Saturday, September 24, 2016

Bishops reflect new consensus about morality in political life

Image result for australian bishops conferenceAustralian Bishops were right to welcome the negotiation between the major political parties that modified some of the humanly destructive elements of the budget package. 

But it was only a beginning, writes Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ in Eureka Street.

In a media statement last week, the Bishops welcomed on moral grounds the compromise that saw dropped from the budget measures that would further disadvantage vulnerable people. 

The difference between the two conceptions of morality was that the government's argument was focused on the budget, whereas the Bishops' argument focused on particular groups of people.

The Bishops focused on fairness. They insisted that "budget repair should be achieved without unfairly placing the burden on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our society."

In giving priority to fairness they argued that the economy should serve people and not control them. 

They worked out of the Catholic understanding that the relationships between people which constitute the economy are only part of a broader set of relationships that form a good and just society. 

The economy must serve the flourishing of all people, particularly the most vulnerable.

The Bishops recognised that this view of the economy is not universally held: "Australia is in danger of allowing the economy to become a kind of false god to whom even human beings have to be sacrificed."

The indication that all is not well in any society is the way in which it treats the poor. 

In Australia the fact that almost 14 per cent of Australians, including 600,000 children, live beneath the poverty line suggests the extent of the sacrifice already made to the economy god.

The Bishops concluded their statement with a commitment "to continue to address the structural causes of poverty and to promote the integral development of the poor."

Their statement does not break new ground. Its themes are those developed over more than a century of Catholic social reflection, although expressed with some of the pungent urgency characteristic of Pope Francis.

Its interest lies in the fact that it no longer represents a fringe view. 

It represents a growing consensus about received economic wisdom.

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