism and Democracy

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There are about 2.1 billion Christians in the world, of which about half are Catholics.

Christianity rests on one of the most dangerous sentences in the world - the Gospel according to John, chapter 20, verse 29: Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe. The only healthy reaction is to ask: Why? Can Christianity only survive if people don't think for themselves? Christianity has made it a devout virtue to believe without evidence, and the stronger one's faith is in spite of common sense, the more devout one is.

The Catholic Church

The Catholic Church is one of the longest surviving totalitarian systems the world has known, and only reluctantly has it given people their individual freedom, bit by bit. At the same time, it is an undemocratic global institution that has not renounced the intention of world domination and, under its statutes, the head of the organisation can speak on behalf of God.

At first sight, this does not seem to leave much room for democracy and freedom. Yet the Catholic church, since the Second Vatican Council of 1962-65 with the introduction of the so-called freedom theology, has supported democratic movements in many places in the world.

Rank and file Catholics

A large proportion of the world's Catholics are indeed both democrats and humanists and do not believe blindly without thinking about things. The same applies to many Catholic priests and other church people, except when it comes to the issues of contraception and abortion. In this case, religious dogma is allowed to cost millions of lives every year when people are unable to protect themselves against HIV infection and women cannot get an abortion under safe conditions.

In most modern, enlightened societies, Catholics mainly follow the Pope's guidelines after careful, personal reflection, for example, in relation to abortion and birth control, where people are allowed to decide on the basis of personal belief. The Pope is regarded as a spiritual and religious guide, not a secular or political authority.

Spiritual guidance counsellors are not a problem for either personal freedom or our shared democracy, as long as guidance is all it amounts to and individuals are informed and have the freedom to think and act for themselves.

Next chapter: Islam and Democracy