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Christian democracy is a political ideology that emerged in 19th-century Europe under the influence of Catholic social teaching, as well as neo-Calvinism.[nb 1]
It was conceived as a combination of modern democratic ideas and traditional Christian values, incorporating social justice as well as the social teachings espoused by the Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, Pentecostal and other denominational traditions of Christianity in various parts of the world.[nb 2]
After World War II, Catholic and Protestant movements of neo-scholasticism and the Social Gospel, respectively, played a role in shaping Christian democracy.
In practice, Christian democracy is often considered centre-right on cultural, social and moral issues, but centre-left "with respect to economic and labor issues, civil rights, and foreign policy" as well as the environment.[nb 3] Christian democrats support a social market economy.
Worldwide, many Christian democratic parties are members of the Centrist Democrat International and some also of the International Democrat Union. Examples of major Christian democratic parties include the Spanish People's Party, the Christian Democratic Union of Germany, Ireland's Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, the Dutch Christian Democratic Appeal, the Mexican National Action Party, the Christian Democratic People's Party of Switzerland, the Austrian People's Party, the Christian Democratic Party of Chile, the Aruban People's Party,[verification needed] and a faction of the British Conservative Party.
Christian democracy continues to be influential in Europe and Latin America, although it is also present in other parts of the world. Today, many European Christian democratic parties are affiliated with the European People's Party.
Those with Eurosceptic views in comparison with the pro-European EPP may be members of the European Conservatives and Reformists Party. Many Christian democratic parties in the Americas are affiliated with the Christian Democrat Organization of America.
As a generalization, it can be said that Christian democratic parties in Europe tend to be moderately conservative, and in several cases form the main conservative party in their respective countries (e.g. in Germany, Spain, Belgium, and Switzerland) such as the Christian Democratic People's Party of Switzerland, the Christian Social Party, the Evangelical People's Party of Switzerland and the Federal Democratic Union of Switzerland. By contrast, Christian democratic parties in Latin America tend to be left-leaning and to some degree influenced by liberation theology.[needs update] Christian democracy includes elements common to several other political ideologies, including conservatism, liberalism, and social democracy.
Initially, many Catholic political movements in the 19th century had opposed capitalism and socialism equally as both were seen as based on materialism and social conflict. They instead preferred the ideal of self-sufficient peasants and the guild-organized craftsmen that many Catholic encyclicals advocated. However, many of these movements had later reconciled themselves to capitalism as the prevailing economic system by 1914 while at the same time helping to organize Catholic workers and peasants within that system, as socialism came to be seen as the greater threat.
Consequently, this has led to the social market economy, which has been widely influential across much of continental Europe. The social market is a largely free market economy based on a free price system and private property, but is supportive of government activity to promote competitive markets with a comprehensive social welfare system and effective public services to address social inequalities that result from free market outcomes. The market is seen not so much an end in itself but as a means of generating wealth in order to achieve broader social goals and to maintain societal cohesion. This particular model of capitalism, which is sometimes called Rhine–Alpine capitalism or social capitalism, is contrasted to Anglo-American capitalism or enterprise capitalism. Whereas the former is more likely to endorse unions and cooperations, the latter is aims for less restrictions on the workings of market economics. As a consequence, there is a willingness on the part of Christian democratic parties to practice Keynesian and welfarist policies.
In recent decades, some right-leaning Christian democratic parties in Europe have adopted policies consistent with an economically liberal point of view but still supporting a regulated economy with a welfare state, while by contrast other Christian democrats at times seem to hold views similar to Christian socialism, or the economic system of distributism. The promotion of the Christian democratic concepts of sphere sovereignty and subsidiarity led to the creation of corporatist welfare states throughout the world that continue to exist to this day.[nb 4] In keeping with the Christian Democratic concepts of the cultural mandate and the preferential option for the poor, Christian justice is viewed as demanding that the welfare of all people, especially the poor and vulnerable, must be protected because every human being has dignity, being made in the image of God. In many countries, Christian Democrats organized labor unions that competed with Communist and social democratic unions, in contrast to conservativism's stance against worker organizations. Standing in solidarity with these labor unions, in Belgium for example, Christian Democrats have lobbied for Sunday blue laws that guarantee workers as well as civil servants a day of rest in line with historic Christian Sabbath principles.
Christian democrats are usually socially conservative and generally have a relatively skeptical stance towards abortion and same-sex marriage, although some Christian democratic parties have accepted the limited legalization of both; they advocate for a consistent life ethic with regard to their opposition to capital punishment and assisted suicide. Christian Democrats have also supported the prohibition of drugs.[nb 5] Christian democratic parties are often likely to assert the Christian heritage of their country, and to affirm explicitly Christian ethics, rather than adopting a more liberal or secular stance;[nb 6] at the same time, Christian Democratic parties enshrine confessional liberty. Christian Democracy fosters an "ecumenical unity achieved on the religious level against the atheism of the government in the Communist countries."[nb 7]
Christian democrats' views include traditional moral values (on marriage, abortion, prohibition of drugs etc.), opposition to secularization, opposition to state atheism, a view of the evolutionary (as opposed to revolutionary) development of society, an emphasis on law and order, and a rejection of communism. Christian democrats are open to change (for example, in the structure of society) and not necessarily supportive of the social status quo, and have an emphasis on human rights and individual initiative. A rejection of secularism, and an emphasis on the fact that the individual is part of a community and has duties towards it. An emphasis on the community, social justice and solidarity, support for a welfare state, labor unions and support for regulation of market forces. Most European Christian Democrats reject the concept of class struggle (although less so in some Latin American countries, which have been influenced by liberation theology), opposing both excessive State institutions and unregulated capitalism in favor of robust non-governmental, non-profit, intermediary institutions to deliver social services and social insurance.
Geoffrey K. Roberts and Patricia Hogwood have noted that "Christian democracy has incorporated many of the views held by liberals, conservatives and socialists within a wider framework of moral and Christian principles."
Christian democrats hold that the various sectors of society (such as education, family, economy and state) have autonomy and responsibility over their own sphere, a concept known as sphere sovereignty. One sphere ought not to dictate the obligations of another social entity; for example, the sphere of the state is not permitted to interfere with the raising of children, a role that belongs to sphere of the family. Within the sphere of government, Christian democrats maintain that civil issues should first be addressed at the lowest level of government before being examined at a higher level, a doctrine known as subsidiarity. These concepts of sphere sovereignty and subsidiarity are considered to be cornerstones of Christian Democracy political ideology.
As advocates of environmentalism, many[who?] Christian democrats support the principle of stewardship, which upholds the idea that humans should safeguard the planet for future generations of life. Christian democrats also tend to have a conciliatory view with respect to immigration.
The origins of Christian democracy go back to the French Revolution, where initially French republicanism and the Catholic church were deeply hostile to one another as the revolutionary government had attacked the church, confiscated the church's lands, persecuted its priests and had attempted to establish a new religion around reason and the supreme being. After the decades following the French revolution, the Catholic church saw the rise of liberalism as a threat to catholic values. The rise of capitalism and the resulting industrialization and urbanization of society were seen to be destroying the traditional communal and family life. According to the Catholic Church liberal economics promoted selfishness and materialism with the liberal emphasis on individualism, tolerance, and free expression enabled all kinds of self-indulgence and permissiveness to thrive. Consequently, for much of the 19th century the Catholic church was hostile to democracy and liberalism.
Around this time, Catholic theologians and activists took to advocating the interests of workers in society, developing what would become the catholic social thought. One of the more influential theologians in Germany was Wilhelm von Ketteler, who encouraged Catholics to accept the modern state. Some activists such as Frédéric Ozanam, the founder of the Society of St Vincent de Paul, were more amenable to liberal democracy. Italian Popular Party leader Luigi Sturzo credits Ozanam as the first Christian Democrat.
In the 1870s catholic political movements arose independently of the Catholic church with the goal to defend catholic interest from the liberal states. In Europe generally, the liberal states desired to wrestle control over the catholic system of education, however in Germany and Italy this was a direct attack against the church. The Catholic political movements specifically opposed liberal secularism and state control of education; the parties that came out of these movements include the Centre Party (Germany), the Catholic Party (Belgium), various catholic parties in the Netherlands and the Christian Social Party (Austria). Initially, these most of these parties accepted the anti-liberal beliefs of the catholic church at the time; many Catholics behind these movements believed all spheres of life should be regulated by religion. These movements were originally built by ultramontanes, were against the liberal view that church and state must be separated, and used the term "Christian Democracy" in opposition to liberal democracy. The Centre Party in Germany seems to be an exception to this trend, in that they defended the Catholic church through an appeal to liberal freedoms and democracy. Added to this, the Centre party, inspired by Ketteler, did support social legislation.. Despite the thoroughly pro Catholic position of these movements, the church itself resisted the movements, seeing them as a challenge to the churches control of the laity. Overtime, the impact of electoral politics on these parties pushed them to be more accepting of liberal democracy. To form effective political coalitions these parties evolved from Catholic parties to parties inspired by Christianity, and turned to voters, and not the Catholic church, for legitimacy.
Protestant Christian Democracy was more wide and varied. The most significant movement was in the Netherlands, where Reformed protestants founded the Anti-Revolutionary Party. Similarly to the Catholics, this party was formed out of similar concerns with liberal control of education. The party was against the ideas of the French revolution, and the parties founder, Abraham Kuyper, held that government derived its authority from God, not from the people. However, Kuyper and the anti-revolutionary party did support organic democratic representation and promoted universal household suffrage. In Germany, this element came from the Lutheran Adolf Stocker who established the Christian Social Party and those who followed him. The Christian Social movement aimed to challenge Marxist socialism, and so Stoecker supported pro-worker economic policies to win over the working class. However, when this failed, Stoecker turned to anti-Semitism. In Switzerland, Protestants largely accepted the predominance of liberalism and so there was only minor growth of a protestant political movement.
The release of the papal encyclical Rerum novarum was a significant event in the development of Christian Democracy. In the papal encyclical, Pope Leo XIII recognized workers' misery and argued for means to better the conditions of workers. He also attacked economic liberalism and condemned the rise of socialism. One of the immediate outcomes following this was the rise of Christian trade unions across Europe. The position of the Roman Catholic Church on this matter was further clarified in subsequent encyclicals, such as Quadragesimo anno, by Pope Pius XI in 1931, Populorum progressio by Pope Paul VI in 1967, Centesimus annus, by Pope John Paul II in 1991, and Caritas in veritate by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009. At the same time, "Protestant political activism emerged principally in England, the Lowlands, and Scandinavia under the inspiration of both social gospel movements and neo-Calvinism". After World War II, "both Protestant and Catholic political activists helped to restore democracy to war-torn Europe and extend it overseas". Modern authors important to the formation of Christian democratic ideology include Emmanuel Mounier and Jacques Maritain. John Witte, explaining the origin of Christian democracy, states:
Both Protestant and Catholic parties inveighed against the reductionist extremes and social failures of liberal democracies and social democracies. Liberal democracies, they believed, had sacrificed the community for the individual; social democracies had sacrificed the individual for the community. Both parties returned to a traditional Christian teaching of "social pluralism" or "subsidiarity," which stressed the dependence and participation of the individual in family, church, school, business, and other associations. Both parties stressed the responsibility of the state to respect and protect the "individual in community."
Christian democracy has been adopted by Roman Catholics as well as many Protestant and Eastern Orthodox Christians. Christian democracy has evolved considerably since then, and it is no longer the Catholic ideology of distributism, although it is based on Catholic social teaching, as outlined in the 2006 official "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church". (In Germany, for example, the Christian Democratic Party emerged as a grouping dominated by Rhenish and Westphalian Catholics, but also encompassed the more conservative elements of the 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 Adolf Hitler's regime yet agreed with the right on many issues.
Protestant Christian Democracy developed in multifaced ways in the post-war period. In Germany, it arose amongst the Lutheran Ordoliberals. These Lutherans looked to Christian Theologians such as Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer to path a way that obeyed worldly authority, but also challenged the Nazi Regime. The core of the ordoliberal ideology was a strong state that enabled market competition. During the war the ordoliberals worked with Bonhoeffer to develop a political and socio-economic plan for the post war period, and after the war, they joined with Catholics to form the Christian Democratic Union. The Ordoliberals termed their vision a ‘social market economy’, a vision the Catholics would come to champion as well. In Sweden it arose amongst the Pentecostals, where it formed in the Christian Democrats which was founded as a reaction to secularization.
Christian democracy can trace its philosophical roots back to Thomas Aquinas and his thoughts on Aristotelian ontology and the Christian tradition. According to Aquinas, human rights are based on natural law and defined as the things that humans need to function properly. For example, food is a human right because without food humans cannot function properly. Christian Democratic initiatives based on its philosophy also have practical and political results in the movement's direction. Christian Democrats believe in the importance of intermediary organizations that operate in between the individual and the state. Therefore, they support labor unions but in many countries organized their own Christian trade unions separate from socialist unions. These unions in turn formed the strong left wing of many CD parties. Christian democratic opposition to secularism and support of religious organizations as intermediary organizations led to support for church operated schools, hospitals, charities and even social insurance funds. This resulted in strong Christian Democratic support for the government (or mandatory payroll tax) social welfare funding of these institutions.
Some Christian democratic parties, particularly in Europe, no longer emphasize religion and have become much more secular in recent years.
Recently, many minor Christian democratic parties, such as the Christian Union, and others across Europe, did not feel represented in the existing political establishment, and so they formed their own political organization in the European Christian Political Movement. These parties stressed the Christian history of the Europe, alongside advocating for traditional Christian values and Economic and Environmental Justice.
Many Muslim parties in Muslim countries have looked to the Christian Democratic tradition for Inspiration. The most notable is Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (usually known by the Turkish acronym AKP, for Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi), which is essentially Islamic, has moved towards the tradition. However, this link is questioned, given AKP’s movement towards Christian Democracy may be to curry the favor of European parties in European Integration, something the European Christian Democrats ultimately shot down. Other Islamic groups that have been linked are include the Democratic League of Kosovo, and Mohammad Morsi in Egypt . Some Muslim democratic parties have been embraced by Christian democrats are the National Awakening party (Indonesia) and the Lakas–Christian Muslim Democrats (Philliplines), who have joined the Centrist Democrat International.
Main article: List of Christian democratic parties
The international organization of Christian democratic parties, the Centrist Democrat International (CDI), formerly known as the Christian Democratic 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 form the largest group in the European Parliament, the European People's Party Group.
Christian Democracy in Latin America has its roots in the early 20th century, when a number of Catholic political parties were founded in various countries. These parties were generally conservative, and their main aim was to protect the interests of the Catholic Church. However, they also advocated social reform and democracy, and were therefore opposed to the authoritarian regimes that were prevalent in Latin America at that time. In the 1930s, Christian Democracy began to take on a more left-wing character, as a number of parties adopted socialist policies. This was in response to the Great Depression, which had hit Latin America particularly hard. Christian Democracy remained a significant force in Latin American politics throughout the 20th century, and played an important role in the region's transition to democracy in the 1980s and 1990s. Today, Christian Democracy is still a significant political force in many Latin American countries. It has typically adopted a more centrist position, and is now generally supportive of free-market policies. However, it still advocates social justice and equality, and is therefore an important voice in the region's political debate.
Christian democracy has been especially important in Chile (see Christian Democratic Party of Chile) and Venezuela (see COPEI – Christian Democratic Party of Venezuela), among others, and partly also in Mexico, starting with the ascendancy of President Vicente Fox in 2000, followed by Felipe Calderón (see National Action Party (Mexico)). Cuba counts with several Christian democratic political associations, both on the island and in exile. The most significant is perhaps the Movimiento Cristiano de Liberación (MCL) led by Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá, who was killed in a tragic automobile accident in the summer of 2012 and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In Uruguay, the Christian Democratic Party of Uruguay, although numerically small, was instrumental in the creation of the leftist Broad Front in 1971.
After the end of the socialist experience in Central and Eastern Europe, and especially with the process of European integration, many parties from former socialist countries become members of the Christian democratic umbrella organization, the European People's Party (EPP). For example, the KDU-ČSL in the Czech Republic, the Croatian Democratic Union in Croatia, Civic Platform in Poland, etc. Hungary's Fidesz was part of the EPP from 2004 to 2021, its leader, Viktor Orbán, claimed Hungary to be a “Christian democracy". A lot of those parties, pushed for a re-traditionalization of society, pro-family policies, Bismarckian welfare state and identity politics based on Christianity, while maintaining a pro-European integration attitude. Other Euroskeptics parties are also inspired by the ideals of Christian Democracy; and they are grouped under the umbrella of the European Conservatives and Reformists Party, an example is Law and Justice in Poland.
Christian democratic parties in Australia include the Democratic Labor Party, and arguably the Christian Democratic Party.
The Democratic Labor Party was formed in 1955 as a split from the Australian Labor Party (ALP). In Victoria, and New South Wales, state executive members, parliamentarians and branch members associated with the Industrial Groups or B. A. Santamaria and "The Movement" (and therefore strongly identified with Roman Catholicism) were expelled from the party, and formed the Democratic Labor Party (DLP). Later in 1957, a similar split occurred in Queensland, with the resulting group subsequently joining the DLP. The party also had sitting members from Tasmania and New South Wales at various times, though it was much stronger in the aforementioned states. The Democratic Labor Party (DLP) did not claim to be a Christian Democratic party, but it has been considered such by historians of Christian democracy and B. A. Santamaria was himself a Christian Democrat. The goals of the party were anti communism, the decentralization of industry, population, administration and ownership. The party decided, in it's view that the ALP was filled with communists, that it would preference the ruling conservative Liberal and Country parties over the ALP. However, it was more morally conservative, militantly anti-communist and socially compassionate than the Liberals. The DLP heavily lost ground in the federal election of 1974 that saw its primary vote cut by nearly two-thirds, and the election of an ALP government. The DLP never regained its previous support in subsequent elections and formally disbanded in 1978, but a small group within the party refused to accept this decision and created a small, reformed successor party (now the Democratic Labour Party). Though his party was effectively gone, Santamaria and his National Civic Council took a strong diametrically opposed stance to dominant Third Way/neoliberal/New Right tendencies within both the ALP and Liberal parties throughout the eighties and early nineties.
In 2006, the new DLP experienced a resurgence. The successor party struggled through decades of Victorian elections before finally gaining a parliamentary seat when the Victorian upper house was redesigned. Nevertheless, its electoral support is still very small in Victoria (around 2%). It has recently reformed state parties in Queensland and New South Wales. In the 2010 Australian federal election, the DLP won the sixth senate seat in Victoria, giving it representation in the Australian Senate.
The former Christian Democratic Party (initially known as the "Call to Australia" party) is identified with the strongly religious conservative end of the Australian political spectrum. It is associated in the media with the Christian Right over Christian Democracy.
South Korean "liberals" historically refer to political forces that have supported political liberal democracy against Japan's colonial rule and far-right dictatorship, but do not agree with socialism.
Christianity is generally regarded as an outside religion in East Asia, so there is no major party advocating "Christian democracy" in South Korea. However, some South Korean liberals like those in the Democratic Party of Korea show a little social liberal tendency economically, but in consideration of the conservative South Korean society are generally socially conservative and are affected by Christianity. This is distinct from the Confucian social conservatism of South Korean "conservatives".
In the United States, the American Solidarity Party is a minor third party which identifies as a Christian democratic party.
The Center for Public Justice is a Christian democratic public policy organization that advocates to "bring the principles of a Christian worldview to bear on the political realm."
In the United Kingdom, the Christian Peoples Alliance is a Christian democratic party which emphasizes the country's Christian heritage and advocates for the principles of "active compassion, respect for life, social justice, wise stewardship, empowerment, and reconciliation."
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... At the same time, however, he belongs to the Catholic Church and holds some socially conservative views. When asked during a debate about the military’s persecution of gay soldiers, Moon responded that he opposed homosexuality in general.
The Center for Public Justice is a public policy organization, now located in Annapolis, Maryland, which undertakes to bring the principles of a Christian worldview to bear on the political realm. It is rooted in the European Christian democratic tradition, particularly as developed in the Netherlands by Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer (1801-1876), Abraham Kuyper (137-1920), and Herman Dooyeweerd (1894-1977).