Home' The Southern Cross : June 2016 Contents Page 20 June 2016
eresource: federal election
A right to be involved in political life
Like every other citizen or group of citizens in a democracy,
individual Catholics and Catholic institutions have a right
to participate in politics and the political process, to speak
out about policies and decisions which will affect them, and
to freely express their views and opinions and have them
A duty to speak out on social questions
Because the Christian message is addressed to every person
and to people in every situation, and calls for every person
and situation to be transformed in accordance with God’s law
of love, justice and peace, our faith and politics cannot be
Individual Catholics, Church leaders and agencies are all
called to exercise their social responsibilities at election
time as at all other times. Individual Catholics are called
to exercise their political rights and responsibilities in
accordance with their conscience; Catholic leaders continue
to have a responsibility to remind Christians and the wider
community of the Gospel demands of justice, love and peace;
and Catholic agencies will continue to offer their experience
and expertise in areas such as health, welfare, refugee and
migrant settlement, and aged care services.
No Catholic blueprint for a perfect society
While the Church doesn’t have any ‘Catholic blueprint’ for
organising society or a set of hard and fast rules to apply
to every policy area, it does have a long history of trying to
reflect on social and political questions in an orderly fashion.
For at least 100 years the Popes, Bishops’ Conferences and
the Second Vatican Council have consciously tried to develop
a system of ‘Catholic Social Teaching’ which sums up the
Church’s teachings and vision for society on a range of social
issues. It draws on the Bible, wisdom from the Church’s long
history and tradition, and theological reflection on social
questions in the light of our Christian faith.
Catholic Social Teaching
This 100-year-old tradition of Catholic Social Teaching can be
summarised around a number of principles, which provide a
framework for thinking about some of the issues raised during
the election campaign. Here are some key principles from
Catholic Social Teaching which might be useful for Catholic
voters, leaders and agencies as they reflect on the issues and
policies put forward at election time.
The God-given dignity of each and every human person
• Every person has an essential dignity by virtue of the
fact that they are created in the image of God. In stressing
the dignity of each individual human being, the Church
emphasises that humans are created by God as social
• We are more than just isolated individuals. We are called
to solidarity with one another, because we are all really
responsible for all.
• Human dignity is fulfilled only in community.
Solidarity means we share a responsibility for what
happens to each other
• We are our brothers' and sisters' keepers, wherever they
live. We are one human family, whatever our national, racial,
ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. Learning to
practise the virtue of solidarity means learning that ‘loving
our neighbour’ has global dimensions in an interdependent
world. In particular, the rich nations have responsibilities
toward the poor nations and the structures of the
international order must reflect justice.
Christians are called to make an ‘option for the poor’
• Christians are required by the Gospel to make a
deliberate choice to be on the side of the poor.
• This involves a willingness to stand side by side with
those in poverty and other victims of injustice, to see the
world through their eyes, to be willing to learn from them,
and to treat them as equals and not as objects of one’s pity.
The purpose of government is to promote and protect the
• The purpose of government is the promotion of the
common good. Individuals and groups within society have
an obligation to pursue not only their own interests but the
good of all. The governing and administrative bodies of a
society are obliged to safeguard and promote the common
good, as well as the good of the society’s component parts.
• Government agencies have a positive and active role
to play in society, including in the economy, to promote
and ensure the good of all. Government intervention in the
economy is necessary to prevent exploitation of the weak
by the strong and unscrupulous and to secure the good of
all members of the community in important areas such as
health, education and the provision of basic services.
• The principle of subsidiarity means that governments
need to devolve responsibility to the people or groups most
The economy is not more important than people
• The economy needs to be subservient to human needs
and human purpose. That is, the economy is part of society,
serving it, and not the other way around. The economy
is made for human beings, not human beings for the
• Catholic Social Teaching stresses the importance of
work for human dignity and creative action in the world.
Employment is a basic right, which allows people to
participate more fully in the economic life of the community.
Prayer for the election
from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
Holy God, at the dawn of time you
fashioned the world and set it on its
course. In the fullness of time your Son
took flesh and sowed the seeds of a
new order, and day by day your Spirit
works to bring to birth your realm of
mercy, justice and peace.
We give you thanks for Australia, the
Great South Land of the Holy Spirit. In
this Spirit we pray for our land and all its
people as the nation prepares to elect a
new Federal Parliament.
We pray for the women and men who
have offered themselves as candidates
for public office. May those who are
elected set their hearts always on
honourable service and the common
We pray for the citizens of this much-
blessed country, that they may take up
their responsibility to vote with wisdom
and freedom, and choose what is best
for the whole community.
Loving God, to listen to your Son is to
be moved to speak up for the unseen
and unheard. Give us hearts to heed
your Word and mouths to declare
your truth. We pray that throughout
this election campaign Christian
communities will be a voice for the
We especially remember refugees and
asylum seekers, Indigenous peoples,
survivors of sexual abuse, those who
suffer family violence, those in the
womb, the elderly, those suffering
mental illness, those suffering addiction,
those entrapped in new forms of slavery
and the desperately poor beyond our
We hold before you the whole of our
world, both social and natural. We
pray for a healthy society in which
marriage and family life is respected and
supported. We pray for the earth our
home – the land on which we dwell, the
air we breathe, the water we drink – that
creation’s cry for healing and care is
Bless all who are elected to serve the
nation; may the wisdom and courage of
the Holy Spirit guide them to govern for
the good of all.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
The Church and politics
What are the boundaries?
Sometimes you hear people say, ‘the Church
shouldn’t get involved in politics’, or ‘religion and
politics don’t mix’. On the contrary, the Church has
not only a right but a duty to get involved in politics
including at election time – and for Catholics at
least, religion and politics cannot be separated.
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