Christian Democracy

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Christian Democratic parties
Christian Democrat International
European People's Party
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Euro Christian Political Movement
Christian Dem Org of America


Social conservatism
Social market economy
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Freedom · Justice · Solidarity
Sphere sovereignty · Subsidiarity
Communitarianism · Federalism
Stewardship · Sustainability

Catholic social teaching
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Important Documents

Rerum Novarum (1891)
Stone Lectures (Princeton 1898)
Graves de Communi Re (1901)
Quadragesimo Anno (1931)
Laborem Exercens (1981)
Sollicitudi Rei Socialis (1987)
Centesimus Annus (1991)

Important Figures

Thomas Aquinas · John Calvin
Pope Leo XIII · Abraham Kuyper
Maritain · Adenauer · De Gasperi
Pope Pius XI · Schuman
Pope John Paul II · Kohl

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Christian Democracy is a heterogeneous political ideology and movement. While Christian Democrats hold a variety of views, there is general agreement on certain issues.

Broadly speaking, Christian Democracy is conservative in regard to moral and cultural issues, and issues of public morality and tradition. It can be described as left-wing insofar as it claims a "strong social conscience", in the sense of emphasizing the alleviation of poverty, the welfare state, and if necessary the restraint of market forces. It may also be seen as liberal insofar as it upholds human rights and individual initiative.

Christian Democracy is a significant force in the political mainstream of Europe and Latin America, but is less common on other continents. Christian Democratic parties in Latin America are generally more inclined to support left-leaning economic views, while their European counterparts tend to be more right-wing.


[edit] Political viewpoints

As with every category of political thought, in practice, the policies and priorities of Christian Democratic parties can vary considerably over time and between countries.

Christian Democrats are usually socially conservative, and, as such, many Christian Democrats are opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage, although some Christian Democratic parties have accepted the legalization of both, within certain limits. Christian Democratic parties are often likely to assert the Christian heritage of their country, and to explicitly affirm Christian ethics, rather than adopting a more liberal and secular stance that all religions are to be considered equivalent.

Christian Democracy sees the economy as being at the service of humanity; however, most Christian Democratic parties do not call capitalism itself into question. The duty of the state to care for its citizens is of real importance for Christian Democrats. Some Christian Democrats oppose Christian socialism, while others may at times seem to hold political opinions close to it. In recent decades, some major Christian Democratic parties in Europe have shifted more towards a right-leaning policy of economic liberalism, based on reducing the role of the state in the economy.

Geoffrey K. Roberts and Patricia Hogwood describe the basis of Christian Democracy by writing "In terms of ideology, Christian Democracy has incorporated many of the views held by liberals, conservatives and socialists within a wider framework of moral and Christian principles."<ref>Roberts and Hogwood, European Politics Today, Manchester University Press, 1997</ref> They describe the basis of Christian Democracy in terms of comparisons to and contrasts with liberalism, socialism and conservatism, a useful approach to understanding Christian Democracy.

In such terms of comparisons and contrasts, a "typical" Christian Democratic viewpoint might be described as follows:

  • In common with liberalism, an emphasis on human rights and individual initiative.
  • In contrast to liberalism, a rejection of secularism, and an emphasis on the fact that the individual is part of a community and has duties towards it.
  • In common with conservatism, conservative moral values (i.e. on issues such as marriage, divorce, abortion etc.), a view of the evolutionary development of society, an emphasis on law and order, and a rejection of communism.
  • In contrast to conservatism, open to change (e.g. in the structure of society) and not necessarily supportive of the social status quo.
  • In common with socialism, a strong emphasis on social solidarity (i.e. the welfare state, prioritizing alleviation of poverty, high taxes on the wealthy, etc.) and a willingness to restrain market forces.
  • In contrast to socialism, supports capitalism and a market economy, does not advocate class struggle, and unlike revolutionary socialism, rejects violence as a means to achieve social change.

[edit] History of Christian Democracy

Christian Democracy as a political movement was born at the end of the 19th century, largely as a result of the papal encyclical Rerum Novarum of Pope Leo XIII, in which the Vatican recognized workers' misery and agreed that something should be done about it, in reaction to the rise of the socialist and trade union movements. The position of the Roman Catholic Church on this matter was further clarified in a subsequent encyclical, Quadragesimo Anno, by Pope Pius XI in 1931. Christian Democracy has evolved considerably since then, and it is no longer a particularly Catholic ideology. In Germany, for example, the Christian Democratic Party emerged as a grouping dominated by Bavarian Catholics, but also encompassed the more conservative elements of the overall protestant population. Following World War II, Christian Democracy was seen as a neutral and unifying voice of compassionate conservatism, and distinguished itself from the far right. It gave a voice to 'conservatives of the heart', particularly in Germany, who had detested Hitler's regime yet did not agree with the left on many issues.

In Protestant countries, Christian Democratic parties were founded by more conservative protestants in reaction to the political power of liberal tendencies within the protestant churches. In the Netherlands, for instance, the Anti Revolutionary Party was founded in 1879 by conservative protestants. It institutionalized early 19th century opposition against the ideas from the French Revolution on popular sovereignty. It held the position that government derived its authority from God and not from the people. This Burkean position is sometimes also called Christian Historian. It was a response to the liberal ideas that predominated in political life. The Swedish Christian Democratic Party, rooted in the Pentecostal religious tradition, has a similar history.

While Christian Democracy is of Roman Catholic origin, it has been adopted by many Protestant and Orthodox Christians as well. Some Christian Democratic parties, particularly in Europe, no longer emphasize religion and have become much more secular in recent years.

Christian Democracy can trace its philosophical roots back to Thomas Aquinas and his thoughts about Aristotelian ontology and the Christian tradition. According to him, human rights are defined as the things that humans need to function properly. For example, food is a human right because without food humans are not able to function properly. Modern authors important to the formation of Christian Democratic ideology include: Emmanuel Mounier, Étienne Gilson, and Jacques Maritain.

[edit] Christian Democracy around the world

The international organization of Christian Democratic parties, the Christian Democrat and People's Parties International, is the second largest international political organization in the world (second only to the Socialist International). European Christian Democratic parties have their own regional organization called the European People's Party, which forms the largest group in the European Parliament. However, not all Christian Democratic parties in Europe are members of it. Some, such as the Union for French Democracy, have joined a different group called the European Democratic Party, which takes a strongly Europhile stance.

[edit] Christian Democracy in Europe

Christian Democracy has been especially important in Italy, inspired by Luigi Sturzo (see Democrazia Cristiana), Norway (see Christian Democratic Party of Norway), and Germany (see Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union). Major Christian Democratic influence can also be seen in the politics of Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands (Christian Democratic Appeal), Poland, Slovenia, Spain (People's Party), and Sweden (Christian Democrats). Christian Democracy is not very strong in the United Kingdom where the Conservative Party dominates conservative politics, although they do contain elements of Christian Democrat ideology and, as a party, are roughly comparable to Christian Democrat Parties throughout the rest of Europe. For example, they have been part of the European People's Party–European Democrats in the European Parliament, which contains many of Europe's major Christian Democrat parties.

[edit] Christian Democracy in Latin America

Christian Democracy has been especially important in Chile (see Christian Democrat Party of Chile), in a government coalition since 1990 with the socialdemocrats, and most recently in Mexico with the National Action Party of Vicente Fox.

[edit] Christian Democracy in Asia

[edit] The Philippines

In the Philippines, the influence of Christian Democracy as well as the Roman Catholic and Protestant clergy is very evident, especially in the People Power uprisings it has produced. The largely Roman Catholic country has elected two Christian Democratic presidents (Fidel V. Ramos, a Protestant, and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a devout Catholic, both from the ruling Lakas-CMD party). Filipino Christian Democrats have always focused on economic growth and development, stronger ties with the United States, creation of jobs, and strong cooperation between the executive and legislative branches of government. Christian Democrats in the country have been known for their advocacy of a shift from the present presidential system to a parliamentary form of government through constitutional amendments and through establishing peace talks with Muslim separatists and communist rebels.

What makes Filipino Christian Democracy distinct from others is its inclusion of Muslim leaders in its political alliance (see Lakas-Christian-Muslim Democrats Party). This is an example of Christian Democracy being "ecumenical" in its political agenda.

[edit] Christian Democracy in Australia and New Zealand

In Australia and New Zealand, two different national histories exist, related to conservative Catholic/Christian Democratic involvement in politics within both societies. In Australia, B. A. Santamaria and his Democratic Labor Party left the Australian Labor Party after the ALP had allegedly failed to counter 'communist infiltration' within that country's trade union movement.

As a consequence, there was greater social liberal permeation of the ALP than might have been the case, and the DLP became moribund, unable to counter social liberal policies like liberal abortion-related judicial decisions, decriminalisation of homosexuality and sex work in some Australian states. Moreover, there was a legacy of bitterness that resulted from the 'split.' In the late eighties and early nineties, Santamaria and his National Civic Council took a diametrically opposed stance to dominant neoliberal/New Right tendencies within both the ALP and Liberal Party of Australia.

By contrast, New Zealand had a First Past the Post electoral system that imposed strong centralising and bipartisan pressures on its political configurations, which disadvantaged minor parties. For this reason, Catholics remained enmeshed within the New Zealand Labour Party, and like Santamaria, conservative Catholics opposed Labour and National New Right policies during the eighties and nineties. However, the New Zealand Labour Party never split as the ALP did in the fifties.

However, by the eighties, New Zealand Catholic voting patterns were diversifying. Class seemed to trump confessional adherence, as older Catholic sectarians died off, and became less able to enforce preferred economic and social policies through unified bloc pressure. Occupational and class divisions may have led to left/right bifurcation. Rural Catholics might therefore vote National due to occupational preferences as farmers, while urban working-class Catholics might have voted Labour, Alliance or Green, due to each party's commitment to stronger social policy expenditure, or commitment to peace movement and anti-war stances.

As a result, while conservative Catholic United Future List MP Gordon Copeland is currently aligned with Helen Clark's New Zealand Labour Party-led government over confidence and supply, he is still a diehard social conservative. Within the New Zealand National Party, Bill English has often voiced anxieties about the New Right direction of his party since the late nineties, consistent with what one would expect from a European Christian Democrat, but has failed to present a coherent alternative, and has served as prior Cabinet Minister and current shadow Cabinet Education spokesperson in Jenny Shipley and Don Brash's National-led coalition government and current National Opposition.

By contrast, Jim Anderton broke away from the Labour Party and was party leader of the New Labour Party and Alliance until left/pragmatist strains broke it apart in 2001-2. Since then, his Progressive Party has adopted social conservative stances against prostitution in New Zealand, euthanasia, and decriminalisation of marijuana, as one would expect from a left-wing Christian Democrat. However, he is also a strong supporter of increased expenditure on public health, social welfare and public education, which is also consistent with such a framework.

Due to the disaggregation of the New Zealand Catholic vote, then, some conservative moralist "Christian Democrats" might vote for Copeland and United Future New Zealand, while other "Christian Democrats" might find Jim Anderton's centre-left social policy stances to be more compatible with their own approach to Catholic social ethics. Rural Catholic farmers might vote for English due to his occupational status as a farmer within a rural-dominated centre-right political party, rather than due to any particular confessional preferences.

[edit] Famous Christian Democrats

[edit] See also

[edit] References


[edit] External links

See: Christian politics (index) for articles related to this subject.
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Christian Democracy

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