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Catholic Dictionary




As defined in Catholic social philosophy, that form of civil government which is not only for the people and of the people but also by the people. Every political society, by the natural law, should be for the people, since its purpose is the common good. It should also be of the people, since it arises from their consent and with their authorization. but it need not be, unless the citizens so desire, also by the people. In a democracy, the governing heads are elected with equal right by all the people, and there exists the widest individual liberty consistent with the common good. Democracy is either limited or unlimited depending on whether all the citizens or only a part of them have equal right to public offices. Democracy may also be direct or indirect. In a direct democracy the people as a whole possess full power and exercise directly all governing functions, which is possible only in a small social community. Indirect democracy, or representative government, is that in which the people are governed through the legitimate representatives whom they elected. (Etym. Greek d_mos, people + kratia, to rule: d_mokratia, popular government, rule by the people.)