Archbishop George Pell at St Mary s Cathedral, Sydney.
Islam could be the communism of the 21st century if the West does not reform its secular democracy, Australia’s leading Catholic has said in a speech in the United States.
Cardinal George Pell said secular liberal democracy was empty and selfish, and Islam was emerging as an alternative world view.
In a wide-ranging speech which also attacked his critics for suggesting conservative Christians were a danger to democracy, Dr Pell said communism had showed how the emptiness of the secular approach could be filled with something darker.
“The small but growing conversion of native Westerners within Western societies to Islam carries the suggestion that Islam may provide in the 21st century the attraction which communism provided in the 20th, both for those who are alienated or embittered on the one hand, and for those who seek order or justice on the other,” he said.
Dr Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, told the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty last month that secular democracy could not solve the rise of intolerant religion, but worsened it.
He said democracy was not a good in itself. Its value depended on the moral vision it served.
“The past century provided examples enough of how the emptiness within secular democracy can be filled with darkness by political substitutes for religion.”
Dr Pell said the “democratic personalism” he advocated, based on the dignity of the person, was the last alternative to secular democracy available to the West.
He said for a Catholic bishop to speak this way inspired panic and derision in those who had ideological convictions about secularism. Their over-reaction was a bluff, an attempt to silence opposition.
He asked: “Does democracy need a burgeoning billion-dollar pornography industry to be truly democratic? Does it need an abortion rate in the tens of millions?
“What would democracy look like if you took some of these things out of the picture? Would it cease to be democracy? Or would it actually become more democratic?”
Democratic personalism did not mean seizing power, he said, but broadening the imagination.
“It is a work of persuasion and evangelisation, more than political activism… It is also about salvation – not least of all the salvation of democracy itself.