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THE NEW CONSTITUTION OF PARAGUAY, recently ratified, replaces the 1967 document which contained some provisions outdated by modern events.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!
Download the Free Study Guide!
Just what is Calvinism?
Does this teaching make man a deterministic robot and God the author of sin? What about free will? If the church accepts Calvinism, won’t evangelism be stifled, perhaps even extinguished? How can we balance God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility? What are the differences between historic Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism? Why did men like Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, Whitefield, Edwards and a host of renowned Protestant evangelists embrace the teaching of predestination and election and deny free will theology?
This is the first video documentary that answers these and other related questions. Hosted by Eric Holmberg, this fascinating three-part, four-hour presentation is detailed enough so as to not gloss over the controversy. At the same time, it is broken up into ten “Sunday-school-sized” sections to make the rich content manageable and accessible for the average viewer.
Running Time: 257 minutes
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
“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.
$14.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
“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.)
Who is the dreaded beast of Revelation?
Now at last, a plausible candidate for this personification of evil incarnate has been identified (or re-identified). Ken Gentry’s insightful analysis of scripture and history is likely to revolutionize your understanding of the book of Revelation — and even more importantly — amplify and energize your entire Christian worldview!
Historical footage and other graphics are used to illustrate the lecture Dr. Gentry presented at the 1999 Ligonier Conference in Orlando, Florida. It is followed by a one-hour question and answer session addressing the key concerns and objections typically raised in response to his position. This presentation also features an introduction that touches on not only the confusion and controversy surrounding this issue — but just why it may well be one of the most significant issues facing the Church today.
Ideal for group meetings, personal Bible study — for anyone who wants to understand the historical context of John’s famous letter “… to the seven churches which are in Asia.” (Revelation 1:4)
Running Time: 145 minutes
$17.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Special Two-Disc Set!
After 40 years of intense study and world-wide ministry, Dr. Francis Schaeffer completed his crowning work of scholarship – to present profound truths in simple film language. Dr. Schaeffer’s brilliant analysis of the past and predictions for current trends have proven so uncannily accurate that this amazing series still feels contemporary almost three decades after its initial release. Ultimately, Schaeffer concludes that man’s only hope is a return to God’s Biblical absolute, the truth revealed in Christ through the Scriptures.
Available for the first time on DVD, this documentary spectacular also includes intimate in-depth conversations with Francis and Edith Schaeffer. With the on-disc study guide, this presentation forms a unique course of comprehensive study. While this series forms an innovative analysis of the past, this outstanding work is more than history. Each episode focuses on a significant era, yet speaks clearly to 21st-century man with answers for modern problems.
$49.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)