Britain’s Catholic bishops have today published a letter urging worshippers to back political candidates who support marriage and oppose abortion.
The document, drawn up by a team of four bishops, has been launched by Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols. It calls on voters to judge candidates at this year’s general election on a number of issues including their stance on right-to-life issues, their support for faith schools and their position on promoting marriage.
The Right Reverend Mark Davies, Bishop of Shrewsbury, said: “No-one expects bishops to offer a political programme at election time but to highlight the moral questions which underpin the public debate.
“Faced with the unprecedented scale of family breakdown and its immense human and social costs, this election debate surely cannot ignore support for marriage.
“At the very foundation of society is respect for the sanctity of human life. We mustn’t forget the newly-elected parliament in 2015 will decide the legality of assisted suicide in our hospitals and care homes with far-reaching consequences for the way society regards the sick and the elderly.”
A recent document by the Church of England’s House of Bishops caused controversy after appearing to back a left-wing economic agenda, with some Conservative MPs also criticising its call to scrap Britain’s nuclear deterrent.
The Catholic letter, however, focuses less on economics and more on social policy. Nevertheless, it does make general statements on the economy, saying: “Business should see itself at the service of society, solving problems and meeting needs. The market economy exists to serve humanity. People are not merely economic units to be exploited. The dignity of work should always be respected.”
It then goes on to tell voters to look at whether their candidates support a “living wage”, something that may make politically conservative Catholics uneasy, especially as economists have warned it could threaten jobs and inadvertently increase poverty.
The letter also calls for “solidarity” with wider humanity, saying: “The principles of solidarity and subsidiarity assist us in how to think about the future of Europe. Where do your candidates stand in protecting these values in the debate about European institutions?”, something that could be interpreted as a pro-EU statement.
Speaking at a press conference earlier today, Cardinal Nichols also appeared to row back on previous criticisms he has made on the government’s welfare reforms. “I recognise the real efforts that the present government makes in its overhaul of the welfare society to improve the levels and simplicity of the support that is offered for those who are in genuine need,” he said. “I think their strategy is long-term.”