Croatia: Guise Of Secular Pursuits


One wonders how much of the current uproar and hullabaloo from the former Yugoslav communist party political heirs (Social Democratic Party/SDP, GLAS party…), now in government opposition, pressuring the review of the so-called Vatican Agreements (signed in late 1990’s, these represent a legal framework of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the state of Croatia, and not with the Vatican state), has to do with the continuance of trying to destroy the fundamental spiritual values and identity of the Croatian nation. Communist Yugoslavia was anti-religion, anti-church and while hordes of former communists suddenly, after secession from Yugoslavia, turned into churchgoers, engaged and participated in Holy Easter and Christmas Day festivities… it is painfully clear that this was in majority of cases an act to win people support which would assist former communists in retaining power and thus thwart the country’s transition from communism into democracy.

The protagonists of the push for Vatican Agreements review are painfully loud with their arguments that religious studies, catechism and the like must be driven out of schools, out of school curriculum. That this push comes at a time when Croatia is reviewing its school curriculum is no accident.

Secularism or the obligation to achieve it, separation of church from the state, are brought into play here; omitting dismally to acknowledge the fact that even the most secular democracies of the world see supports to the church, through various government grants, just as they see supports to NGO’s or other civil society projects.

The time has come for catechism to be removed from schools and given back to the church,” claimed ferociously Anka Mrak-Taritas, GLAS Member of Croatian Parliament while SDP and other GLAS politicians claim that due to the Vatican Agreements the state gives too much money to the Catholic Church, which makes the Church an unacceptably potent political influencer. They keep schtum about the greater amounts of funds the state hands out to NGO’s who travel the active political path in destroying Croatian identity and traditional values of Croatian being!

We need to be reminded here that, after WWII, the president of communist Yugoslavia Josip Broz Tito tried hard to break the relationship between the Croatian people and the Holy See, by offering Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac to create a “Croatian National Church”! Stepinac rejected this offer, saying that the Catholic faith is universal and does not discriminate among people on basis of their nationality. In 1952, because of Stepinac’s rejection to form a “Croatian National Church”, horrible attacks and terror against Croatian bishops followed. Pope Pius XII named Stepinac a Cardinal at the time and this communist angered dictator Tito. Tito then severed diplomatic ties with Holy See and accused the Catholic church of interfering in Yugoslavia’s internal affairs, while attempting to completely isolate Croatia from the Holy See and the Catholic Church worldwide. It was only in August of 1970 when some diplomatic relations were reinstated with the Holy See.

Surely, since religion is amongst the high markers of the Croatian identity then the state must ensure that religious teachings (whether they go under the term of catechism or another term) are among the choices in education that the state must fund. Whether religious teachings are driven through government funding of the church or are part of state-run school program is, at the end of the day, not as important as maintaining the choice for religious education is. Driving the teaching of catechism solely to church’s responsibility is irresponsible and truly mean-spirited of any government, whose responsibility is to ensure overall well being of its people, including spiritual.

Catechism or religious teachings are part of school curriculum, whether obligatory (as in private schools for example) or optional/extra-curricular (as in public schools), in most Western democracies. Education breeds understanding, compassion, and moulds morality that defines a nation.

Religion is a big part of the Croatian society, of any society for that matter. So why make it so difficult if not to destroy it!

Since antiquity, religious traditions have shaped individual and collective self-understandings, cultures of knowledge and the realm of politics founded on nation’s moral values. Religion, faith, still to this day has a paramount role in the most fundamental level of culture, of co-creating conceptions of what it is to be human and without teaching it in schools (as well as elsewhere) cultural foundations of a nation, as we know them, are on shaky grounds, if not in quicksand.

I am not referring to prayer here. I am advocating for religious literacy and the best way to achieve this is by teaching children in the home and in the schools beginning at an early age about faith and spiritual traditions. Freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution of a State do give those who are not religious the freedom to exercise their rights but democracy, after all, is much about majority when it comes to government tax revenue and the government has the obligation to ensure everyone’s rights and due privileges are supported.

In Constitutions of democratic countries all religious communities are equal before the law and separate from State. Such is the case for Croatia also. There are several definitions of secularism and the emphasis on “separate” is the weakest one, especially when you get people in an uproar because churches get “… support from State”.

The cited 85% of population being of Catholic conviction is said to have been the argument for signing the treaty in 1996 between the Republic of Croatia and the Holy See, known as the Vatican Treaty/Vatican Agreements, which regulates relations between the State and Catholic Church in Croatia. The treaty covers state funding to the Church as well as access to religious teaching in schools.

Among its elements the Vatican Treaty pays attention to the religious education of children from the early age (preschool) till the end of elementary school, the age of 14. The Vatican Treaty is implemented in the state elementary schools by offering children the subject of religion as one of the choice courses. The subtlety of this arrangement is that those children who do not opt for this course do not have an alternative activity; they are left to roam the school precinct – blame the government, not the church for this!

The push from former communists in Croatia for a review of the Vatican Agreements has a nasty by-product, which I believe, is deliberate: for religion to be treated in society as taboo even though they’re banging on that it’s all about ensuring secularism.

Religion here is being used as a way to separate people and fire up more division and unrest. Religion should be treated as something to be shared and celebrated.

And on that note I do like the June 2017 US Supreme Court decisive ruling that religious institutions should be eligible to receive public funds for secular purposes. This opens up a wonderful window for humanity in a world where secularism has almost banished the idea that faith and religion have a role to play in secularism. Ina Vukic.


  1. A little side note my friend, if I may.
    We took our pets to their doctor; Ziek needed an operation, OK now.
    However we met a very nice lady from your country from of 20 years ago still has the beautiful speech.
    I thought of you immediately!

  2. May your people find a good balance in faith and education that leads to wisdom. May the US do the same. We have swung so far in the way of separating Church and State that our educators, in many cases, do not tolerate even discussion of G-d. I hope our nation sees the weaknesses if humanism before it is too late.
    When man is god, there is no one to answer to, or unchangeable source of authority.

    • Throughout our history mankind has looked up to heavens seeking guidance, giving thanks – to the Almighty. It is comforting, James, that many still do and with this the madness may be stopped. God Bless

  3. Veronika says:

    Nothing will change in Croatia until the diaspora sticks it to the Yugoslavs in power there. The residents seem too apathetic to do it. They are demoralized often and weak. When I see diaspora members, so-called Christians and Croatian patriots kissing HDZ and SDP’s arses yet these are the same parties that are destroying Croatia with thinks like IK, my head explodes. We seem to be a nation of Judases. Serbs have a national strategy of national interests. The Croatian left/aka Yugoslavs are united. We, Croatian patriots, are sadly a hodge-podge of fractioned centre and right wing voters. Where is our Orban?

    • Demoralised is the right word Veronika. A state many seem to be in from helplessness and fear of deeper lack of opportunities to get ahead in life. Coupled with atrocious red tape in most things – a disaster unless things change quick smart

  4. From what I’ve read about Croatia’s history, the catholic church granted the country the special privilege of Mass to be in the vernacular and the use of Glagolitic script for liturgy. This privilege set Croatia apart from the pack for centuries!
    When infants are baptized during Mass at my home parish, the priest reads as part of the baptism rubric that parents are the first teachers of their child.

    • The use of Glagolitic script belongs to deep history Elisa, however it would be so great if it could be introduced into school optional subjects at least as it is THE Croatian language of proud and strong history

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