Sunday, July 25, 2010

Santa Rosa diocese and the constituyente

One of the big questions here in Honduras is where does the country, since many perceive that there has been a breakdown of government.

The Resistance has been calling for an Asamblea Nacional Constituyente – National Constitutional Assembly.

Two weeks ago the priests of the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán met for a study week and came out strongly in support of the Constituyente.

I was given notes from the meeting which will be distributed throughout the diocese, first of all, through the Catholic Social Teaching workshops that begin this week. The document, somewhat rambling, is divided into challenges and commitments.

Here is my effort to systematize what the priests agreed to.

1. There is a commitment to promote the Constituyente:
  • The challenges include “assisting the processes leading to the National Constitutive Assembly through strategies agreed upon with organizations which come from the grassroots, taking into account the steps of the social pact that were suggested in the study week and based on the Diocesan Plan”

2. There is a call to make the Consitutyente reflective of the concerns of the poor

Among the contributions would be:
  • "Bringing to the surface possible persons who would represent the people from the grassroots in the process."
  • "Promoting the organization of the people so that they can participate into the process."
  • "Establishing election criteria: that the member of the constituent assembly are not elected by the political parties or the departments but by sectors of the population or manucomunidades [groupings of municipalities)."
All of this is for the sake of “a new legal framework of public administration where the people will have participation.”

3. This commitment is seen in the framework of the diocese’s history of prophetic stances:

The challenges include:
  • "Maintaining our prophetic stance and our educational stance in order to illuminate the citizenry. (It is taken for granted that this is creating a critical consciousness.)"
  • "Combating and unmasking corruption, immorality, and commercialism, promoting moral and cultural values."
  • "That each priest maintain his prophetic dimension in conformity with the preferential option for the poor, coming from the Social Doctrine of the Church and the Diocesan [Pastoral] Plan."
4. Call for continuing education and formation

Some challenges are
  • "Empowering ourselves in the process of current social transformation through analysis and debate in order to disseminate, in the parishes and at all levels, formation in democracy and citizenship."
  • "Spreading formation and information about the current reality to the entire population."
Contributions the diocese can offer:
  • "Continuing political formation and m king known the current process of social transformation."
  • "Multiplying systematically and in a timely manner formation and information about the process of the National Constitutive Assembly."
  • "Having as one of our priorities finding ways to spread Catholic Social Doctrine, within and outside the church. emphasizing democracy and citizenship at all levels."
  • "Organizing a commission of reflection and editing looking to the proposal of a constitution for the republic from the priests."
5. There is a call for the church to assist the process by seeking and making suggestions
  • It is suggested that the diocese contribute to the process by “draw[ing] up a proposal of the constitution to the church of Honduras so that as an institution it presents its proposal, by means of which a social pact is achieved. (If the church at the national level does not make a pronouncement, the proposal would be presented to the country as the diocese’s proposal."
6. A call for the church to accompany but not control
  • The church can contribute by “being present and accompanying the present process of social transformation without being protagonists [the main actors]."
7. Since this is a controversial stance the priests recognize several challenges:
  • Unity: “Incorporating all the priests of the diocese and promoting the organization of the people for participation in the Constitutive [Assembly]"
  • Toleration: “Having a mature attitude (tolerance) in the face of others' opinions
8. Call for inclusion of all in the process
  • "To accompany the various tendencies of popular organization and facilitate spaces for meeting and dialogue among the diverse social sectors, including the elite."

The challenges and proposed contributions are strong on formation and information, but this is formulated in terms of the diocese’s long term prophetic stance as well as Catholic Social Teaching.

There is also a notable call for inclusion and dialogue, including with the elite. But the concern for the participation of people from the grassroots – the base, in Spanish – is extremely strong.

There is also the interesting suggestion that the diocese prepare some proposals and that if the Honduran church as a whole does not make suggestions the diocese can offer them on its own.

But this is a process of accompanying the process, not controlling it as one of the “protagonists.”

It will be interesting to see how this is played out in the next year.

The diocese is already beginning the process of formation in democracy and governability through eight “schools” which are two day sessions with parish leaders throughout the diocese in themes of human rights, human rights, democracy, etc. These “schools” will have five sessions – and the participants are expected to pass the information on to others in their parishes and in the organizations they belong to. In addition, there will be efforts to make this formation real in several pilot projects in ten municipalities.

To promote the Consituyente, Caritas of the diocese of Santa Rosa, Radio Santa Rosa, and two other organizations have been distributing a small four page publication, Zorzal – the Thrush, with basic information in the National Constitutive Assembly.

Also, this week the diocese will begin a three session training program in Catholic Social Teaching. Leaders from the deaneries will meet and then share the training with parish leaders in their deaneries. (The US Bishops Office on Latin America provided some funding for this project.)

In addition, we’ve received some funding from Adveniat, a program of the German Catholic church, to prepare a booklet on Catholic Social Teaching to be used by the base communities in the diocese.

What more will happen remains to be seen, but the diocese, continuing its historical prophetic stance, continues to put the concerns of the poor at the grassroots at the center and to call for their participation in the future of Honduras.

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