Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn called on Catholic voters to pray and reflect before they vote, and to do so in accordance with Gospel values.
In an interview with Gary Hoogvliet, presenter of the Shine TV programme “Our Nation Our Voice 2020”, screened on September 17, Bishop Dunn said the Catholic Church would not go so far as to tell people who to vote for, but would urge voters to seriously study the two referendum questions that would also be before them.
The bishop called implementation of the End of Life Choice Act “is quite alarming”.
“My fear is that I suspect that many Kiwis, perhaps the majority of New Zealanders, see it as a merciful choice,” he said.
Bishop Dunn said that New Zealand law is far more liberal compared with similar laws around the world.
“In our own society in New Zealand, we’re very concerned about the issue of suicide and yet, that bill is really saying that the elderly or those who are frail, that if they want to end their life, then, that’s fine,” he said.
“One of the big implications that really worries me is that the elderly and people who are frail will begin to feel they are a burden on society and they’ll feel some sort of pressure to actually opt for voluntary euthanasia,” he added. [They would have to come within the scope of the act in terms of terminal illness and other criteria in order to be eligible].
Bishop Dunn stressed the society that we want is one “where all citizens are honoured and treasured from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death”. Euthanasia, he said, “turns that whole concept upside-down”.
Bishop Dunn said it’s “probably fair to say the Church doesn’t have an opinion” on the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use.
“I, personally, have huge reservations about the wisdom of taking that step. In my experience, talking to schoolteachers and those who work with young people, they are very apprehensive about legalising recreational cannabis,” he said.
Bishop Dunn said that, in voting for candidates, voters need “to be conscious of the needs of the poor, or the vulnerable or marginalised people in society”.
“Going into the election . . . what I’m encouraging people to do just to, in their own particular electorate, is to ask themselves what candidate and what party will help to care especially for those who are most in need in our society today,” he said.
Bishop Dunn highlighted homelessness as a huge issue today.
“The whole tradition of the government providing housing, state housing, is part of our history and I suspect that’s something that governments over recent decades have reneged on, maybe, dropped the ball in that regard. I think that present politicians and people now are very aware that we’ve got a major crisis and that government will have to come to the party to provide more accommodation for families that are really struggling to make ends meet,” he said.
He said candidates may not tick all the boxes, but the challenge for voters is “to find the very best candidate we can, a person of values”.
Bishop Dunn said he is aware that the old model of Christendom, where Church and State share the same values, “is passing in a country like New Zealand”.
But, he said, it is not the end of the world for Christians. “It just presents fresh challenges for us to be faithful to the Gospel and to be missionary disciples in a new age,” he said.
“Christians seem to be almost a minority now, even though we live in a country where many of our institutions actually have Christian origins. But that is the challenge for us, not to bewail the past, but to face the future with confidence and with hope. And not to be downhearted,” he said.
“Someone like St Paul, I think, would relish the opportunity to live the Gospel in this sort of pretty challenging time.”