The Slovenia Times

The Unpopular Church


"Elsewhere, even non-Catholics look at the Church with a liking and acknowledge its actions as normal," the archbishop says.

Touching on reproaches about the financing of the Church with taxpayer money, which were recently voiced by the internet activist group Anonymous, he notes that it is completely constitutionally acceptable that the state finances certain Church activities.

Misunderstanding of what the separation of Church and state means, is, according to Stres, one of the problems of Slovenia's political culture.

Democracy puts human rights, among them religious freedom and freedom of speech and expression, above everything else, meaning that all individuals and communities, including the Church, have the right to voice their opinions, says Stres.

Pointing to the public debate ahead of the referendum on the new family law, the archbishop believes that the law is "contestable" on many points, mainly because of the equalisation of all forms of partnerships.

"The debate has maybe focused too much on the question of homosexual couples and the adoption of children, which is not the key measure of the law, as this is already possible under existing legislation," he notes.

But the law is drafted so that it is only the first step in a series of legislative changes. "A number of laws would have to be amended...including those on artificial insemination and surrogacy," he says.

Stress argues that only surrogacy, which is currently forbidden by Slovenian law, could enable the implementation of the provision of the family law allowing same-sex couples the right to decide on the birth of children.

He further touches on the critical financial state of the Maribor Archdiocese, where he served as the auxiliary archbishop in 2009, stressing that the situation is worrisome, while the path to recovery will be long.

The report on the collapse of the archdiocese's financial holdings did not specify any special criminal acts, and what happened was not only the result of subjective factors, but also of objective ones.

It is however true that the management of the archdiocese's financial firms was not very careful, economical and safe, which it should have been according to Canon Law, Stres says.

"When I was still in Maribor, in 2003, we hired a company to make a business restructuring plan. The number one order was to deleverage - but obviously the management did not follow it," he acknowledges.

Touching on politics, Stres says he does not expect much from the current government, only enough space for the Church to establish a stable position.

"We expect the government to change the religious freedom act in line with the decision of the Constitutional Court. There are a few minor things that we don't mind being changed."

While some experts warn that the data on people's religious affiliation in Slovenia is outdated and that some other criterion for the financing of the Church will have to be found, Stres says that other possibilities are open, but they should be discussed beforehand.

He moreover stresses that the Church does not make full use of the state funds available to it. According to the latest population census, the Church should get funds for social security contributions for 1,200 religious workers, but it only uses the money for 900.


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