Amid Election Campaigns the Catholic Bishops in New Zealand Issue Statement on Social Teaching - FULL TEXT

New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference Statement on Catholic
Social Teaching
Never has Catholic social teaching been more relevant in New Zealand and in our
world than now. From navigating through a world still responding to the COVID19 pandemic, to an increased awareness of racism and historic injustice, and the
ever-increasing socio-economic disparities, the Church’s social teaching helps us
focus our concerns about the world. It provides a lens through which we can try
to make sense of how our society is being changed, particularly by COVID-19 at
this time.
Catholic social teaching is a body of thought on social issues that has been
developed by the Church over the past one hundred and thirty years. Its
foundations are rooted within Scripture and can be found in writings by a
succession of Popes and other Catholic leaders. Catholic social teaching helps us
to apply Gospel values such as love, peace, justice, compassion and community to
modern social problems such as poverty – including homelessness and hunger,
conflict, migration, access to goods and the environment.
Considering the theme of Social Justice Week 2020, perhaps it is not mere
coincidence that this year’s Social Justice Week falls right before Aotearoa New
Zealand’s general election. As well as pondering on the Social Justice Week
resources prepared by Caritas on Catholic social teaching, we encourage you to
also read and reflect on our Election Statement in your preparation to vote.
COVID-19 has exposed our vulnerabilities – within ourselves, our communities
and in our world. However compared to other parts of the world which have
been unable to move beyond individual rights and freedoms to protecting the
health of the community, most New Zealanders showed a commitment to the
common good of all. Lockdown allowed us to rally around the common good of
the health of all, but now can we rally around the common good of the economic
health of all? Are we able to bring our experience and understanding of the
common good forward and compel ourselves to think first of the needs of those
who are most vulnerable?
Our rich tradition of social teaching helps us develop a heart for social change. A
change in heart or behaviour needs firstly, an encounter with Christ. Pope
Francis spoke of seeing the Body of Christ, broken in the sacred liturgy, in the
faces and persons of the most vulnerable, through charity and sharing1. After
COVID-19, we don’t have to look very far. Secondly, we need to apply our
intellect – using tools to be able to analyse current social issues. In order to move
1 Pope Francis. (2017). First World Day of the Poor.
together towards a more just world, we need to question how we “proclaim the
Gospel and make it present”2.
When Pope Francis gave his Urbi et Orbi blessing on 27 March 2020 he said, “We
have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at
the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in
need of comforting the other. On this boat...are all of us.” This imagery of solidarity
and working for the common good is valuable to keep in mind with the election
imminent, but also from our shared experience of the New Zealand COVID-19
lockdown. We remember what we have collectively experienced and learned, we
reflect on those experiences in the light of Catholic social teaching, and we move
forward in love and justice to care for each other, for our neighbours, and for our
Yours sincerely in Christ our Hope,
Mā te Atua koutou e manaaki, e tiaki
✠ Patrick Dunn, Bishop of Auckland and NZCBC President
✠ John Dew, Cardinal Archbishop of Wellington and NZCBC Vice President
✠ Stephen Lowe, Bishop of Hamilton and NZCBC Secretary
✠ Paul Martin SM, Bishop of Christchurch
✠ Michael Dooley, Bishop of Dunedin
✠ Michael Gielen, Auxiliary Bishop of Auckland</div>