Celebrating the Secular

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Amanda Lohrey


On 4 November 2004 I read a report in the Sydney Morning Herald that I found genuinely shocking, a statement by Cardinal George Pell, of the Catholic diocese of Sydney, on what’s wrong with democracy. This report was of a speech given to the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty in the United States. In it, Dr Pell told his audience that liberal democracy is a world of ‘empty secularism’ that is over-focused on ‘individual autonomy’. The problem with democracy, said the Cardinal, quoting John Paul II, is that it is not a good thing in itself; its value depends on the moral vision that it serves, and a secular democracy is lacking in moral vision. If democracy is not a good thing in and of itself, then why have we sent troops to Iraq to enable it? And what about the principle of equality before the law? Freedom of conscience? Freedom of speech and of action? Responsibility for community? Sounds like a moral vision to me.

Article Details

Provocations (Peer Reviewed)
Author Biography

Amanda Lohrey, Independent Scholar

AMANDA LOHREY is the author of four novels, including the prize-winning Camille’s Bread. Her most recent work of non-fiction appeared in the Quarterly Essay series: Groundswell: The Rise of the Greens. Her latest novel, The Philosopher’s Doll, was published by Penguin in 2004.