Retired Catholic bishop wins Paraguay’s presidential election

Retired Catholic bishop wins Paraguay’s presidential election April 21, 2008

Fernando Lugo Méndez, a retired Catholic bishop suspended from exercising his episcopal and priestly faculties, has won the Paraguayan presidency, marking the end of the 61-year dominance of the nation’s conservative Asociación Nacional Republicana – Partido Colorado. Lugo belongs to the Partido Demócrata Cristiano (Christian Democratic Party), which is one of eight opposition parties that form the alliance group known as Alianza Patriótica por el Cambio (Patriotic Alliance for Change). Pope John Paul II accepted Lugo’s resignation from the episcopacy in January 2005, and it was not until January 2007 when Lugo petitioned the Vatican for laicization that he was suspended.

For the news and updates, click here, here and here.

Inevitably, many pundits will reduce and categorize the victory of the “obispo de los pobres” as the advent of another Hugo Chavez on account of Lugo’s campaigns on behalf of the poor of Paraguay who live off roughly the equivalent of $2 a day. But Lugo has made it clear that he is a centrist, not a radical, and he has sought to distance himself from association with Chavez. AP writer Bill Cormier notes:

“Chavez is a military man and I have a religious background,” Lugo told reporters in Washington last year. “My candidacy has arisen at the request of the people, it was born in a different way than Hugo Chavez’s.”

LifeSiteNews has already muddied the waters, calling Lugo a “renegade bishop” and a current proponent of liberation theology (the linked article claims the Vatican has “condemned” liberation theology, which is a gross distortion of the Vatican’s corrective of “certain aspects” of liberation theology as a whole). Rorate Caeli likewise obfuscates the reality by similarly playing up the caricature. Neither site seems to have bothered to really look at Lugo’s platform and theological persuasions.

For a good synopsis of Lugo’s actual political positions, click here. With regard to any preconceived ideology that is ascribed to him, I think his statement to Larry Rohter may aid in preventing us from pigeon-holing him as a “liberation theologian,” “radical” or “socialist”:

“As I am accustomed to saying, hunger and unemployment, like the lack of access to health and education, have no ideology,” he said in an interview here. “My discourse, my person and my testimony are above political parties, whose own members are desirous of change and want an end to a system that favors narrow partisan interests over those of the country.”

Sounds good to me…now let’s see if it holds true.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I hope this guy have a good work for poor people and make politics clear.

  • I hope this guy have a good work for poor people and make politics clear.

  • Just curious,

    In what sense was the old ruling party “conservative”?

  • Just curious,

    In what sense was the old ruling party “conservative”?

  • Katerina

    Chavez’s platform when he was running in 98 was not based on his compassion for the poor or because he wanted them to have a better life. His platform was filled with resentment towards the old system and, in fact, he never lied about his communist (not socialist) leanings and ultimate goals if he were to be the president. I’m glad this candidate wants to distance himself from Chavez. Not all candidates that pay attention to the poor are like Hugo Chavez, because Chavez, in all honesty, never cared about the poor. I saw through him in 98 and many people did as well. I really hope this new president in Paraguay does the right thing :-/

  • Katerina

    Chavez’s platform when he was running in 98 was not based on his compassion for the poor or because he wanted them to have a better life. His platform was filled with resentment towards the old system and, in fact, he never lied about his communist (not socialist) leanings and ultimate goals if he were to be the president. I’m glad this candidate wants to distance himself from Chavez. Not all candidates that pay attention to the poor are like Hugo Chavez, because Chavez, in all honesty, never cared about the poor. I saw through him in 98 and many people did as well. I really hope this new president in Paraguay does the right thing :-/

  • amlistening

    If this example works, may be other countries will also have hopes..World’s watching. Best of luck Méndez

  • amlistening

    If this example works, may be other countries will also have hopes..World’s watching. Best of luck Méndez

  • Greg

    How can it possibly be good that a bishop “retires” and then is suspended from the priestly state so he can become a politician? How pathetic. God help us and God help Paraguay.

  • Greg

    How can it possibly be good that a bishop “retires” and then is suspended from the priestly state so he can become a politician? How pathetic. God help us and God help Paraguay.

  • arewak

    God HAS delivered Paraguay.

  • arewak

    God HAS delivered Paraguay.

  • Greg

    From what? Any hope of the Catholic faith remaining?

  • Greg

    From what? Any hope of the Catholic faith remaining?

  • Greg

    “…The exception to the prohibition mentioned in that Canon does not apply in your case: Paraguay, in fact, is a free and democratic nation and the Church, whose rights are respected, is (politically) represented by committed laity,” Cardinal Re explains.

    In this way, he adds, “the candidacy of a bishop would be a cause of confusion and division among the faithful, an offense to the laity and a ‘clericalization’ of the specific mission belonging to laypersons in the political life.”

    “The Holy See, therefore, does not perceive the existence of a just and reasonable cause, as required by Canon 90, to grant the requested dispensation,” the Cardinal said.

  • Greg

    “…The exception to the prohibition mentioned in that Canon does not apply in your case: Paraguay, in fact, is a free and democratic nation and the Church, whose rights are respected, is (politically) represented by committed laity,” Cardinal Re explains.

    In this way, he adds, “the candidacy of a bishop would be a cause of confusion and division among the faithful, an offense to the laity and a ‘clericalization’ of the specific mission belonging to laypersons in the political life.”

    “The Holy See, therefore, does not perceive the existence of a just and reasonable cause, as required by Canon 90, to grant the requested dispensation,” the Cardinal said.

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  • Blackadder

    Former-clergy don’t have a very good record as politicians, unfortunately (just look at Haiti). We should all pray that Mendez governs with wisdom and justice.

  • Blackadder

    Former-clergy don’t have a very good record as politicians, unfortunately (just look at Haiti). We should all pray that Mendez governs with wisdom and justice.

  • How can it possibly be good that a bishop “retires” and then is suspended from the priestly state so he can become a politician? How pathetic.

    Why not? Is it not possible that he might be following his vocation? Your attitude is pathetic.

  • How can it possibly be good that a bishop “retires” and then is suspended from the priestly state so he can become a politician? How pathetic.

    Why not? Is it not possible that he might be following his vocation? Your attitude is pathetic.

  • Greg

    Michael I,

    Are you kidding? He quits his vocation as Successor of the Apostles to be a bureaucrat? The fact that he is suspended by the Vatican tells you that this isn’t the will of God. I think yer geetar may be out of tune Michael.

  • Greg

    Michael I,

    Are you kidding? He quits his vocation as Successor of the Apostles to be a bureaucrat? The fact that he is suspended by the Vatican tells you that this isn’t the will of God. I think yer geetar may be out of tune Michael.

  • Greg – It’s so easy to throw around the phrase “will of God” isn’t it? Feels good too, doesn’t it?

  • Greg – It’s so easy to throw around the phrase “will of God” isn’t it? Feels good too, doesn’t it?

  • Greg

    Michael,

    It’s not very hard actually. If the Pope asks you to remain a bishop and care for your flock and you don’t….it’s probably not the Will of God you are doing. Not difficult to understand.

  • Greg

    Michael,

    It’s not very hard actually. If the Pope asks you to remain a bishop and care for your flock and you don’t….it’s probably not the Will of God you are doing. Not difficult to understand.

  • Yes, Greg, life probably is that simple.

  • Yes, Greg, life probably is that simple.

  • Mendez may be the most brilliant politician and charitable man in the world, but it seems to me that disobedience to the Papacy trumps any other callings you may be feeling.

    If you read the lives of the saints, they often felt called to ministries or disciplines outside the commands of their spiritual leaders. They responded with obedience, and the Lord then accomplished great works through them. Humility and obedience seem to the foundation on which the Lord works.

  • Mendez may be the most brilliant politician and charitable man in the world, but it seems to me that disobedience to the Papacy trumps any other callings you may be feeling.

    If you read the lives of the saints, they often felt called to ministries or disciplines outside the commands of their spiritual leaders. They responded with obedience, and the Lord then accomplished great works through them. Humility and obedience seem to the foundation on which the Lord works.

  • C’mon, you know not all saints were obedient to the Pope. Don’t you?

  • C’mon, you know not all saints were obedient to the Pope. Don’t you?

  • Policraticus

    If the Pope asks you to remain a bishop and care for your flock and you don’t….it’s probably not the Will of God you are doing. Not difficult to understand.

    As I clarified in my post, Lugo submitted his resignation as bishop to Pope John Paul II in 2005, the latter of whom accepted the resignation. In 2007, Lugo requested laicization and was denied. He was suspended from exercising his priestly ministry because of his request and because he was running for political office.

  • Policraticus

    If the Pope asks you to remain a bishop and care for your flock and you don’t….it’s probably not the Will of God you are doing. Not difficult to understand.

    As I clarified in my post, Lugo submitted his resignation as bishop to Pope John Paul II in 2005, the latter of whom accepted the resignation. In 2007, Lugo requested laicization and was denied. He was suspended from exercising his priestly ministry because of his request and because he was running for political office.

  • Greg

    Then I guess Archbishop Lefebvre is a saint.

  • Greg

    Then I guess Archbishop Lefebvre is a saint.

  • Then I guess Archbishop Lefebvre is a saint.

    Basic logic. Become acquainted.

  • Then I guess Archbishop Lefebvre is a saint.

    Basic logic. Become acquainted.

  • “C’mon, you know not all saints were obedient to the Pope. Don’t you?”

    Doesn’t mean they were right to do so. (After all, St. Honorious [sp] was an antipope, although he did eventually repent.)

    More importantly, this bishop obviously loves political office more than he loves the Church; if not, he would stay out of the campaign as the Church told him to. And that reflects badly on his character, specifically his trustworthiness and self-control.

    Histor

  • “C’mon, you know not all saints were obedient to the Pope. Don’t you?”

    Doesn’t mean they were right to do so. (After all, St. Honorious [sp] was an antipope, although he did eventually repent.)

    More importantly, this bishop obviously loves political office more than he loves the Church; if not, he would stay out of the campaign as the Church told him to. And that reflects badly on his character, specifically his trustworthiness and self-control.

    Histor

  • More importantly, this bishop obviously loves political office more than he loves the Church; if not, he would stay out of the campaign as the Church told him to.

    Baloney. Leaving the priesthood does not mean losing a love of the Church.

  • More importantly, this bishop obviously loves political office more than he loves the Church; if not, he would stay out of the campaign as the Church told him to.

    Baloney. Leaving the priesthood does not mean losing a love of the Church.

  • “Baloney. Leaving the priesthood does not mean losing a love of the Church.”

    I did not say he would stay in the priesthood if he loved the Church. I said he would stay out of the campaign (since Canon law prohibits priests, unless laicized, from running for government office) if he loved the Church enough to obey it.

    For all I know, Jesus told him in a vision to leave the priesthood. But a Catholic priest deliberately breaking Canon law in order to gain political power is wrong no matter how you look at it. That’s what Lugo did, and that’s my problem with him.

    Histor

  • “Baloney. Leaving the priesthood does not mean losing a love of the Church.”

    I did not say he would stay in the priesthood if he loved the Church. I said he would stay out of the campaign (since Canon law prohibits priests, unless laicized, from running for government office) if he loved the Church enough to obey it.

    For all I know, Jesus told him in a vision to leave the priesthood. But a Catholic priest deliberately breaking Canon law in order to gain political power is wrong no matter how you look at it. That’s what Lugo did, and that’s my problem with him.

    Histor

  • Maybe Jesus told him to break Canon Law.

  • Maybe Jesus told him to break Canon Law.

  • Policraticus

    But a Catholic priest deliberately breaking Canon law in order to gain political power is wrong no matter how you look at it.

    This raises a question of the authority of Canon Law as a whole and in its parts.

  • Policraticus

    But a Catholic priest deliberately breaking Canon law in order to gain political power is wrong no matter how you look at it.

    This raises a question of the authority of Canon Law as a whole and in its parts.

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