17 November 2005, Volume 7, Number 34
NOTE TO READERS:
This is the final issue of "RFE/RL South Slavic Report." The original texts of programs of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service can be found at http://www.slobodnaevropa.org.
HOW STRONG IS CLERICALISM IN SERBIA AND CROATIA?
In this program of Radio Most (Bridge], the strength of clericalism in Serbia and Croatia is the topic of discussion, with guests Mirjana Krizmanic, a social psychologist from Zagreb, and Ruzica Rosandic, a psychologist from Belgrade.
RFE/RL: To what extent is Croatia flooded with religious kitsch?
Mirjana Krizmanic: I think there is less of it now. There are rosaries hanging on windshields, but fewer than before. There were times when they used to hang on practically every windshield.
There is still quite a lot of kitsch on TV.... The church used its influence to get a cartoon show that parodied Pope John Paul II bumped out of prime time into a midnight slot, minus the pope character.... If the church criticizes a program, it gets taken off the air immediately.
RFE/RL: Could we say that the churches in Serbia and Croatia are above the law? There have been cases of pedophilia in the churches that have gone unpunished....
Krizmanic: That is true. One person who raped children was just moved to another parish. I guess he needs...fresh supplies. You probably heard of the big pedophile scandal in a Caritas home for orphans, where retarded and severely handicapped children were sexually abused. Nothing has been done to punish the guilty, who even have their public defenders. What can be worse then that?
Ruzica Rosandic: The trial of Bishop Pahomije for sexually abusing children is dragging on without any end in sight. Three priests who testified that children were sexually abused have been defrocked. There is no protection whatsoever for the witnesses, and the children themselves have been put under great pressure.
RFE/RL: The church is supposed to spread tolerance and love among people, according to its Christian principles. Do you think the church has been helping the process of reconciliation in former Yugoslavia?
Krizmanic: Quite the contrary. I do not remember -- and I read a lot of papers and follow news broadcasts -- a single priest encouraging tolerance, but I do hear a lot of perfidious, ambiguous statements against coexistence. To put it bluntly but truthfully, the church is subtly encouraging hatred against those who are different. This has been the case especially since the end of the war [in 1995].
Rosandic: One of our colleagues, the social psychologist Nebojsa Petrovic, recently did research on the psychological foundations of reconciliation. His research was conducted in Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina among Serbs, Croats, and Muslims. What was the result? The more religious people are, the less prone they are to reconciliation.
Krizmanic: That confirms my impression. I recently gave a lecture about tolerance. In preparing by researching on the Internet, I found that people who support traditional values -- which is what the church propagates -- are less tolerant of anything new or different....
RFE/RL: What is the church's stand on war crimes?
Rosandic: All the important indictees received the blessings of the top dignitaries of the church before leaving for The Hague. The Serbian Orthodox Church has never unambiguously condemned war crimes, saying only in very general terms that war criminals should be punished.
Krizmanic: In Croatia, posters showing [fugitive indictee and former General Ante] Gotovina [can be seen] on church walls. That is horrible: posters of a man on an international wanted list hanging on church walls. Meanwhile, the authorities say: "we cannot take the poster down, it's on a church wall."
The Catholic Church never took a clear stand on war crimes and never condemned the murders of elderly people in villages that undoubtedly took place. I know that the Franciscans have priests who go to The Hague on a regular basis in order to take care of all those imprisoned there.... The church is very concerned about the indictees but not about the many people living in poverty here....
RFE/RL: Are the interests of the church and the state gradually merging?
Rosandic: I have that impression. It is becoming increasingly obvious....
Krizmanic: They are already bound up with each other. Thanks to [former President Franjo] Tudjman, Croatia has agreements with the Vatican like no other state does and pays the priests directly.... The government needed this symbiosis to compensate for its own weakness.
RFE/RL: And finally, how strong is clericalism in Croatia and Serbia? Ms. Krizmanic, could one say that Croatian society is clericalist?
Krizmanic: I would not put it that way. The university people are not clericalist, but they are a small group. The general population is more clericalist, but fewer of them go to church regularly than was the case a short while ago.... The real basis of clericalism, however, is in the relationship between the church and the state.
Rosandic: As far as Serbian society is concerned, one cannot say that it is entirely clerical, but there is a strong and growing tendency in that direction....