Take democracy seriously, Catholic bishops say

In a pre-election statement calling for "fair industrial laws" and an end to Aboriginal child abuse, Australian bishops have urged Catholics to get involved in the political process to promote the "common good" and not just their own individual interests.

The Australian reports that the bishops' statement also backs pro-life measures.

While supporting the government's intervention in Aboriginal communities, the statement also says there is a need for more consultation with the indigenous community.

"At a time when some argue that religious faith should be removed from politics altogether, we urge Catholics to take their democratic freedoms seriously and become involved in the political process," the bishops statement says.

"For some, this will also mean making informed ethical choices at the ballot box. For others, it might mean standing for election.

"We acknowledge and encourage the many Catholic people who are already engaged in political life at various levels", they said.

The document does not endorse a particular party but its release was timed for the resumption of federal parliament.

It contains a pointed appeal to Catholics to stand up for their right to have a political voice.

In making the statement, the bishops say, they relied on the authority of "a rich religious tradition and upon the church's long experience as a major provider of healthcare, education and social services in Australia".

Their broad "life" agenda means "working with all sides of politics to offer practical support and alternatives to women facing an unexpected pregnancy".

"All life is to be respected, particularly the most vulnerable, including the unborn, the sick and elderly, people with disability, and communities ravaged by poverty, abuse, famine or war."

They call for maintenance of the proper balance between the rights of the employer and the rights of the employee.

"We call for a 'fair go' for all and an industrial relations system which supports the nation's greatest asset - its families." Working families are "subject to unprecedented pressure".

The bishops support the federal Government's recent move to tackle child abuse in Aboriginal communities as "welcome and necessary" but warn "much more needs to be done".

"This must involve adequate indigenous representation in the process of government."

From the perspective of the church as a major provider of education in Australia, they say the strength of the Australian system is its diversity and argue that funding options for public, Catholic and private schools should be transparent.

On healthcare, they call for "significant reform" to make it affordable.

"Without such reform, involving both the commonwealth and states, Medicare will not be able to keep pace with the steady increase in user charges and fees," the statement says. This includes provision for aged, dental and mental healthcare.

The statement urges care for immigrants and refugees, arguing against long periods in detention. It calls for a responsible attitude towards the environment and supports efforts to build a "culture of peace" worldwide.

Bishops outline political agenda (The Australian, 7/8/07)
Catholic Bishops urge voters to consider the common good at election time (ACBC, Media Release, 6/8/07)
Bishops Statement

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference

7 Aug 2007