I've met Dominik Duka, the current (Catholic) Primate of Bohemia, two years ago, on a celebration of ex-president Klaus' birthday. I was drinking beer and debating the ex-director of the National Gallery Milan Knížák when Duka joined us. I have totally forgotten whether he had a beer as well. Would it be OK for him to have one? I don't know. ;-) I felt nothing in the air that would prevent him from drinking beer.
At any rate, Duka is a relaxed, smiling, and friendly man and I just find him much more pleasant than e.g. his predecessor Miloslav Vlk, a sourball of a sort. Duka has also had warm enough relationships with Klaus and now, just a bit less cordially, with Zeman which I consider a plus – I think that the church shouldn't play the role of a "revolutionary force" undermining the regime (perhaps bad regimes are an exception). Duka is a rare dissident (see below) who became constructive in the new regime (which was often not the case, see extreme "permanent dissidents" such as Mr Milan Kohout, the nutcase who is spreading his sperm over the Polish churches, not to mention hundreds of similar "artworks").
But you shouldn't imagine that he's some materially oriented careerist. In 1981-1982, he was jailed here in Pilsen – pretty much at the same time and the same place as Václav Havel. (See a fun, relatively recent discussion of Duka and Havel about their imprisonment.) When he was released, he was drawing diagrams for Škoda Works, also in Pilsen, up to 1989.
His record makes him a warrior for freedom and for the Christian values he believes. Because of all these reasons, I was very dissatisfied by the Thursday article in a troubled British left-wing daily, The Independent:
What a sin! Aside from the hostile tone, the subtitle shows one kind of a defect of the article: inaccuracies in the basic data. His middle name (the first name given at birth) is Jaroslav, not "Jaruslav". Well, more precisely, Dominik Duka was born as Jaroslav Václav Duka. It's no coincidence that he picked the new name Dominik – he has been affiliated with the Dominican Order, among others.
The misspelled name of the target of the hit piece isn't the only "similarly obvious" error. The article also claims that Zeman is the Czech prime minister and Orbán is the Hungarian president. It's the other way around! Also, the claim that Duka said that "the Pope's efforts are just a gesture" is inaccurate. The original statement by Duka said that they were "a gesture" without the word "just".
These quality standards are apparently good enough for The Independent – this lousy inkspiller would be banned on this blog for the propagation of so many falsehoods very quickly. Robert Fisk, the author of the hit piece, leaves no doubt about his politics. We read, for example:
I forgave Pope John Paul II his conservatism only because he infuriated George W. Bush by denouncing the 2003 Iraq war.Oh, you're so generous, Mr Fisk, if you forgave the Pope his conservatism – once he annoyed another conservative. How the Pope could fail to be conservative? Clearly, a Pope who isn't conservative isn't a real Pope. It's a defining part (or bulk) of his job to conserve certain traditions and beliefs and the old-fashioned organization of the society with the particular social flavor that has been christened Christianity.
But I made peace with the Vatican when Pope Francis came along.Right, a left-wing intellectual claiming to be the Pope is surely a better deal for the likes of Fisk. Dominik Duka has to interact with similar left-wing intellectuals in the Czech Catholic Church as well – Tomáš Halík is the most typical one.
Fisk praises Jorge Mario Bergoglio's pro-Islamist gestures and his embarrassing Charlemagne Award speech before we hear another gem:
A big ouch. Especially from the regressive old men of eastern Europe who believe that they, and they alone, safeguard the blue-eyed, golden-haired birth right of Christian Europe.Duka has brown eyes but a silly connection to the Nazis is always good enough for the Independent, isn't it?
Regressive old men of Eastern Europe? That's also pretty funny. What I find cute is that these far left jerks are using basically the same jargon that the communists used to use for Duka and others – maybe even at the very moment when they sent Duka to the Pilsner prison. The word "reactionary" would be more popular than "regressive" but they're clearly meant to be synonymous. It's not just the language that is the same. Fisk's goals are very similar to the communists' goals, too.
Fisk continues with some would-be attack on Zeman and Orbán (with a wrong description of the men's jobs). Concerning Hungary, we hear:
Given Hungary’s grotesque fascist history and its pro-Nazi... you’d have thought Orban... might have spared us his lecture on European “culture”.What? First of all, around 1940, most of Europe was co-operating with the Third Reich in one way or another and if every member of any nation that was affiliated with the Third Reich in some way 75 years ago were banned from speaking about politics, almost no one could speak about politics in Europe anymore.
Second of all, Viktor Orbán in person had nothing to do with the wrongdoings of Nazism.
Third of all, what Orbán talks about isn't easily correlated with the questions relevant around 1940 – the problems aren't about Nazism.
Fourth of all, the Nazi comments about Hungary are a demagogic distraction because the main target of the hit piece is supposed to be Duka, a Czech, and virtually no influential enough Czech official was cooperating with the Nazi regime quite voluntarily (although millions of regular citizens were pretty happy in that environment). Fisk finds this fact inconvenient so he tells us about the Hungarian history as if it were an argument against Duka.
Fifth of all, it's outrageous to write the word culture in quotes in the phrase European culture. There exists a vaguely defined category that may be called European culture and Hungarians have contributed to it and are still contributing to it. What can be an excuse for the quotes than the explanation that it is a really lame attempt to insult all Hungarians?
But Orbán isn't the main target of Fisk's rant, so he returns to the main target:
Far worse, Orban was followed only a few days ago by no less than the Archbishop of Prague, Cardinal Dominik Jaruslav Duka, who decided not only to demean Muslims, but pissed mightily on Pope Francis himself.You can see that "Jaruslav" wasn't an isolated typo. Fisk really can't spell the name of the target of his hit piece. OK, so Duka has "demeaned" Muslims and also "pissed mightily" on Mr Bergoglio. Oh, really? What was the pissing supposed to be?
“The sensitivity of Pope Francis on social issues is different from ours in Europe,” said this paragon of Christian virtue.Wow, what a sin. Duka dared to point out that Mr Bergoglio hasn't lived in Europe and therefore – visibly – doesn't think as a European. Except that this is a self-evident fact. I've made the very same point in the Charlemagne Award blog post.
Why does he call it a "mighty piss" if someone just points out that a person has different values and sensitivities than a group of people sharing the life on a different enough continent? I suppose that Fisk thinks that even these comments by Duka are not PC enough:
“Pope Francis is popular and there are different sources of his popularity. He also comes from Latin America, where the gap between rich and poor is much bigger.” As for Francis’ Lesbos trip, “it was just a gesture”.As I said, Duka didn't say "just". But it is true that Mr Bergoglio's visit was a part of his image building, a cheap kitschy exercise designed to lick the aßes of left-wing jerks such as Mr Fisk. Also, Duka offered an explanation why Mr Bergoglio's comments about the wealth gap are more justifiable for a Latin American man: the differences in the men's wealth there are larger and perhaps less tolerable than here.
This comment by Duka wasn't meant to be a mighty piss directed against the Pope. On the contrary, Duka was trying to defend Mr Bergoglio who has otherwise done the mortal sin of promoting socialist propaganda. Maybe, the likes of Mr Fisk don't think it's a mortal sin for a top Catholic official to promote socialist propaganda but that can't change anything about the fact that it is a mortal sin. Duka has mentioned some mitigating circumstances to make Mr Bergoglio's sin look smaller.
Fisk also recommends a method to Mr Bergoglio how to deal with Duka:
I suppose time was when a Pope would have sent a flagon of poison off to his errant cardinal, or at least a Vatican assassin with a rusty knife, especially when the meddlesome priest compared him unfavourably to John Paul, “who was able to attract the attention of crowds but... he knew the history of Nazism and Communism and he knew how difficult was the fight for freedom.”I must warn you: a bunch of holy fathers or their affiliates have paid with their neck when they triued to be aggressive against the Kingdom of Bohemia and its preferred religious views. You can be aggressive or violent (in Fisk's case, a killer) but you can't be guaranteed to win or survive.
Duka's positive words are bad from Fisk's viewpoint, too:
Cardinal Duka even had a good word for the retired ex-Pope Benedict – the former Hitler Youth anti-aircraft gunner, who was also anti-abortion and claimed that Auschwitz was the product of a Nazi “ring of criminals” in Berlin.Benedict's membership in the Hitler Youth is silly – virtually every German kid of that generation was a member.
But even otherwise, this Fisk must be joking. It must surely be politically incorrect for the head of the Catholic Church to oppose abortions. Have you lost your mind completely, Fisk? Why didn't you recommend Virgin Mary to abort Jesus given the fact that she didn't even have a plausible theory about Jesus' father? And is it also politically incorrect to say that the people in Berlin who were behind Auschwitz were a "ring of criminals"? They were popular in Germany – and elsewhere – but they were still criminals and they are those who did the detailed planning of the Auschwitz "facility". Their wrongdoing can't be separated from the context – one can't deny the German nation's and other nations' support for them – but the precise details were penned in Berlin and they were penned by a particular ring of criminals.
“When you’d compare the language of these Popes [John Paul and Benedict] and their most frequent words, you’d see a big difference,” quoth Duka. “However, you have to take society’s mood into account.”Yes, of course, he did. He is trying to earn cheap points and lick the aßes of the public in 2016 in the atmosphere where the likes of Mr Fisk write into the newspapers instead of being regularly kicked into their arrogant extremist left-wing buttocks.
Ah yes, Pope Francis had to bend to ‘society’s mood’, didn’t he?
Even Angela Merkel did not escape the cardinal’s scorn. She and European federalists had demanded a “welcoming culture” of accepting refugees from the Middle East, which was now dividing European societies and endangering their safety.Every sane person in Europe knows that – and in our part of Europe, it's also OK for everyone including the "primates" to point out these obvious facts. Merkel's welcoming policies were a big decision that was quickly shown to be a big mistake and the new splits that have emerged in Europe must be counted as consequences of Merkel's extremely myopic acts.
Not for the cardinal any comment on Pope Francis’ concern that the Mediterranean risked becoming a “graveyard”.The people who swim or use unreliable boats to illegally cross the sea are doing a very risky thing – this decision may be retroactively rated as suicide if they happen to die. But even when lots of them die, the sea doesn't become a graveyard. A graveyard needs to have some paperwork to gain this status and be sure that no official who is as sane as Duka will give you the stamp to call it a graveyard. So the word is at most a metaphor.
Not a word from the Archbishop of Prague for Francis’ dream “of a Europe where being a migrant is not a crime but a summons to greater commitment on behalf of the dignity of every human being.”Duka did address this implicitly in other answers – and of course, he disagrees with these comments. There can't be any principle saying that "to be a migrant is not a crime". Most immigrants in this wave undoubtedly are illegal immigrants, so they are committing a crime. That's why they're kept in detention facilities in Czechia – which are special types of nice enough prisons.
Even if Mr Bergoglio wanted these violations of the law not to be considered violations of the law, he has no authority over these totally irreligious questions. These laws are decided by the Czech (or other countries') lawmakers, not by the officials of the Catholic Church.
Fisk adds a mildly positive paragraph:
To be fair, as they say, Cardinal Duka is also a brave man. He was persecuted by the Communists, imprisoned, and yet kept the faith. No-one should lecture Duka on suffering. Yet his words suggest that he cannot understand the suffering of those who are not of his religion.But even this paragraph says something unacceptable in between the lines. This paragraph basically says that whoever suffers must immediately have some special rights, to stand above the law, and so on. But that's simply not the case. A functional society can't adopt this principle. The basic law – and even moral values – must be above other things, including some people's suffering.
The fact that millions of people in Syria suffer doesn't mean that they're good people, that they should be given exemptions from the law, or that their opinions and belief systems etc. should spread and reproduce. After all, the suffering exists in Syria exactly because the number of evil enough people is pretty high in that country. So suffering is always partly a consequence of some people's doing bad things at the territory.
The causal relationship goes in both directions. Suffering also makes people more evil. They normally lose their humanity and sensitivity. They often want to revenge in a bloody way, and so on. Both of these causal relationships are meant to say that people who suffer just can't be automatically considered good people. If there's a correlation, the correlation has the opposite sign. At any rate, Europe has the duty to defend itself against many bad things that are happening in Syria and elsewhere.
Duka was jailed for a year but by itself, that doesn't prove that he was a great human being. Along with Duka and Havel, the prison had lots of inmates who had done really bad things – independently of a political perspective. Duka and Havel were placed in the prison illegitimately. But if they were fighting for evil goals, their imprisonment wouldn't make them good people. "Suffering" and "good" are two entirely different things!
That is his problem or, as those of the faith might say, his sin. After all, it’s not as if the Catholic Church has an unblemished record in old Czechoslovakia.Just try to contemplate about the absurdity of this proclamation. Is it a "sin" for a Catholic cardinal that he opposes the expansion of a very different religion? Are you mad, Mr Fisk? It's a part of his job to defend the well-being of his church, especially relatively to the well-defined competitors.
At the end of his rant, Mr Fisk compares Duka to Mr Tiso, a top priest in the Slovak clerofascist state during the war who co-operated in the Holocaust, too. Wow. The off-topic comments about the Hungarian Second World War history apparently haven't been enough of an embarrassment. You know, the difference is that Tiso was defending some extremely recent, troubled, inhuman laws that were actively murdered the Jews (or severely crippled their lives) because of racist motivations.
On the other hand, Duka is defending the status quo, common sense, and the laws that have existed and were applied to everyone for pretty much several centuries. There's no valid analogy between Duka and Tiso (and I am not even discussing that Tiso wasn't Czech, either – he was pretty strongly anti-Czech in his nationalism). But if I had to choose in between Tiso and Fisk, I would pick Tiso because Fisk is much more toxic than the Slovak priest in his relatively mild fascist state.