Voting choice to be shaped by our belief in Christ

02/03/2015

Catholic Outlook March 2015: Voting
As responsible citizens we should properly exercise our democratic right and do so in a prayerful way.

Originally published in Catholic Outlook March 2015

From Very Rev Fr Peter G Williams, Diocesan Administrator

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Recently we have experienced at both state and federal level upheaval in our political system. That governments lose office after one term, and political leaders could be dispatched without completing their terms is a new phenomenon in Australian political life.

Commentators and those who analyse such developments suggest that the 24-hour news cycle and the emergence of social media has changed the way that some sections of our society view their politicians and the political process.

One person said to me recently that it is now almost impossible for any government of any political party to engage in serious and substantial economic or social reform.

There seems to be no appetite for any structural change that might have negative impacts on some parts of the population if people feel they have to either make sacrifices or will lose entitlements.

As people of religious faith, and as members of the Catholic Church, such a situation poses difficult questions. Some of us may face the prospect of being obliged to vote in an election.

As followers of Christ, our participation in Australian society will and should always be informed by what we read in the Gospels and how over two millennia the Church has distilled through theological reflection and arrived at a series of positions over various economic and social questions.

Pope Francis has been highly critical of economic policy that would oppress and make the lives of the poor even worse than they are. On social issues the Pope has also recently been very strong on the matter of the family and how governments should develop policies that will support and enhance family life.

Pope Francis view informs us that it is not ‘self interestthat determines where we place our political allegiance, but rather our desire that the values of the Kingdom of God might prevail in the society in which we live.

In particular, we are challenged to contemplate how different economic and social policies in Australia will impact on others, particularly those who are marginalised, unemployed, the elderly, and young people. 

As Catholics, we have never sought to rely solely on the state to provide for the needs of the community. Since the emergence of the Church as a substantial institution in the 4th Century, through education, social welfare and health, the Church has contributed in a very positive way to social wellbeing and the advancement of countless generations of Catholics and non-Catholics. 

There are voices in Australian society who would argue that the Church should have no place in education, social welfare or health. However, because our understanding of Christ and the mission of the Church compels us to strive for social justice in our world, it is our collective responsibility to ensure the Churchs continued involvement in providing services to the community.

While the state has an important role to play in providing for the community, the Church has a special mission to reach out to the marginalised and vulnerable, and to ensure the Catholic faith is maintained and propagated. 

It is imperative that we Catholics fully inform ourselves before exercising our democratic rights by voting so that our choice will be shaped by our belief in Christ and our desire that in all things the common good might be sought so that we live in a society where the principles of justice, peace, fairness and respect for human dignity prevail.

Policies that entrench divisions within the community, or tend to rupture the fabric of society by ‘social engineering’, have the potential to undermine families and individuals and their ability to authentically live out the Gospel in their lives.

As responsible citizens we should properly exercise our democratic right and do so in a prayerful way making that decision based on what will bring about the greater good for all the people of our state.

St Peter in his first Epistle enjoins the Christian community to pray for those who are in authority and those who are responsible for good governance. They need our prayers and support, so let us frequently remember them.

With my prayers,

Very Rev Fr Peter G Williams

Diocesan Administrator

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