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Church and State in the New Paraguayan Constitution

By Pedro C. Moreno
Published February 1, 1993

THE NEW CONSTITUTION OF PARAGUAY, recently ratified, replaces the 1967 document which contained some provisions outdated by modern events.

The new constitution states: “It is recognized: freedom of religion, worship and ideology without any limitations except those established in the constitution and law. No confession will have official status. No person shall be harassed, inquired of or compelled to profess his beliefs or doctrines.”

The prior constitution required the president of the republic “to profess the Catholic, Apostolic and Roman religion.” Likewise, the former constitution stated: “The official religion is the Catholic, Apostolic and Roman religion.”

Surprisingly, the Catholic Church of Paraguay joined an important number of Protestant churches and representatives of the main political parties, Liberal and Colorado, to ask for the separation of church and state and the elimination of the requirement of the president to profess Catholicism. Commenting on this move, Jesuit priest Jose Valpuesta, representative to the Coordination of Churches (a group composed of Catholic and Protestant churches), said: “As time has passed, it has become clear that it is better that society does not impose one religion upon the state.”

The Catholic Bishops Conference of Paraguay, in a pronouncement entitled “One Constitution for our Nation” signed by 14 bishops, on church-state relations stated: “The II Vatican Council pointed out with clarity the church-state relations based on autonomy and mutual respect of both parties…. both the state and the church will better fulfill their roles if they maintain their independence and seek a good cooperation between them.”

Referring to the notion of an official church, the document of the Bishops Conference of Paraguay states: “If at other times this nation completely identified itself with the Catholic religion, it was logical to talk about an official religion. Now pluralism better characterizes the civil society and it does not seem justified to have one church joined to the state, that, for this reason reflects something imposed by force upon the people. The church does not want to confuse the people nor confuse itself with the state.”

Finally, the Catholic Bishops of Paraguay declared: “The church, therefore, does not require anything except a just treatment according to its condition. And affirms with II Vatican Council that humankind has the right to religious freedom … which is based in the very dignity of the human person. All men should be respected in this matter. The liberty of conscience and worship must be mentioned in the law. The dignity of the person so requires.” In this way, the Catholic church of Paraguay gave its unconditional support to establish a broad regime of religious liberty in that country.

Of course, agreement on the relationship between church and state in Paraguay has not always existed. In fact, these relations have had an agitated and stormy history. After the foundation of the Republic and during the 19th century, the Catholic church and the Paraguayan people suffered under the dictatorship of Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia and the Lopéz regime.

These totalitarian rulers could not conceive of the existence of a government of the church with independent authority from civil government. The Catholic church was compelled to bow to the will of the dictators and was indirectly responsible for this situation. In the past, the Jesuits had taught total submission to the clerical will. The indigenous peoples had not been educated on their rights and responsibilities, displaying simply a “passive obedience.” Thus the Catholic church unwittingly allowed a system of oppression to arise.

To better accomplish his purposes, Rodríguez de Francia confiscated ecclesiastical property, prohibited the ceremonials, required the priests to be submitted to him and finally made himself the head of the church in the fashion of Henry VIII of England. In 1844, Lopéz approved a new constitution for Paraguay which allowed him to maintain the supreme authority of the country in his hands. This constitution also contained provisions on the right of the state to control the ecclesiastical patronage. The president controlled the churches, the clergy, appointed bishops and members of the ecclesiastical decrees, papal bulls, etc. In spite of protests from the Vatican, which were ignored by the dictator Lopéz, he was able to have the bishops proclaim from the pulpit that he was a ruler appointed by God and “the Lord’s anointed.” Any dissent in relation to the legitimacy of his acts was not only treason but heresy.

After the “tragedy of Paraguay” in which the republic was defeated by Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, a new constitution was ratified in 1870 which established the Catholic church as the official religion of the state. However, a mere tolerance for other religions was assured through denying the congress any authority over the free exercise of religion and the guarantee to the inhabitants for the exercise of their religion.

The constitution of 1940 extended the same provisions. The government continued sustaining the salaries of the clergy and of teachers of seminaries, although the amounts were not significant. This was the state of affairs until the constitution of 1967 which has recently been changed.

Apparently, the above mentioned historical process convinced the Catholic hierarchy in Paraguay to work toward its total independence from the state by securing a constitutional provision separating the church from the state.

Pedro C. Moreno San Juan, a lawyer, is the representative of The Rutherford Institute for Latin America.


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Freedom: The Model of Christian Liberty (DVD)

“Give me liberty or give me death!”

Patrick Henry’s famous declaration not only helped launch the War for Independence, it also perfectly summarized the mindset that gave birth to, and sustained, the unprecedented experiment in Christian liberty that was America.

The freedom our Founders envisioned was not freedom from suffering, want, or hard work. Nor was it freedom to indulge every appetite or whim without restraint—that would merely be servitude to a different master. No, the Founders’ passion was to live free before God, unfettered by the chains of autocracy, shackles that slowly but inexorably bind men when the governments they fashion fail to recognize and uphold freedom’s singular, foundational truth: that all men are created in the image of God, and are thereby co-equally endowed with the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

This presentation is a similar call, not to one but many. By reintroducing the principles of freedom that gave birth to America, it is our prayer that Jesus, the true and only ruler over the nations, will once again be our acknowledged Sovereign, that we may again know and exult in the great truth that “where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).

Welcome to the Second American Revolution!

This DVD features “Liberty: The Model of Christian Liberty” along with “Dawn’s Early Light: A Brief History of America’s Christian Foundations.” Bonus features include a humorous but instructive collection of campaign ads and Eric Holmberg’s controversial YouTube challenge concerning Mitt Romney’s campaign for president.

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The Abortion Matrix: Defeating Child Sacrifice and the Culture of Death (DVD)

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Is there a connection between pagan religion and the abortion industry?

This powerful presentation traces the biblical roots of child sacrifice and then delves into the social, political and cultural fall-out that this sin against God and crime against humanity has produced in our beleaguered society.

Conceived as a sequel and update to the 1988 classic, The Massacre of Innocence, the new title, The Abortion Matrix, is entirely fitting. It not only references abortion’s specific target – the sacred matrix where human beings are formed in the womb in the very image of God, but it also implies the existence of a conspiracy, a matrix of seemingly disparate forces that are driving this holocaust.

The occult activity surrounding the abortion industry is exposed with numerous examples. But are these just aberrations, bizarre yet anomalous examples of abortionists who just happen to have ties to modern day witchcraft? Or is this representative of something deeper, more sinister and even endemic to the entire abortion movement?

As the allusion to the film of over a decade ago suggests, the viewer may learn that things are not always as they appear to be. The Abortion Matrix reveals the reality of child-killing and strikes the proper moral chord to move hearts to fulfill the biblical responsibility to rescue those unjustly sentenced to death and to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 24:11,12; 31:8,9).

Speakers include: George Grant, Peter Hammond, RC Sproul Jr., Paul Jehle, Lou Engle, Rusty Thomas, Flip Benham, Janet Porter and many more.

Ten parts, over three hours of instruction!

Running Time: 195 minutes

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The Four Keys to the Millennium (Book)

Foundations in Biblical Eschatology

By Jay Rogers, Larry Waugh, Rodney Stortz, Joseph Meiring. High quality paperback, 167 pages.

All Christians believe that their great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will one day return. Although we cannot know the exact time of His return, what exactly did Jesus mean when he spoke of the signs of His coming (Mat. 24)? How are we to interpret the prophecies in Isaiah regarding the time when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:19)? Should we expect a time of great tribulation and apostasy or revival and reformation before the Lord returns? Is the devil bound now, and are the saints reigning with Christ? Did you know that there are four hermeneutical approaches to the book of Daniel and Revelation?

These and many more questions are dealt with by four authors as they present the four views on the millennium. Each view is then critiqued by the other three authors.

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Dr. Francis Schaeffer - A Christian Manifesto (DVD)

That Swiss Hermit Strikes Again!

Dr. Schaeffer, who was one of the most influential Christian thinkers in the twentieth century, shows that secular humanism has displaced the Judeo-Christian consensus that once defined our nation’s moral boundaries. Law, education, and medicine have all been reshaped for the worse as a consequence. America’s dominant worldview changed, Schaeffer charges, when Christians weren’t looking.

Schaeffer lists two reasons for evangelical indifference: a false concept of spirituality and fear. He calls on believers to stand against the tyranny and moral chaos that come when humanism reigns-and warns that believers may, at some point, be forced to make the hard choice between obeying God or Caesar. A Christian Manifesto is a thought-provoking and bracing Christian analysis of American culture and the obligation Christians have to engage the culture with the claims of Christ.

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The Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of ChristThe Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of Christ (DVD)

Who is the Real Jesus?

Ever since the dawn of modern rationalism, skeptics have sought to use textual criticism, archeology and historical reconstructions to uncover the “historical Jesus” — a wise teacher who said many wonderful things, but fulfilled no prophecies, performed no miracles and certainly did not rise from the dead in triumph over sin.

Over the past 100 years, however, startling discoveries in biblical archeology and scholarship have all but vanquished the faulty assumptions of these doubting modernists. Regrettably, these discoveries have often been ignored by the skeptics as well as by the popular media. As a result, the liberal view still holds sway in universities and impacts the culture and even much of the church.

The Real Jesus explodes the myths of these critics and the movies, books and television programs that have popularized their views. Presented in ten parts — perfect for individual, family and classroom study — viewers will be challenged to go deeper in their knowledge of Christ in order to be able to defend their faith and present the truth to a skeptical modern world – that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus of history — “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is the real Jesus.

Speakers include: George Grant, Ted Baehr, Stephen Mansfield, Raymond Ortlund, Phil Kayser, David Lutzweiler, Jay Grimstead, J.P. Holding, and Eric Holmberg.

Ten parts, over two hours of instruction!

Running Time: 130 minutes

$19.95 — ORDER NOW!

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The Abortion Matrix:
Defeating Child Sacrifice and the Culture of Death

is a 195-minute presentation that traces the biblical roots of child sacrifice and then delves into the social, political and cultural fall-out that this sin against God has produced. You can order this series on DVD, read the complete script and view clips on-line...
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