The Bishops of Victoria have written to the Catholic community in Victoria to provide an election guide designed to help Catholics consider and navigate key issues of significance, particularly those related to the common good. You are invited to read the information below and to prayerfully discern how your vote can contribute to the common good in Victoria.
This guide is intended to be only that – a guide. There is no Catholic political party and no single way that a Catholic should vote. Each of us are called to exercise our conscience, utilise our intellect and draw upon our faith in deciding how to vote. It is important that we carefully and prayerfully discern who best deserves our vote this State Election. This discernment may be based on many considerations – the past performance of individuals or parties, promises of action or funding to come. Our faith calls us to seek parties and individuals who will enact laws that advance the common good, protect the vulnerable and build a more just society where all Victorians can truly flourish. May we also renew our own commitment to working towards the same ourselves – following the example of Jesus Christ.
Respect for God’s creation is at the foundation of our Catholic faith. At the heart is a profound understanding of the dignity and worth of every human being – created, loved and treasured by God. As sons and daughters of God, we have an inherent relationship with one another and a responsibility for each other that can never be erased. With radical solidarity, we are called to love our neighbour, knowing that we have a responsibility for each of our brothers and sisters. We are all accountable and have a part to play in working towards the genuine good of all people.
The rich Tradition of the Catholic Church includes the Social Doctrine of the Church, which has four key principles that cover every sphere of our lives – the social, spiritual, political and economic. In deciding our vote, we can ask the following questions about candidates and political parties:
From the beginning, God created the human person – male and female – in his own image and gave the human person particular responsibilities for creation. As such, every human life is sacred and inviolable, unique and unrepeatable, with God-given dignity and purpose, called into relationship with God. As well as being called into communion with God, we are also called into relationship with each other. In our neighbour, we see a reflection of God himself, and this demands a profound respect for each and every human person.
The 'common good’ refers to the good of the whole human person and the good of all people. It seeks to address the social conditions that allow all people to reach their fulfilment and ensure access to what they truly need – including material, cultural, moral and spiritual goods. Of particular concern is ensuring no one goes without the sustenance they need and that the goods of the earth are shared fairly and equitably. In seeking the common good, Jesus Christ, who identifies with the least among us, is our model.
We have been created for communion with others. Relationships strengthen the social fabric of society and form the basis of the community. Subsidiarity involves relationships between individuals and social groupings. A key component of subsidiarity is individuals having responsibility for the things that they can practically do themselves without these tasks being delegated to or exercised by others. This avoids a ‘top-down’ approach. This means the State should moderate its involvement in the lives of its citizens, always respecting the initiative, freedom and responsibility of each cell in society.
The human person is a social being – made for communion with God and others. Solidarity expresses the interdependence between individuals and peoples found at every level of society. True solidarity involves the common good and ensures all have access to the goods they need, including equality among peoples and peace in the world. We all have a responsibility to ensure our brothers and sisters have what they need in order to live a fulfilled life.
More information about the principles of Catholic Social Teaching can be found in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.
The rights of children – to be protected, nurtured, loved, educated, and cared for within their natural families where possible – are paramount. Sadly, we all know examples (including tragically in our own Church) where children have not been cared for or protected as they ought and we know that the effects of this can last for a lifetime. The care and protection of children should be at the forefront of all we seek to do as a society, particularly those most vulnerable. We all have a role to play in proactively creating a hope-filled future in which young people can thrive.
Education is essential to our society and one of the most formative experiences for young people. Fair and equitable access to funding is needed so that all children receive the high-quality education they deserve. Parents of students attending faith-based schools pay the same taxes other parents do. It is necessary to ensure the right of parents to choose the type of school they wish for their own children is protected. Likewise, is it essential to ensure the right of faith-based schools to make employment decisions based on their mission and values.
The family holds a privileged place in society – it is the place where we first experience and learn love. It is the most basic and vital social structure of our society. We have all seen or experienced first-hand what can happen when family structures break down and the suffering that results. Countless studies attest that the best environment in which a child is raised is with a loving mother and father. The role of society is to ensure all should be done to support the family and the raising of children by their parents. Governments should enact social and economic policies that strengthen and protect families, with special care for those experiencing hardship or family breakdown. Parents are the primary educators of their children and governments should recognise that parents are generally best placed to make decisions for the good of their children.
Every human person is made in the image and likeness of God and has an inherent dignity that can never be taken away. Life is sacred and must be respected from conception until natural death. We should be particularly attentive to those who are vulnerable or who are unable to care for or protect themselves. Nothing should be considered more important than the respect for human life, with care and attention paid to the most vulnerable among us such as unborn babies, children, those with disabilities and those facing the end of life.
What makes humans distinct from every other creature is their ability to act in freedom – to think rationally, to understand right from wrong and to make decisions formed by their beliefs and conscience. The violation of a person’s right to act according to a moral belief or conscience is grave and goes against God’s plan for the human person. The importance of this fundamental human right is recognised internationally. Not only should individuals be able to make choices based on their faith and conscience, but the rights of parents to make decisions for their own children and the rights of religious organisations to adhere to their beliefs and practise their faith publicly, must be protected.
All of us will experience health related issues at some time. How we care for those suffering from ill health, particularly those most vulnerable, is a fundamental marker of our society. We are fortunate in our state and nation, to have excellent health care available for the most part. There are, however, significant gaps that mean some members of our society face delays or a lack of access to needed care. This includes vulnerable groups – of which there are many – and those in regional or under-resourced areas who can sometimes experience what has been called a ‘postcard lottery’ in the provision of services, for example palliative care. Vitally important is adequate funding to keep up with the demand for services, particularly in our care for the most vulnerable, our hospital system and the area of mental health support. Furthermore, given recent attempts to force Catholic hospitals to participate in practices such as abortion and euthanasia, it is essential to ensure the conscience of both health care providers and professionals is respected on every level.
Today there are many issues of justice that deserve our attention, including the rehabilitation of those in prisons, care for our First Nations brothers and sisters who continue to face disproportionate disadvantage, addressing homelessness and equitable access to housing, the prevention of domestic and family violence, providing adequate mental health care, ensuring fair wages and conditions of work, the care of children not living within their own family structures or the just treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. Some of these issues fall under both state and federal jurisdictions, however, it is the responsibility of all to address issues of injustice and create a hope-filled future. How we treat our most vulnerable is a key measure not just of our community, but also the various political parties and candidates seeking election.
We are all called to be good stewards of the natural world, caring for and respecting the common home given to us by God. With our world facing many unprecedented challenges, humanity is called to unite to protect and better care for our planet. This responsibility is not just limited to our own time – our actions (or lack thereof) affects future generations. Our earth provides many valuable resources – from food, to energy, to materials utilised in our technological age. These resources should be utilised in ways that are equitable, fair and safe.
Ensuring the infrastructure needs of the community are planned for and adequately met is an integral part of good governance. In meeting these needs, care must be taken to ensure public services are funded in an equitable and fair manner, and always seek to serve the needs of the whole community. Our elected officials should always seek to bring about the common good in deciding the allocation of resources for infrastructure needs. Of particular concern are our schools, hospitals, emergency services, roads, public transport systems and community services.
The economy exists to serve people, not people for the economy. The management of our economy has a profound impact on our society and all areas of our life – affecting the cost of living, employment opportunities and the funding and availability of goods and services. Governments are responsible for ensuring that their economic decisions serve the genuine needs and betterment of the whole community. With limited funds available, care must be taken to ensure resources are distributed in a responsible, equitable and prudent manner for the common good of all.
Each year, our members of Parliament make laws that govern our state. These laws affect almost all aspect of our lives and although they each carry a level of importance, there are some laws that demand special consideration and attention because they address fundamental issues of human dignity, justice, respect for life and freedom of conscience and belief. Some of these are highlighted below.
In 2008, the Abortion Law Reform Bill was introduced by the Brumby Government. The Bill passed both houses of Parliament, legalising abortion up to birth (under certain conditions) and limiting the ability of doctors to conscientiously object to abortion in Victoria. Both major parties allowed MPs to vote according to their own conscience.
In 2015, the Infant Viability Bill was introduced to the Victorian Upper House by Dr Rachel Carling-Jenkins, to prohibit late-term abortions after 24 weeks. Both major parties allowed MPs to vote according to their own conscience with the Bill unsuccessful.
In 2016, the Children Legislation Amendment (Reportable Conduct) Bill was introduced by the Andrews Government and passed both houses of Parliament mandating that priests break the seal of confession in matters relating to reportable conduct. Both major parties supported the Bill.
In 2017, the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill was introduced by the Andrews Government and passed both houses of Parliament legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide in the State of Victoria. Both major parties allowed MPs to vote according to their conscience.
In 2019, the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill was introduced by the Andrews Government and passed both houses of Parliament. The Bill allows Victorians (adults or parents/guardians on behalf of their children) to change (or ‘re-assign’) the sex recorded on their official birth certificate to a descriptor of their choice. The Bill was supported by the Government and opposed by the Opposition.
In 2020, the Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill was introduced by the Andrews Government. The Bill passed both houses of Parliament and while its initial aims might have been to ban out-dated and insidious practices of coercion and harm, it went far beyond this, placing arbitrary limitations on parents, families and people of faith and infringing directly on personal and private matters, including conversations between parents and children, pastoral and professional care and practices of prayer. Both major parties supported the Bill.
Several attempts to amend the Equal Opportunity Act have been made across the years. The aim of such bills has been to limit the freedom and rights of religious organisations and education providers to manage their activity and staffing according to their own faith, values and ethos. The most recent attempt was the Equal Opportunity (Religious Exceptions) Amendment Bill introduced by the Andrews Government in 2021 which passed both houses of Parliament. The Bill was supported by the Government and opposed by the Opposition.
You are the source of goodness, justice and truth.
We thank you for the many freedoms we enjoy in Australia, including free and fair elections.
We entrust to you the State of Victoria and all who live within it.
We pray for the gift of wisdom ahead of the upcoming election.
Guide us in our deliberations, so we may seek to elect representatives who will work tirelessly to pursue the common good in all things.
We pray for all those standing for election and their families.
May all those elected work diligently to build a more just society.
May our local community of Victoria be a place where peace and justice flourish, religious freedom is respected, and all people, especially the most vulnerable are valued, respected and cared for.
And may we each renew our commitment to do the same ourselves – following the example of Your Son, Jesus Christ, in all things.
Our Lady Help of Christians, pray for us.