Bishops speak before election, referendums

New Zealand’s Catholic bishops are urging voters to say “no” to the euthanasia referendum, and ask that voters give “serious thoughts” to the effect of cannabis on vulnerable young people when considering the cannabis referendum.

The six bishops made those calls in their 2020 Election Statement-Whakapuaki Pōti 2020, which also urges people to consider the poor and vulnerable when voting, but expressly says it is not the bishops’ role to tell people who to vote for.

Released during Māori Language Week-Te Wiki o te Reo Māori, the election statement was published in Māori and English throughout.

Urging a “no” vote in the End of Life Choice Act referendum, the bishops stated that the demand for euthanasia is driven not by pain, but by personal and emotional factors, such as fear of being a burden or being disabled, fears that reflect negative attitudes towards the elderly and disabled that run deep in society.

They note that key medical groups, including the New Zealand Medical Association, have opposed the End of Life Choice Act and have criticised the act for not requiring that people first access palliative care, when that is available.

On the recreational cannabis referendum, the bishops stated that, as proprietors of many of the country’s 237 Catholic schools, with 66,000 students, they are keenly aware that rangatahi (young people) are the group most vulnerable to the negative effects of cannabis.

“We think people do need to give serious thoughts to the issue, and we hope you will use your vote in a way that considers the impact of legalised recreational cannabis on the young and vulnerable in our communities.”

In the main section of their statement, the bishops asked “what kind of nation do we want?” after the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and its ongoing consequences.

“We hope and work for a nation that looks to ensure the sanctity and wellbeing of whānau; that ensures families have time to spend with each other; that supports all families to access the basic human needs of food, clothing, housing, education and healthcare.”

Voting does not start with entering the polling booth: “Our participation in elections is about listening to the cries of the Earth and the cries of the poor, studying carefully the proposals of political parties, praying about them, and voting with our conscience.

“Rather than thinking about what will benefit each of us personally regarding the election and referendum choices we face, we ask you to pray and discern what will protect the poor and vulnerable and what will uphold the dignity of creation so that we create a connected future for all, without discarding any of us.”

The bishops’ election statement is reproduced on pages 10-11 in this issue, in English (because of limited space). The statement in English and in Te Reo Maori is at


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