Christianity and Modernity in Eastern Europe

By Bruce R. Berglund; Brian Porter-SzŰcs | Go to book overview

The Roman Catholic Church
Navigates the New Slovakia,
1945–1948

JAMES RAMON FELAK

Adjusting to abrupt changes in regime is nothing new for the Roman Catholic Church and its leadership. An institution that counts its age in millennia and banks on being around at the end of time has faced and plans to face a great variety of such challenges. Whether the wellknown cases of the French Revolution, the unification of Italy, or the rise to power of Adolf Hitler, or the host of lesser-known examples of which history abounds, an examination of how Catholics responded to a changing political situation deepens our understanding of the Church and its relationship to the regimes under which it has operated. The case of postwar Slovakia is no exception.

This paper will examine the Church in Slovakia in the aftermath of World War II, during the three-year period between the collapse of the wartime Slovak Republic—a quasi-independent state closely allied with Nazi Germany, dominated by the Catholic and nationalist Slovak People's Party (Hlinková slovenská l'udová strana, hereafter HSE'S),1 and led by the Catholic priest Jozef Tiso—and the communist takeover of Czechoslovakia in the coup of February 1948. It will look at the political options available to Catholics at the time, and why the Church's leadership and membership, while initially pursuing a variety of options, nevertheless settled largely on cooperation with the Lutherandominated Democratic Party. This paper will argue that, in a period of communist assertiveness and aggression, in Slovakia, Czechoslovakia, and across Eastern Europe, the Catholic Church faced not only challenges that any religious institution must face in such a situation, but also challenges specifically related to the baggage it carried from the wartime period and its association with Slovak nationalism.

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