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The people’s cathedral

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St Vitus Cathedral (ČTK): The court dispute over the ownership of the St Vitus Cathedral has been dragging on for more than 17 years. (ČTK)The court dispute over the ownership of the St Vitus Cathedral has been dragging on for more than 17 years. (ČTK)

What a surprise: The Supreme Court confirmed the ruling of the Highest Court, as well as the ruling of the Constitutional Court under Rychetský: “Courts cannot return property expropriated from the Church by the communist regime without having the appropriate legal tools to do it.” Period.

The first constitutional ruling was a little different. Some of us may regret that the People’s House (Lidový dům) was returned to the Social Democrats because the courts accepted that the company Cíl had a sort of vaguely continuous tradition of owning the building. But most people are satisfied. They are living with the same notion they were taught in elementary schools: The words of Palacký, sometimes spiced up by cheap Leninism, stated “We will not give it to the Catholics”.

Simple reasoning contradicts this. The cathedral is to be used for church services and that’s why it belongs to the Church. How can it be otherwise? But rational thinking and the legal system unfortunately often don’t go hand in hand. There is no need to cry about it. It’s still better to adhere to laws rather than succumbing to the whims of the powerful or of the public.

But back to the 17-year-old court dispute. Rychetský’s doctrine might not appeal to us from an aesthetic point of view, but it is consistent and easy to understand: We will not carry out restitution’s through courts. If there is a prevailing desire within society for restitution, the laws should be adjusted to reflect that. And we dare to predict that this won’t happen in the next few years. Neither Václav Klaus, nor Jiří Paroubek would tolerate such foolishness.

It was quite beneficial after all that the cathedral belongs to “the whole nation” – if only all those people visited the cathedral’s gothic arches at least once a year.

But that won’t happen. At least not until the blood of Christ and communion wafers won’t be selling at a discount.

Translated with permission by the Prague Daily Monitor.

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