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1.) Humanists in Slovakia and the European integration

(Ladislav Hubenák)                                                 HOME
 

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The role to be played by humanism in the process of European integration is at present most topical and most important issue in every European nation.. It deserves special attention in nations of Central and East Europe, which are in a process of transforming into nations with a pluralist democratic political system Extremely important is the issue of joining European structures, the European Union and NATO. The Slovak republic belongs also to countries attempting to reach membership in the European Union and NATO. This bears certain political and economic aspects, because it is a complex process. According to investigations of Sociologic Institute of Slovak Academy of Sciences (SAV) one third of Slovak citizens expressed agreement with joining NATO and approximately the same numbers were against. Similar is the opinion of citizens on joining the EU.

To observe democracy, to build up market economy, to protect human rights-are the principles, which should be honoured by countries which have the ambition to join the EU. But opinion polls done by EUROBAROMETER have shown that an absolute majority of citizens were not satisfied with the state of democracy in all Central European countries.

The issue of the role of humanism and its prospects in post-communist countries is closely linked with European integration. In Slovakia the association of secular humanists was created in 1990, when the revolutionary changes in political, economic, social, cultural and state legislature took place, after the events of November 1989. The past seven years are characterised by economic decline and crisis, concomitant signs of which are a huge army of unemployed, extremely rapid increase in costs of living, which afflicts especially pensioners and young families with children. The real salaries dropped under the level of 1970. Nearly half of households are on the margin of living minimum and poverty. The burden of transforming Slovak economy into market economy has been transferred on the citizens. Despite the fact that governmental circles extol successes in the macroeconomics sphere, the citizens do not feel it yet.

We witness an unprecedented rise in the rate of crimes, frauds, maffianism, kidnapping, terrorist attacks, affairs on the political scene, racism, nationalism,spread of drug addiction, pornography, prostitution, and all this despite the proclaimed tolerance and Christian morality.

Besides the unfavourable social and economic problems the secular humanists became a target of indiscriminate attacks on the part of rightist, especially the clerical circles, who attack the "militant" atheism. An important factor is the fear to openly avow secular humanism or atheism.

After November 1989. one can notice a significant activation of churches, especially the Roman Catholic church, which attempts with all means to gain a decisive position in influencing citizens and of course to gain by restitution enormous material possessions. Besides, varied sects invade Slovakia.

As an association of secular humanists we are much concerned with the issue of state and church relation. Before November 1989. the official and the clandestine church were consistently struggling for separation of church and state. After November 1989.

they renounced the demands of separation. Representatives of the ruling coalition very strictly refused the preparation of bill on the state-church separation. The public can witness how the politicians vie for the benevolence of churches and the struggle whom should the churches favour in future.

The prime minister during his visit to Italy and to Vatican informed the pope, that in Slovakia there was a government having a christian programme and acknowledging the social teaching of church.

We consider a significant phenomenon that the church started a resolute struggle against liberalism. The church would like to compensate the losses suffered in western countries by creating a strong basis in post- communist countries and hence to wage the war against the influence of liberalism in West Europe. As Mr. V. Mečiar said , “especially in Slovakia a model of community could be created, which would respect the Christian values." according to words of the Holy Father ." This model could substantially influence the future world."

It is well known that representatives of religions welcomed the overturn in 1989-1990 as abolition of the "realm of evil". They realised that the time came to fill the spiritual gap with their religious values. The pope invoked to a new missionary crusade, to the so called "re-evangelisation of Europe" which means in plain speech new christianisation of the civilised world.

In the letter of John Paul II " Christi fideles laici" one can read : " we have to renew everywhere the christian substance /the pure humane nature/ in all countries and all nations".In the same sense the closing declaration of extraordinary European bishops synod in December 1991 stated , that " even in West the cultural social, and political development is characterised by atheism. Especially youngsters easily succumb to varied religious movements and sects, therefore it is necessary to seek and find God in the whole of Europe. The new evangelisation does not want to obstruct European humanism, conversely it wants to purify and strengthen it at the point , when loss of its identity threatens, especially at rebirth of "neo-paganism".

Interesting from this aspect is the opinion of cardinal Franz Konig, uttered on the conference "Church and democracy" in town of Nitra (Slovakia) in March 1995. He spoke very sharply and critically about the situation in western countries and supported those clerical circles in Slovakia, which "admonish to a reserved position against West , the Western Europe. Caution against decaying democratic society, caution against exaggerated subjectivism in questions of creed, church and against the liberal theology of West. The church will never comply with liberal understanding of vital values " currently the greatest enemy of church is the western hedonism. Namely the exclusive sensual consumer society."

This problem was pointed out also by Mr. A.M. Húska, the vice-president of the ruling political movement and vice-president of National Council of Slovak republic : "We have experience on the part of our western neighbours, where ideological atheism never existed, despite all this the societies lost nearly all their moral values and the immune system against explosive spread of crime rate, drug addiction and celebrating barbarism. The western societies do not know how they could defend themselves.

I think ( Mr. Húska - continuing ) the so called self-financing of churches at the current weakening of human spirit is an extraordinary danger This happens in an increasing extent in Austria and Germany. People there do not want to have any financial obligations to churches, they leave church and become victims of varied manipulation techniques of advertising, mass medial market, and in addition they celebrate their spiritual poverty as the victory of freedom."

Bur the present time Europe is pluralistic. Its leading value is liberty. The christian face of Europe belongs since long to the past among others also by contribution of the human factor in church,. It remains as an element of historic heritage. The vision of christian identity of Europeans in preceding years dissolved so much , that the pope has to contemplate on " neo- catechumen" and neo- evangelisation of civilised countries."

In connection with the regulation of mutual relation of state and church the aforesaid Mr. A.M. Húska stresses the necessity to secure the stability of these relations by contract, so that this becomes in the whole of Europe an example. It follows ,that Slovakia should play an important role in the projects of European re-evangelisation.. Concerted with this are the extremely positive steps to meet such requirements on the part of current government. The state is generous to churches. Mr. V. Mečiar in an interview with a Polish weekly "POLITIKA" was given a question :what are your relations to churches like-? He answered .Very good. My government as the only one in post-communist states returned to churches their whole possessions" And the vice president of the parliament Mr. A.M.Húska added that Slovakia presents an example for Central Europe at legalising bills on restitution of churches estates and thus of the economic independence of churches. We are far ahead of our neighbours Hungary, Poland and Czech republic.

Besides state subsidies from public and communal sources the churches and varied sects get substantial means from abroad . On the other hand secular humanists do not receive any domestic or external support.

In the period since November 1989. we witness an onset of clericalism and effort of churches to gain decisive ideological influence on the society and strengthening of their structures - many a time with sharp attacks on people not professing religious creed. The religious ideology has gained a dominant position nearly in all cultural and social institutions as well as in mass communication media. The churches attempt to polarise the community on confessional basis by creating associations and organisations on religious basis. One can state that in the current Slovak community fostering religious ideology prevails, especially of one single religion. We can encounter the same in speeches of prominent state representatives.

Citizens professing no religion do not enjoy the same privileges as groups of those professing religion. They are discriminated against in several fields. We can see glorification of churches, and their activities are considered the only reliably guarantee of morals in society.

The coherence of religion and politics, and of churches with the state is contradictory to the vocation of a civil state system . The principle of equality of citizens before the law cannot be implemented if the religion gets monopoly for the spiritual life.

Our society finds itself in a deplorable situation, sinking ever more in a deep moral crisis. The churches have a very cheap answer when they affirm, that the roots of all evil is the abandoning of God and the true creed . Many a time opinions are uttered that lack on belief in God bears the crimes ,violence and that socialism, but above all atheism is the main cause of all evil and moral devastation. They derive this from the apostolic letter of John Paul II, reading as follows:" I point out the sinners , materialists , atheists as the only cause of evil, whom many Christians " are stoning " in their "saint indignation"

Disquieting phenomenon is that non-religious standpoints are considered result of influence of former regime, but not a natural consequence of growing emancipation, higher erudition and culture , as well as access to the riches of life produced by mankind itself. The propaganda attempts do degrade atheists as people of a lower category.

Secular humanists respect fully the right of citizens to claim different ideological positions and life stances. We stand on a basis of tolerance and strive to build a civil, pluralist society, in which freedom, pluralism and democracy is not only proclaimed ,but fully implemented We are confident that the path to an integrated and democratic Europe goes hand in hand with shaping a civil society, and honouring all basic human rights and liberties.

Comments of webmaster: The article was read at the Conference in Warsaw in September, 1996. It is a proof that since then nothing has changed except political personalities. The theses of article remained as topical as before.

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A serious internal political conflict looms on the horizon, the ideological background of which will be by far not so unequivocal as some circles try to put it. The argument about the basic treaty between SR (Slovak republic) and Vatican cannot be identified just by labelling it like: “ KDH (Christian Democratic Movement is pro, SDĽ (Party of Democratic Left) is against”. The polarisation will divide not only the coalition parties, but also the opposition parties, and this sharp dividing line can be traced also within the particular parties. The struggle about the treaty brings us back namely to splitting the society according to the traditional religious denominations.

As a matter of fact all that started as soon as at the creation of the independent Slovak republic, when the Slovak nation was proclaimed a Christian nation and consecrated to the Sevenfold Dolorous SaintVirgin Mary. The Ruling power chose thus the church as its main partner: allegedly as the only guarantor of the spiritual and moral revival of the society. With that a religious character of the society was defined starting from the very beginning and its evolution was directed toward deepening the religiosity, especially the Catholic one. The result of these trends is that the economic and political might of church rapidly grows and becomes a part of a complex game about the political power at which both the governmental and opposition parties participate. It happened not just by chance that all preceding governments turned down the demands for separation of church and State, i. e. building up an ideologically neutral State. Besides others, the national and Christian principles are therewith given preference. That goes on regardless that acknowledging religion as the fundaments of morals of the society means to accept the church as the judge over all the fields of the life of society. This archaic notion of the religion’s position does not take into account the fact that although Slovakia is a conservative country, but it is also a deeply secular one.

Like in an Islamic country

If we accepted thus the proposed text of the treaty with Vatican as a priority and in the present shape, we would jeopardise not only the legalisation of the (universal) law about churches, but also the still open question on separating church and State. The most essential objections against the treaty consist in its philosophy. The text is characterised by one-sided commitments of Slovak republic vis- a- vis Vatican without any reciprocity, which is in international documents something unthinkable. This would put our country in a position of a partner with no equal rights. The treaty would secure a hegemony of the Catholic church in the State, which is from point of view of our Constitution and the essence of human rights even absolutely not acceptable.

Scandalous is especially the wording of art. 17. and 19. of proposed treaty, which puts the canonical law on the same level as the legal system of Slovak republic ( according to opinion of some lawyers even above that level ). But the canonical law is not binding for Slovak republic. As correctly commented by Katarína Zavacká of Institute of State and Law of Slovak Academy of Science - such a position was given to canonical law the last time in the Middle Ages. Do we want to get on a similar level like some Islamic countries and to regulate our legal system by religion?

Vatican’s dictate.

The provisions of art. 9 are an unequivocal violation of the State’s sovereignty and of the Constitution of Slovak republic. Days of rest are regulated by the legal system of SR, therefore the commitment of Slovakia to be respectful of indicated holidays would be an illegitimate dictate on the part of Vatican. Which days are proclaimed State holidays and which are not, is the exclusive matter of the State and its citizens. Besides, on several sites is the Catholic church put on a platform of partnership with Slovak republic as well as the Bishop’s Conference of Slovakia, which is from the point of view of international law unthinkable.

Several articles of treaty put into an unequal position the rest of the churches acting in Slovakia. Slovak republic namely cannot be obliged to provide financial conditions for the apostolic activities of Catholic church., because such a proceeding would be automatically at variance with the Constitution, discriminating the other religious communities The same concerns the legal amendments to wedlock in Slovak republic, which is exclusively the competence of the State, therefore it cannot be a subject matter of the treaty with Vatican. as it has been decreed by art. 10. Controversial is also the art.11, which binds both contracting parties to protect heterogeneous marriages, therewith to exclude the possibility of legalising equality of rights for homosexual partners (which is an evident trend in Europe) Equally not acceptable is granting advantages to Catholic church by financing its schools.( art. 13) the right to own and use media (art 18) Strange is also the article 23, which demands Slovak republic to bring in harmony its laws with the provisions of that treaty. But tat would be a violation of the Constitution. Each of such regulations would bring all other churches in an unequal legal status

Stop to abortions.

Extremely important is the wording of art. 7. especially the way of its explanation in the commentary. According this it follows, that in case the citizen gets in a situation contradictory to teachings and moral code of the Catholic church, the latter has got priority. Among the instances to which this regulation applies, abortions are listed on the first place. Yes, you do understand correctly: it’s an additional attempt to prohibit artificial abortion. If a woman at present did not choose to go for abortion, she simply would not go. It is her free decision. But those who want to submit this document have meant something else.. As one can see, the KDH (Christian Democratic Movement) did not give up its fundamentalist politics, despite it seemed to do so momentarily.

One could continue in enumerating the anti-Constitutional and non-democratic provisions of the bilateral treaty – we have selected only the most flagrant cases .The stipulations of SDĽ (Party of Democratic Left) cannot be viewed narrowly as if only of ideological nature. Leftist parties as follows from their political programme naturally struggle for church and State separation. But in this case the reality is much wider. Contradictions to law in force prevail. The treaty is bad and the whole process of preparatory work has been incorrect. For instance in the neighbouring Poland, where to the Catholic creed is not claimed just by some 60 odd % (like in this country), but by 90 odd % of citizens, first of all a law was passed regulating the relations with all the churches and only thereafter they started to work out the treaty with Vatican.. By the way it wasn’t ratified till now. In this connection arguments are raised especially on the part of KDH (Christian Democratic Movement), that such a treaty is indispensable from international aspects (some politicians even take up absurd assertions that if we fail to accept it, it would jeopardise our entry into the European Union.) Strangely enough, that several States (e.g. France or Germany) do not have any treaties of that kind with Vatican and they don’t feel any indispensability about it. Moreover in such a case like in ours when the treaty appears to decree more of commitments to Slovakia, than of vested rights.

Guessing a conflict

The first comments on this topic already have proved that a sort of virtual coalition of KDH, HZDS, SNS , . (Christian Democratic Movement, Movement for Democratic Slovakia, and Slovak National Party)- namely of Christian parties arose, which as though suddenly forgetting all of the mutual animosities, diligently try to push through the proposed text of the treaty – nota bene the former Mečiar´s government started to prepare it. But as concerns the position taken by individual HZDS members the cause does not seem to be unequivocally in favour of the treaty . Paradoxically one of those who were supposed to be leaders of the document to be prepared, the minister of culture , Mr. Milan Kňažko does not agree with the proposed text .The first perplexed reactions of politicians ( including the president Schuster) prove that nobody in reality has seen the treaty before , that is why they don’t know what it is all about. Despite it, or just because of it the justice minister Ján Čarnogurský and the prime minister Mikuláš Dzurinda try to speed up the whole process of accepting the treaty and get it in a shape , when it could be possibly signed by both contracting parties ( technical signing). Within the governmental coalition a sharp confrontation looms. According to our information the SDĽ ( Party of Democratic Left) is prepared to proceed in this issue to the margins of the conflict. It is a clear evidence that the divided opinions are not of a partial nature, but the question is a principal one, which can proceed to a further test of the current coalition’s firmness. Real discussion can commence only now, when details are known ( the periodical SLOVO published as the first one in Slovakia the full text of the proposed treaty with Vatican in the last issue of this weekly ) Best of all would be to work out a comparative study, which could compare the wording of similar treaties, which Vatican has concluded with other European States Definitely one should not make rash decisions. The proposed text of the treaty is so bad, even dangerous, that it threatens the very fundaments of democracy and of a working civil society. Its acceptance would not only be a return to “ ľudák” traditions (ľudák = war-time clerofascist party in Slovakia), but also a deviation from the standards, the trends, and values on which the European Union at present stands .This proposal is not an up-to- date one, moreover limiting the fundamental human rights and freedoms. Everyone should be aware that in this dispute the matter does not concern just some religious creed, but preserving civil society is at stake.

 

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