WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Archbishop’s column: voting with integrity

Where there is no vision the people perish (Proverbs 29:18).

Nov08WYDJD2086.gif The Wisdom author may have been looking to the situation New Zealand is facing at present in the midst of political campaigning for the Elections 2008.
What is the vision of society that inspires our choice of leaders to govern the country for the next three years? Is it a vision that brings us just one small step closer to living according to the values of the Kingdom of God?

Michael Fitzsimons in the October issue of Tui Motu suggests it may look something like this:
• A manifesto that engages and benefits the whole community
• Quality public education that empowers everyone to succeed
• A health system for all, not just the privileged
• A tax system to pay for it all
• A resolve to act decisively on climate change
• A commitment to restorative justice wherever possible
• A determination to address entrenched deprivation.

The NZ Catholic Bishops’ statement on this year’s elections,  Mindful of the Common Good,  recalls the principles of Catholic social teaching that underscore what we are looking for in a government. We acknowledge the ‘package deal’ that members of political candidates are obliged to present on behalf of their parties. Not every part of the package might be to our liking, or even to the liking of some candidates.

Negotiation and coalition considerations are part of the political process under the MMP voting system of our country.

It is therefore essential that we put into parliament people of personal integrity and values. We need to be confident they will bring their values to negotiations and decisions in relation to points where human life and dignity are most vulnerable.

The Bishops’ Statement on the 2008 Elections follows a foundational document written over 10 years ago, Te Kahu o te Ora: A Consistent Ethic of Life. They say something that has relevance to the elections:

Our choices—both personal and collective—require a shift from violence to nonviolence,  away from systems which stunt, shorten or endanger life toward a life-giving commitment to community and the protection of the common good. 

We cannot afford to base our vote on a single issue, however worthy, but must keep the complexity of the wider situation in mind: a context that is political, economic, ecological, social, religious, in all its diversity.

The poverty-affluence gap, health, education, immigration, international trade and relations, work for a living wage, crime and punishment … all of these form part of the fabric of the cloak (te kahu) that calls for a consistent ethic of life.

In July this year, over 4000 New Zealand World Youth Day pilgrims returned from Sydney, filled with the joy and enthusiasm of their pilgrimage together. This pilgrimage continues into these elections.

Many of you are voting for the first time. How will you use both the light and the strength of those Sydney days in the choice that lies ahead of you on November 8? You live close to the hopes and concerns of young New Zealanders … how will you speak to them on the issues being debated these elections? 

We recall Pope Benedict’s words at the final Mass:

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you … The power of the Holy Spirit does not only enlighten and console us. It points us to the future, to the coming of God’s Kingdom … Empowered by the Spirit, and drawing upon faith’s rich vision, a new generation of Christians is being called to help build a world in which God’s gift of life is welcomed, respected and cherished.

Let us cast a vote these elections that will help build a world in which God’s gift of life becomes visible in our country.