New Zealand’s Catholic Bishops have called on people to vote “no” in the upcoming euthanasia referendum and for voters to consider the impacts of cannabis on the “young and vulnerable” when voting in the parallel referendum on cannabis legalisation.
The two referendums are scheduled to take place on October 17 alongside the 2020 New Zealand general election.
The bishops’ comments were included in the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference’s 2020 Election Statement-Whakapuaki Pōti 2020, which was published as a dual Māori and English document.
The bishop’s election statement avoided telling people which party to vote for because “it is not our role to tell you who to vote for”, but it did urge voters to seek to “protect the poor and vulnerable” through their vote.
On the End of Life Choice Act referendum, however, the bishops firmly directed voters to say “no” to euthanasia because “the people most at risk if we legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide are those most vulnerable to the suggestion they would be ‘better off dead’ – our elderly and disabled people who find themselves within the scope of the Act.”
The bishops argued that the demand for euthanasia had been driven by “negative attitudes towards the elderly and disabled that we know run deep in our society”.
The statement was also critical of the limited attempts to ensure palliative solutions, noting that “there is no corresponding ‘right’ to request quality palliative care”.
Adding that many leading medical groups such as the Medical Association oppose the bill, the bishops argued that there is sufficient “knowledge that quality palliative care can effectively manage physical pain as well as emotional, spiritual and psychological suffering.”
On the legalisation of recreational cannabis, the bishops said that heads of the country’s Catholic schools were acutely aware that “our young people, particularly those still at school, are the group in society most vulnerable to the 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 their statement on the election, the bishops said that “the unfolding pandemic and economic crisis have taught us many lessons,” including that the “lives of those most vulnerable – from the beginning to the end of life – should be a cornerstone for our nation now and into the future.”
The bishops added that “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.”
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