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THE NEW CONSTITUTION OF PARAGUAY, recently ratified, replaces the 1967 document which contained some provisions outdated by modern events.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.
Forerunner - Home » The Forerunner Newspaper » Latin America
Your comments are welcome!
“Here I stand … I can do no other!”
With these immortal words, an unknown German monk sparked a spiritual revolution that changed the world.
The dramatic classic film of Martin Luther’s life was released in theaters worldwide in the 1950s and was nominated for two Oscars. A magnificent depiction of Luther and the forces at work in the surrounding society that resulted in his historic reform efforts, this film traces Luther’s life from a guilt-burdened monk to his eventual break with the Roman Catholic Church.
Running time: 105 minutes
Special offer: Order 5 or more for $5 each.
Watch a clip from Martin Luther.
$9.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
What is true Revival and Spiritual Awakening?
Discover the answer in this eyewitness account by Dennis Kinlaw, President of Asbury College, Wilmore, Kentucky, who recounts the story of a visitation of the Holy Spirit in 1970. This is the presentation that has continued to spark the flames of Revival in the hearts of people around the world. Contains eyewitness footage from the Revival at Asbury College in 1970 in Wilmore, Kentucky.
Certain to challenge you to greater holiness and a deeper commitment to full-scale revival. Original news and private footage has been included. If you are a student who longs to see a spiritual awakening at your school, you must see this video!
“This simple video does a wonderful job of conveying something of God’s heart and power, Everyone we have ever shown this to has received an immediate impartation of faith for revival and the power of prayer.”
— Bob and Rose Weiner, Weiner Ministries Int’l
Running Time: 40 minutes
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
“When the lives of the unborn are snuffed out, they often feel pain, pain that is long and agonizing.” – President Ronald Reagan to National Religious Broadcasters Convention, January 1981
Ronald Reagan became convinced of this as a result of watching The Silent Scream – a movie he considered so powerful and convicting that he screened it at the White House.
The modern technology of real-time ultrasound now reveals the actual responses of a 12-week old fetus to being aborted. As the unborn child attempts to escape the abortionist’s suction curette, her motions can be seen to become desperately agitated and her heart rate doubles. Her mouth opens – as if to scream – but no sound can come out. Her scream doesn’t have to remain silent, however … not if you will become her voice. This newly re-mastered version features eight language tracks and two bonus videos.
“…a high technology “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” arousing public opinion just as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 antislavery novel ignited the abolitionist movement.” – Sen. Gordon Humphrey, Time Magazine
Languages: English, Spanish, French, South Korean, Chinese, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese
Running Time: 28 minutes
$17.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
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.
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
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.
$12.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)