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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    FRI, 04 FEB 2000 23:45:03 GMT

    Slovenia and Vatican


    Matevz Krivic, a local lawyer and former judge of the Constitutional Court of Slovenia, is fighting a strange battle against his own state and Vatican disputing the legality of the Agreement which is to be signed by the two sides.

    AIM Ljubljana, January 26, 2000

    In the last ten years the public here has not seen anything similar. Late eighties will be remembered by numerous letters, petitions and suggestions with which different civil social organisations had showered and paralysed the socialist regime. One of the prominent protagonists of those events was Matevz Krivic, a lawyer, who in his public address used arguments and rhetoric to point to the shortcoming of that system. After that everything changed - Slovenia became independent, former opposition came into power and civil society disappeared in the heat of political turmoil. No one even suspected that ten years later something of that spirit could rise again personified in the person and actions of Matevz Krivic who, until several months ago, together with his colleagues in the Constitutional Court of Slovenia, brought decisions pertaining to the destiny of state and today writes letters to the editor.

    The reason for his latest intervention was draft Agreement with Vatican which Drnovsek's Government has already verified. Krivic claims that the mentioned Agreement ensures Vatican and the Church special position in the Slovenian society which is contrary to the Constitution. On top of it, in items relating to education, the Agreement violates constitutional principle that the Slovenian Church must remain separate from the state. That is not only Matevz's opinion, but also the opinion of many intellectuals who sent Drnovsek a petition protesting against this. Krivic thinks that the Church is interfering with state affairs in an unconstitutional way and that the current Government with Prime Minister Drnovsek has allowed it to easily.

    "He doesn't know what he is selling"! is one of the titles in the latest Krivic's columns. And what is the Prime Minister of Slovenian Government selling? Krivic and the majority of liberal intellectuals (Darko Strajn, Rastko Mocnik, Slavoj Zizek, etc.) are warning Drnovsek that he is thus selling the "principles of secular state".

    Obviously, critics and signatories of the petition against the Agreement with Vatican, have put forward the right arguments because the ratification of the controversial document has been postponed. This did not decrease the dilemmas and questions regarding as to where the line should be drawn between the church and the state - a question that has become a priority topic of the Slovenian politics.

    Interference of Church in Secular Affairs

    The fuss made about the Vatican-Slovenian Agreement is just a tip of the iceberg which includes numerous internal conflicts between official Ljubljana (i.e. the liberal-centre government) and the Slovenian church. In Slovenia the church was on the margins until 1990; the situation changed with the introduction of the multi-party system and victory of the DEMOS coalition (right wing) and adoption of the Law on Denationalisation. That nothing will be the same became clear already during campaign for the first multi-party elections when the clergy openly solicited votes for the Right and thus disclosed the obvious desire of the Slovenian church to play a more radical role in government.

    Lay people believed that the appointment of Christian-Democrats, several extreme conservative right-wing politicians to key positions in the Slovenian government, would satisfy the church's ambitions. However, that was followed by increasingly radical demands for the introduction of catechism in schools, which revealed that its plans went much further. But, let's start from the beginning.

    The first "post-communist" conflict between the Liberals (and the Left in general) and the church happened in early nineties because the clergy in the temples of the Lord campaigned for DEMOS and some right-wing parties; that was on the eve of first multi-party elections in 1990. At that time after the Mass election documents were distributed in front of all Slovenian parish churches, with more or less help from the priests and acolytes. The grotesque with the first multi-party elections culminated on the day when voters were expected "to express their will". It was "Palm Sunday" (Pussy Willow) and the voters duly performed their sacred duty by attending the Mass and then proceeded to cast their ballot at the polling station. It was observed that the priests in some churches, together with their flock, prayed for "the people to make a right choice". Later on, to make the mockery even greater the priests explained that leaflets and prayers were meant for "older people who completely forgot about the elections", especially as "it is the duty of the church to explain to confused people what each party stands for"...

    The example of Skofja Loka is illustrative enough. Just before the elections, the parson Alfonz Grojzdek and the pastor Slavko Kalan concluded the Mass with the following words: "Elections are on Sunday! Decide so that the world and our own Slovenian history would not laugh at you"! People came to church aware that they would get a red card from "above" if they do not make a choice acceptable to God.

    No one even tried to prove that the Church had evidently violated the rule on pre-election silence in favour of DEMOS. It was too clear: Demos had consciously crossed the Church threshold and let the genie out of the bottle.

    Many criticised such attitude of the Church. "It is true that in the totalitarian regime the Church also behaved authoritatively, but at that time no one held it against it. Today, things are totally different. Democracy cannot be stopped and sooner or later its waves will splash against the Slovenian Church too. The lay people will want greater rights and the Church itself will have to integrate in itself different religious movements. The Church will no longer have the attributes of unspoiled opposition. The closer links it develops with the authorities the more it will personify the party in power for the people. It will no longer be poor. If it takes back the estates that were confiscated after the war, then the people's attitude towards the Church will completely change. That's why I claim that the socialism "benefited" the Church much more than the new order can." It is interesting that this pessimistic vision of the political fate of the Slovenian Church originated in its ranks. Dr.Vekoslav Grmic, a church dissident, bishop without a bishopric, had a nerve to utter this blasphemous prophecy.

    Agreement with Vatican Obviously neither his flock nor the new authorities, which are successfully ruling ever since 1992, in various coalitions and with "the ever present Drnovsek", wanted to hear Grmic's words about the Slovenian Church. And since Slovenia is heading for new elections (president Kucan will call elections by July this year, at the latest), the Church voice will once again become decisive. Taking into account that Dr. Franc Rode, a fierce critic of the parties in power, is at the head of the Slovenian Church, it can be guessed that the Slovenian Prime Minister, Dr.Janez Drnovsek, has decided to strike some kind of agreement with the Church. And Drnovsek's position is not an easy one - the Constitutional Court has passed a verdict that the majority electoral system (advocated by the Right) will apply in Slovenia, which means that each vote will count at the forthcoming elections. It will be a hard struggle, literally for all or nothing.

    In the majority system possible pre-election mistakes are fatal and leave no manoeuvring space for rectifying things with coalitions (Drnovsek's favourite option) and post-election combinations. That is why Drnovsek has only two options - to ignore Church's demand and expose himself to "attack from all pulpits", or to accept the request of the clergy in order to show that he is a politician inclined to compromise. The acceptance of the majority electoral system and signing of the Agreement with Vatican indicate that the current head of government has opted for the second alternative. His until-yesterday comrades, liberal intellectuals, now attack Drnovsek's tactics claiming that his calculations are wrong since the Church will get around the Agreement eventually and attack the Left and Drnovsek's voters in the final stage. That is not far from the truth - it would be hard to imagine that the Church will be able in such a short time to rise itself above sins from recent past, burdened by revanchism towards "communists" and red sports of socialism, conflicts with dissidents and political opponents.

    And what this Agreement with Vatican means in general? Matevz Krivic is trying to demonstrate that this solution will mean a great deal to the Church. Inter alia, the Agreement states that the Slovenian Catholic Church will act in accordance with the legal order of Slovenia and in line with its own canon legal order. Thereby the legal order of a voluntary organisation and the state are put on the same level, which is according to Krivic "impermissible"! Especially as the subsequent paragraphs of the Agreement define that in case of collision of the laws of state and church, the state shall be duty bound to "fully respect the autonomy of the Catholic Church" and its canon law.

    Disputable issues would be equitably discussed also by "the competent authorities of the Holy See". And that means direct interference of church bodies with school matters. In this way the Church would become "more equal among equals" and instead of (as other organisations) lobbying for the acceptance of one or the other law in Parliament, Vatican will get an international, legally valid, contract which will sanction a "blank" deed for all later interventions in the Slovenian society. What is worse, all other laws - in case they prove bad in practice - can be replaced in a proper parliamentary procedure, while it is practically impossible to renounce valid international contracts. The more so as according to the Slovenian Constitution, international contracts are considered integral part of the Slovenian legal order.

    The mentioned criticism of the Vatican Agreement has forced the Slovenian Government to submit the current "concordat" to its experts for "further study". Critics of the agreement, led by Matevz Krivic (in the role of the attorney of the left part of political spectrum) are appalled and claim that the altered version "is even worse than the first alternative". Same as the first, the second version of the Agreement between Slovenia and Vatican does not specify that the Church is an institution of private law and cannot be absolutely independent of the legal order of Slovenia. It is highly likely that despite all criticism this version will be submitted for signature (Andrej Grasselli will initial it on behalf of Drnovsek's Cabinet and apostolic nuncio Edmond Farhat on behalf of Vatican), which means that maybe already next week the Slovenian parliamentarians could get the document. If the Parliament gives green light to this Agreement between Slovenia and Vatican, all comments about the "interference" of the Church in state affairs will become superfluous, because church intervention in education and other spheres of social life will become a part of daily routine.

    Igor Mekina

    (AIM Ljubljana)