Bishop Rogelio Livieres Plano of Alto Parana has strongly criticized suspended Catholic bishop Fernando Lugo for his decision to be a candidate in the upcoming elections and said it was “dagger thrust into the Church.”
In an interview with the Paraguayan daily ABC Color, Bishop Livieres said, “It is something bad for Catholic doctrine and for canon law for a bishop to abandon his ministry in order to devote himself to other matters, even though they may be as noble as politics.”
“To the bishops,” he continued, “it is sad that the means we use to improve the world, which are the preaching of the word of God and the sacraments, are insufficient in the eyes of a bishop for helping society and that he has to choose earthly means. It’s like underestimating the supernatural means that the Church has used for 2000 years,” he said.
Bishop Livieres noted that “priests and bishops are prohibited from entering politics” and that while in the past priests and religious, and even the Pope, held political power, “the Church went through a process of distancing herself from political activity and returning to her origins.”
He said that the problem of political involvement by the clergy in Latin America stems from “liberation theology. For 45 years that theology has held great influence and there are priests involved in politics, such Ernesto Cardenal in Nicaragua, who was a government minister, and who Pope John Paul II warned to abandon politics when he visited Nicaragua.”
“Lugo is surely the first bishop to abandon the priestly ministry in order to devote himself to politics. This is a very negative precedent. The Holy See suspended him a divinis,” the bishop said.
“Imagine if St. Paul or any of the apostles would have devoted themselves to politics instead of their priestly ministry. The Church would not exist.”
By devoting himself to politics, “it is as if Lugo were saying, ‘I have been wasting my time as a bishop. I am going to devote myself to something better.’ That is the impression one gets,” Bishop Livieres said.
“I know him personally and I appreciate him,” he went on. “I think he is a good person but that he is wrong. I really believe he can correct his attitude and return to the bosom of the Church. All of the bishops pray for this intention.”
He said Lugo’s decision was a “dagger thrust into the body of the Church. He will continue to hurt us as long as he is in this condition and is not a bishop. On the other hand, if Lugo returns to the priestly ministry, it will be a great joy for all,” Bishop Livieres said. “We will continue to repeat this before the elections and after the elections, whether or not he is elected president,” he stated.