Bishops in appeal for ‘decency’ in political discourse as election looms
Politicians should recognise that telling the truth and not making “vindictive or abusive comments or unattainable promises” is essential in the General Election process, the Catholic bishops of England and Wales have said.
The bishops also reminded all involved in the vote on 12th December that honest political debate “depended upon integrity”.
The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales said the forthcoming General Election is “profoundly important” to the nation and Catholics cannot simply “watch from the balcony”.
They added: “We ask everyone to engage with the election and vote.
“Honest political discourse depends upon integrity.
“We urge all in public life to recognise that telling the truth, not making vindictive and abusive comments or unattainable promises, are essential.”
The Archbishop of Southwark, John Wilson, said that, while public life is a “noble vocation”, politicians and elected officials should be able to exercise that in a way that “promotes the well-being of everyone”.
The bishops said that, while Brexit dominated political discourse, no matter what the UK’s future relationship with Europe was, Britain must be committed to “positive engagement as a key international partner”.
They urged people deciding how to vote to consider candidates’ positions on issues such as abortion, assisted suicide and euthanasia, tackling the climate emergency, and migration and refugees.
The bishops also said people should consider how candidates would uphold the “cherishing of marriage” and the rights of parents to educate their children in accordance with their faith.
Archbishop Wilson said: “One of the key questions about the many policies being proposed are how they affect the weakest, the poorest and the most disadvantaged.”
The bishops of England and Wales’ statement followed a similar statement by Church leaders in Scotland.
The joint statement signed by 10 faith leaders urges politicians to engage in a “truthful” debate during the election campaign and implores the public to treat those standing as candidates with respect.
It came after the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland issued a pastoral letter to be read out at services, calling on members of the congregation to elect MPs who “reflect as close as possible their beliefs”.
The statement said: “As the UK General Election approaches on 12th December, we would like to remind people of the hope that we share as we approach this special time of year – of new life and a new world, and the inspiration this gives us to create a better society for us all – one in which we truly care about those around us.
“We would urge people to treat those who are standing for public office with respect and to use a tone in our debates that recognises the human value in all of us – even, and especially when, we disagree.
“We are all entitled to our own opinions and strong beliefs, and debates sometimes do get passionate and vigorous. But let us ensure that truthfulness and integrity are at the forefront of what we say and do.”
The statement also said the creation of a more equal society is something people can all agree on.
It said: “As people of faith, we believe in the flourishing of local communities and the importance of acting to make sure this can become a reality.
“There are many issues which divide us but many more that can unite us – and the realisation of a fairer, more equal and more just society is one of them.”
Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Southwark, John Wilson, has admitted that the Church has been alarmed over the comments made by Chief Rabbi in raising the issue of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.
He said that, while the Church did not comment on particular party-political comments, it was concerned that Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis had spoken about members of his community being frightened in this country.
Rabbi Mirvis staged an unprecedented intervention, saying that anti-Semitism in the Labour Party is a ‘poison – sanctioned from the top’.
Speaking to reporters on Friday 29th November, Archbishop Wilson said the Catholic Church had a long tradition of speaking out against oppression, xenophobia and racism.
He added: “We would not look at particular party-political comments but we are concerned the Chief Rabbi expressed his concerns that members of his community are frightened in this country.
“Of that we are concerned.”
Picture: Top row: Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson; Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn; Liberal Democrats Party leader Jo Swinson. Bottom row: Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon; Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage.Tags: bishops, election, England, General Election, Scotland, Wales