Bishop Jose Francisco Ulloa Rojas of Limon is first bishop of the new Costa Rican diocese called Cartago, which was split off from two existing dioceses. He was appointed to that post in May of 2005.
In February of 2008, in a meeting of Costa Rican bishops and the Pope, Benedict XVI had this to say to him and his confreres, as reported in Zenit:
"you have before you the task of seeking new ways to announce Christ in situations of rapid and often profound transformation, and of emphasizing the missionary character of all pastoral activity."
"The people of Costa Rica," said the Holy Father, "must constantly revitalize their [...] profound Christian roots, their vigorous religiosity, and their deep Marian devotion; may these bring the fruits of a life worthy of the disciples of Jesus," stated the Pope after personally receiving the bishops and having read their reports about the situation of the dioceses.
This life, Benedict XVI clarified, is "nourished by prayer and the sacraments," and is demonstrated in "a coherence of daily existence with the faith professed" and "a commitment to actively participate in the mission of opening the world so God can enter, and, in this way, truth, love and goodness."
The Pope stated "the risks of lethargic and superficial faith when it has to face such snares as the proselytism of sects and pseudo-religious groups, the multiple promises of easy and immediate well-being, but which end in disillusion and disappointment, or the spread of ideologies which, while claiming to exalt human beings, actually debase them."
"In a situation like this," he explained, "it becomes ever more important to announce that 'man's great, true hope, which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God -- God who has loved us and who continues to love us.'"
This is, the Pontiff said, not only a mission of the religious, but also of the laity.
Fast forward to the elections of the Fall of 2009, and to the Bishop preaching at Mass on September 6, 2009. At this mass, he said:
“We are facing a political campaign in which we must carefully choose who is going to govern us. We are now finding out which candidates deny God and defend principles that go against life, marriage, and the family. Therefore, we must be coherent with our faith and cannot give them our vote in good conscience.”Sounds like consistent Catholic teaching to me, and also sounds consistent with the advice of Our Holy Father to him and his fellow bishops 18 months earlier.
Surprise!! What he said was criticized and he was supported by the President of the Bishop's Conference of Costa Rica as follows:
In response to criticism from certain politicians, the president of the Bishops’ Conference of Costa Rica, Archbishop Hugo Barrantes, pointed to article 76 of the Pastoral Constitution, “Gaudium et Spes.”
“It is only right, however, that at all times and in all places, the Church should have true freedom to preach the faith, to teach her social doctrine, to exercise her role freely among men, and also to pass moral judgment in those matters which regard public order when the fundamental rights of a person or the salvation of souls require it.”
No matter! and no matter that over 76% of Costa Ricans are Catholic. He was taken to the Supreme Court for what he said as reported in Catholic News Agency yesterday:
Costa Rica’s Electoral Supreme Court has ordered Bishop Jose Francisco Ulloa to pay damages for encouraging the faithful to cast their votes in manner consistent with Catholic teachings.
The bishop made his comments during a Mass on September 6, 2009, amidst the presidential campaign season and the debate over abortion and homosexual rights.
Yeudy Blanco Vega of the Movement for a Secular State argued the bishop violated article 28 of the Costa Rican constitution which forbids members of the clergy from engaging in political propaganda.
The court interpreted the bishop's comments as political propaganda rather than pastoral guidance, and therefore ordered him to “abstain from urging people not to vote for candidates who in his judgment do not share the values of the Catholic faith.” The court also ordered him to pay damages and legal fees.
Tell me that this is not alarming. At least this is not El Salvador where Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated for his statements about the abuse of priests, including martyrdoms of 6 before him that occurred in the late 70's, and his own death on March 24, 1980.
But it is essentially the same thing, intimidation of the Church. The truth is the truth and must be told.
To date, it has been allowed for the Bishops of the U.S. to speak the truth as they see it, and if we harken back to the end of the 2008 U.S. elections. Here is how it went in the US from the USCCB.