Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
3 Jul 2013
Calls to review detention centres
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) is urging the nation's 5 million Catholics to make their vote count and to vote for the "common good" when the country goes to the polls later this year.
"We encourage Catholics to look beyond their own individual needs to apply a different test at the ballot box - the test of what we call the common good. The good of the individual and the good of society as a whole must be brought together in harmony," the ACBC says in a letter distributed to 1300 parishes across Australia.

Newly re-instated Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has not yet announced a date for the Federal Election which must be held before November this year.
But whether a Federal Election is called for early next month or in 12 weeks time, the ACBC wants to ensure all Catholics of voting age take our democratic freedoms seriously and become involved in the political process.
The Church traditionally has always refused to take sides in politics and this week's statement by Australia's Catholic bishops does not tell people who to vote for or which party they should support.
Marriage in Australia means a union between a man and a woman
Instead the letter encourages Catholics to focus their attention on key issues of concern that will make a difference not only in their own lives but for the improved welfare and future of Australia as a whole.
"The principles of social teaching cross party political boundaries and Catholics may in good conscience form different opinions on the candidates and the parties standing for election," the ACBC statement says.
"In writing this letter to you, we draw upon our rich tradition of social teaching and upon the Church's long experience of serving all people without distinction through our work in a broad range of areas including health and aged care, education and social services," the Bishops explain.
 Aware of the turbulent political situation that culminated in a new Prime Minister and a new Cabinet being installed this week, Australia's Catholic bishops saw the importance of outlining some key areas that might inform consciences while leaving it to voters to make their final decision, says Archbishop Philip Wilson, Vice President of the ACBC.
Focussing on the principles of Catholic Social Teaching, the Bishops include a range of important issues voters should consider before making up their minds on which party or candidate to support.
Families are the bedrock of society and our greatest gift and strength
Among the issues on which the ACBC outlines its position are those relating to the needs of the nation's poorest and most vulnerable.
"Any society is judged by how the weakest and poorest of its members are treated," the ACBC letter points out and urges voters to remember that the most vulnerable people in society are our greatest responsibility, and that this must be a priority for whichever government is elected to power.
In this context, the Bishops also gave their endorsement and support to DisabilityCare, formerly known as the Disability National Insurance Scheme which will give those with disabilities and their carers more independence as well as individually tailored programs.
On the issue of Marriage and Family, the ACBC said family was the basic unit of society and affirmed the bishops' unwavering belief that there must be legal recognition of the unique nature of marriage between a man and a woman, and proper protection for the rights of children to relate to their natural mother and father.
Old or young, all life is precious and should be treasured
"The Church acknowledges there are many sad situations that mean one or both parents may not be present in a child's life. Single parent families need support in their important work, but children should not intentionally be deprived of their parents unless there is concern for the child's safety," the ACBC says and added that the primary aim of tax arrangements, government payments and workplace relations laws should be to strengthen families and help reduce pressures on finances and family time.
The ACBC pointed to Child Protection as a significant issue with the bishops both collectively and as individuals, sharing the outrage "that all decent people feel when they read the reports of sexual abuse."
"There are profound abuses of human dignity, contrary to the Gospel and are crimes," the letter states and promises that the ACBC will continue to work to eradicate the cirmustances that enable abuse to occur and to seek pastoral care and support for the victims.
The housing, health, education and employment needs of our Indigenous communities must be met
Under the heading "Life," the bishops reiterate the Church's position on all human life, which must be respected, particularly the lives of the most vulnerable including the unborn, the sick, the elderly, people living with a disability and in communities affected by poverty, abuse, famine or war.
"Respect for human life requires constant vigilance to ensure euthanasia and assisted suicide are never legalised," the ACBC insists pointing out that these so called acts of mercy "would in fact abandon those who need our care and protection the most."
Other issues addressed by the bishops include a call for "lasting dignity and justice for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander brothers and sisters" and for political parties to ensure that there is appropriate indigenous representation so that Australia's first people are heard and their needs pursued as a matter of national priority.
"Appalling standards of housing and health, alarming levels of imprisonment and great educational disadvantage and poverty are some of the key indicators of the problems which weigh heavily upon indigenous peoples through the country," the ACBC statement says and issues an urgent call for true national reconciliation.
Each day in NSW 82 unborn children lose their lives to abortion
In addition to pointing out the plight of Australia's indigenous people, the ACBC turns the spotlight on asylum seekers and refugees, asking that regardless of how they arrive on our shores that their claims are speedily processed in accordance with international conventions. The bishops also want an end to mandatory detention, especially for families, children and unaccompanied minors so that Catholic agencies and similar organisations can care for them within the community.
"Asylum seekers and refugees should have access to employment and government services, giving them the security they need to build a new life in Australia," the letter states and reminds the faithful that migration has played a prominent role in the development of the Catholic Church and helped transform Australia into a "vibrant prosperous democracy."
In terms of education, the ACBC calls for fair, equitable and transparent funding of all schools including the nation's 1706 Catholic schools which educate 20% of Australian children, and says there should be no barrier to high quality education because of incapacity to pay.
The high cost of health and aged care is another issue of concern for Australia's bishops.
"Many in Australia miss out on prompt access to health and aged care because of cost barriers," the letter points out and calls for a formal inquiry to be established by the next elected Parliament to find out how these cost barriers can be overcome.
Fears of land degradation, water and air pollution and health risks
The ACBC cites ecology and sustainability as another important issue to be considered by voters calling for policies to address land salination, the degradation of rivers, fair distribution of water and prudent management of fragile ecosystems.
"Australia's future prosperity is closely linked with how well we care for our ecosystems and how effectively we transition to sustainable practices," the bishops' letter points out.
Finally in the statement which is also available online, the ACBC calls on politicians to continue with Australia's Millennium Goal commitments urging the next Parliaments to build a culture of peace by promoting overseas aid policies to provide proper nourishment, health, housing and education to some of the world's poorest communities.
To access the entire statement by the ACBC in PDF or e-book format together with the ACBC's 10 Principles of Catholic Social Teaching log on to