The Catholic News Service recently quoted Pope Benedict XVI as saying that ‘Catholic beliefs are not open to popular vote’.
Pope Benedict XVI is absolutely correct ‘Catholicism is not open to popular vote or democracy’. However, there is little doubt that the institutional Church under Pope Benedict is operated under a distinct form of autocracy or even a theocracy. History teaches that the Roman Catholic Church once claimed the role of supreme ruler of the world (a role Jesus clearly rejected while spending 40 days in the desert). It is precisely this form of institutional religion Jesus came to reject and turn upside down. By following a way of life as lived by Jesus we no longer have the need for earthly power or control. When our communities are places where everyone is welcome we will discover the true meaning of God's unconditional love. Here we lead by example not by fixed dogmas or doctrine which has brought the world so much division and exclusion.
God did not create us to be robots. God created us for greatness endowed with holiness and diversity. God created us to become responsible adults trusting in the Holy Spirit. God created us as unique individuals to share our diverse gifts as a means of unity and reject any feelings of superiority. Even before we were adults we were confirmed in the Holy Spirit. Has Benedict forgotten that ‘the People of God’ through this sacrament were assured that ‘the Holy Spirit will teach us all we need to know’? (Jn 14:26; Lk. 12:12) Now Benedict XV! would have us surrender what God gave us freely through his Holy Spirit. Why? Because the Vatican seeks power and control by reinforcing and centralising its hierarchical institution. Benedict has rejected many of the visions held by Vatican II. For example , why is collegiality is no longer practised, and why must theologians now surrender their God given inspiration to the Bishops? And why must the laity now surrender and hide their gifts of the Holy Spirit under a bushel? (Mt. 5:14-15) What has happened to the supremacy of the individual conscience as stated in the documents of Vatican II? There simply is no hierarchy among Kingdom people.
Jesus never wrote anything down and never insisted we embrace or practise his Jewish religion. Jesus merely asked we become kingdom people. Isn’t that what we pray for when we say let ‘thy Kingdom come’? Here is the place where God accepts us as we are not as others would have us be. Here is the place we have no need for condemnation, scapegoating or separation from all others be they relativists, secularists, atheists, gays etc., etc.. Here is the place where God is only interested in our potential not our sins. Here is the place where it is safe to acknowledge that the ‘Devil’ or ‘Satan’ is none other than our individual ego’s which is responsible for so much pain and suffering in the world. Here is the place we will discover that the life we lead is not about us, but rather about God experiencing himself through each of us in a unique and mysterious way.
Democracy versus Autocracy
|Old and New model of church|
The term ‘People of God’ was first introduced by Vatican II in its document now known as the ‘Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Church’ (Lumen Gentium). This document radically introduced a church that has moved away from the previous overemphasis on the hierarchy to a concept of church as including the whole people of God. Thus the major shift at Vatican II was from a church too concerned with juridical and the official church aware of itself as a mystery that expresses the love of God for all humankind.
Pope Benedict XVI on several occasions firmly criticized dissent from church teachings as disobedience of God's will. While this charge would affect an estimated 90+ percent of Catholic women who have practiced birth control at one time of more during their lives – it is hardly encouraging for any meaningful and true dialogue between the faithful and the clergy on matters of faith.
In this regard “the body of the faithful as a whole, anointed as they are by the Holy One (cf. 1 John 2:20,27), cannot err in matters of belief. Thanks to a supernatural sense of the faith (sensus fidei) which characterizes the people as a whole, it manifests this unerring quality when ‘from the bishops down to the last member of the laity,’ it shows universal agreement on matters of faith and morals” (Lumen Gentium, 12).
When Benedict quotes his understanding of “sensus fidei” he subordinates its meaning by adding that this sense of faith “can come only when Catholics actively participate in the life of the church and follow the teaching of the pope and bishops”. In other words, only the Catholic hierarchy alone holds the truth.The Church Is a Democracy
Daniel C. Maguire, Professor of Ethics at Marquette University offers this valuable insight on why the Church Is a Democracy