Church and State in Post-Communist Romania: Priorities on the Research Agenda

Article excerpt

This paper looks at the state of research on church-state relations in post-communist Romania in order to provide an outline of the most important questions which need to be addressed in the coming years. The article consists of two parts. First, a survey of academic studies published over the past two decades on the relationship between the country's churches and state after 1990. Secondly, a breakdown of pressing church-state issues today, accompanied by short discussions of existing studies and suggestions as to what future research should probe into.

Key Words:

religion, post-communist politics, church-state relations, Orthodox Church, religious freedom, separationism, state funding of religion, religious education, religiosity

Introduction

The literature on religion and politics in post-revolutionary Romania is, unsurprisingly given the sheer breadth of the subject, very rich - but only in quantitative terms. The churches in general, and academic theologians in particular, have generated a considerable amount of it, mostly in church-edited or -affiliated journals. The academic environment has also been particularly productive, as groups of scholars interested in religion have organized over the past decade numerous conferences and have published the papers delivered there in collective volumes. Some activist organizations in the field of human rights have monitored the state of religious freedom and issued periodic reports summarizing the findings.1 Civil society has flared several times in connection with matters of religion and politics - the criminalization of homosexuality, the challenges of religious education, the building of the "National" Orthodox Cathedral, the contents of religious education textbooks -, and one result was short-lived flourishings of magazine and newspaper articles on these thorny questions. Meanwhile, academic contributions to international journals or internationally-visible Romanian journals in the social sciences have been rather infrequent2 and, in the case of homespun periodicals, often of average quality. Book-length studies on religion and politics in today's Romania are few in number, although some related subjects, such as the churches under communism, have been well represented.3

This variety of works on religion and politics obviously gives voice to a diversity of perspectives and approaches. Since our aim here is to offer suggestions for future research, both empirical and normative, in the field of political science and associated disciplines (Section 3), the survey in Section 2 and the proposals that follow it are limited to writings which may be subsumed to the paradigms or methods of the social sciences. We have not considered, for the purposes of this paper, the views of theologians or philosophers of religion or of religious pluralism, for example, except to the extent to which they are directly relevant to our limited goals. Conversely, some reports by civic groups were taken into consideration essentially for the empirical results they delivered. The need to distinguish between ways of approaching matters of church and state is, in fact, an underlying premise of this article.

An overview of research on church-and-state in post-communist Romania

As suggested in the introductory paragraphs above, in this field of study, and especially with respect to domestic publications, quantity has triumphed over quality and the debate has been limited in both range and depth. Especially after 2000, there have been numerous academic- and civil-society-spawned conferences on the intersection of religion and a whole range of pressing political issues, from European integration and church-and-state to the eternally delayed law on denominations, and from the role of religion in a globalized world to the connections between Orthodox and national identity. Participants in such events typically included a wide range of scholars and activists, from academic theologians to clergy, political scientists, philosophers of religion, sociologists, politicians, and defenders of Western-style religious freedom. …