Human Rights and the Concordat


Before discussing the serious Human Rights violations of the Concordat of 1862 we should mention that conditions in early 19th century Ecuador were truly extreme. The population was lawless and contentious and deeply divided politically into bitterly contentious factions. Differences in class and education locked significant portions of the population in a state of dire poverty. Strife and civil discord disrupted daily lives. The Army was made up -in large part- of men who had been randomly seized off the streets in their youth and forced into service.

So when Gabriel Garcia Moreno appeared on the scene in the early 1860’s it is hardly surprising that his proposal to deliver Ecuador to a theocratic system of government was able to secure a majority -however slim.   He successfully convinced himself and his fellow Ecuadorians that “religion is the sole bond which is left to us in this country, divided as it is by the interests of parties, races, and beliefs.”

Finally, when looking back at an historical event that took place more than one-and-one-half centuries ago it is important to keep the historical context in mind so that we don’t make the error of measuring 150 year-old events with a 21st-century yardstick.   Looking at Garcia Moreno’s Ecuador it is difficult if not impossible to find a parallel anywhere in the world for the scheme he introduced.  Even when measured against the standards of the mid-19th century, Garcia Moreno’s plan was clearly anachronistic and backward.

Terms of the Concordat

The articles of the Concordat speak for themselves and Garcia Moreno also saw to the revision of the Constitution so as to ensure full implementation of his program.  The first article of the Concordat bluntly abolished religious freedom in Ecuador. The third and fourth articles required that Educational institutions be placed under full Church control ensuring that students would be indoctrinated fully into Church doctrine and prevented from seeing anything that would differ from Church Doctrine:

Art. 1. The Catholic Apostolic Roman religion shall continue to be the sole religion of the republic of Ecuador, and shall always be preserved there together with all the rights and privileges which it ought to enjoy according to the law of God and cannonical enactments.  In consequence, no other dissident form of worship or any society condemned by the Church shall at any time be allowed within the Republic of Ecuador.
Art 3. The education of youth in Universities, Colleges, Faculties, public and private schools shall be in full conformity with the Catholic Religion. The Bishops shall enjoy the exclusive right of indicating books or texts for the teaching of religious knowledge, and also for religious and moral instruction. Furthermore the Bishops and Ordinaries shall exercise in full freedom the right which belongs to them of prohibiting books contrary to religion and good morals; the Government also will keep close watch and will take the necessary measures to prevent the entrance and diffusion of such books in the Republic.
Art 4. The Bishops shall attend to the duty of their pastoral ministry which is to prevent the teaching of any theory contrary to the Catholic religion and goodness of morals. For this purpose, no one shall be permitted to teach in any educational establishment, whether public or private, Theology, Catechism, or Religious Doctrine without having first obtained authorization from the diocesan Ordinary, who can revoke it when it shall seem opportune to him. For the examination of teachers in primary schools, the diocesan Ordinary shall always appoint a deputy for the purpose of enquiring into the religious knowledge and moral conduct of the candidates for examination, who shall not be able to enter upon the performance of their duties without the approval of the same diocesan Ordinary.
–from The Ecuador Concordat of 1862

” A later law of Garcia Moreno’s Government laid down that only Catholics might be regarded as citizens of Ecuador. All forms of education are to be strictly controlled by the Church (Arts. 2-4) and literature judged as dangerous by the hierarchy is to be suppressed (the enactments of the Index of Prohibited Books were made the law of the land). ”
–from Sydney Z. Ehler “Church and State through the Centuries” (p. 274)

Article 6 guaranteed Government “assistance” to any bishop who deemed it necessary to “oppose the wickedness of those men who endeavor to pervert the minds of the faithful”.  By this article anyone who spoke or wrote anything which a Roman Catholic bishop might deem to be “wicked” could now expect that the full force of the government -including the police- could be brought to bear against him.

Art. 6. The ecclesiastical Ordinaries of the Republic shall be free to govern their dioceses with full liberty, to assemble and hold Provincial and Diocesan Councils, and to exercise the rights which belong to them by virtue of their sacred ministry and of the canonical arrangements valid and approved by the Holy See, without any one being allowed to hinder them in the carrying out of their decisions.  Furthermore, the Government of Ecuador will provide the Bishops with its utmost assistance and support whenever it shall be required, principally when it shall be necessary to oppose the wickedness of those men who endeavor to pervert the minds of the faithful and to corrupt their morals.

Article 8 guaranteed that issues related to personal matters such as marriage would have to go before a Church Court rather than through a civil court:

Art. 8. All ecclesiastical cases, especially those concerning Faith, the Sacraments (including marriage cases), morals, sacred functions, sacred rights and duties …shall be brought before ecclesiastical tribunals.”

Marriages were limited to Catholic marriages; non-Catholics would have to deny their Faith (a process which encouraged hypocrisy  -to which the Church turned a blind eye) to be married.

But perhaps the most stunning article of all is the last one (#24) which nullifies all laws of Ecuador which conflict with the Concordat:

Art. 24. By virtue of the this Concordat all laws and decrees published hitherto in whatever manner and form in Ecuador are revoked in the respects in which they are contrary (to the Concordat); and the aforsaid Concordat is always to be considered as a perpetual law of the State.

The Ecuador Concordat of 1862 is conspicuous for the brazen arrogance of its tone and for the audacity with which it stripped of their fundamental rights all Ecuadorians who did not want to be practicing Catholics. Only Catholics would count under Garcia Moreno and his constitution and concordat.

A. Kim Clark’s assessment

Anthropologist Dr. A. Kim Clark has delivered an excellent outline of the Human Rights situation in 19th Century Ecuador:

“Relations between church and state in Ecuador during the nineteenth century were such that the state promoted Catholicism to the exclusion of all other religions. This relationship reached its zenith when President Garcia Moreno made Catholicism a condition for citizenship (in the constitution that became known among liberals as the Black Charter). In addition, according to the 1882 concordat between the government and the Vatican, education, from primary school to university level, had to be in accordance with Catholic doctrine. The church also had rights of censure; through pastoral letters and decrees it could prohibit either the publication or the importation of books that offended Catholic doctrine and morals. The government, in turn, was required to adopt the appropriate means to ensure that such publications did not circulate in the republic. This requirement was clearly contrary to liberal ideals of freedom of expression, and liberals suffered politically from these measures. For instance, Felicisimo Lopez, a liberal from the coast, was excommunicated for referring to Catholicism, in a published article, as a sect (suggesting that it was one among many religions). Although he was elected senator for Esmeraldas province in 1894, congress was required by the concordat to disqualify him because he had been excommunicated. In contrast, in 1896, after the Liberal Revolution, he again was elected to congress, and this time he was permitted to take his seat. In 1901, Lopez was named minister of development.
… In discussing the separation of church and state, liberals repeatedly referred to the need to circulate new ideas as well as people. The church was perceived as inhibiting both of these processes. Regarding the former, the church was seen as holding a monopoly over thinking, one that allowed no questioning or creativity. The church had the right to censure the press and prevent the entrance into the republic of any printed matter with which it disagreed. Thus, with the growth of a press free of censure during the liberal period, it was claimed that finally “it is widely believed that everyone has the right to think, and it is now incomprehensible that thinking should be the privilege of a particular class, much less a monopolized industry.”‘ The church also dominated education. Attacks on traditionalism, rutina, and intolerance in church-dominated education characterized it as “that chain which binds us to the Middle Ages. How can we expect the triumph of Democracy and Liberty, if we entrust the education of our youth, that is, the formation of our future citizens, to those who have combatted and still combat without cease liberal principles. How can we expect the enlightenment of the people, if we confide the diffusion of light to those who have fought without rest to maintain the empire of shadows” President Leonidas Plaza insisted that, “as far as I am concerned,. the state of backwardness and contemptible passivity in which the Republic has vegetated for so many long years, is the fault and absolute responsibility of the perverse education we have received”.
…In regard to the circulation of people, the church was without doubt highly resistant to the immigration of non-Catholics. Until passage of the civil marriage law in 1902 there was no institution by which non-Catholics could marry in Ecuador, nor could non-Catholics be buried prior to the secularization of cemeteries. As a landowner, the church was also seen as rigidly controlling labor in the highlands, workers whom liberals believed would be better employed on the coast. But more generally there was a perception that the church aimed to keep people “in their place,” both by promoting a hierarchical society and by discouraging any physical movement of the faithful that might expose them to new ideas.”
–from A. Kim Clark “The Redemptive Work” p.59-61

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