Saturday, 19 April 2014

Reflex: Church bill, Vatican treaty threaten secular state

16 November 2012

Prague, Nov 15 (CTK) - The bill on the return of property to churches that the Chamber of Deputies passed earlier this month together with the treaty to be possibly signed with the Vatican threaten the secular character of the Czech state, political scientist Ondrej Slechta writes in weekly Reflex out yesterday.

Unless President Vaclav Klaus vetoes the bill, the churches will get back property worth 59 billion crowns that was confiscated from them by the communists and a financial compensation of 75 billion crowns for the property that cannot be returned to them. The sum will be continuously raised by inflation, Slechta recalls.

At the same time, he says, the state will cover clergymen's salaries, the churches' operation and repairs of property that is not cultural heritage, all totalling 1.445 billion crowns annually. Of the sum some 950 million crowns will go to the Roman Catholic Church. Starting with the fourth year, the sum is to be lowered by 5 percent annually.

Slechta writes that the government coalition supported the bill saying this will bring closer the long-prepared separation of the state and the church.

This seems entirely logical in the Czech Republic that is one of the most atheistic countries in the world, Slechta writes.

However, he says, the bill mentions no separation of the state and the church.

According to its authors the separation rests in the provision for a 17-year transitional period of church financing over which the total sum of the compensation will be transferred to the churches, after which they should be entirely self-relying, Slechta writes.

He writes that the 17 years is quite a long period that might see many spicy speculations about whether the separation of the state and the church has already been completed.

Archbishop Dominik Duka himself talks about a "cooperation model" of the state-church relationship, not separation as people around Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek (TOP 09) were stubbornly claiming when pushing through the bill in the Chamber of Deputies, Slechta writes.

According to what can be heard in the political and church backstage, nothing prevents the passing of the Czech-Vatican international treaty that the Chamber of Deputies rejected in 2003 already, Slechta writes.

But nothing is said about that the treaty with the Vatican does not allow any separation of the state and the church, Slechta says.

He writes that the document will have the status of international treaty because the Catholic Church, the sole church in the world, is a legal entity under international law because it has its head in the Vatican that is a state headed by the pope.

Under article 10 of the Czech constiutiton, the concordat as an international treaty takes priority over Czech law and possible disputes would be automatically settled in consistence with the international treaty, Slechta writes.

Article 11 of the draft Czech-Vatican treaty says church academic workers who teach Catholic religion at public universities must have the consent of the respective church authority, Slechta writes.

He writes that irrespective of other problematic points of the treaty, the non-confessional character of the state embedded in the constitution would be fundamentally affected.

A state ceases to be secular where a religious community has the codified opportunity to make decisions about developments in the public sphere, Slechta writes.

He says this would put Czech society into a situation for which it is not prepared.

A religious community, represented by a state entity (the Vactican) could gain a number of privileges based on the signature of a valid international treaty between the Czech Republic and the Holy See that would partially send it outside the valid legislation and at the sme time, it would discriminate against the other churches and religious communities of which the treaty says nothing, Slechta writes.

He says this would bring about an end of a compromise between the secular and church power that has been operable for centuries, as well as the framework of historical agreements between Catholics and 14th-century Protestants.

To believe that the separation of the church from the state would be possible is entirely unrealistic, Slechta writes.

The status quo on which the secular tradition of Czech statehood has been built up will be broken, Slechta writes.

($1=20.031 crowns)

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