Yesterday, Monday 18 September, saw the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference launch their 2017-18 Social Justice Statement at the St Francis' Pastoral Centre, Melbourne.
The Statement, ‘Everyone's Business: Developing an Inclusive and Sustainable Economy’, was introduced by the commissioner of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, Susan Pascoe AM, and Father Joe Caddy, the Episcopal Vicar for Social Services.
Pascoe said that the 2017-18 Statement echoed the sentiments of the theme from 1992, ‘Common Wealth for the Common Good’, a Statement that warned of growing household poverty and employment insecurity.
She said that the 1992 Statement asked Australians ‘to remain true to our egalitarian call and strive to ensure the fruits of this land’s rich inheritance and our own endeavours are distributed equally.’
‘This year’s Statement picks up the conversation 25 years later,’ she added, highlighting the endurance and continual relevance of the message.
Pascoe said that despite Australia’s economic growth, ‘we share with many other developed economies rising levels of inequality and growing populism. It’s timely for the Bishops to make this Statement.’
The commissioner said that in her role, she works closely with the 54,000 charities in Australia and witnesses the commitment of such organisations to better the lives of others.
Further, Pascoe said that the overwhelming majority of charities are well managed and that the people who are assisted by Australia’s charitable organisations are the ones that are the subject of the 2017-18 Statement.
Outlining the key discussion points of the Statement, Pascoe said that five principles ‘aim to restore the moral compass of discussions on the economy.’
- People and nature are not mere tools of production
- Economic growth alone cannot ensure inclusive and sustainable development
- Social equity must be built into the heart of the economy
- Businesses must benefit all society, not just shareholders
- The excluded and vulnerable must be included in decision-making
Pascoe also emphasised the continuity in the messages disseminated by various pontiffs that have encouraged the inclusion of the poor and the consideration for those whose voices cannot be heard.
Fr Caddy joined Pascoe in underlining the importance of inclusivity to ensure a fairer and more considerate society and economy.
He pointed to the environment of a vineyard and suggested it paralleled the relationship between the care for disadvantaged people and economic inclusion.
‘Often at the end of each line of vines in a winery, they have a rose bush and they look beautiful,’ he said, ‘the rose bushes are there because they're susceptible to many of the same diseases as the vines. However, the rose bushes are a little more vulnerable and they catch it first.
The rose bush, the most beautiful plant in the vineyard, shows that the health of the weakest is a sign of the health of the whole vineyard.’
Fr Caddy also spoke of the inappropriateness of celebrating Australia’s richest citizens, arguing more focus should be placed on the nations less fortunate.
He finalised the launch of the Statement by commending its commitment to tackle the economy’s failures and reiterated the need for a greater conversation to take place in communities throughout Australia in order to achieve a more inclusive and sustainable economic environment.