4.3.5 Response to exercise


1.  In line with previous CST documents, there is a clear emphasis on participation.  This is in the very first sentence:

The Church values the democratic system inasmuch as it ensures the participation of citizens in making political choices, guarantees to the governed the possibility both of electing and holding accountable those who govern them, and of replacing them through peaceful means when appropriate. (#46; cf. #19)

The last point in this sentence must have had special resonance for Pope John Paul: he had lived most of his life in a context in which there was no possibility of democratic transfer of power.

2.  Also as in earlier Church teaching, there is a strong emphasis that in democracy power must serve the common good, not private interests; the Church “cannot encourage the formation of narrow ruling groups which usurp the power of the State for individual interests” (#46).

In the terms I introduced earlier (4.2.3), the encyclical therefore supports ‘civic democracy’ but not ‘consumerist democracy’.

3.  The Church’s traditional teaching that any constitutional form can be acceptable is reiterated, even if only implicitly (start of #46; end of #47).  The Church “values” democracy for its significant benefits (#46), but not because it is the only legitimate form of government.


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