WED, 10 SEP 1997 22:07:28 GMT
The Catholic church in Slovenia, due to the statements of Archbishop Dr Franc Rode, is gradually becoming alienated from its believers, and causing antipathy of the others
AIM Ljubljana, 10 September, 1997
After turbulent political spring and beginning of summer, Slovenia has had a "long, hot summer" which still continues in the first days of September. The atmosphere of summer vacations was disturbed only by the head of the Slovenian Catholic Church, Archbishop Dr Franc Rode. In Brezje, village in the region of Gorenjska, which has always been Slovenian Catholic Mecca with its St. Mary's church, Archbishop Rode held mass which resembled more a political election campaign speech than a sermon. Without a trace of a bad conscience he even openly declared: "Brothers and sisters, this is therefore the program", and dared end his sermon with: "Amen"! This "amen" soon became the symbol of a vehement reaction of the Slovenian public, especially women, to the part of his sermon in which he violently attacked abortion. Indeed, after his sermon, many have said "amen" to Archbishop Rode.
Among other, in his sermon, that is, his program, Catholic Archbishop said the following: "Our families should be open to life. Brothers and sisters, do we believe in life? Do we love life? Do we receive each new life as the gift of God? Gift of the child who is called to eternal life? With God! And this, brothers and sisters, brings us to the question of the abortion which I cannot avoid mentioning. Here we come across the shameful 55th Article of the Slovenian Constitution which really is not a credit to our state. Because no other state has anything of the kind in its constitution. It allows every year thousands and thousands dead, unborn babies, so that in the past few years, the problem of our very survival has arisen!"
The alleged evil of the 55th Article of the Slovenian Constitution the Archbishop was talking about speaks only of the right of each individual to freely decide about giving birth to children. This does not imply only abortion, but also birth control and the right to moral, social and every other component of the decision of each individual to decide whether he/she will have children or not. While Archbishop Rode sees in that provision of the Constitution a "shameful act", the delegation of Slovenian women at last year's convention of women in Beijing received enviable praise from delegations of various Western European countries. The right to freedom of giving birth is just one of many social rights which Slovenia inherited from former Yugoslavia and the system of socialist self-management. Although that system was economically unsuccessful, it included certain social rights which many highly developed democratic societies envied us and which are introduced in their states only in the past few years. That is why men and women in Slovenia experience such declarations, especially when they are coming from such a high representative of a religious community, as a direct attack on their human rights achieved a long time ago.
It should also be stressed that the topic of the abortion has been opened completely out of time and space. It would have been quite understandable had the Archbishop been concerned, for example, by a sudden increase of the number of abortions. But the truth is quite the contrary. Since 1982, when the largest number of abortions was registered in Slovenia, their number is decreasing every year. In fact, in the past 15 years, the number of approved abortions has dropped from 21,185 to 10,218 abortions a year. Majority of women choose the so-called "mini abortion" which is performed at the very beginning of pregnancy when it is not at all risky for the health of the mother. Women state various reasons for such a decision, among which many are of medical nature. Would it be better to give birth to handicapped children or to interrupt such pregnancy in time? These are moral dilemmas to which the Catholic Church gives very simple answers on sacredness of life, although discovered children's skeletons in cellars of some Catholic convents testify about dual morality of this ideology.
All things considered, reactions of the Slovenian public are clear. According to the poll of the agency Nina Media, 81.4 per cent of the pollees do not agree with the statement of Archbishop Rode, although majority of the pollees were Catholics. Similar results were registered in polls this spring when the newly nominated Archbishop Rode agitated the public with statements such as the one that Slovenian national anthem was not the right one "because that of Argentina is sung for 45 minutes, and ours is simply too short" (it should not be forgotten that Dr Rode has lived the largest part of his life in Argentina), and that "Ivan Cankar is among all our authors the most problematic one..." and similar. Obviously, the head of the Slovenian Catholic church will not be able to retain the affinity of such a large majority of the Slovenians with statements which deny the very roots and traditional values of this nation. Because after all Slovenia is in Slovenia, and not in Argentina or the Vatican.
With such statements and direct meddling of the Church in the matters of the state (for example, with the attempts to introduce compulsory catechism into schools), the Church will not have to fight against the abortion any more, because it might experience an abortion itself.