WelCom October 2017:
Dear Prime Minister
I write this following New Zealand’s general election. At this stage, it is not certain who you are going to be – literally and figuratively. This letter is about what I want you to be as our Prime Minister.
I write this letter as a Catholic voter. But don’t categorise me just yet!
As a group, those who affiliate as Catholic are a significant percentage of New Zealanders. But, in political terms, we find ourselves sitting all across the political spectrum, even if some try to categorise us in a certain way. That categorisation is external and internal – some of us Catholics even claim that a Catholic vote can only go one way or definitely can’t go another because of issue ‘a’ or issue ‘b’ or issue ‘c’.
As society has become less homogenous and our political system has evolved, political complexity has increased. It is becoming harder and harder for people to fully align with all positions of a particular party. People usually need to compromise something in order to cast a vote. Catholics do this too. Maybe we always have?
Our Catholic bishops issued a statement to help us prepare for the 2017 election, highlighting the realities of thousands of New Zealanders who need better access to a more fair and equitable society; security of jobs and homes to live with confidence, hope and health for themselves and their families; tackling drug-abuse head on; the need to embrace the bicultural and diverse nature of our community; pro-life attitudes and policies that are the marks of a compassionate and civilised society; the need to address the failing moral and cultural outcomes of our prison system; and the need to care for our common home in tackling the state of our land-use and waterways, meeting our international climate-change obligations and managing threats to biodiversity.
All of these items were debated in the lead up to the election and you pitched your views as what you and your party will do in terms of these topics. Some of the views you espoused might not align with our bishops’ statement in whole or in part. However, whatever comes of the negotiations following on from the result on election night, I still want something from you.
I want you to be a leader, who outlines a vision, and sticks to it with integrity.
Leadership is about serving, and it is most needed for those who are vulnerable. I ask you to have a preferential option for the vulnerable. Some Catholics might call this idea part of being pro-life or having a consistent ethic of life ‒ Te Kahu-o-te-ora. It might surprise you, but hopefully it doesn’t, that for Catholics this means protecting all life, protecting vulnerable environments, vulnerable communities, the young, the old, the sick, the mentally ill, those in prison, those without adequate housing, those not yet born, everyone, everywhere and everyplace – with a preference for those most vulnerable and those without a voice. Can you do this?
Vision is the ability to think about or plan for the future with imagination and wisdom. Both imagination and wisdom are important. The world will be different in three years, ten years, and a hundred years. Things you do in the first 100 days, or at any stage of the three years of your term in government will impact the future. This requires you and your advisers to look beyond the immediate and look beyond the challenge of re-election in 2020. Will you have a bland standardised 20/20 vision that results in us seeing what we always see or will your vision and actions offer something more profound?
Integrity means the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles and deliver values-based policies. I ask that of you and ask that you stay firm to the commitments you have made in the lead up to this election. You will face pressure to change direction and backtrack when what you need to do to show leadership and vision is unpopular. Can you hold your course?
Prime Minister, Aotearoa New Zealand is great country, as you lead it please be what I want you to be, what we need you to be.
May God bless you in this task of leadership!
The WelCom team, from a Catholic voter point of view.
PS, for further reading, see the NZ Catholic Bishops Statement of 1997, A Consistent Ethic of Life – Te Kahu-O-Te-Ora [www.catholic.org.nz/about-us/