Voting is a right and a duty

A letter for May 7 elections. An appeal to the promotion of life and the family. Yes to minimum wage, no to nuclear weapons

Now it was the turn of Scottish bishops to remind Catholics, in a pastoral letter read at all 500 churches on Sunday April 12, of the Christian duty of casting their vote in the forthcoming elections to lay the foundations of a new Civilization of Love at the service of everyone’s needs, of the weaker brackets in particular. With words that echo two similar documents published in the past months by the Catholic and Anglican bishops of England, the message suggests the criteria that should underlie the choice of the best candidates.  First of all go to the polls. For what the bishops describe as “the most unpredictable General Election in generations” the bishop recommend, first of all, to go to the polls, which is both “a civic duty” and a “Christian moral obligation”. As an example they mention the extraordinary turnout past September’s referendum, when over 84% of Scottish citizens went to the polls and 55% said no to independence from Westminster. “It showed how much the Scottish people care about the future of our country and its wellbeing”, the bishops write. They go on: “While each of us alone will decide whom to vote for, the teachings of the Church can offer us a guide as we attempt to reach an informed judgement that advances the common good”. Be informed, think, pray. Without addressing the merits of each party, the pastoral letter does however provide practical guidance on how to prepare for voting. It is necessary to identify candidates that promote Christian principles, and “inform ourselves” of “their moral values” and of their stand on themes regarding the defense of human life, the family, minimum wage, religious tolerance, peace, and evangelization. Referring to the battles conducted in recent years against abortion, assisted suicide, and gay marriage, the bishops reminded Catholics that they should “encourage our politicians to defend the institution of marriage and the family as the basic unit of society on which so much depends”, and encourage the candidates to support the campaign for the minimum wage of 7.85 pounds an hour. To this regard, the bishop mentioned the words of Pope Francis, when he accused “unbridled capitalism”, of pursuing profit at all costs and human exploitation. Religious intolerance made in Scotland. “In this country, an intolerant form of secularism wants to remove religion from the public square, despite recognition in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, write the Scottish bishops, who have become a minority voice in the fight on abortion and gay marriage. In the areas of Edinburgh and Glasgow the freedom of gathering for prayer and openly professing one’s religious is threatened, the bishops point out, by the aggressiveness of a lay agenda promoted by secular associations such as the “Humanist Society Scotland”, while in many world Countries “Christians are put to death simply for professing faith in Jesus Christ”. Against nuclear weapons. The Scottish bishops’ pastoral letter also takes a stand against the Trident nuclear submarine system, a key issue in the British election campaign, whereby Scottish nationalists are in favour of disarmaments while Labour and Conservatives are against. “Successive UK Governments have made plans to replace and upgrade our nuclear weapons capacity despite the considerable costs involved and in the face of persistent moral objections, to say nothing of international agreements we have entered into which commit us to work against the proliferation of such weapons”, the bishops write. While recognizing “each country’s right to self-defense”, for the Scottish Bishops’ Conference “the existence of nuclear weapons, and their possible proliferation, continue to represent a grave threat to the human family”. “Do not remain silent”. The bishops underline the fact that “”on serious issues some politicians who profess a Catholic faith remain silent – or even surrender – in the face of grave ethical injustice.” The letter ends with an appeal to Catholics to be engaged in politics without separating “how we act from what we believe without undermining what we believe and damaging who we are”. “Casting your vote in the next elections is the minimum that a committed Christian can do”, the bishops write, calling upon “a new generation of Catholics to join political parties and to dedicate themselves to political service in a way that remains faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” “laying the foundations for a new Civilization of Love that serves the common good of all, especially the most vulnerable in our society”.

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