Christian democracy is a form of democracy that applies Christian principles to public policy. The Christian Democrat movement first began in Europe in the 19th century. One turning point for Christian Democracy is seen to be 1901, when Pope Leo XIII and the Vatican stated that something had to be done to provide relief for workers, who were suffering due to working conditions.
In the encyclical letter written by the Pope, it is stated that “Even those who are not Catholics, moved by the power of truth, avowed that the Church must be credited with a watchful care over all classes of society, and especially those whom fortune has least favored.”
It is also written “Christian Democracy, by the fact that it is Christian, is built, and necessarily so, on the basic principles of divine faith, and provides for the betterment of the masses… Hence, for Christian Democracy justice is sacred; it must maintain that the right of acquiring and possessing property cannot be impugned, and it must safeguard the various distinctions and degrees which are indispensable in every well-ordered commonwealth…”
It wasn’t just the Catholic Church and its followers who influenced the development of Christian democracy; Protestant groups, and in particular Neo-Calvinism, played very important roles in the formation of the ideals behind this movement. According to John Witte, both Protestant and Catholic believers perceived that liberal and social democratic practices had failed the community in some way; it was for this reason that Christian Democrat parties were established. Liberal democracies, Witte states, sacrifice the community for the individual, while social democracies sacrifice the individual for the community. Christian Democrats believe in “social pluralism”, that is, the individual is active and dependent upon communal organizations, like family, church, school and work place, which, in turn, exist to serve the individual.