Catholic Church is about to become an informal leader of Croatian right wing
by Marinko CULIC
Feral Tribune, Split, Croatia, September 30, 2000
The Italian President Azeglio Ciampi fiercely reacted to the recent beatification of Pope Pio IX. He organized a symbolic beginning of the school year at the Altar of the Homeland, which was built one hundred years ago as a symbol of the Italian opposition to the possessive pontiff. Ciampi's Croatian colleagues do not care that much about their country. They didn't say a word about the beatification of this conservative pope, although they had reason to do that - our Strossmayer was one of the strongest opponents of Pio IX.
But, that's not a big deal. The Croatian top leaders care so much about their country that they didn't even protest - except Mesic, in very general terms - against the recent message of the Croatian bishops, who practically accused the government of imposing chaos on the country by its negative attitude towards the Homeland War. While Ciampi was delivering his defiant speech at the Altar of the Homeland, Racan meekly stated that the [Bishops'] Porec message "should be read as a whole". Supposedly there is some good stuff in it as well! And really, the bishops' message should be read as a whole, not only to see that it is the most ambitious and the most aggressive letter written by our Church in the last decade.
Closet Full of Skeletons
During the last ten years the Church did make several objections to the authorities. But, while the HDZ was in power, those objections were rather harmless, and the severest criticism didn't exceed a general condemnation of all crimes, including the Croatian ones. But, as soon as some information about those crimes became public ("Storm"), the hysterical silencing of incorruptible accountants of death (independent media, Croatian Helsinki Committee) immediately started. In this way the Church became one of the chief accomplices in the cover up of the crimes, and this determined its behavior up to recent days.
Probably in fear of being held accountable for its moral responsibility in the cover up of those crimes, the Church practically identified with the criminals themselves. But, that couldn't have been done publicly and needed something else as a justification. It is a sniveling concern about the general condition of the country, which is allegedly so devastating that the HDZ already mentions the beginning of a "civil war", while the Church labels it as the most difficult crisis since the establishment of the independent country.
It is quite clear that this serves to blackmail the new government, especially the SDP. If they continue ransacking the Croatian closet full of skeletons, they will denounce them as an anti-national demon wasting the precious seed of the Croatian independence. This is why the bishops write the Croatian state with a capital "S", and it's a sign that the Church sees itself as the most qualified defender of the welfare of the "Croatian State". At the same time, the present government should be put under control, because they have allegedly proved their inability or unwillingness to do so.
The letter of the Dominicans to Mesic openly said this, by telling him that he had to regain the lost trust, because the arrests made in Gospic were allegedly carried out as a classic "revenge project". The bishops did not distance themselves from that message, but, on the contrary, emphasized that the Gospic arrests - in which the "context", as well as "the cause and the consequence" were forgotten - make all Croatian defenders "fear" the revenge.
Conspiracy With Dregs
But, there is some truth in the bishops' letter, such as the protest against the importance of party affiliation in the assignment of political offices. However, precisely this shows that the Church does not react to certain issues that should be very important to it (difficult social situation), but pays much attention to the persecution of the war criminals, something they are supposed to have strict moral opinions about. The Church ended up in the worst possible company, such as in case of the Radio Vatican, which broadcast the complete statement of Ruzica Cavar. Cavar said that Levar had been killed by Mesic-Racan's government in order to introduce reign of terror in the country. In this way Levar's murder, about which the Church had nothing to say, suddenly became the key evidence of the "terrorist" nature of this government (because of which Cavar calls for an uprising). It is interesting that exactly the same construction was used by Vladimir Seks in Hrvatsko Slovo. This proved even more than that a "major part of the clergy still cooperates with the former establishment" (don Ivan Grubisic). That part of the clergy cooperates with the worst part of that establishment, the part that has recently been rejected even by the new HDZ. This implies that the positions of the HDZ and the Church differ in at least one instance. Two factions of the HDZ, which have completely different opinions on how to preserve at least a part of their past status, have just come into conflict. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, has no such problems, because this government has no intention of taking away its privileged place (only the recent statement of Goran Granic that a new law will equalize the positions of all religious communities brings hope that this might not be final).
This comfortable position of the Church indicates that it does not play the role of a "martyr", but of the "conscience" of the society, precisely at this moment. The Church also realizes that the former central pillar of the state, the HDZ, on which it leaned for the past decade, doesn't stand upright anymore, and now it offers to fill in itself the empty place in the opposition. This opens a possibility for the Church to become an informal leader of the right wing - something like Tudjman - which would be a dangerous precedent.
Never in the recent Croatian history did such open political engagement of the clergy pass without reactions (this is more usual for the Eastern Orthodox Serbia than the Catholic Slovenia). But, there have never been so few responsible and mature people in the Church as today, so that, with the deaths of the rare ones, the internal resistance to this galloping clericalization is also dying. The outside resistance is in no better condition. Tomcic expressed support to the bishops' message, and almost all parties of the six reacted to it meekly, including SDP and HSS, whose founders were famous for their decisive and well-conceived anti-clericalism. While the Church celebrates the bishops' message as the most important in the last fifty years, only one question remains to be answered. Is there anyone left to write such message on behalf of the secular Croatia?!
Translated by Feral Tribune and M.Kocic