SAO PAULO (CNS) — The Oct. 5 general elections in Brazil will feature more than 22,000 candidates vying for the posts of president, governors, senators and federal and state representatives. Twenty-three of those candidates are Brazilian priests, according to Brazil’s Superior Election Court.
The Brazilian bishops’ conference has repeatedly stated that it is against priests who join a political party and run for public office.
“According to the Catholic Church, this is not the role of a priest,” says Denilson Geraldo, canon law professor at Sao Paulo’s Catholic University. The professor quotes canons 285 and 287, which prohibit priests from being affiliated with a political party; in Brazil, candidates must be linked to a party to run for office.
Several bishops told Catholic News Service that they temporarily suspend priests from publicly carrying out their religious duties when they run for or hold office.
A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Paraiba, who asked that his name not be used, said the five priests who have decided to run in this year’s election have been forbidden to celebrate Masses, hear confessions, hold funerals and celebrate weddings.
“Archbishop Aldo Pagotto follows the Canon Law to a T,” said the spokesman.
In Roraima state, Father Mariton Benedito de Holanda, better known as Father Ton, is running for governor of the state, after serving as mayor of Alto Alegre dos Parecis and as a federal representative in Brazil’s capital, Brasilia. He is on serving in a parish at this time.
“It is up to the local bishop to decide whether to enforce the code,” said Geraldo, adding that most bishops do not look kindly on priests participating in an election campaign while performing their religious duties.
“The church is not a political stage,” agreed the Paraiba spokesman.
The priests who win this year’s elections will be relieved of their duties until 2019, when their political term ends, and those who do not may have a chance to return to their religious responsibilities.
“Coming back also depends on the local bishop,” said the Paraiba spokesman. “If he (bishop) feels that they will only be back until the next election, he may opt to keep him as a substitute instead of the main priest at the parish.”