SAT, 03 DEC 1994 18:32:51 GMT
AIM, Ljubljana, November 28, 1994
According to official church statistics (the Chronicle of Church in Slovenia, 1991), 82 per cent of the population in Slovenia are Catholics. Even if we take into account the fact that church statistics classifies as Catholics all those who were christened as Catholics and have left the church later on, therefore, people who are denoted as atheists, unbelievers or believers of other religions by civilian statistics, majority of Slovenians still belong to the hierarchically organized Catholic religious community with a very complex internal structure.
The Slovenian ecclesiastical province named after the seat of the Metropolis - Ljubljana - was established on November 22, 1968 by Pope Paul VI. It includes: Ljubljana Archbishopric as the seat of the Metropolis, Maribor Bishopric, and since October 1977, Kopar Bishopric. The Metropolis was proclaimed on March 19, 1969 in Ljubljana Cathedral; on he same day, Archbishop Joze Pogacnik, was proclaimed the first Slovenian Metropolitan Bishop. The second Metropolitan Bishop, Dr. Alojzije Sustar, is still at the post.
The Vatican recognized the independence of Slovenia on January 13, 1992, and soon after, nominated its Apostolic Pope's Ambassador for Slovenia, and the Slovenian state its representative in the Vatican.
Religious and spiritual life in Slovenian Ecclesiastical Province is headed and directed by the Slovenian Bishops' Conference. Various councils and commissions function under its patronage: the best known in public for the results of their work are the Slovenian Caritas, the Justice and Peace Commission, Council for Slovenians in the World, and lately, a special Supreme Commission of the Slovenian Bishops' Conference. Through the deputies in the Supreme Commission, the Catholic Church is, namely, trying to convince the public of the need, if not even the necessity of a concordate with the Slovenian Republic, and at the same time, it proposes certain things which are already warranted by the Constitution. A paper titled "Proposals for a Complete Arrangement of Relations between the Catholic Church and the Republic of Slovenia" started a wave of critical reactions lately, because, as the sociologist, Braco Rotar, rightfully noticed, from item 5 onwards of the "Proposals", a series of proposals is listed demanding a privileged status for the Catholic Church, its officials and its junior officials in Slovenia (a priori relieving them of military service, with the guaranteed right of each individual to conscientious objection), demanding the right to withold information regardless of their nature, for exterritoriality and propritor's immunity of cultural buildings, a permanent and an a priori permit to construct cultural facilities, an a priori approval of the state for "civil legal character" of institutions proposed by the competent Church authorities. Besides all that, the ecclesiastical part of the Supreme Commission proposes a number of things that are already warranted by the Constitution (freedom of organizing charitable activities, public church services and all kinds of spiritual activities), and a series of things which extend to the rule of the people, democracy - and all that, of course, referring to democracy, although they may be subject to state concession if the state is democratic (for instance, education, teaching). The state ought to take into account the "historical rights" which the Catholic church was "forcibly deprived of".
The mentioned paper included also "proposals" which would enable the Catholic Church to take possession of the schooling system by founding "schools of all kinds and levels, and upbringing institutions" with an a priori granted concession and state financing of Catholic schools, and introduction of compulsory religious education (which would be paid by the state) into state schools of all kinds and levels except the university. The Church would be competent for the curriculum, it would be taught by theologists appointed by "church authorities". The state would also be obliged to provide (pay) religious pastoral activities in the army, the police, in hospitals and prisons. There are also "proposals" concerning the role of the Church in the sphere of culture: public cultural institutions and and those belinging to the Church should be made fiscally equal with charitable and other public institutions, and the state should not only implement all this, but finance the church fund with the tax money, and enable - naturally, by "free choice of tax payers" - allocation of a part of the fiscal money for church purposes. A series of other listed "proposals" interrupted the negotiations between the state and the Church, due to intemperance of the part of the Supreme Commission of the Slovenian Bishops' Conference, and made the issue of separation of the Church from the state questionable again.
The circles around the Church emphasize that separation of the Church from the state should not mean exclusion of the church from public life. Way back in 1991, the Metropolitan Bishop, Dr. Alojzij Sustar, at the audience of Slovenian bishops with the Pope, stressed that it would be necessary to exlain precisely what the separation as determined by the Constitution truly implied. The demand for precise determination of the relations between the state and the Church passed through different phases in the past two years and reached the critical point with the text titled "Proposals for Complete Arrangement of Relations btween the Catholic Church and the Republic of Slovenia", which, when read carefully and accurately, in many places hints at the aspirations for power of the Catholic Church in Slovenia.
Unfortunately, even the faintest doubt causes sharp reactions of the most persistent supporters of the "Proposals", making a tolerant dialogue impossible. Sometimes, it appears as if these supporters of the "Proposals" wish to forget the fact that the Slovenian Parliament and the Government have already decided what many of the relations between the Church and the state would be like. The amendment of the Law on the Legal Satus of Church Communities designated secondary school diplomas (in Vipava, Celimlje, Ljubljana) and the Theological Faculty diplomas as public documents, and their graduates publicly recognized secondary and university education, respectively. The Theological Faculty became part of the University. The Law on Social Security legalized the Slovenian Caritas, students of divinity and clergymen are given the possibility of civilian military service - even in the Caritas...
And finally, the statement of the Metropolitan Bishop, Dr. Alojzij Sustar, should not be forgotten, when he stressed, speaking in favour of a more precise determination of the separation of the Church from the state, :"that it is especially significant in the spheres where their activities coincide - in education, charitable activities, maintenance of sacral facilities which are cultural monuments at the same time, and similar - where everything that is valid for the Catholic Church refers to all other religious communities, too". Among the other religious communities which live in Slovenia, most of them are Christian, although it is a fact that almost all world religions live side by side in this space.
If the Catholic Church in Slovenia really wishes to arrange and precisely determine the relations between the state and the Church, it will have to say quite clearly not only what it was "forcibly deprived of", but also what it had "forcibly claimed". Let us hope that the sincere believers among the Slovenians whise religion is their intimate individual experience, will not allow the Church as the institution of power, bite again into the private and intimate life of the people and, at the same time, that the Slovenian rationalists, regardless of their views of the world, will rap on the knucles of all those hotheads of the Catholic Church in Slovenia which would like to use the religion for creation of their own world power.