14ymedio, Havana, 28 October 2018 — The Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba (COCC) has issued a pastoral message on the draft Constitution in which it urges citizens to participate in the debates in a “conscious and responsible” manner, but regrets that the Constitution does not recognize the right to a “diversity of political opinion.”
In the text, published on the COCC website, the bishops take a position against the death penalty, the practice of abortion and equal marriage, in addition to demanding greater spaces for the pastoral and humanitarian work of the Church.
The prelates believe that the referendum on February 24 will be “an act in which every citizen of the island is called to express themselves with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ by their vote, or abstaining.” A vote that they think “will be the last word of our people on the Constitution.”
That the Constitution “can not be subordinated to laws, decrees, resolutions, political parties, ideologies, judicial dispositions or judgments,” is emphasized in the message and the government is urged to create a “Court of Constitutional Guarantees with the purpose of safeguarding the rights enshrined therein.”
The members of the COCC are pleased that the Constitution includes “the declaration that people are equal in their dignity, in their duties and rights, without any discrimination” but lament “the absence of recognition of the diversity of political opinion” in the text.
Prior to the writing of this pastoral message in each diocese, there was a reflection on the document.
Article Three of the new Constitution, which says that “socialism and the social and political revolutionary system established by this Constitution are irrevocable,” and adds, “Citizens have the right to combat by all means, including armed struggle, when other means are not available, against anybody who seeks to topple the political, social and economic order established by this Constitution,” is also criticized by the COCC, which calls to protect “the integrity and exercise of the right of the people.” The Bishops comment that “the use of force is an extreme resource, only justified in certain circumstances and under exceptional conditions and must be proportional to the causes that provoke it.”
With regards to Article 68, which has generated a great controversy in recognizing marriage as the union between two people, beyond their sex, the bishops say that its wording has an “evident influence from the so-called ‘gender ideology’,” which they adjudge “a strong subjectivism,” in “its main postulate that each person chooses his own sexual identity.”
The inclusion in the Project of Constitution of an article that opens the door to the legalization of equal marriage has been one of the most controversial points, and has unleashed strong campaigns by the Catholic Church and the evangelical churches, in oppostion to the activists of the LGBTI community.
The bishops believe it “improperly-founded and erroneous” that a definition of marriage should appear in the constitutional draft as “the union of two persons with aptitude for it, in order to make a life in common,” and they reject that their position on the subject implies “discrimination.”
Several groups of the Cuban opposition have denounced that the discussion about Article 68 seeks to eclipse more important issues such as political freedoms, the perpetuation of the Communist Party in power and the situation of human rights in the country.
The message of the bishops also calls for greater spaces for the Catholic Church, especially in the areas of education, the construction of new churches and the posssessopm of “adequate goods for its activity.”
The text calls for a guarantee “That every citizen has a salary that really meets their needs and, equally, the social benefits necessary to balance family life must be guaranteed, so that a stable life and decent housing can be achieved and attained by all its members, including after the end of their working life.”
The bishops are pleased that the Draft Constitution “recognizes private property, although it should always be borne in mind that the limits of any property should be conditioned only by the principle(…) The Economy at the Service of the Common Good.”
However, they urge that the opportunities given to foreign investment, also be extended “to the Cuban citizen” to enforce “the equality of all Cubans in their rights, duties and opportunities without any discrimination.”
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