As politicians swing into election mode the Catholic Bishops of Australia are encouraging people not to vote according to self-interest but with a view to the common good. In their pastoral letter they draw attention to a range of issues such as respect for life, marriage and the family, child protection, poverty, health and education. The needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, refugees and asylum seekers are highlighted. Watch the video here:
In a 13 October 2016 statement the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference calls on the Australian government to bring asylum seekers held on Nauru and Manus Island to Australia. Conference President, Archbishop Hart, got behind the Bring Them Here campaign: We endorse the campaign to Bring Them Here to Australia. We pledge the help of our Catholic communities and institutions to welcome and support these refugees when they arrive, including Catholic health, education and social services. The Bishops point out that far fewer asylum seekers arrive directly in Australia than in other nations. They express shame at “the expulsion and harsh treatment of the people who sought our protection only to be detained on Nauru and Manus Island.” Furthermore they draw attention to the appalling conditions under which asylum seekers live, lamenting “the effects on their health, spirits and self-respect.” How to Help Bring Them Here The Bishops ask Catholics in Australia who want to help to contact the Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum, which brings together Catholic peak bodies across education, health, welfare, and the broader church along with key national Catholic organisations. Read the Full Statement The full statement is available here.
Director of the Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office, Fr Maurizio Pettena calls for immediate action on the allegations made in the leaked Nauru files. The Nauru files detail numerous alleged incidents of physical and sexual abuse of detainees at Australia’s offshore immigration detention centre. Fr Pettena expressed “grave concern that more than half of the allegations involve children, even though they make up %18 of those in detention.” He also expressed concern about “the manner in which these allegations have been handled, in particular the downgrading of severity in allegations.” Fr Pettena called on the Australian Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton to take immediate action. He declared that “there has been a consistent decline in the mental and physical condition of refugees on Nauru.” Hence he demanded that “concrete action must be taken to improve conditions.” Meanwhile, community movements are calling for the asylum seekers to be brought to Australia. Speaking on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops, Fr Pettena made their position clear. He explains that it is not only the allegations made in the Nauru files that are of concern, but the whole policy regime. “The Catholic Church opposes mandatory detention and offshore detention because these policy responses do not respect the dignity of people seeking our help. It is imperative that the dignity of the human person must always come first. Governments have a responsibility to manage migration flows, but the Australian Government’s current approach is harsh and should change.” Read the Full Statement Read the full statement here.
Some Catholic Social Teaching Themes Integrating Principles, Criteria & Guidelines for Action Catholic Social Teaching themes bring together principles for reflection, criteria for judgement and guidelines for action. Often they address issues or particular areas of concern, such as work or the rights of indigenous peoples. They may also develop from the Church’s reflection on key concepts in the light of experience over time. For example, Catholic Social Teaching’s understanding of the role of structures in injustice or of the role of the state. Find out about: – A Preferential Option for the Poor – Civil Society & the State – The Death Penalty – Integral Ecology – Integral Human Development – People on the Move – Social Sin – Structures of Sin, Structures of Grace – The Rights of Indigenous Peoples A Preferential Option for the Poor Making a preferential option for the poor is a way of following the example of Jesus. It is an option in the sense of being a conscious choice to be in solidarity with those who are poor, marginalized or disrespected, and to work for structural change to transform the causes of poverty and marginalization. Our preferential option for the poor is a core commitment – it is not optional! It is preferential because through this option we give preference or priority in our love to those who are poor. Find out more… Civil Society & the State Catholic Social Teaching holds that the state exists to serve the human person by organizing and promoting the common good. As far back as Rerum Novarum (Leo XIII, 1891) the church taught that the state has a duty to intervene in economic and social life to defend the interests of those who cannot defend themselves. Political authority exists to serve people and communities. Find out more … The Death Penalty The death penalty is an extreme measure. In modern times Catholic Social Teaching has upheld the right of the State to use it only in very limited circumstances. Conditions for its acceptable use have been progressively tightened by recent Popes. Pope Francis now says that the death penalty is in itself contrary to the Gospel because it involves the wilful suppression of a human life. He has called for the content of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on this topic to be revised. Find out more … Integral Ecology The Catholic Social Teaching theme of integral ecology is becoming more urgent and important. Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’, on care for our common home, stresses that everything is connected. This means that our approach to ecology must be holistic. Ecology goes beyond care for the natural environment. It embraces the vast network of relationships between all that is. Integral ecology requires “an integrated approach to combatting poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.” Find out more … Integral Human Development Economic development alone is not enough to create a just society. People and communities have material needs, but human flourishing and wellbeing have spiritual, social, cultural and political dimensions too. Catholic Social Teaching takes a holistic or integral approach to development. It places people, rather than the economy, at the centre of development. Development is for people. We are made by God out of love and called to develop our God-given gifts, to grow as persons, and to seek our fulfilment. That is why we describe our thinking about development as integral and human. Find out more … People on the Move – Migrants, Refugees & Asylum Seekers Catholic Social Teaching approaches questions of human mobility from the point of view of human dignity rather than legal status or national interest. It’s key questions are not about legal obligations or defending sovereign territory, but rather how right relationships with self, God, others and creation, would call us – as individuals, communities, nations and international bodies – to respond to people on the move. Find out more about Catholic Social Teaching on refugees here. Find out more about Catholic Social Teaching on migration here. Social Sin – Structures of Sin & Structures of Grace Things, such as structures, can’t really sin. People sin, but our freedom to choose what is good can be influenced or conditioned by social structures, processes and institutions. Structures or situations can be described as sinful when they reflect, reinforce or even encourage personal sins. They make it harder to do what is right and good and easier to choose another path. Read a reflection by Sandie Cornish here Read a reflection by Bishop Peter Cullinane here. Consider the link between sexual abuse and structures of sin here. The Rights of Indigenous Peoples What does Catholic Social Teaching have to say about the rights of Indigenous peoples? In the Catholic human rights tradition, human rights and the duties that go with them are grounded in the dignity of the human person. They apply to all persons and all peoples in every kind of situation or type of activity. The rights of Indigenous peoples are human rights. Find out more …
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) has issued a statement urging Catholics to consider how they will vote in the Federal Election 2016. In it they pick up Pope Francis’ expression “thrown away people” highlighting the experiences of Indigenous Australians asylum seekers and refugees 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 shores who look to us for help. Members of each of these groups have been “thrown away” or disregarded by Australian society and lack a loud voice in election debates. Catholics are urged to prayerfully listen to their needs and that of creation in considering how to vote. ACBC Statement for Election 2016 The four page statement is called A Vote for the Voiceless. It can be downloaded here.
Pope Francis’ address to US Congress on 24 September 2015 covered a broad range of social justice issues from migration to interfaith dialogue to peace building and action against climate change. In doing so he drew on a range of Catholic Social Teaching principles. For Reflection: How do you see the links between freedom, the common good, subsidiarity, and solidarity? What are some ways in which love of the common good could be better expressed in the political life of your country? For Reflection: The political community is one of the great themes in Catholic Social Teaching. As Pope Francis’ address to US Congress explains, the very purpose of the state is to foster, organise and defend the common good. Would you consider entering political life in order to promote the common good? How do you encourage politicians to remain focused on the common good? For Reflection Pope Francis’ address to US Congress highlighted the importance of religious liberty, and the positive role of the voice of faith in society. But it also acknowledges the reality of violence perpetrated in the name of religion, of different forms of religious fundamentalism, and the simplistic reductionism “which sees only good or evil.” Can you think of examples of how the voice of faith is playing a positive role in your society? In what ways does your society respect, or fail to respect, the religious liberty of all? For Reflection: Pope Francis urged members of Congress to draw on the Golden Rule – treat others as you would have them treat you – in responding to the global refugee crisis and also to the movement of people from Latin and Central America into the USA seeking safety and decent life. As the son of immigrants, he appealed to the people of the USA not to forget their own history of migration. He also recalled the violent and unjust treatment of the First Peoples in this process and urged that such “sins and errors” not be repeated. How well is your community responding to the global refugee crisis? What might help members of your community to see refugees, asylum seekers and migrants as people who want only what we all want for our children? For Reflection: Do you find it difficult to believe that people who have committed serious crimes can change? Does your own experience of mercy and forgiveness encourage you to hope that others too can experience such hope and transformation? For Reflection: Pope Francis’ address to US Congress called for a continuing effort to address poverty and hunger globally. He reiterated many of the concerns he expressed in the encyclical Laudato Si’, especially the need for sustainable development and action on climate change. Who are the people in your community who are inspired by their faith to take action for social justice and to care of the earth? How are poverty and care for creation intertwined in your country?
View Bishop Peter Comensoli’s video message to the people of the Broken Bay Diocese in Australia for Migrant & Refugee Sunday 2015. Social Spirituality’s Sandie Cornish helps out. She spells out the calls to offer friendship, be informed, and promote social inclusion a little more in the text below. We may not be able to solve all the injustices and hardships suffered by migrants and refugees – that requires international cooperation – but we can all do something. Offer Friendship These days sharp distinctions between migrants and refugees often fail to reflect the realties of people’s lives. Migration is more of a spectrum than a series of distinct categories. People move with different degrees of choice. It is a spectrum of force and freedom, desperation and aspiration. Many people on the move experience both push and pull factors. At one end of the spectrum are migrants who freely chose to move to enjoy a better life, and who would be able to choose to return to their home country in safety. At the other end of the spectrum are the forcibly displaced who have no choice but to move in order to seek safety and freedom. Even those who move through choice and in freedom face difficulties in adjusting to a new home. Remembering such experiences in our own lives and those of our extended families helps us to be conscious of the importance of offering friendship and hospitality. Those who have moved through necessity, often with little control over the circumstances of their movement or opportunity to prepare, need our practical solidarity even more. Will Jesus say to us that he was a stranger and we welcomed him? Be Informed The reality of ‘mixed flows’ of migrants and asylum seekers has triggered public discussion of who should be welcomed. Fear and misinformation can feed harsh reactions against those coming to us looking for safety and freedom. If we are to follow the one who said “I am the way, the truth, and the life” it is important to seek the truth and to live in it. It isn’t hard to be informed rather than simply accepting claims made about asylum seekers. The Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office, and the Refugee Council of Australia are reliable sources of accurate information. Promote Inclusion The global movement of people leads us to reflect on what kind of society we want to be, and what kind of world we want to live in. An ethic of solidarity, and of communion calls us beyond defensive, self-interested, and excluding responses to people on the move. If we are to accept Jesus’ offer of life to the full, then we need to accept and include each other. If we become a local community in which all are included and all are valued, we will more readily welcome those who come to us in need. We are, after all, members of one human family. We can promote social inclusion. That’s the policy language for what Pope Francis describes in his message for Migrant & Refugee Sunday 2015 as a world “in which no one is seen as useless, out of place or disposable.” We can support policies and projects that ensure a place for everyone and we can let our local councilors, and state and federal politicians know that this is important to us.