‘Do Not Retreat from Democracy’: Pope Francis

Dec 7, 2021 | 0 comments

“We cannot avoid noting with concern how today, and not only in Europe, we are witnessing a retreat from democracy.”

So declared Pope Francis in Athens, the birthplace of Democracy, on Saturday December 4th, 2021.

In remarks that a conservative 19th century predecessor, Pope Pius IX would have found astonishing, the pope insisted that:

“Democracy requires participation and involvement on the part of all; consequently, it demands hard work and patience. It is complex, whereas authoritarianism is peremptory and populism’s easy answers appear attractive. In some societies, concerned for security and dulled by consumerism, weariness and malcontent can lead to a sort of skepticism about democracy. Yet universal participation is something essential; not simply to attain shared goals, but also because it corresponds to what we are: social beings, at once unique and interdependent.”

Was this especially a lesson for US bishops who do not seem overly concerned by the rise of populism and the threat to democracy in their own land, in the person of Donald Trump – and do not seem to be overly concerned either about attacks upon himself by US authoritarian opponents such as Cardinal Raymond Burke?  The rise of populist and anti-immigrant figures such as Viktor Orban in Hungary were also probably a target, given the pope’s repeated lamentations about Europe’s failures of compassion for immigrants from the middle east and north Africa.

To call authoritarianism ‘peremptory’ is also a reminder to ecclesiastical authoritarianism of its failure to teach, and of the reasoning behind ‘synodality’.  Pope Francis is nothing if not consistent.

To read the US NCR’s ‘take’ on this speech, click here.

To read the pope’s entire remarkable appeal in Athens – the birthplace of western democracy – click here.

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ACI’s Campaign for Lumen Gentium 37

The Promise of Synodality

What we have experienced of synodality so far - and especially the presentation by Dr Nicola Brady on February 24th 2022 - gives ACI real hope that a longstanding structural injustice in the church may at last be acknowledged and overcome.

As all Irish bishops well know, the 'co-responsibility' they urge lay people to share - as numbers and energies of clergy decline - has been sabotaged time and again by canonical rules that deny representational authority and continuity to parish pastoral councils.  ACI's 2019 call for the immediate honouring of Lumen Gentium Article 37 becomes more urgent by the day and is supported by the following documents - also presented to the ICBC in October 2019.

The Common Priesthood of the People of God and the Renewal of the Church
It was Catholic parents and victims of clerical abuse who taught Catholic Bishops to prioritise the safeguarding of children in the church

Jesus as Model for the Common Priesthood of the People of God
It was for challenging religious hypocrisy and injustice that Jesus was accused and crucified. He is therefore a model for the common priesthood of the laity and for the challenging of injustice - in society and within the church.

A Suggested Strategy for the Recovery of the Irish and Western Catholic Church
Recovery of the church depends upon acknowledgment of the indispensable role of the common priesthood of the lay people of God and the explicit abandonment by bishops and clergy of paternalism and clericalism - the expectation of deference from lay people rather than honesty and integrity.

For the full story of ACI's campaign for the honouring of Article 37 of Lumen Gentium, click here.

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