On 23 February, the Roman Catholic Bishops for England and Wales announced the publication of a pastoral letter to be read in parishes on 1st March:
“Letter to Catholics in England and Wales from their Bishops
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ,
The Gospel is radical and challenging. It is the saving message of Jesus Christ. It is a way of life. It teaches us to value each person: the vulnerable child inside the womb; the parent struggling with the pressures of family life; the person striving to combat poverty; the teacher inspiring students to seek the truth; the stranger fleeing violence and persecution in their homeland; the prisoner in his cell in search of redemption; the child in a distant land claiming the right to a future; and the frail elderly person needing care and facing the frontier of death.
As Catholics, we are called to work for a world shaped by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel proclaims the mercy of God and invites us steadfastly to love God and our neighbour.
Our relationship with God leads to the desire to build a world in which respect, dignity, equality, justice, and peace are our primary concerns.
Pope Francis tells us that we are ‘missionary disciples’ who witness to the mercy of Christ through the faithfulness of our lives and the world we wish to build. In the light of the Gospel we can be messengers of hope as we challenge the political candidates about the policies they wish to implement and the reasons why.
At this General Election we are asked to think about the kind of society we want here at home and abroad. Whom you vote for is a matter for you alone. Our aim is to suggest how you might approach this important question in May 2015 and to suggest some key issues for your reflection as you make your own decision.
Voting in a general election should seldom, if ever, be based on a single issue. Elections involve a whole range of issues, some without doubt more central than others, particularly those concerned with the dignity and value of human life and human flourishing. In this letter, we highlight some important issues – but not the only ones. In each case we suggest a question which you may wish to bear in mind.
‘ … Remembering the mercies of God… let the renewing of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and mature.’
cf Romans 12:1-2″
The full text of the letter is available here. Links to individual sections are listed below, with questions to ascertain the views of the candidates, concluding with one directed at the Catholic voter:
Respecting Life: Where do the candidates in your constituency stand on assisted suicide, euthanasia, abortion and other life issues?
Supporting Marriage and Family Life: Do your candidates have a commitment to support marriage and family life? Where do your candidates stand on directly helping the poorest and most vulnerable people in the UK and also helping them to transform their lives?
Alleviating Poverty: How will candidates in your constituency ensure the best outcomes for the poorest children?
Educating for the good of all: Will they support parental choice for faith-based education?
Building Communities: Where do your candidates stand in protecting these values in the debate about European institutions? Where do your candidates stand on the role of the voluntary sector and how its work can be enhanced? Do your candidates support a living wage and a thriving private sector committed to fair pay and the dignity of human work? Where do your candidates stand on issues of asylum and immigration? Where do your candidates stand on these issues of religious freedom, mutual respect and the role of faith in God in contemporary Britain, and in defending fundamental human rights and promoting religious freedom overseas?
Caring for the World: What are the views of your candidates about overseas aid and development? What are the views of your candidates on tackling climate change and supporting sustainable development?
Conclusion: How, in the light of the Gospel, can my vote best serve the common good?