After the Rugby World Cup final, All Blacks assistant coach Steve Hansen could have been quoting the NZ bishops when he said ‘Rugby is a game about we, not me’.
Hansen was explaining to media that it took 14 players to get the 15th member of the team across the line to score a try.
In the same way the NZ Catholic Bishops say in their 2011 election statement Securing the Common Good, ‘Elections are times not for considering what political choices will be “better for me”, but what political choices will be “better for us”.’
The bishops are reminding us as we approach the parliamentary election on November 26 to consider the impact of our vote on the lives of other people, particularly those who are the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society.
Our Catholic faith tradition reminds us that voting is not simply a question of personal preference − as if our choice of political party were no different from our choice of sandwich filling or clothing colour − but an ethical and moral decision.
Some faith community leaders instruct their members to vote for a particular political party. Others regard the act of voting as a secular activity far removed from the central concerns of faith. The Catholic Church does not hold either of these extremes.
We are asked instead to use and form our consciences in considering our political choices and in weighing up the merits of the different policies and parties. We are not a single-issue Church but must consider the many different ways that party policies affect Catholic social teaching principles such as human life and dignity, the common good of all, the preferential protection for the poor and vulnerable and our responsibility as stewards of God’s creation.
As the bishops say, ‘These are criteria by which we judge all political policies, and challenge all political parties’.
Human life and human dignity are ultimate values for us. These are overtly threatened in, for example, our traditional areas of concern for beginning and end of life issues. But life issues also encompass poverty, environmental sustainability, peace and international aid.
This is not only about quality of life. Innocent people die as a result of poor living conditions caused by poverty both in New Zealand and overseas; people die in environmental disasters and in wars, just as innocent people die because of abortion and euthanasia. Each human life matters to God so each human life matters to us as God’s people.
We, not me is a principle that has brought this country success on the world’s sporting stage. It is an even more vital and necessary principle in decisions we make about our political system which governs the wellbeing of our communities. Love of our neighbour is at the core of the ethical and moral decision we make when we vote.