Democracy in the Catholic Church

January-February 1989By John C. Cort

From top to bottom the Catholic Church is having growing pains. That may seem an inappropriate phrase — “growing pains” — regarding an in­stitution that is nearly 2,000 years old. Thank God, however, the Church is still growing, both in quantity and quality — not everywhere, maybe not in your parish or diocese, but overall and world­wide, yes.

One aspect of that growth is the effort to ad­just herself to those values and aspects of democrat­ic process that can be legitimately applied to an in­stitution that in certain major areas does not func­tion by majority vote, but by the guidance of the Holy Spirit and some reliance on the more heavily weighted votes of popes, bishops, and priests.

But being a wise old mother, the Church re­alizes that in the current stage of human develop­ment — or if you don’t like that term, just plain history — the monarchical form of government has lost credibility. The same can be said for those dic­tatorial forms that have been devised to replace it. Even the Soviet Union, the most successful dicta­torship of modern times, has begun to appreciate this fact.

So today it might almost be said that it is a question of “go democratic or die.” And, whether for that or more complicated reasons, the Church is going more democratic. And feeling pain.

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