Academic journal article Journal of Ecumenical Studies

Proselytism in Post-Socialist Slovenia

Academic journal article Journal of Ecumenical Studies

Proselytism in Post-Socialist Slovenia

Article excerpt

Introduction

By "proselytism" we understand the various ways that disparate religious organizations endeavor to win over new adherents. In order to understand the conditions for the existence of proselytism in a given society at a specific point in time, some introductory information concerning the circumstances of proselytism with regard to the history and development of that society must also be supplied. Social tradition impacts current events, even when, in principle, all seems "clear," and the most solemn of oaths to the highest of ideals have been pronounced.

For Slovenia, two distinct pasts may generally be distinguished in this regard: the era of Catholicism, which lasted for centuries, and the socialist/ communist era, which spanned forty-five years. Both periods enforced more or less explicit restraints with regard to the (free) practice of proselytism. The conditions that existed during the first era, with its diverse variants of religious freedom, typologically extended from "ecclesiastic absolutism" [11] to "religious toleration." In any case, the Roman Catholic Church enjoyed the dominant and a more or less privileged status in society. The second era extended from the short-lived period of "secularist absolutism" that occurred immediately after World War II, to an age of "religious tolerance" that extended to the end of the reign of the Communist Party and in which secularist Marxism enjoyed a privileged status. The onset of both eras came about through traumatic events, through the conversion of a nation as a whole to a belief in an official "truth" or "faith" that was supposed to be (at least at the "official" level) the only correct one.

At the dawn of the seventeenth century, following the challenge of the Reformation, the Catholic monopoly was reinstated. The first territories of the Habsburg Empire to be subjected to the rigors of the Counter-Reformation or, more precisely, recatholicization, were those provinces inhabited by the Slovenes. It was these same areas that had been very successfully and fairly equitably swept, in the proselytistic sense (for the most part), by Lutheran Protestantism during the sixteenth century. Recatholicization operated under the principle of "conversion or exile." [2] However, in comparison with the Counter-Reformation in certain other Habsburg provinces (for example, in the Czech lands of Bohemia and Moravia), the Slovenes, who received the first sketchy outlines of what was later to develop into national consciousness precisely from the Reformation, suffered milder blows. Subsequently, certain elements of flexibility, such as connivance and tolerance, were gradually built into the rigid monopolistic conditions prescribed and upheld by the Catholic Church across the lands inhabited by the Slovene people. This notwithstanding, and even within all the traditionally Catholic regions of the multicreedal Yugoslavia that existed between the world wars, the privileged status of Catholicism still prevailed. At that time a non-Catholic living in a traditionally Catholic environment could expect to receive strong pressure from three different directions simultane ously, merely for being dissimilar: pressure by the state, from the church, and from all the people around that individual, who were not used to others who were different.

The onset of the secularist monopoly was very much connected with the complex, intricate, and traumatic events that occurred during World War II. The actions of the Roman Catholic Church across the territory of Yugoslavia during that war were to taint it with a degree of infamy. On Slovene soil the Catholic Church became involved in several compromising activities in collaboration with the forces of occupation. Regarding the Catholic areas of Yugoslavia, it is possible to say that this war intensified social tensions and the polarizations inherent within the "Latin religious-cultural pattern." [3] In establishing its own primacy, the 1945 military and. …

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