Tuesday, 30 March 2010

English bishops' election questionnaire does not challenge candidates

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales has published today a questionnaire for parliamentary candidates.

The questionnaire says [my emphases in bold]:
"Here are some issues and questions which may help inform your decision on who to vote for. They are open questions with no single ‘right’ answer."
The questionnaire also says:
"Firstly in valuing life. That means opposing abortion and euthanasia, and life-cramping poverty, and the neglect of the elderly."
The questionnaire then suggests asking the candidate:
"What does respect for life mean to you? Do all lives have the same value? Older people and the infirm … the severely disabled … the unborn?"
This questionnaire falls seriously short from a pro-life perspective. To suggest that there is "no single 'right' answer" to questions on pro-life matters is to suggest that candidates don't have a duty to uphold the right to life by voting against anti-life laws.

Putting poverty in the same category as abortion is to equate the relative with the absolute. This question thus repeats the 'seamless robe' error of the bishops' pre-election statement, which also equated second-order social issues with first-order moral issues. Virtually all candidates will promise to fight against poverty, but many candidates will support and vote for abortion if elected.

The questionnaire omits or fails to detail certain pro-life issues likely to come up in the new parliament, such as assisted suicide. A candidate in favour of assisted suicide, but asked instead a vague question about 'euthanasia', can thus easily leave the impression of being pro-life on end-of-life issues.

By posing vague, open, multi-issue questions, the questionnaire fails to pin candidates down on how they will vote if elected. The questionnaire thus fails on its own terms, to 'help inform [a voter's] decision on who to vote for'.

SPUC has produced its own questionnaire for candidates. Please contact SPUC to order a copy on (020) 7091 7091.

Comments on this blog? Email them to johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk
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