The Catholic Bishops in Northern Ireland have issued a Pastoral Reflection on the 5 May elections to the Legislative Assembly entitled ‘A better future: towards a culture of life, care and hope for all’.
The bishops said: “As Christians, our encounter with the risen Jesus, living and among us, is a decisive event that has consequences for every aspect of our lives. This includes our lives as citizens. Renewed by the Spirit, Christ calls us to be artisans of a new creation, the leaven in society of ‘a new social, economic and political order, founded on the dignity and freedom of every human person, to be brought about in peace, justice and solidarity.’ (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, n.19)
“Far from separating us from concern about society and its development, the Gospel commandment to love one’s neighbor as oneself commits us ‘to work for the good of all people and of each person, because we are all really responsible for all’. This is what Catholic social teaching calls our duty to the ‘Common Good’.
“In this pastoral reflection, we consider what some key principles of Catholic Social teaching offer by way of direction and priorities in the search for the common good in Northern Ireland at this particular time. In doing so, we have no desire to interfere in the legitimate autonomy of politics, or to support one political party or candidate over another. This is a matter of conscience for each Catholic voter to determine after careful consideration of all the issues, in light of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church. Our sole concern here is to present the universal values of the Gospel, in the tradition of Catholic Social teaching, as an aid to the formation of conscience, in the run-up to the forthcoming Assembly election. We do so with humility, as pastoral leaders in a Church community where, as pilgrims with others, we often fall short of our own ideals and depend completely on the strength and mercy of God. The reflection we offer, therefore, is offered as part of our pastoral responsibility within the community of the Church, and as an expression of the cherished freedom that all enjoy in a democratic society.”
Some of the key themes covered in the statement are:
- Voting for those who will govern our society is a moral act. Each vote cast, or not cast, potentially influences the values that will shape future law and policy
- We appeal for a new and more constructive political culture, one based on a shared commitment to the common good and the priorities of citizens rather than on traditional constitutional issues
- We call on all parties to address, in the next Programme for Government,the disturbing levels of childhood poverty and the systemic issues of social need … One practical appeal is for funding to schools so that no pupil begins the day without a nutritional breakfast
- The social and moral teaching of the Church is clear, that it is never morally acceptable to support any policy that undermines the sacred inviolability of the right to life of an innocent person in any circumstances
- As Pope Francis has recently said, there are “no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family”
- We call on all politicians to respect the positive contribution to peace and good relations made by all school sectors and to ensure that all school sectors are treated equally in terms of funding and policy
The bishops have also provided ten questions based on Catholic Social Teaching which Catholics are encouraged to ask candidates who are standing in the Assembly elections.
Click here to read the full text of the Pastoral Reflection.