The Bolivian media is reporting that after the vote on the country’s new Constitution on January 25, the government of Evo Morales will consider a plan to tax the Church for the Masses that are offered at the request of the faithful.
Jorge Silva, a spokesman for Socialist lawmakers, said, “The money-making part of the faith must be separated from the social work that the Church carries out.” “We don’t know what the social work is that the Church carries out because everything costs money. Priests don’t do anything for free,” he added.
Silva went on to say that in the current Constitution, the Church enjoys privileges and that with the new one, “The Catholic Church will cease to be the official religion of the State and, as a consequence, will lose privileges, and as a provider of services, it will have to pay taxes for example.”
The communications director of the Bishops’ Conference of Bolivia, Jose Rivera, responded by saying the Church does not enjoy special privileges and that two years ago the bishops laid out their position about article three of the Constitution which supposedly establishes them.
He noted that the bishops “called for a revision of that article precisely to avoid these kinds of misunderstandings.” He also added that the Church carries out social work in areas unreachable by the State.
“The Church in Bolivia pays taxes,” Silva said. “Sometimes it’s easy to think that it’s enough for a specific work to bear the name Catholic or belong to the Catholic Church for it to mean it does not pay taxes, but this is not the case. Schools, universities, the works of the Church pay taxes. Consequently, objective and truthful information needs to be shared in order to prevent unnecessary controversies as much as possible,” he said.