In defense of Cardinal Kasper and liberal democracy

Čt 18 června 2015

(comment on the blogpost on The First Things)

I think problem of yours (and the author of the article, how much I look up to him otherwise) is that you don't distinguish between the role of the state and morality. I don’t believe, that purpose of the state and law is to uphold morality. If we follow this path we can get somewhere near the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (or the Christian variant thereof, and we had plenty of them in our past).

According to the New Testament it seems to me that the role of the state is “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1Ti 2:2). Not that they would make us to live godly life, but provide peace and protection so that we MAY live such life.

The ways how to organize government so that it would serve this purpose are many, some of them work better, some of them work worse, but currently the prevalent opinion at least in the West is that the plural democratic style of the government serves this purpose best. In democracy we agreed that what majority decides will be law (with some caveats like protection of minority against tyranny of majority, protection of the elementary human rights, etc.). It has two advantages: first, the democracy is based on the idea that by that process we get generally good laws (or at least not much worse than what the other systems, like aristocracy or tyranny). The second idea (and here we get back to the assumed purpose of the government) is that by this process we promote general peace and consensus, because the majority of population is satisfied with results and the rest at least has tendency to believe that laws were created in the just way, even though they don't agree with the results.

Notice, that this has absolutely nothing to do with the absolute moral values. Of course, each citizen involves their own moral values when voting or doing other acts proper for the process of democracy, but nobody even pretends that the resulting laws and governing are in total expression of the moral values of any particular group. Expectation of the laws expressing absolute moral values therefore lead just to frustration.

Of course, this system could lead to hugely immoral results, or what is even worse could lead to its own demise. Everybody knows that Nazis were elected in more or less free elections in 1933, and in the same manner in my own country, then Czechoslovakia, Communists were voted to power in 1946 (and in 1948, their coup d'état was a way how to avoid loosing that power in the upcoming elections). Yes, the system is not perfect but (to follow the Churchill’s maxim) it is just better than any other systems of government we know about and more persistently than others leads to the peaceful and secure environment 1Ti 2:2 talks about.

In short I believe that Cardinal Kasper’s opinion in based on this understanding of the liberal democracy and the author is one of the many people frustrated by his expectations that government should promote virtues and decimate vices, as he understand them.

Category: faith Tagged: politics FirstThings blogComment