The Culture War in Slovakia: A Battle for Conscience
[09.04.2005, Jaroslav Daniška, ČLÁNKY]

Slovakia is a small, Central-European country of five million people. Her religion, culture, and geography make her part of the Latin West. Slovaks are mostly (70 percent) Catholic, while 10 percent is Protestant, and roughly the same percentage is atheist. However, the country is close enough to the Christian East, with an historical relationship to ancient Byzantium, as well as with her present religious minorities, Greek Catholics and Russian Orthodox, who live peacefully in the east of the country. We have endured evils, past and present, from the east, west, and south. Tatars, Turks, Napoleon, Nazis, Soviets—all were in Central Europe.

These various ideologies, from different perspectives, had a common enemy: our religion. So we are experienced in defending Christian tradition and morality. History is on our side. The anti-Christian Enlightenment, with its ideological children and grandchildren, attacked Christianity and lost.

Our people remember what was the nature and essence of communism. We know why its evil regime failed and fell. Natural human liberties and freedoms, including religious freedom, together with the family and the Church, survived the onslaught. They were attacked, and their enemies did not prevail.

Now, 15 years later, a lot has changed. The evil regime fell, but its collaborators live on. So does the defeated ideology, now in a new form. Former communists now proudly call themselves liberals, but, instead of talking about a limited state, they talk about enlightened state intervention.

After four decades of communism, Christian Conservatives remember what the nerve centre of left-liberalism is and what needs to be defended to maintain freedom and morality in society: natural rights, the traditional family, and the role of the Church in the public square.

Today, with international law having become a sophisticated means by which to avoid national politics, resulting in salon and summit politics and international compromise, Christian politicians have a lesson to learn. Parliaments are weak; voters are even weaker. If their interests are to be protected, it needs be done through international law—not through E.U. regulations, however, but through bilateral agreements with the Holy See. Not Brussels, but Rome.

Slovakia learned such a lesson. Christian Conservatives from KDH, led by Dr. Jan Carnogursky, did their best to prepare for hard times. Dr. Anton Neuwirth, a former anti-Communist “dissident,” imprisoned by the communist regime, as well as a Catholic politician after 1989 and the Slovak ambassador to the Holy See, prepared the general, “basic bilateral treaty” with the Vatican, as well as a set of minor, specialized sub-treaties covering issues from military service to education and financing. International treaties take precedence over laws.

Dr. Neuwirth, who died September last year at 84, built an impressive structure of bilateral treaties. The key issue for him was not only the institution of the Church and its role in the society, but every individual believer with the law written on his heart—his conscience. Dr. Neuwirth believed that the state is not absolute and lacks final authority. Therefore, it has to respect the rights of the people. If parliamentary majorities fail to respect these rights, as is the case with the abortion and euthanasia bills today, the state cannot impose its ideology on its citizens—or, in other words, citizens should have the recognized right to refuse to carry out obligations imposed by the state, without any penalty. That means that the objection of the conscience should be protected, based on the principle of personal liberty that is popular in our century. Since Christians are no majority, their minority rights must be defended.

Conscience is the place where evil is separated from good—individually and universally. To defend conscience is to defend individual freedom and limited government, both of which the leftists hate.

This is the story in Slovakia these days. We are working for the parliamentary ratification of an international treaty with the Holy See on objections of conscience. The same agreement is being prepared for other Christian churches that are not represented by the international body. Liberals and socialists from all parties don’t like it. They talk a great deal about rights and liberties, but they are easily proved wrong. The culture war can be waged: It has to be.

Jaroslav Daniska is an aide to Interior Minister Vladimir Palko, in Bratislava, Slovakia.

Článok bol publikovaný na stránkach magazínu Chronicles dňa 8. apríla 2005.

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