Paraguay’s opposition slams ex-bishop president over love child

April 15, 2009

URUGUAYParaguay’s political opposition whipped out the heavy artillery on Tuesday, taking President Fernando Lugo to task for having fathered a child while he still served as a Roman Catholic bishop.

A 57-year-old leftist, Lugo admitted on Monday he is the father of a toddler, confirming his relationship with a woman who is now 26 years old.

Lugo was known as the “bishop of the poor” during the 10 years he labored in a forlorn rural area of landlocked Paraguay. The president campaigned on pledges to ease crushing poverty in the South American nation, but opposition lawmaker Carlos Maria Soler said: “I hope the poverty vows the bishop took do not go the way of his chastity vows, because then we’d really be in trouble.”

But while his political rivals slammed him in Congress, analysts said Lugo’s roughly 70 percent approval ratings are unlikely to sink in response to the revelation. And one of his siblings, Pompeyo Lugo, defended the president’s behavior to Argentine radio station Continental.

“This is the most important love story to happen in Paraguay in this century and the last one,” Pompeyo Lugo said. “Love is more important than the obligation to be celibate, which is a commitment but it also punishes human nature.”

A paternity suit filed by lawyers for the child’s mother – who later said she had not authorized the suit – said Lugo met and seduced her when she was 16 years old and then continued a relationship with her. The legal age of sexual consent in Paraguay is 17.

Lugo shed his cassock in late 2006 to launch his political career despite opposition from the Catholic Church. After he won Paraguay’s presidential vote in April of last year, the Vatican granted him an unprecedented waiver to allow him to hold the country’s top political post.

The Paraguayan Episcopal Conference made a broad plea to society on Tuesday: “We ask all Catholics and people of good will to pray for us so that we may stay faithful to our priestly and episcopal mission.”

President Lugo acted quickly to legally recognize his paternity. His son will turn 2 years old in May.

Photo of Lugo taken in Montevideo, Uruguay, on March 27, 2009. REUTERS/ Pablo La Rosa.

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