.- Costa Rica’s Electoral Supreme Court has ordered Bishop Jose Francisco Ulloa to pay damages for encouraging the faithful to cast their votes in manner consistent with Catholic teachings.
The bishop made his comments during a Mass on September 6, 2009, amidst the presidential campaign season and the debate over abortion and homosexual rights.
Yeudy Blanco Vega of the Movement for a Secular State argued the bishop violated article 28 of the Costa Rican constitution which forbids members of the clergy from engaging in political propaganda.
The court interpreted the bishop's comments as political propaganda rather than pastoral guidance, and therefore ordered him to “abstain from urging people not to vote for candidates who in his judgment do not share the values of the Catholic faith.” The court also ordered him to pay damages and legal fees.
What was said
During the Mass last September, Bishop Ulloa told the faithful, “We are facing a political campaign in which we must carefully choose who is going to govern us. We are now finding out which candidates deny God and defend principles that go against life, marriage, and the family. Therefore, we must be coherent with our faith and cannot give them our vote in good conscience.”
In response to criticism from certain politicians, the president of the Bishops’ Conference of Costa Rica, Archbishop Hugo Barrantes, pointed to article 76 of the Pastoral Constitution, “Gaudium et Spes.”
“It is only right, however, that at all times and in all places, the Church should have true freedom to preach the faith, to teach her social doctrine, to exercise her role freely among men, and also to pass moral judgment in those matters which regard public order when the fundamental rights of a person or the salvation of souls require it.”