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Czech Republic

Many larger, more powerful nations have bowed to Vatican presssure and are now trussed up with concordats. The small Czech republic has managed to resist, but for how much longer? The Czechs present a special challenge for the Church, as their nationhood is often defined in terms of resistance to 300 years of rule by the Catholic Austro-Hungarian Empire and their national hero, medieval preacher Jan Hus, was burned at the stake by the Council of Constance in 1415. However, the Vatican has recently launched a charm offensive and already it seems to be bearing fruit.

Did the Vatican play “good cop, bad cop” to advance Church interests?

An archbishop who publicly questioned President Vaclav Klaus’ fitness for office was replaced by one who went with him on pilgrimages and gives him Christmas gifts. Archbishop Dominik Duka, the “smiling diplomat”, had been in office only a few weeks when he managed to remove a roadblock to the concordat that Klaus once claimed he’d never sign.

Modus Vivendi with Czechoslovakia (1928)

This agreement was made ten years after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire at the end of WWI led to the creation of Czechoslovakia. It was a diplomatic note needing no approval by the new country's democratic parliament. The Vatican was obliged to give the government a veto over the appointment of bishops (Article 4) in return for state subsidies for the Church (Article 1) and an end to state administration of Church property (Article 2).

Czechoslovak-Vatican accord on appointment of bishops (1973): Summary by Radio Free Europe

By 1973, when the last Slovak bishop had retired, it was clear that the Vatican would have to enter negotiate with the Communist regime to fill vacant dioceses in Czechoslovakia. However, neither side wanted to set a precedent by letting the other one choose the bishops. The full text of this Vatican agreement is still being kept secret, decades after the fall of the regime that signed it.

Draft concordat (rejected in 2003)

The Czechs are the last in Central Europe without a concordat. In 2003 their Chamber of Deputies rejected this concordat draft, arguing that it is disadvantageous for the Czech Republic and gives preferential treatment to the Catholic Church. Although the preamble talks about human rights and Vatican II, (both increasingly under attack by the current pope), the body of this concordat contains the usual demands, as listed by Cardinal Tauran. 

 

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