Bishops issue General Election letter

 The Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales is encouraging Catholics to question parliamentary candidates on a number of key issues before deciding how to cast their vote in the forthcoming General Election. In a diverse society, and one preoccupied with celebrity culture, the bishops urge Catholics to think about how their vote might bring about a world shaped by the values of Christ. While acknowledging that there are many important issues in the forthcoming election, they have highlighted six for special consideration: Marriage and the family. Politicians are urged to support and strengthen family life and assess all legislation for its impact on the families. The bishops emphasise that the traditional family structure remains the building block of our society. Respect for life. The bishops reiterate their opposition to abortion, the cloning of human embryos and euthanasia. They call for policies that safeguard the fundamental right to life, and call for the especially vulnerable to be treated with care and dignity. Criminal justice. A compassionate and fresh approach to crime and punishment is urged. Politicians should develop policies that produce a more humane criminal justice system. Education. Education is about the formation of the whole person whether at school or as an adult. It needs to be well funded so that no one is deterred from learning for economic reasons. The global common good. The cancellation of debt, more and better aid, and fair trade should be at the top of the agenda for our government. International organisations, such as the UN, should be strengthened. Refugees and migrants. Policies should protect the human rights and dignity of refugees and migrants. Standards governing the treatment of refugees and migrants and which seek to combat the criminal trafficking and sexual abuse of women and children should be supported. The bishops invite Catholics to examine these issues in the light of Catholic Social Teaching and question local candidates on them. Politicians are expected to be committed to the common good and should avoid appealing to prejudice. Faith is not a private matter, say the bishops. Catholics are reminded that they have a social responsibility to each other and a duty to promote and work for a society that is fair and respectful of the rights of the individual. President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor said: "Elections are times when we make moral decisions, not just material ones. This is the part of the responsibility which goes along with the privilege of living in a democracy. The vital document will help us all to ask how, in the light of the Gospel, our vote can best serve the common good." Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff, said: "Before any of us vote, we have a duty to reflect on the important issues of the day and decide how best our vote might contribute to the common good, and the promotion of a more compassionate, just and peaceful society. As Christians we believe that the truths of the Gospel are a vital element in our reflection on how best to build a society which respects the value and dignity of every person, irrespective of race, colour or creed, and which fosters our flourishing as human beings." Archbishop Patrick Kelly of Liverpool said: "The last thing any of us wants is a disintegrated and disintegrating society. This document is to assist each one of us to look at our human story as whole in its complexity and potential. We are convinced that our responsibility as Christians is not accomplished if we only offer a partial disconnected account of life. There may well be issues not covered in this document, but this is a secure framework to encourage that careful attention and those sound judgements needed at the time of a General Election." Source: CCS

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