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Costa Rica: Examining State's Relationship With Church Amidst Controversy

Categories: Latin America, Costa Rica, Governance, Politics, Religion

Photo by Radio Rover and used under a CC license. [1]

Photo by Radio Rover and used under a CC license.

The Roman Catholic Church has been standing the eye of a hurricane for the last couple of weeks because of the many allegations of pedophilia by priests around the world. This issue is especially relevant in Costa Rica because of the fact that it is a confessional state [2], in that the State recognizes Catholicism as the official religion and its increasingly closer relationship with the Church. Costa Rican bloggers seem to be really concerned about this issue, and opinions abound in the web regarding how this controversy may affect the country whose citizens are majority Roman Catholic.

Lauren Latifa, in her blog Club Sodoma [es] [3] writes:

Estoy sorprendida en cómo una noticia de este nivel como el de las olas de pedofilia dentro de la iglesia católica, puede llegar a pasar como algo leve y sin mayor discusión. ¿Pero los jerarcas católicos reconocen que se dan grandes errores dentro de la iglesia? Obviamente no lo reconocen, solo pretenden en muchas circunstancias silenciar estas acusaciones indemnizando a las víctimas, hasta trasladan a esos sacerdotes abusadores de iglesia en iglesia y siguen abusando de los niños, todo para no debilitar el poder “de la iglesia”.

I am amazed of the level of news of the wave of pedophilia within the Catholic Church, may pass as something irrelevant and without further discussion. But will the Catholic leaders acknowledge that there are large errors in the church? Obviously they won`t recognize it. In many circumstances, they aim to silence the accusations by compensating the victims, and they even transfer abusive priests from church to church and they continue to abuse children, all to avoid weakening the power “of the church.”

Referring to the widespread disappointment, the author of the blog “Cultura, Cultura Política y Económica [es] [4]” writes:

Los abusos sexuales a menores son de los actos delictivos más abominables que un adulto puede cometer. Y si estos delitos son cometidos por religiosos, de los que se espera un plus de honestidad, la decepción y el escándalo aún son superiores a los ojos de la sociedad.

Child sexual abuse is among the most heinous criminal acts that an adult can commit. And if these offenses are committed by religious, of whom a surplus of honesty is expected; deception and scandal are still higher in the eyes of society.

The disappointment also includes the lack of punishment for this priests, as the blogger H3Dicho comments [5]:

Un cura que sea sospechoso de pedofilia debe ser removido inmediatamente de su cargo mientras se le investiga, y debe ponerse a la orden de las autoridades. El problema es que la iglesia siempre ha preferido mantener “investigaciones internas”, y para no poner mal el nombre de la “iglesia” no lo hacen público, por lo que sus delitos sexuales quedan impunes.

A priest who is suspected of pedophilia must be immediately removed from his post while he is being investigated, and should be made accountable to the authorities. The problem is that the church has always preferred to maintain “internal investigations” and in order not to harm the name “church” , it does not go public, so that their sexual crimes go unpunished.

Cristian Cambronero, author of the blog Fusil de Chispas [es] [6] writes that in Costa Rica there are all types of crimes of this nature:

En Costa Rica no solo se han presentado este tipo de abusos, hay un cura condenado a prisión [7] y supimos de un obispo que encubrió a un sacerdote prófugo de la justicia, acusado de violación [8]. ¿Y el Obispo? Ahí sigue [9], en la Conferencia Episcopal, levantando el dedo acusador cada vez que puede,enfiestándose con estafadores [10], y dándole instrucciones a los diputados blandengues [11] de cómo gobernar según “la moral y las buenas costumbres”.

In Costa Rica not only do these kinds of abuses are seen, there is a priest sentenced to prison [7] and we discovered a bishop who covered up a fugitive priest accused of rape [8]. What about the Bishop? There he is [9], in the Episcopal Conference, pointing the finger whenever he can,become involved with scammers [10], and giving instructions to bland deputies [11] regarding how to govern according to “morals and good habits“.

Despite the unpopularity that the Catholic Church is going through in the country, the elected president Laura Chinchilla, who will assume power in May 8, has been approaching the hierarchy of this Church, to strengthen the bonds between the State and the Church. This has caused discontent by many people in the country. Cambronero also complains about this [12], saying:

No pocos dijeron que fuimos exagerados el primer día de este mes cuando dijimos [13] que Laura Chinchilla se estaba casando con los Obispos, tras una reunión de la surgió “una comisión” para coordinar “un mecanismo permanente de relación entre el próximo Gobierno y la Iglesia Católica”, según reseñó [14] La Nación (…) Hoy el mismo periódico nos cuenta [15] que los Obispos que apadrinaron a Chinchilla durante la campaña presidencial, incluso violentando la disposición constitucional, ahora impulsan un Corcordato [16]: un acuerdo bilateral entre El Vaticano y el Estado, que otorga a la Iglesia Católica una serie de privilegios de los que no gozan otras iglesias.

Many said that we were exaggerating on the first day of the month when we said [13]Laura Chinchilla was getting married with the Bishops, after a meeting where “a committee” to coordinate “a permanent mechanism for the relationship between the next government and the Catholic Church” emerged, as quoted by La Nación [es] [14] (…) Today the same paper tells us [15] that the Bishops sponsored Chinchilla during the presidential campaign, even violating the constitution, now they want to make a Corcordato [16]: a bilateral agreement between the Vatican and the State, which gives the Catholic Church a number of privileges not enjoyed by other churches.

The author of the blog ASOJOD [es] [17] seems very disenchanted with this situation, and states:

En ASOJOD hemos repudiado, desde nuestros inicios, el contubernio entre la Iglesia (s) y el Estado, pues presupone una imposición sobre la libertad individual y, como en el caso de Costa Rica, otorga gollerías a una agrupación a costa de los costarricenses. Hoy día, nuestro dinero se usa para financiar a la Iglesia Católica, que mediante las Temporalidades de la Iglesia, cuenta con partidas del Presupuesto de la República bastante altas. Además, la Iglesia sigue determinando la orientación de algunas políticas públicas, específicamente las relacionadas con la educación sexual y la salud sexual-reproductiva, de forma tal que, mediante su influencia espiritual y política, pisotea la libertad de los individuos para decidir la forma en que desean vivir.

In ASOJOD we have repudiated from the very beginning, the complicity between the Church(es) and the State, because it implies an imposition on individual freedom and as in the case of Costa Rica, it favors a group at the expense of Costa Ricans. Today, our money is used to fund the Catholic Church, which by the temporalities of the Church, with items in the Republic's budget, which are quite high. Moreover, the Church continues to shape the direction of some public policies, specifically those related to sex education and sexual-reproductive health, so that, by its spiritual and political influence it tramples the freedom of individuals to decide how they wish to live.