Saturday, 19 November 2011

Memory and Identity: Modern Democracy

In this chapter John Paul II gives a simple presentation of historical political systems and in which he particularly analyses democracy.

First, he describes the three forms of political organisation (from the perspective of who has power). In a Monarchy power resides in an individual, in an Aristocracy power resides in a social group, and in a Democracy power resides in the whole of society. Each of these systems is valid so long as the purpose of exercising power is to serve the common good, that fundamental moral norms are respected, and that civic virtues are actually exercised. If this is not the case, then Monarchy (and Aristocracy) degenerates into Tyranny, and Democracy into Ochlocracy (domination by the populace).

Democracy, understood not simply as a political system, but also as an attitude of mind and a principle of conduct, does not, in practice, allow for the direct exercise of power by the whole of society; power resides in representatives of the people who are designated by free election.

Catholic social morality favours Democracy because it corresponds more closely to the rational and social nature of man.

Democracy comes into being through a 'state of law', in which social life is established by parliaments with legislative power, and is regulated by law. Thus, Democracy is able to form free citizens who jointly pursue the common good.

Now the Divine Law also comes into play for man, this was given through Moses and is binding, even on those who do not accept Revelation, as natural law. The Decalogue (the Ten Commandments), or natural law, is foundational for any human legislation, precisely because they seek the fundamental good of personal and social life. If any of these commandments is placed in doubt, both human society and man's moral existence is put at risk. This is because law rests not upon human judgement, but upon the truth of being, the truth of God, of man, of all reality.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Memory and Identity: the relationship between Church and State.

The Council describes this relationship in Gaudium et Spes 76, saying that both Church and State are autonomous and independent of each other, yet both are devoted to nurturing the personal vocation of man, though under different titles.

The totalitarian States of the last century attempted to separate the Church from the State and extinguish it; for them the world belonged exclusively to the State. The Church's view is clearly in conflict with this, because for the Church the world is both a task and a challenge. This is particularly the case for lay people who are called to Christianise society and culture.

Today again, some politicians are trying to redefine the relationship between Church and State, colouring the Church's position as one of purely subjective faith (or opinion). We have seen this for instance from Barack Obama and Tony Blair. And, at the same time we have witnessed a certain passivity from believing citizens and a failure to defend basic human truths and rights. Indeed, we have also witnessed great efforts in society (for instance, the media) to intrude in people's consciences and to lead them to stop believing in Christ.

Here today lies the great challenge for the Church: a new evangelisation, which must begin with the task of rehumanising the world.

(Incidentally, the German wartime theologian Bonhoeffer said that the Christian's purpose in the State is to try to make the State a better State. He was executed by the Nazis two weeks before the end of WWII.)

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

A visit from overseas

On Monday this week George Weigel was the guest speaker at "Theology on Tap" in Sydney. What a tremendous teacher he is and how privilaged we were to host him in our monthly event for young people. He spoke to us about Bl John Paul II and how he showed the world that being a radically converted Christian is the greatest human endeavour.

You may be interested to follow Professor Weigel's weekly column here.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Seventy minutes

If you have seventy minutes to spare I recommend that you listen to a talk given by Archbishop Mark Coleridge. He was speaking last year in Perth, Australia, at a meeting of ICEL on the subject of the renewal of the Liturgy and the new translation of the missal. His understanding of this subject is superb. You can find the link here; scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the audio file.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Memory and Identity: The Mission of the Church

The Mission of the Church is the context in which we live the Christian life, for the Church is missionary by nature; she is called at all times to proclaim the Gospel, and her attitude must always be humble but courageous. And so today, an enormous ammount of work is needed on the the part of the Church, in particular the lay apostolate.
Christ and the Church are inseparable. There is no Christ without the Incarnation, and the Incarnation is prolonged in history in the Church. The Church exists then, because Christ belongs to the history of all humanity. God's plan has always been to unite and to transform all humanity in Christ His Son.

Today's "secular" world intends to live as if separated from God, yet this same world is called to fulfilment in Christ. The Church is called to pave the way for this "secular" world to receive its glory from God.

(I took the above photo while driving in Sydney a couple of years ago.)