Bishops grant exception Priests will continue in the government
The Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua, in fulfilling its pastoral duty and concern, invited the priests who are occupying public office in the Government and exercising partisan functions to a new dialogue on July 13 of this year.
THE PRINCIPLES:The constant doctrine of the Church, confirmed by historical experience, is that “like the Bishop, the priest evangelizes and celebrates the Holy Sacrifice and serves unity.” “As a pastor who is committed to the integral liberation of the poor and oppressed, he works always with evangelical criteria. He believes in the power in the power of the Spirit in order not to fall into the temptation of becoming a political leader, social director, or functionary of a temporal power; this would prevent him from ‘being a sign and factor of unity and fraternity.’” (Puebla 695-696)
Priestly mission is not simply a legal title. It is not derived from any service given to the community. And it is also not self-revocable. Priests are chosen, consecrated and sent to work “in persona Christi” (in the name of Christ and as one who continues Christ’s work.) They are not simply “men for other,” but also specifically and eminently “men for God.” This mission is constituted by reason of a sign of redemption and liberation between God and persons. The words of St. Paul to Timothy are still true today: “Dedicate yourself to your work as an evangelist, fulfill your ministry with perfection.” (II Tim4,5)
We are again faced with an old and constant temptation – that of not knowing where to place ourselves as ministers of God within historical processes and necessities; that is to say, in exercising a specific and determined function without absorbing or letting ourselves be absorbed by other works, which are also necessary, but which are not strictly priestly. To be present and acting in the world without being of the world. Redeeming and animating all persons and all things, but without impeding or monopolizing the proper freedom and responsibility of each.
The Gospel “is experienced” in the search for the truth that is the undeniable gift of the Spirit. Life always has an unknown force. It is this liberating force that does not accept chains nor stagnation.
If, in conditions of poverty and oppression, the presence of Christ is made more ostensible and resounding, it is because the liberating message is fundamentally in every person, whatever his/her condition is.
Politics cannot be absolutized, converted into an idol. To judge it all from a determined political perspective is to fall into self-justification which brings intolerable dogmatism. History proves it. To exercise the priestly ministry from its specific mission and work does not in any way signify being against the processes and legitimacy of historic changes, rather to insist on the necessity of evaluating them and enriching them from faith and from Christian values.
We feel the necessity to express briefly these already known principles in order that our priests and faithful can accompany, with more interest and understanding, these processes of liberation through the Gospel and the repercussions that this moment has for the Church and our people.
THE DIALOGUE:Given these general principles of the Church, our dialogue was confined to knowing the final decisions of the priests who presently occupy public positions in the Government and have partisan responsibilities. Faced with the alternatives of continuing to exercise their functions in the Government or dedicating themselves to the proper tasks of the priestly ministry, and after explaining their reasons, they expressed their conviction that their personal presence in the Government is still necessary.
Wanting, however, to remain faithful to the norms and principles of the Church, they proposed a plan of exception in order to be able to continue their present positions. The following foundations were established:
THE FOUNDATIONS:First: To preserve completely their identity of faith in communion with the hierarchy.
Second: To recognize that to harm the Church is to harm the people in their demands and necessities for integral liberation and development.
Third: To ask that in order not to renounce their original priestly vocation, they be granted a temporary state of exception under the following conditions:
1. That while they are exercising their public duties and their partisan functions they will abstain from all exercise of their priestly ministry, both publicly and privately, either in or out of the country.
2. That they will not use or invoke their priesthood in order to support or justify positions that belong to the province of the state or are of a free partisan option.
3. That to guarantee church community, they will maintain communion with the ecclesiastical hierarchy.
REPEATED REQUEST:The Bishops, for their part, although they feel profoundly that this exceptional situation neither fills nor satisfies the primary objectives of priestly functions, will tolerate it temporarily, and, furthermore, earnestly reiterate their insistence that these same priests return as soon as possible to the exercise of their priestly functions. This is the express desire of the Holy See and is urgently called for by the necessities of our people.
Given in Matagalpa, in agreement with the interested priests, July 15, 1981.
EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE OF NICARAGUA