“… Let us make man in our image and likeness. Have authority over sea fish and skybirds, field animals, wild beasts and reptiles crawling on the ground.
And God created man in his image. In the image of God he created them. Man and woman created them”
Genesis 1, 26-27
We wanted to begin our message with the classic and beautiful passage on the creation of the human being that is recounted in the first book of the Bible: Genesis. In a poetic and figurative way it conveys important truths about our nature to us. Men and women share the same nature and are equal in dignity and rights. They have a mandate to procreate and populate the land and, moreover, authority, rights and duties to use and manage the goods that have been given to them for their benefit, that of their family and that of society. They also have an obligation to care for the earth for its value in itself and because it reflects the beauty of God. These principles constitute a heritage acquired by humanity, both by believers and non-believers. Serve these premises as a prologue to our message.
THE IMPORTANCE AND SCOPE OF A CONSTITUTION
Our people have been convened and are immersed in a process of consultation in order for all citizens to provide criteria and proposals that contribute to enrich the drafting of a new Constitution of the Republic of Cuba. It will be presented, to all Cubans, in reference to be approved or rejected. The popular referendum will be the last word of all our people about the Constitution. It is therefore worth highlighting the importance of it as an act in which each citizen is called to express himself with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ by his vote, or abstaining from doing so.
As pastors we understand, from the processes that our Nation has lived, those who think that their opinion does not count. However, we would like to invite all our compatriots to opt for conscious and responsible participation. We also ask the authorities to guide the next process that the opinions and inputs collected be taken into account.
It is well known that the different topics present in the text are cause for frequent conversation and positions that have generated many exchanges of opinions and debates, expressing different positions: some participating with their contributions, others with some reservation and also those who consider that everything is already decided. It is logical that this is the case, because it is a sign of the plurality of positions, of interest and concern, since we know that the Constitution of a country must reflect the characteristics of society and determine, in many ways, the lives of citizens and their future, including coexistence between them, participation in decision-making that affect their lives and their relations with the State and society.
In different ways and repeatedly, many ask us about the Church’s view of certain aspects of the constitutional project under discussion. For these reasons, as bishops, we want to address you, members of our communities, and all those who have also expressed their desire to know our thinking. We are moved and founded by faith in Jesus Christ the Savior of all men, the strength of His Word that inspires and sustains us, love, and the pursuit of good for our people.
We start from a martyred phrase that expresses the meaning and value he gave to a nation’s Magna Carta: “A Constitution is a living and practical law that cannot be built on ideological elements.” The Constitution is the fundamental law of a nation that sets the organization of society and the rights, duties and guarantees of citizens. It must therefore reflect “the essential and minimal principles and values, which implies not covering and expressing in detail all areas of political, economic and social life”. It is also legitimate to state that the Constitution cannot be subordinated to laws, decrees, resolutions, political parties, ideologies, provisions or judicial judgments, since a Magna Carta prevails over all of them. It should be remembered that “sovereignty resides non-transferably in the people, from whom all the power of the State is demented”. In addition, the Constitution, as a Basic Law, applies equally to all citizens and institutions regardless of the nature of them. “Man does not command another man; the law sends them all.”
Likewise, because of the importance of the Constitution as a final reference of legality in the Nation and given its supremacy over any particular interest, as we explained above, we consider it not only advisable but necessary, that the Constitution itself provide for the establishment of a Constitutional Guarantees Tribunal in order to safeguard the rights that are endorsed therein.
We emphasize that the human person is, by his intrinsic freedom and dignity, the subject and center of all rights and duties guaranteed by a Constitution, which must always be for the benefit of the person in order to sustain the coexistence of all.
THE DIGNITY OF MAN AND WOMAN
This affirmation, looked at from our faith, expresses that every human being, being a creature of God, possesses a particular dignity that puts him above all that is created. This finding exclaimed to the author of Psalm 8 (5.7) of the Bible, full of admiration and gratitude:
“(Lord), what is man to remember him
human beings to give him power?…
You crowned him with glory and dignity,
You gave him command over the works of your hands,
you subdued everything under his feet.”
These truths about the human person were also expressed by our José Martí when he stated: “… be called a man, and all rights are already said…”, to indicate that every person comes into this world with the dignity and rights that belong exclusively to his human condition.
Throughout history, because of God’s misuse of freedom to man, human beings have not treated ourselves with the respect that our dignity deserves. Over the centuries there have been many wars, tyrannies, violence, discrimination, injustices and many more disasters, so it is not surprising that, after the horror of World War II, nations felt the urgent need to publicly write down and ratify the rights that every human being has for the simple reason of being so. Our country had a lot to do with this commitment that materialized in the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 10 December 1948, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
In view of the above, we appreciate that the constitutional project (Art.39) wished to take into account the respect and application of human rights recognized in various international treaties of which Cuba is a signatory. We also value the declaration that people are equal in their dignity, in their duties and rights, without discrimination.[ At the same time we regret the absence of recognition of the diversity of political opinion (cf. art 40), just as it would also be necessary to explain that the right to life (cf. art. 43) must be respected from the moment of the conception of the individual to natural death and, in turn, it would be to be desired to cover the exclusion of the death penalty.
Similarly, further clarification is required on the right to conscientious objection (Art 59), so that the preservation of one’s right does not involve violent the right and conscience of others. The causes, scope, means and limits relating to Article 3 relating to the defence of the Fatherland should also be clarified in order to protect the integrity and exercise of the right of persons. The use of force is an extreme resource, only justified in certain circumstances and under exceptional conditions and must be proportionate to the causes that cause it. The Church has always valued dialogue and mutual respect as the best means of overcoming conflict.
We also emphasize that, Article 40 adds to the current Constitution three other categories as subjects of law: “gender, sexual orientation and gender identity” that come from an obvious influence of the so-called “gender ideology”, which are unnecessary, because the category “sex” would suffice for all members of society to fall within, as recognized in article 45 : “women and men enjoy equal rights and responsibilities…”.
Sex is given by nature and is not an acquired cultural construct, as the aforementioned gender ideology wrongly proposes, which is characterized by strong subjectivism, which leads the individual to decide for himself what is good and what is bad. In such a way that, such an ideology, he argues among his main postulates that each person chooses his own sexual identity. This ideological current has been introduced in Cuba, among others, by some official means and by the influence of the outside world.
Likewise, the draft Constitution recognizes citizens “the right to profess or not religious beliefs, to change them and to practice their preference, with due respect for other creeds and in accordance with the law”. According to the above, and in correspondence with what should be a modern lay state, the Cuban bishops reaffirm that the freedom to practice one’s own religion is not the simple freedom to have religious beliefs, but the freedom of each person to live according to the values of the faith he professes, to express them publicly, limiting respect for the other. In our specific case, this freedom also implies the legal recognition of the Church and her own identity and mission, including the possibility of publicizeing her moral teaching according to the Gospel, systematically accessing the media, freedom of teaching and evangelization, building buildings and acquiring and possessing goods suitable for her activity; and the freedom to associate for purposes not only strictly religious but also educational, cultural, health and charitable.
The Church has always considered the right and responsibility of the family in the education of her children essential. This coincides with the Declaration of Human Rights, when it says, “Parents will have a preferential right to choose the type of education to be given to their children.” This principle is expressed in the Magisterium of the Church as follows: “The family has an original and irreplaceable role in the education of children…” “Parents have the right and duty to impart a religious education and moral formation to their children”: “right that should not be cancelled by the State, rather it must be respected and promoted. It is a primary duty that the family cannot neglect or delegate.”
It is timely to recall what Pope St. John Paul II said in Santa Clara: “Cuba, take care of your families so that you keep your heart healthy!”  For this reason we appreciate the role that the constitutional project gives to the family, and the willingness for it to fulfill its mission as a basic cell of society, as formulated in Article 67. However, with regard to education, the basic principles set out in the preceding paragraph are not sufficiently expressed, for, as stated in Article 95b, “teaching is the function of the State…” and, in turn, Articles 72 and 84 point out that the contribution attributed to the family is listed last, following the role assigned to the State and society. We understand that neither the State nor any other institution should appropriate this delicate mission.
We bishops consider it ill-founded and wrong that a definition of marriage appears in the constitutional project (art. 68) as “the union of two persons with the aptitude for it, in order to make common life”. In expressing this criterion, we do not intend to ignore, and in no way disparage, the dignity of any person, for all must be respected for their status and social participation. The Church’s teaching has always been clear: reciprocal and complementary love between man and woman underpins the vocation to marriage and the family, establishing a unity that cannot be equated to any other. Distinction does not mean discrimination.
The Bishops, too, appreciate what was expressed in the constitutional project on the rights of the family in order to achieve its full development and well-being. To satisfy these rights and logical desires, it is necessary for the Constitution to provide the possibilities for every citizen to have a salary that really meets their needs and, likewise, the social benefits necessary to balance family life must be guaranteed, so that stable life and decent housing are possible and achievable by all its members, until after their working lives. Therefore, we allow ourselves to remember what is stated in our message “Hope does not disappoint”: “Any social project must open spaces for the personal and family life projects of citizens and must harmonize with each other … Aspirations for self-improvement must be encouraged to achieve a vigorous civil society that will always be a necessary good for every country that aspires to a healthy social and economic prosperity, sustained by strong moral and spiritual pillars.”
ECONOMICS AT THE SERVICE OF THE COMMON GOOD
As a principle, the Social Doctrine of the Church recognizes the universal destiny of property and the social function of property in achieving the integral development of the person, family, and common good. Therefore, we are pleased that the Draft Constitution also recognizes private property, although it should always be taken into account that the limits of any property must be conditioned only by the principle described above. In this field, we consider that what is set out in Article 28 in relation to foreign investment should be extended to the Cuban citizen under article 40 on “equality of all Cubans in their rights, duties and opportunities without discrimination”.
At the conclusion of this message we want to recognize and value that, a good number of Cubans, are exercising their right to have an opinion and this, in itself, is a beneficial exercise for people and society. We, as bishops and pastors of the Catholic Church in Cuba, have not intended to make a thorough presentation of all the contents of the constitutional project, but we wish to illuminate those aspects that have been most demanded of us in order to discern and subsequent decision that each must make according to his conscience and freedom.
We ask God to help us find ways to promote the growth of mutual respect and recognition of the dignity of each person. Only in this way will the dream of our neighbours come true, proclaimed by Martí by wishing that Cuba would be a Republic “with all and for the good of all”. To our Mother, our Lady of Copper Charity, we ask that you continue to accompany the life of our people. Charity brings us back!
Havana, October 24, 2018.
Feast of St. Anthony Mary Claret
+ Dionisio García Ibáñez, Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba
+ Juan de la Caridad García Rodríguez, Archbishop of Havana
+ Wilfredo Pino Estévez, Archbishop of Camaguey
+ Emilio Aranguren Echeverría, Bishop of Holguin, President of the COCC
+ Arturo González Amador, Bishop of Santa Clara, CoCC Vice President
+ Manuel Hilario de Céspedes y García-Menocal, Bishop of Matanzas
+ Jorge Enrique Serpa Pérez, Bishop of Pinar del Río
+ Alvaro Beyra Luarca, Bishop of Bayamo-Manzanillo
+ Domingo Oropesa Lorente, Bishop of Cienfuegos
+ Juan Gabriel Díaz Ruiz, Bishop of Ciego de Avila
+ Silvano Pedroso Montalvo, Bishop of Guantanamo-Baracoa
+ Juan de Dios Hernández Ruiz SJ, Auxiliary Bishop of Havana, Secretary General of the COCC
 José Martí, Letter of New York, May 23, 1882, Complete Works, Volume IX, pages 307 and 308.
 Draft Constitution, Introduction to Project Analysis – Final Considerations, paragraph 3.
 Draft Constitution, art. 10
 Fr. Felix Varela. Chair of Constitution, Second Observation. Quote from the Book “Political Writings”. Ed. Social Sciences, 1977.
 José Martí. “My Race,” newspaper “Patria,” New York, April 16, 1893. Complete Works, Editorial Pueblo y Educación, Havana, 1976, Volume 2, pages 298 to 300.
 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, art. 2
 Draft Constitution of the Republic, art. 62
 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, art. 26.3
 Second Vatican Council, Gravissimum Educationis Declaration n. 3
 Second Vatican Council, Dignitatis Humanae Declaration n.5
 Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church No. 239
 St. John Paul II, Homily in Santa Clara, 22 January 1998.
 Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba, Pastoral Letter “Hope Does Not Disappoint”, September 8, 2013, nn. 29-30
 José Martí, Speech “With All and for the Good of All”, Cuban Lyceum of Tampa, USA, November 26, 1891