17th May, 2016

Australia's Roman Catholic bishops have called on Christians to "make our voices heard" during the federal election campaign on issues ranging from the plight of refugees and asylum seekers to the fate of the unborn and those trapped in new forms of slavery.

In an election statement released yesterday, the Catholic Bishops said they wanted to give a "voice to the voiceless" during the campaign particularly with regard to people who are "discarded" in what they called, quoting Pope Francis, a "throwaway culture".

"The voices of the thrown-away people will not be heard in the long and rowdy campaign," they said. "Their faces will not be seen in all the advertising. Yet unless their voices are somehow heard and their faces seen, we will not have a truly human society in which economic management serves human beings rather than the other way around."

As well as refugees, asylum seekers, the unborn and those trapped in new forms of slavery, the statement also mentions Indigenous peoples, sexual abuse survivors, family violence victims, the elderly, the mentally ill, the addicted and the "desperately poor beyond our shores".

Elsewhere in the statement, the bishops have also called for action to protect the natural environment and thrown their support behind keeping the definition of marriage between a man and a woman, noting that "political decisions can end up undermining marriage and providing less and less support for families despite a rhetoric that claims otherwise".

"The fact is that economic decisions have been less and less favourable to families in recent years; and it may be that political decisions in the future will undermine further the dignity and uniqueness of marriage as a lifelong union of man and woman. Support for marriage and the family does not look like a big vote-winner, so that even the most basic human institution, upon which the health of a society depends, can become part of the throwaway culture or at best an optional extra."

The bishops have called for Christians to pray during the campaign and listen not only to the voice of the voiceless but that of God. "Then our vote may be a vote in favor of a community where no-one is thrown away, where all the voices are heard and all the faces seen."

~ www.catholic.org.au/bishops-statements/election-2016-statement

- DAVID ADAMS