A democracy is commonly understood as governance by the people, of the people and for the people; so it is that dictatorship, tyranny, aristocracy respectively mean the reign of power and might, the rule of force and fear, the governance by nobility disdainful of the common tao, contemptuous of the poor and miserable. So it is that the Catholic Church – the one and only Institution which is not only more than 2000 years old but also universal in incarnation and structure among all peoples the world over – teaches in plain words and pronounces in simple language expressly favoring the “Democratic System”. Such a political system is formally considered by the Church herself as the best for the human person, i.e., the promotion of his human dignity plus the protection of human rights as forwarded by Natural Law and affirmed by Positive Law. Thus:
The Church values the democratic system as much as it ensures the participation of citizens in making political choices, guarantees to the governed the possibility of both electing and holding accountable those who govern them, and of replacing them through peaceful means when appropriate. Thus, She cannot encourage the formation of narrow ruling groups which usurp the power of the State for individual interests or for ideological ends. Authentic democracy is possible only in a State ruled by law, and on the basis of a correct understanding of the human person. It requires that the necessary conditions be present for the advancement both of the individual through education and formation in true ideals, and of the promotion of human society through the establishment of structures of participation and shared responsibility.”
(John Paul II, Encyclical Letter “Centessimus Annus”, 1991, n. 46)
Let it be said that in the matter of governance of the Civil Community by the Political Community, the above-cited papal pronouncement formally cited by the Social Doctrine of the Church is the essence of her own knowledge and experience in her operative existence all over the globe for more than twenty centuries. For those who have proper intellectual information plus sufficient empirical knowledge, the above teaching forwards and confirms the following essential elements of democratic governance:
(1) It is participative in the sense that the people or citizens themselves have a rightful and active role in the formation of their government.
(2) It is the right of the same citizens to accept or reject, to maintain or change those who in fact govern them.
(3) It is not for the advantage or benefit of the citizens when they are governed by but an elitist or ideological group.
(4) It is good when a State is ruled by laws that are deferential to the personal dignity of every citizen with their pursuant human rights.
(5) It is incumbent upon the government to provide the citizens with educational possibilities together with proper value formation.
(6) It is the civil society that should be the subject of socio-political structures that promote its participative role in the running of government.
(7) It is incumbent upon the citizens to assume and comply with their common or particular responsibility in government operations.