Outling the Church's Vision of Democracy

According to Secretary of Pontifical Council

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SALAMANCA, Spain, OCT. 26, 2006 (Zenit.org).- A Vatican official says that democracy, understood as a political regime "that defends the rights of a person and promotes his duties," can "serve the dimension of the universal human family."



Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said that on Wednesday, the last day of a three-day international symposium on Trinitarian theology, held in Salamanca.

He delivered an address entitled "Unity of the Human Family and Democracy: A Trinitarian Vision."

He reflected on democracy and the possibility of its fostering "communion within the human family," and decided that it does have such potential, if it is not considered solely as "a technique to count raised hands in an assembly and even less so as the ultimate end toward which social life tends."

"Democracy is an instrument at the service of communion among people and, to be able to exercise this role, it must relate to something other than itself," the 59-year-old bishop clarified.

The prelate considered two elements that characterize democracy, namely, "access to free elections" and "public debate."

But he considered these insufficient, because even when "non-manipulated public dialogue and participation in the debate on political issues" are guaranteed, the value of democracy is kept to "the procedural."

"While respecting public debate and giving all the ability to speak, democracies can commit significant violations of human rights," the Vatican official said. "History speaks to us of eugenic policies, exterminations and genocides, of the murder of human beings through the legalization of abortion, carried out in regimes of communicative democracy and transparent public debate. …

"Truly useful democracy for the maturation of a universally human community is, therefore, the one understood not only as political and electoral freedom, not only as equality in the public debate, but also and above all as protection and development of the person."

A clash

The secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace acknowledged that today there are "several visions of the person."

He mentioned "the clash between the Catholic world and the secular world in regard to assisted procreation," which "makes evident two visions of the person considered in relation to his liberty."

Bishop Crepaldi explained: "The first maintains that freedom of conscience and of research are based on something other than themselves: the dignity of the human person, which is its foundation and therefore also its limit.

"The second, on the contrary, holds that freedom of conscience and of research have a dignity in themselves, and that it should be these that give the foundation to the dignity of the human person, so that any limitation imposed on them is a wound inflicted on man. As is obvious, the first thesis is more inclusive than the second, inasmuch as it recognizes the human dignity also of those who do not have an explicit consciousness, while the second limits liberty to the sole presence of consciousness."

Finally, the bishop reflected on whether the "West makes the person and democracy coincide with the nihilism of technology or with the dictatorship of relativism, [and] proposes a concept of the person and of democracy which are not too inclusive, and compatible only with a globalization reduced to globalism and with a close but not united human family."

Or, he wondered if, "being faithful to its history, which sinks its roots in Jerusalem, Athens and Rome, the West is able to propose an 'unconditioned' vision of the person on which to build a democracy as instrument for the protection and promotion of people."

Bishop Crepaldi said that the West will be able to carry out this second approach if it takes into account the Christian vision of the person, which "stems from the Trinitarian essence" and recognizes the human being's capacity of openness.