REFLECTION: Democracy in the Church PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 01 July 2011 14:24

Because of some hot-button issues like the RH Bill, and now divorce, the charge is thrown into the open that the Church is dictatorial, is not democratic. I suppose, if we follow this line of thinking to the end, we will arrive at the conclusion that the Church is inhuman, is bad, and therefore should be killed, extinguished, annihilated.

Of course, this is a ridiculous. This brings us to the realization that in our discussions, our passions should be held in control. Otherwise, they would just mess up with our reasoning, exposing our biases, and leading us to all sorts of non-sequiturs, fallacies and ad hominems.

I find the charge both understandable and without basis. Both principal terms of the charge, democracy and Church, are complex phenomena that just cannot be treated lightly. They can lend themselves easily to all kinds of interpretations, including the wrong ones.

Democracy, while people-based, simply cannot work if no organization is put in place there, with leaders vested with some authority and accountable to the people—and to God—running the show.
Through some agreed processes, people in a democracy decide how things ought to be done—what kind of government they want, how are leaders to be chosen, how are officials held accountable for their acts, etc.

It just cannot be an unorganized government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” Chaos is sure to erupt if we leave it that way. It needs a deeper grounding.
Ultimately, it has to believe in God and to obey his laws. Otherwise, it would be setting out on its own, relying on its lights which cannot be guaranteed, and we would be at the mercy of who has the most money, the best armed, the most popular, etc.

Democracy would overstep itself if it detaches itself from God, and just relies completely on the so-called people’s will. Mob rule will sooner or later come. The dictum “vox populi, vox Dei” would be emptied of its original meaning.

We have to be clear about this: democracy needs God. It’s not just a people thing. It has to take care that this need for God is always felt, nourished and developed, especially as it enters into its more challenging, difficult stages.

The truth is that God is always present and is guiding us through his Providence in all aspects and situations of our life—be it in the personal, individual level or in the social and governmental level. God is there and it is for us to find him, discern his will and act upon it.

Now the Church is a different banana. It’s not a people thing. It’s the people of God—that’s us—gathered together by Christ through his words and deeds and ultimately through his passion, death and resurrection.

It has been given a structure by Christ, with Peter and the apostles vested with power to preach, rule and sanctify it. Its structure is therefore did not come from us, though since it is for us and with us, it certainly is attuned to our nature and to the way we are.

In spite of its human shortcomings and failures, Christ has guaranteed that “the gates of hell shall not prevail over it.” Its life and effectiveness lie in Christ more than in us. So, while we acknowledge these human failings, we should not exaggerate them either. We just have to move on, finding solutions to problems along the way.

But we should not deny that the Church, in fact, teaches the basis of democracy, since it teaches what Christ teaches—that we are all children of God, created in his image and likeness. As such, we enjoy equal dignity even if we have different functions and status in the Church.

We also have the same duty and responsibility: to sanctify ourselves and to do apostolate. We have to like God, holy and full of love, caring for one another. It dispenses divine mercy. It fosters reconciliation, love and unity. What could be more democratic than these?

It’s this nature and character of the Church that sometimes gives the impression that there is no democracy in it, since what it is and does is something that does not depend on us, but rather on God.

The truths of faith and morals are given to us by God. They are not subject to the approval of the majority. All we have to do is to follow, since we are not only our own being, but God’s first. --FR. ROY CIMAGALA