Monday, June 22, 2009

Fernando Lugo: Church Should Reconsider Celibacy

Paraguay's President Fernando Lugo gave an extensive interview this weekend with the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio in which he discussed many issues, including his views on celibacy. We have translated it below.

Although the article alleges multiple paternity cases, only two are active right now. Lugo has acknowledged being the father of Viviana Carrillo's two-year old son Guillermo Armindo. Guillermo and his mother spent part of Fathers Day with the president at Mburuvicha Róga. Lugo and his son kicked a ball around when the president wasn't on his cellphone conducting state business. According to Ultima Hora, visits from Viviana and Guillermo have become a weekly routine, with the pair usually staying for lunch.

As for the other paternity case, there is a stalemate between the president and the judge hearing the matter for Benigna Leguizamón. Judge Delsy Cardozo is insisting that the president appear in Ciudad del Este to have the blood drawn for the DNA test on June 25th. Lugo has challenged the ruling in court, asking instead for the test to be done in Asunción. All due respect, but perhaps a little "noblesse oblige" from the president would be helpful here. There is a vast difference economically between himself and the plaintiff. If he really has retained the priestly qualities he claims to have retained in this article, Lugo should be above these petty pissing contests and should want to get this matter resolved ASAP.

The Time Has Come to Reconsider Celibacy

Gustavo Villavicencio Aravena
El Mercurio (Chile)
June 21, 2009

President Fernando Lugo receives “El Mercurio” in his office in Palacio de López, the government residence. It’s Thursday morning and the leader has clad his 1.85 meter frame as if he were still a priest. All black, except for his white collarless shirt. And he says he has faced the great controversy that has affected his administration “with serenity.”

Everything started during Holy Week. Young Viviana Carrillo (26) claimed that Lugo had had a relationship with her when he was bishop of San Pedro, that he had known her since she was 16 years old, and that he was the father of her two-year-old son Guillermo Armindo.

The news was carried in newspapers throughout the world, just like in 2008 when it was announced that a former priest had been able to put an end to 61 years of rule by the Partido Colorado in Paraguay.

The controversy began recently. Lugo acknowledged the relationship and the child’s paternity in a televised message. Six additional claims were added to this one, claims that Lugo has not acknowledged.

As “El Mercurio” was interviewing him, a judge ordered the President to travel to the eastern part of the country to submit a blood sample for a DNA test, since a 27-year old young woman states that she has had a child with the leader, while he was still a bishop. The case generated a strong drop in the polls for the President, but the former priest appears calm and says he is not afraid to face the “alleged” paternity charges, to which he responds with a smile, and asserts that his only son “is a gift from God.”

On June 15, you completed 10 months in power. Who is Fernando Lugo today?

Fernando Lugo was a person who was concerned about the country, with a spirit of generous commitment to the work he had been doing over the last 30 years. Today Fernando Lugo continues to be a person who is committed to what he is doing, but with a different mission -- having to struggle with national and international problems. Erase the country’s image as the most corrupt, plunged in poverty. I acknowledge that it hasn’t been easy and it has cost me a lot.

In what ways are you still a bishop?

Knowing how to listen to people, being more contemplative than practical. Sometimes politics requires rapid responses, and the margin one has between statement and action also means that the margin for error is less. It’s possible that we have made many mistakes, but we would have made more mistakes had our reflexions been slower and less reflexive. I think that I am still like a bishop in the ability to consult, to listen to others, and at the same time react firmly when I have to decide. I still have a lot of pastoral qualities.

How have you been getting used to wielding power in government?

I preferred having authority to having power. I think that as bishop people gave me a lot of authority. Now, political authority is more demanding, and there is never a lack of bitter criticism, which is difficult to absorb.

You put an end to over 60 years of the Partido Colorado in power. What would be the big changes that your administration seeks to accomplish?

First, I have devoted myself to cleaning house from within. At that time, the image of the party was everything. Now, that doesn’t exist; there is no image of myself, the party or the alliance. I have always said that the institution should serve all Paraguayans. Second, openness. Even though corruption hasn’t ended in the country, the image of public administration is different than it has been for the last 50 years.

There has been a lot of controversy in Paraguay since it became known that you fathered a child while you were still a bishop. How have you dealt with this in personal terms?

I have publicly acknowledged one paternity case. The others are alleged (laughs). I have dealt with it with much serenity, with many close friends, and with the greatest value --acknowledgement and truth. I believe that the truth will make us free. You have to accept the consequences. Each one is responsible for their own acts. We can’t delegate responsibility for things we ourselves have done, whether good or bad, in error or not. And this year I have done this publicly.

After what you have experienced, what do you think about priestly celibacy today?

Only God is perfect, only God is absolute. There is an imperfect celibacy, a human celibacy that helps one to have more freedom for pastoral ministry. I believe that celibacy is an asset within the Church, one that should be recovered as a sign of the kingdom of God. When this sign has become lost, I believe it is time to reconsider celibacy today in Latin America and in the world. I believe that the latest events should call us, the Catholic Church, to a calm reflexion about the value of celibacy in the Church.

As a priest, what conflicts did you have with celibacy?

As any human being, I am not eager to hide anything. There are moments in life when emotions and love don’t respect age or position. Sometimes there are people who make the heart beat more rapidly, and I think I’ve been in such situations. But situations that make you lose your head, fall in love, change your life completely, those were perhaps not present during my life as a priest. But yes, there are many fleeting situations, not very strong ones, that sometimes make you rethink your life and your choices.

When you leave the presidency, what will you do?

I am going to reconcile politics and religion in my life. I am going to live away from the city and review many aspects of my life, and try to contribute to society.

Do you continue in your faith life?

Deeply…I continue to believe more than ever in a liberating God, a loving God, who is always present in our lives. Today, as a layman, I take communion and I seek advice from priests and bishop friends. If there is one thing I never want to leave, it is the Catholic Church into which I was born.

Do you think highly of President Bachelet personally?

Do I think highly of President Bachelet personally?

How do you view President Bachelet and the Chilean government?

I have very high regards personally for President Bachelet. I think we agree in many areas and I admire her administration. Of course she has certainly had a lot of criticism domestically but her administration is growing. Chile is a country where you can see the hand of a woman, of someone who is kind but also fair and concerned about social issues.

What do you think of Hugo Chávez’ policies in the region especially with respect to freedom of expression?

I believe in freedom of the press and that private initiative should go hand in hand with state initiative to benefit the vast majority. Polarizations have not always come without little traumas that take time to heal. I respect Venezuela on the issue of self-determination of [indigenous] peoples. We in Paraguay want to develop a model without interference and draw on some examples of countries such as Chile, Brazil, much closer to our dream of a more harmonious nation, without many excluded.

In your opinion, what is the contribution of the formation of Unasur, of which Michelle Bachelet is currently president pro-tempore?

I think that it has been an important initiative. I applaud all attempts at integration and welcome them, when they are effective in building a region without great inequities. A region that can secure true democracies and ensure the respect for human rights. Let’s hope Unasur can solidify this.

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