Saturday, May 14, 2016

Representing the people

It is a common misconception that senior clerics should be invited to conferences, symposiums, etc. because they "represent" the views of the people who attend their churches, synagogues, mosques, etc.

Nothing could be further than the truth.

These people are never elected by the ordinary faithful.  They are appointed because they are seen by other senior clerics as being worthwhile to the interests of the particular organised religion.  The Pope was not elected by the Catholic Churches 1.25 billion followers in some sort of democratic process - he was chosen by a bunch of other senior clerics within the church, from one of their number.

The only sense in which any senior cleric can be said to represent the views of his church members is that he probably instructs those followers what their views must be.  So if the Pope says 1.25 billion Catholics oppose contraception, what he is actually saying is that he opposes it, and then tells the 1.25 billion Catholics that they must oppose it too.

Religious leaders should not be invited to forums to represent their followers.  If they are invited at all it must be clearly on the understanding that the views they represent are those of the other senior clerics of their religion.  For a truly elected-by-the-people representative you'd be better inviting the latest pop idol.