Message from the COCC regarding the new constitution of the Republic of Cuba that will be submitted to referendum

Por: Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de Cuba

“Everyone can contribute their own stone for the construction of the common house. The authentic political life, founded on law and a loyal dialogue between the protagonists, is renewed with the conviction that every woman, every man and every generation holds in themselves a promise that can liberate new relational, intellectual, cultural and spiritual energies”.

(Message from Pope Francis
World Peace Day, 2019)

Dear Brothers:

As is well known on February 24th, the text for a new Constitution of the Republic of Cuba will be submitted to the people for confirmation or not. During the consultation process the Cuban bishops issued a Message last October, setting out some considerations in order to clarify awareness and help the free and responsible exercise of the right of each Cuban to exercise his vote.
Given the importance of the Constitution for the future of our people, today, again with the purpose of publicizeing our faithful and the people who have requested the opinion of the Church, we feel the need to express the result of our reflection on the text that has been approved by the National Assembly of People’s Power.
In turn, it seems to us necessary to emphasize that “the Constitution as a fundamental law applies equally to all citizens and institutions regardless of their nature.” Thus, the objective of the Constitution is to safeguard and guarantee the exercise of the rights and duties of each citizen without discrimination and respecting their dignity, as recognized by international law.
The Catholic Bishops of Cuba have wanted with this Message, without us exhausting other aspects of the Constitution, prioritizing four themes: the exclusion of other forms of full realization of the human being other than those of socialism and communism, the correct understanding of a lay state, the integral vision of marriage and the family and the economy at the service of the common good.

The ideological sustaining of the Constitution

5. In the Preamble[1] of the proposed text to reference, the statement has been added as new: “only in socialism and communism does human beings attain their full dignity”, thus excluding other visions about man, society and the universe that do not assume Marxist-Leninist ideology which, historically, also in our Homeland, has inspired and sustained the communist idea.

6. The absolute nature of such a statement in the constitutional text excludes the effective exercise of the right to plurality of thought about man and the order of society. Plurality must be safeguarded by the Constitution, as it itself expresses in Article 1[2] in quoting José Martí: “With all and for the good of all”[3]. This conviction, the Cuban bishops we express in the Circular of November 21, 1991: “The Christian cannot be forced to submit to a conception of reality that does not correspond to his human consciousness illuminated by faith”[4]

7. In accordance with the above mentioned about a unique ideology in order to personal and social realization that serves as the basis and inspiration for the constitutional text and all subsequent legislation, it should be recalled that we have already explained in our message of 24 October: “A Constitution is a living and practical law that cannot be built with ideological elements” [5]The lay State

8. We bishops welcome the addition in article 15 of the statement “The Cuban State is lay”, that is, that it respects the right of each person to believe, live and manifest the values that correspond to his faith, that is, the acceptance of plurality. However, this statement does not correspond to what is expressed in the Preamble to the constitutional text, in presenting the absolute character of Marxist-Leninist ideology.

9. For this reason, it is good to remember 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 his faith and to express it publicly, limiting respect for the other.

10. In turn, “in our particular 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, of systematic access to the media, freedom of teaching and evangelization, of building buildings and of acquiring and possessing goods suitable for her activity; freedom to associate for purposes not only strictly religious, but also educational, cultural, health and charitable purposes.” These aspects that have not been explicit enough in the constitutional text.

11. We also note with regard to conscientious objection that it is not expressed that the preservation of one’s right does not involve the violentness of the right and conscience of others. Marriage, family and education

12. With regard to article 68 of the preliminary draft Constitution proposing the definition of marriage as “the union between two persons” and given the impact and importance for the future of the family, society and education of the new generations, it is natural that this article was the one that aroused the most interest in our population and the one that received the most propositions in the process of popular consultation prior to the drafting of the new text constitutional [7].

13. Most of the people’s interventions were aimed at maintaining the definition of marriage as “the union of a man and a woman” as the foundation of the family, as conceived throughout our culture and history, in the words of José Martí: “Love is the ardorosa and unconditional adherence that an individual of one sex feels with respect to one individual of the other. The gender difference is not only its quality, but its characteristic essence.”

14. The proposed constitutional text, as regards marriage, has failed to take into account the majority opinion of the population. While the new text has removed the definition of “marriage as the union between two persons”, which we appreciate, however, in Articles 81 and 82 of the current text, the path is opened for the union of same-sex people with all their prerogatives to be recognized as marriage in the future.

15. According to the definition of a family in the above articles, the real possibility that, in subsequent supplementary laws, the feeling and will expressed mostly by our people, which has defended the institution of marriage as the union between a man and a woman, is not respected.

16. From the above, we regret that there has been no substantial change in marriage and the family with what was proposed in the Preliminary Draft discussed in the popular consultation, since the new text has been introduced in the National Assembly and without being challenged by any other Member it was said that: “The concept of spouses is used in relation to the subjects of marriage , legal construction that refers to persons who have formalized the marriage bond and who in no way limits the possibility that persons of the same gender may access marriage as a form of legal recognition of the union they have wished to build”[8]

17. Having found that our people, in a significantly high portion, value marriage and family in the natural order, it is necessary that this desire should not be thwarted, earlier or in the future, with the introduction of legal forms that do not respond to what the people expressed in the popular consultation that was made.

18. We recall what we said in last October’s Message: “The teaching of the Church 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.”

19. In this context we value that the Constitution, Article 84, recognizes “the responsibility and essential functions of the family in the integral formation of new generations in moral, ethical and civic values”, but at the same time it does not appear that “the family has an original and irreplaceable role in the education of children”[10], which coincides with the Declaration of Human Rights when it says that “parents will have a preferential right to choose the type education to give to your children.” The economy at the service of the common good

20. And as a fourth aspect we wanted to take into account, as we have already expressed in our previous Message: “The principle of the Social Doctrine of the Church that recognizes the universal destiny of property and the social function of property in order to achieve the integral development of the person, the family and the common good, so we are pleased that the Draft Constitution also recognizes private property , although it should always be noted that the limits of any property must be conditioned only by the principle described above.  In this field, we consider that what is exposed in relation to foreign investment should be extended to the Cuban citizen based this on the equality of all Cubans in their rights, duties and opportunities without discrimination.”


21. We call upon every citizen, with his responsible vote and from his conscience, to contribute to the building up of a society in which all Cubans feel respected in our rights and, at the same time, to build a dignified and prosperous life with the participation of all without exclusion.

22. We entrust these intentions to our Lady of Charity, Mother of all Cubans, and implore God’s blessing on our beloved Fatherland.

Havana, February 2, 2019.

Feast of the Lord’s Presentation

+ 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

[1] Preamble to the constitutional text, paragraph: “Convinced …”

[2] Constitution of the Republic: Title I: Political Fundamentals – Chapter I “Fundamental Principles” – 

[3] José Martí, “With all and for the good of all”, Speech given by José Martí at the Cuban Lyceum in Tampa on November 26, 1891

[4] Circular of the Bishops of Cuba “on the possible admission of believers to the PCC”, n. 8

[5] José Martí, “Letter of New York, May 23, 1882, Complete Works, Volume IX, pages 307 and 308.

[6] Pastoral Message of the Catholic Bishops of Cuba, 24 October 2018 n. 16

[7] cf. Report of the Secretary of the State Council to the National Assembly of The People’s Power. Granma Newspaper, 18 December 2018 9 José Martí, Notebooks, t. 21, p. 114. Complete works, 1975 edition.

[8] Granma”, December 27, 2018

[9] Pastoral Message of the Catholic Bishops of Cuba, 24 October 2018 n. 19

[10] Second Vatican Council, Declaration on Christian Education of Youth No. 3 13 Article 26, paragraph 3

[11] Pastoral Message of the Catholic Bishops of Cuba, 24 October 2018 n. 21

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