New bishops' document assesses society ahead of British elections

Archbishop Vincent Nichols
Archbishop Vincent Nichols

.- On Wednesday the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales released a pre-election document about Catholic Social Teaching intended to help the debate about the values and vision of modern Britain.

The bishops’ document, titled “Choosing the Common Good,” says that social issues cannot be left only to government to solve but are the responsibility of all, according to a press release.

Choosing the Common Good explains the concept of the common good as “the whole network of social conditions which enable human individuals and groups to flourish and live a full, genuinely human life.”

The document argues that a just and civil society can be achieved because “the desire for love and truth is innate in all women and men.”

Pope Benedict XVI’s recent encyclical Caritas in Veritate, whose title means “Love in Truth,” is quoted several times.

Despite a decline in trust in institutions and their countrymen, the bishops of England and Wales urged, everyone in society must help rebuild “essential trust.”

“Central to that task is the understanding that we are not self-contained individuals but inter-dependent, where human flourishing lies in the quality of our relationships and the practice of virtue,” the bishops’ press release says.

The document itself praises the virtues, saying they form men and women as moral agents who do what is right “irrespective of reward” and legal obligation.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, encouraged everyone to read the document and to participate in societal debates. Choosing the Common Good is ultimately about “human flourishing,” he explained, adding that it does not offer a direction on how to vote but provides a background to particular issues.

The document discusses life issues; poverty and inequality; care of the elderly; community relations and migration; the global community and ecology; marriage and family life and the role of faith communities.

It also warns against the privatization of religion, saying religious freedom means “the right to live by faith, within the reasonableness of the common good, and to act by faith in the public forum.”

In response to the charge that the bishops are telling people to vote for the Conservative Party because of their stance on marriage, Archbishop Nichols denied the accusation and said, “You mustn’t be surprised that the Catholic church speaks up in favour of marriage.”

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