The prelates urge Catholics "to take their democratic freedoms seriously and become involved in the political process," as the nation prepares for elections to the federal Parliament on Nov. 24.
The Australian bishops' statement, released last week, called attention to eight key areas for voters to consider: life, family, indigenous peoples, education, health, environment, immigration and refugees, and peace.
"Respect for life and the fostering of the inherent dignity of the person underpins what it is to be human," they wrote. "All human life is to be respected, particularly the most vulnerable, including the unborn, the sick and elderly, people with disability, and communities ravaged by poverty, abuse, famine or war."
The bishops said they welcome "the growing consensus that the level of abortion is deeply disturbing" and also mentioned that "respect for human life also requires constant vigilance to ensure that euthanasia and assisted suicide are never legalized in Australia."
"The deepest questions are raised by the creation and deliberate destruction of human embryos for stem cell research. The Catholic Church is not opposed to stem cell research. On the contrary, we strongly support research based on adult stem cells, as well as those that are derived from umbilical cord blood. The Church supports ethical stem cell research through its research institutes, healthcare services, teaching hospitals and health professionals," they added.
Noting the rights of the family, the bishops wrote, "At a time when family life is subject to unprecedented pressure, families must be supported in every possible way. There must be legal recognition of the unique nature of marriage between a man and a woman, and proper protection for the rights of children. Tax arrangements and social service support nets should be aimed at strengthening families and reducing the pressures on them."
The bishops said indigenous peoples should be adequately represented in the process of government, "so that Australia’s first peoples may be heard and their hopes and aspirations pursued as a national priority."
Noting the role of the Church in educating Australians, the bishops said, "Funding models must be fair, open and transparent, reflecting accurately contributions from the Commonwealth, states, and parent and private contributions. There should be no barrier to education because of an incapacity to pay."
Similarly, the bishops insisted that every person has a right to health care. "Significant reform is needed to ensure that households maintain their capacity to obtain basic health care. Without such reform, involving both the Commonwealth and states, Medicare will not be able to keep pace with the steady increase in user charges and fees."
The bishops made reference to the drought that continues to plague Australia and called for government policies to safeguard water supplies.
Regarding immigrants and refugees, the bishops said, "We believe that all asylum seekers, regardless of how they arrive in Australia, should have their claim processed in Australia, according to international convention. Claims should be processed as speedily as possible, ensuring that people do not spend long periods in detention. People who are found to be refugees should receive permanent visas which allow them to access government services and employment, giving them the security they need to build a new life in Australia."
Finally, the Australian prelates urged world peace, saying "it is not God’s way to oppose violence with greater violence. […] We support efforts to build a culture of peace by promoting overseas aid policies which provide access to proper nourishment, health, housing and education."