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Catholicism and Democracy:
An Exchange

- Abstract

Michael P. Fogarty: Reviewing my Christian Democracy in Western Europe in COMMENTARY for May, Professor Hughes writes that I have left out of account the implicit tensions between Christianity and political democracy in Continental Europe. I thought I had put it right in the center. But anyway, here goes for an attempt at better communication.

Democracy is a technique of government which Christians, like others, can value both for its own sake-liberty as a consumer good -and as a means of solving social problems. Only, of course, like all techniques, it has to be learned. The learning process in Con- tinental Europe in the 19th and late 18th century had two parts. Part one was the insistence, largely by humanist liberals and socialists, especially in the countries along the Rhine, but also by Calvinists and an important section of Catholics, that government of the people by the people is a good thing. Part two was the insistence, largely by the Christians, that this good thing has its limits. In their earlier totalitarian phase the liberal and socialist movements made claims for the rights of majorities, notably in the cultural sphere, which no reputable democrat today would endorse. The great service of European Christians to democracy was to defeat these claims, and so fix the limits of majority rule.

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