Irish Bishops Stress Human Dignity in Elections

Call for Continued Support to Developing Nations

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DUBLIN, Ireland, FEB. 21, 2011 ( The Irish bishops are underlining value of human dignity, urging people to promote this by their choices in the upcoming national elections and in other circumstances. 

Today at a press conference in Dublin, the Council for Justice and Peace of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference released a document, “From Crisis to Hope: Working to Achieve the Common Good,” that addressed this topic. 

Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Field of Dublin, the council’s chairman, noted that this document is “not simply a pre-election statement,” although it is relevant.

“A core aim of the publication is to set out some of the values that should inform the choices we make at this critical time,” he stated.

In his address for the presentation of the document, the bishop stressed in particular the principle of human dignity.

“As Christians,” he affirmed, “our commitment to human rights stems from our belief in the dignity of each and every human being, made in the image and likeness of God, from the moment of conception until the natural end of their life.”

Thus, the prelate outlined some implications of the Christian obligation to defend human dignity, including primarily the need to protect human life from conception until its natural end.

Bishop Field stressed the need to protect children from poverty and ensure “that they have access to all the services they require for health and education, as well as the opportunity to develop their talents through those cultural and sporting activities that are so important for personal growth.”

Young people

He underlined the need to ensure that “our young people are not forced to leave their home country as a result of a lack of opportunities.”

The defence of human dignity, said the bishop, also implies “strengthening and protecting family life,” since “families are the cornerstone of strong communities, and, ultimately, a strong society.”

He stressed the need of giving every person in Ireland access to “the health care they require on the basis of need” and “providing support and assistance to people with disabilities.”

The prelate also highlighted the obligation to enable the elderly “to live dignified and independent lives.”

“A narrow focus on economic recovery alone will not be enough to pull us out of this crisis,” he asserted.

Bishop Field added, “The strength of a society and of a nation cannot be judged on economic performance alone, but, more importantly, on how it cares for its most vulnerable members.”

He concluded, “The issues addressed in this document will continue to be relevant long after the elections and we will be actively engaging with the newly elected politicians in both jurisdictions to ensure that they are kept to the fore in the agenda of both governments.”

Breakdown of trust

Father Eoin Cassidy, a member of the council who helped write the document, noted that “this is a time of political change, change which we say is taking place against the background of justifiable anger and a breakdown of trust in key societal institutions including the Church, the banks, regulatory agencies, and many other state agencies including even government itself.”

This breakdown of trust, he warned, “if allowed to fester, could engender a cultural climate in which the specter of social fragmentation and even violence cannot be ruled out.”

The priest affirmed that “the concept of the common good gives a clear definition of the purpose of politics, the centrality of justice and equity in any form of governance, and the need for those in power to pay special attention to the more vulnerable members of society — those who are at a disadvantage in terms of defending their rights and advocating their legitimate interests.”

“In today’s Ireland,” the priest said, “the common good will only be served to the extent that a major effort is made to restore trust in our institutional framework.”

He proposed that this restoration could take place “through attention to the place of ethics in governance, and by acknowledging that the common good is damaged by economic policies that target the most vulnerable in our society.”

Bishop John Kirby of Clonfert, another council member and chairman of Trócaire, underlined the needs not only of the Irish people, but also of those overseas.

He stated: “Even though we are in a difficult situation at present, the problems of the developing world are much greater.

“Over the past few years the overseas aid budget of the Irish government has been cut on three occasions. It is now €284 million ($388 million) less than what it was in 2008.”

“This has happened despite an alleged commitment to giving 0.7% of our gross national product to overseas development aid,” the prelate observed.

“We have a responsibility in this globalized world,” he stated, “for people struggling with poverty, environmental degradation and conflict in other parts of the planet.”

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