A less than glorious chapter in the history of the Catholic Church in Paraguay came to an end last Sunday with the death of Mons. Ramón Antonio Talavera Goiburú at 86. Mons. Talavera who was forced out of the Roman Catholic Church and of his homeland, died in exile in Foz de Yguazú, Brazil. After he was forced out of the Roman Catholic Church, Mons. Talavera joined the independent Igreja Católica Apostólica Brasileira, rising to the rank of bishop within that denomination.
Mons. Talavera was ordained to the Roman Catholic priesthood on November 23, 1947 in Paraguay by Mons. Juan José Aníbal Mena Porta, the Archbishop of Asunción. The crisis came after the coup d'état that brought the brutal dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner to power.
Mons. Talavera, who was from one of the wealthy families within the Colorado Party, criticized the Stroessner regime for its repression, corruption, and human rights violations. He worked in support of political prisoners. In 1958, as a result of his activism, Talavera was kidnapped, beaten, and forced into exile.
Fr. Talavera's political activism also brought him into conflict with the man who ordained him. In his book La herejía de seguir a Jesús: intrahistoria de las ligas agrarias cristianas del Paraguay (IEPALA Editorial, 2003), David Fernandez talks about this falling out. He says that Fr. Talavera would sarcastically highlight the coziness between Church and dictatorship by referring to their respective leaders as "Monseñor Stroessner" and "General Mena Porta". The priest also joined with exiled Paraguayan political leaders from the Liberal and Febrerista parties to form the Unión Nacional Paraguaya, which aimed to overthrow Stroessner through peaceful means. Under pressure from representatives of the Stroessner regime, the archbishop silenced Fr. Talavera. Talavera responded by initiating a hunger strike on August 1, 1959. Stroessner converted Talavera's parish into military barracks which led to massive demonstrations. Shortly thereafter came the kidnapping and beating.
Archbishop Mena Porta sent Talavera to Uruguay to receive medical treatment and, while the priest was out of the country, spread the word that any declarations by Talavera were his own and not the opinion of the official Church. After Fr. Talavera was healed, he attempted to return to Paraguay and was not allowed to do so. Archbishop Mena Porta did not help him, having been won over to the dictatorship's side by Stroessner's promise of mandatory religious education in the public schools.
From Uruguay, Fr. Talavera went to Argentina and here the story gets a bit vague. He is said to have founded Nuestra Señora del Rosario parish in Formosa, Argentina in 1959 [the source says 1969 but that cannot be true since by 1969, Talavera was in Brazil]. While in Argentina, Fr. Talavera got married and went on to have four children, Isel Judit, Luz María, Ana Luisa Talavera and Juan Cristian. He was formally suspended a divinis in 1963 by the Archdiocese of Asunción.
Mons. Talavera moved to Brazil and joined the Igreja Católica Apostólica Brasileira which allows married priests. On June 21, 1966 he was ordained a bishop in that church in Sao Paolo by Dom Luige Masculo and, in 1997, was named auxilliary bishop of the Foz do Iguaçu diocese where he remained, working on various social action projects, until his death.
At his wake, Mons. Talavera rested in a coffin draped with the Paraguayan flag. His daughter, Isel Judit, said her father always cared about Paraguay and wanted to go back. "He couldn't because he had made his life in Brazil," she said.