Saturday, 16 December 2017

HN: Cardinal backed SPD that seeks new tax for church now

ČTK |
16 November 2017

Prague, Nov 15 (CTK) - Cardinal Dominik Duka, the Czech Catholic primate, may be regretting having sided with Tomio Okamura's Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) movement that is now calling for a new tax to be imposed on churches, Petr Honzejk writes in Hospodarske noviny (HN) on Wednesday.

A crucial dispute has flared up in the Catholic Church in the Czech Republic, whose dignitaries differ in their approach to the SPD, anti-EU movement which many observers label extreme-right and which succeeded in the October 20-21 general election, gaining 22 of the 200 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, Honzejk writes.

After the election, Duka, the archbishop of Prague, wrote letters of congratulations to the chairmen of all newly elected parties. Okamura has posted Duka's letter addressed to him on the Internet.

"I am convinced that we have many aims in common, such as the care for the security of people in this country and many other issues," Duka wrote to Okamura on behalf of the Catholics.

Plzen Bishop Tomas Holub is of a different view. "Okamura has been fomenting fear in the society. He is an extremist. His party does not support democratic governance," Holub said, cited by Honzejk.

The dispute has more levels. First, it reflects the deepening internal rift in the Catholic Church. One of its wings are conservatives opposed to changes as generated by the current world. The other wing are supporters of Pope Francis who promote openness, aid, solidarity, Honzejk writes.

Second, there is a purely local, Czech political level. As early as before the October elections, a group of Catholic intellectuals asserted in the RC monitor magazine that Okamura, with his anti-Islam and anti-migrant rhetoric, is a genuine representative of Christian values, and that Christian voters should support his SPD rather than the Christian Democratic Union (KDU-CSL), Honzejk writes.

Cardinal Duka kept silent on such deliberations, which finally showed effective. The KDU-CSL's loss in the election can be partly to blame on the switch of numerous voters from the KDU-CSL to the SPD, Honzejk writes.

The KDU-CSL members will have to cope with the unique situation where the cardinal is in fact working against them, Honzejk writes.

Maybe Duka regrets his previous approach and partly puts the blame on himself. In his speech at the St Wenceslas Pilgrimage in late September, he said he hopes that "the elections will help us push through the silenced majority, which is a condition for the majority not to be manipulated and tormented by whims of minorities." When saying this, Duka probably had no clue what impact on the Catholic Church his words might have, Honzejk writes.

Paradoxically, the first thing on which the "silenced majority" agreed upon after the elections was the taxation of church restitution, or the financial sum churches are receiving in compensation for the property that cannot be returned to them, Honzejk writes, referring to a fresh proposal by Andrej Babis, leader of the election-winning ANO movement and the probable new prime minister.

An active role in this initiative has been played by Okamura. As a result, Duka finds himself in a position which writer Milan Kundera on another occasion brightly described as "a subtle ally of one's own gravedigger," Honzejk writes.

"This should be a lesson for the Catholics and also other people to draw: if we stop defending minorities and nod to the unleashed majority opinion, it may trigger a cascade of crackdowns to which we may eventually fall victims," Honzejk writes.

After all, this happened many times in history, he says.

In the Czech Catholic Church, many seem to understand that it is better to listen to Tomas Holub rather than Dominik Duka. It would be good if all Catholics and the whole Czech society arrived at the same conclusion, Honzejk writes.

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