Bishops’ Election Statement: ‘Time to re-evaluate priorities’

WelCom October 2020 Mike Fitzsimons In their 2020 Election Statement – Whakapuaki Pōti, published in Te Reo Māori and English, The Catholic Bishops of New Zealand challenge New Zealanders to…

WelCom October 2020

Mike Fitzsimons

In their 2020 Election Statement – Whakapuaki Pōti, published in Te Reo Māori and English, The Catholic Bishops of New Zealand challenge New Zealanders to look beyond old debates and everyday politics to ask what kind of society we want Aotearoa New Zealand to be.

The experience of the unfolding Covid-19 pandemic and economic crisis have taught us many lessons and given us a chance to re-evaluate our priorities, say the bishops.

‘It has brought out the best in us as we united to become “a team of five million” to protect those most vulnerable to the virus due to their age or state of health. Protecting life, especially the lives of those most vulnerable – from the beginning to the end of life – should be a cornerstone for our nation now and into the future. Life through all its stages must be treated as a sacred taonga, a sacred treasure.’

The family is the foundation of society and our first community, say the bishops.

‘We hope and work for a nation that looks to ensure the sanctity and wellbeing of whānau; that ensures families have time to spend with each other; that supports all families to access the basic human needs of food, clothing, housing, education and healthcare. We look for a country that addresses the issue of the widening gap between those families who ‘have’ and those who ‘have not’. 

“Rather than thinking about what will benefit each of us personally regarding the election and referendum choices we face, we ask you to pray and discern what will protect the poor and vulnerable and what will uphold the dignity of creation …”

‘We seek political leaders who will seriously consider the health of all whānau and address the worrying levels of family breakdown, depression, addictions, family violence and suicide. We seek policies that focus on alleviating the stresses within families, stresses that all too often begin with financial struggles. If our whānau are safe and strong then we will also have safe, strong communities: “Ehara taku toa I te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini – our strength is not that of an individual, but that of many”.’

The bishops caution against focusing on economic issues at the expense of human and environmental wellbeing. Economics must remain at the service of supporting whānau and society, say the bishops.

‘We applaud those businesses, which look to the wellbeing of their staff and their families, which offer just, family-oriented working conditions and job security, and which actively embrace attitudes of social responsibility such as the living wage. We hope for a nation that values the contribution that everyone makes to the wellbeing of our society – a worker in a supermarket, a cleaner, a delivery worker, or a rubbish collector, are essential for the wellbeing of our society and should all be recognised accordingly. We strive to live in ways that will preserve and enhance the wellbeing of the environment that sustains us and that we are called to be caretakers of.’

Several times the bishops’ statement references Pope Francis’ Encyclical on our care of the earth, Laudato si’. The Pope’s encyclical urges us to recognise the inter-connectedness that exists between God, humanity and the whole of creation. An approach based on this ‘integral ecology’ challenges us to broaden our focus of concern and points us towards a consistent ethic of life – te kahu-o-te-ora – that connects the sacredness of human life with the sacredness of all creation.

The bishops make clear that it is not their role to tell Catholics who to vote for.

‘We are called to assist in forming consciences in the light of the Gospel, not to replace them. It is our role to guide people to look to the wellbeing of everyone in our political decision-making – especially the most vulnerable – as well as the wellbeing of our planet. 

‘Rather than thinking about what will benefit each of us personally regarding the election and referendum choices we face, we ask you to pray and discern what will protect the poor and vulnerable and what will uphold the dignity of creation so that we create a connected future for all, without discarding any of us.’

The bishops’ statement also includes guidance on the two referendum questions related to euthanasia and recreational cannabis. (See page 4.) 

The full version of the Bishops’ 2020 Election Statement is available online at: tinyurl.com/Bishops-Election-Statement or catholic.org.nz/assets/Uploads/Election-Statement-2020-web.pdf