Who’s Your Daddy?!

The modern plagues of Egypt have befallen the Slovenian branch of the Roman Catholic Church. It, too, was rocked by the paedophile scandals, just like sister branches near and far. Then followed the infamous financial crash of the Maribor diocese which revealed the gaping € 800-million hole in church coffers, by far the largest of any Roman Catholic diocese anywhere in the world. And that in a diocese with a flock of merely 100k sheep. And now two of the most senior Slovene clergy-men are accused of having fathered children.

Cardinal Rode, Peter S. and Archibshop Uran (source and source)

Within a space of a couple of months, Slovenian Roman Catholic Church (RKC) shook all the way to its foundations. Seemingly out of the blue, former Archbishop (top-ranking cleric in Slovenia) Alojz Uran was ordered to completely retire from public life and leave Slovenia immediately. While no official explanation was given for expulsion of a very popular former Archbishop out of his homeland, it was soon speculated and later confirmed that claims of Uran having fathered a child are at the crux of the matter.

Uran responded first by heeding to orders from Vatican but was soon admitted to a hospital due to a worsening heart condition, prolonging his stay in the country. However, only a month or so later (mid-August), Delo daily, which broke the story on Uran, ran a bomb-shell of an article claiming, that a middle-aged German citizen of Slovenian descent claims that Cardinal Franc Rode was his father and publicly demanded a paternity test.

Now, if Uran story was huge, the Rode thing was a motherfucker-of-an-A-bomb–showed-up-your-ass-and-detonated type of story. You see, both Rode and Uran served as Slovenian Archbishops. Rode replaced the wildly popular Archbishop Alojzij Šuštar who lead RKC during the dying stages of socialism in Slovenia and into its first democratic years. Although very conservative, he was seen as a dove, someone who could be reasoned with. Enter Rode and the Church immediately became more aggressive. He regularly made headlines, promoting a rigidly conservative, high-visibility and very hardline political profile of the Church. In all honesty, he massively increased the political (and economic) clout of the RKC, culminating in a concordat between Slovenia and Vatican in 2004. But he also alienated the Church from the more moderate part of the flock. As a result, percent of Slovenes declaring themselves of Roman Catholic persuasion (not necessarily practising, but simply of faith) fell from 75% under Šuštar to 55% under Rode.

In 2004 and Rode was recalled to Rome to take over as Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, in fact keeping tabs on various orders of the Church around the world. This he did with much gusto, which is something some of the more liberal nuns in the USA experienced first hand.

At any rate, Rode, who was made Cardinal by the new pope Benedict XVI shortly thereafter, was succeeded by Alojz Uran in Ljubljana. And this where the plot thickens. Under Uran, who always struck pengovsky as a Roman Catholic version of Friar Tuck, the flock began to swell again. But apparently Rode was none to happy to have been succeeded by a man with a down-to-earth-back-to-the-people agenda. Also, it was hinted lately, that Uran was opposing RKC’s financial excesses in general and the machinations of Maribor diocese in general. Without much success, but annoying quite a few people along the way. The straw, which seems to have broken the camel’s back, however, was Uran opposing using Church funds to pay for renovation of Goričane mansion, where Rode was planning to retire to after he bid goodbye to Vatican.

Thus a below-the-radar investigation was apparently initiated into Uran’s alleged fatherhood. While no names were named, the rumour mill went up to 11. Thus it was said that Uran apparently had a thing going in Šentvid area of Ljubljana and that everyone involved, including the kid, was pretty cool about it. Uran, for his part, denied ever having broken the vow of celibacy, but apparently bowed to Vatican. He was expected to be sent to Trieste, which – although just across the border in Italy – technically is outside Slovenia.

It was speculated early the whole thing is Rode’s payback for Uran being a pain in the ass. That the whole thing is a high-level semi-divine power play became apparent after one Peter Stelzer, 42, a German citizen of Slovenian descent publicly claimed that Franc Rode is his father. As with Uran, Delo daily had the exclusive, where the allegedly Cardinal’s long-lost son claimed that Rode, then a young vicar, knocked his mother up forty-two years ago and then left her, whereupon she, barely 18 years old, emigrated to Germany.

Rode’s reaction was most curious. He confirmed a relationship with Peter’s mother, but said that it was platonic and discontinued due to his heavenly call. As if… 😀 Additionally however, Rode hired a stellar lawyer, Nina Zidar Klemenčič, who – incidentally – also represented PM Janez Janša in various civil cases, including those tangential to the Patria Affair (which got its own twist today, by the way).

In the last few days the story got another twist, with Rode in principle agreeing to a paternity test which Peter S. demanded and said he’d have it done by the Ljubljana Institute of Forensic Medicine. However, Peter S. now says he wants the test done by a relevant German institution, citing concerns that religious persuasion of the head of Institute Jože Balažic would taint the process.

This will be fun to watch, although pengovsky would be very much surprised if the Rode – Stelzer paternity test came back positive, despite their seemingly strong physical resemblance. In fact, the only reason why this is mildly important to the general public is because the Church, from position of celibacy, takes it upon itself to approve or disprove of how other people’s intimate lives and family matters. Like it did in the Family Code debate. If either or both allegations turn out to be correct, this would be the final nail in the coffin of RKC’s credibility and morality.

Other than that, pengovsky doesn’t really care a pair of fetid dingo’s kidneys if either Rode or Uran (or both of them) fooled around. Quite to the contrary. I’d rather have clergymen screw consensually than screw little children forcefully or screw unsuspecting shareholders and investors out of their money.

As the old folk-wisdom goes, why does the vicar have a housekeeper? Just in case.


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Family Code: There Must Be Over Fifty Thousand Screaming Love And More For You…

It was Simon Zelotes or Simon the Zealot who in the seminal rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar urged Jesus to attack Roman occupiers for he was followed by the fifty thousand who screamed love and more for him. All that was needed was for Jesus to add a touch of hatred for Rome and Galilee would be free once again. It was, in short, an attempt to use religion and its followers to political ends. Fast forward two thousand years and you’ll find similar zealots in Slovenia. It’s just that they’re not fighting Romans but gays. And lesbians. And bisexuals. And anyone else who doesn’t subscribe to the notions of “natural laws”, “normality” and “tradition”, freeing Slovenia not of Latin occupiers but of evil and unnatural ideas, making it a God-given heterosexual haven.

Aleš Primc’s “defenders of all things natural” (source)

As both readers of this blog know, it all has to with the new Family code which the parliament passed last week after what was most likely one of the more brutal legislative procedures in the history of this country. Not necessarily the most brutal, but definitely close. In fact, it was one of those cases where the entire breadth of the ideological and cultural divide in this country became visible. This was not a power struggle nor was it a fight over a slice of the ever thinning financial pie, not even a run on well-paid government jobs. It was, pure and simple, about what kind of a society Slovenes (will) live in. Was? Is, rather. Because even though the Family code was confirmed by the parliament, the ordeal is by no means over. The law, which was significantly watered down on most crucial points in a vane attempt to placate the right wing, miraculously escaped a veto in the National Council but is now subject to yet another referendum bid.

A grass-roots campaign headed by former SLS member Aleš Primc and heavily backed by the Catholic Church was and still is very vocal in their opposition to the new code. As the debate progressed it became more and more obvious that (just as the more observant suspected all along) positions of the political right-wing and Primc’s campaign itself were extremely harmonious and synchronised. In fact, Primc and his lot were only saying what the right wing was thinking. And in the end, they ended up saying it as well.

I’ve no problem with gays in fact I have many gay friends

The level of hypocrisy, double morals and false arguments reached almost unprecedented levels during this debate. No matter how often the myth of “a normal family” was debunked, the opponents of the code kept getting back to that (case in point being France Cukjati MD, of Janez Janša‘s SDS), claiming that by extending the definition of a family beyond its current scope, the traditional family (mother, father, offspring) would somehow lose on importance. That the very fabric of this society will be irreparably torn and that the nation as such will die off sooner rather than later. But woe be unto them who would dare to think that there was anything remotely homophobic in their opposition to the Code because… wait for it… they have a number of gay friends!

This, obviously is the most perfidious of arguments. Justifying one’s homophobia by claiming to have gay friends while bashing them and their rights is derogatory to the extreme. The more the political right tried to prove that their argument was not about denying gays and lesbians equal rights, the more they were proving exactly that. But to be fair, there was a lot of this going around on the political left as well, only in a more subdued manner.

This was quite probably the main reason the code was watered down significantly. Specifically, provision which originally allowed same-sex marriages was reduced to allowing civil unions with full rights while the provision allowing child adoptions by same-sex couples was tightened to allowing adoptions only if one of the partners is a biological parent of the child. Both provisions are a marked improvement over the existing situation but still stop short of completely equalling same-sex and heterosexual couples.

Clash of cultures

Officially, this watering-down was meant to placate Primc, his gang and the political right. But since the only way to placate them was to kill the code entirely, the move was more likely meant to make the code more acceptable to the “traditionalists” on the political left. The fact that the Code was passed by a relative rather than an absolute majority only further strengthens this particular line of thought.

Be that as it may, the new Family Code was passed and – miraculously so – the National Council did not veto it, which means that it should be enacted soon. Well, not really. There’s still the possibility of a referendum. And sure enough Primc and Co. collected 32,000 signatures (only 2500 were needed) to initiate referendum proceedings. In this enterprise they were assisted by the Roman Catholic Church which apparently was more than happy to let them collect signatures in or near churches. But since the Church takes it upon itself to decide questions of morality and properness (never mind the paedophile scandals and the 700 million debt accumulated by a single diocese in Slovenia) this was to be expected. Rather than going apeshit about it, one can only conclude time and again that when push comes to a shove the political and ideological right will resort to any and all weapons in this particular clash of cultures.

What. Happens. Next.

Anyways. President of the parliament Pavle Gantar (who, apparently, will step down sooner rather than later) is now obliged to initiate the procedure in which the proponents of the referendum must collect 40,000 confirmed signatures in a month’s time to call a referendum on the Family Code. Although they collected 32k signatures in a matter of days, the task is slightly more difficult as those 40k signatures must be given on a special form and confirmed by an official at an Administrative Unit (upravna enota) which – if nothing else – means a trek downtown, standing in line and doing the paperwork rather than just signing on the dotted line and being tapped on the back by the local priest. Gantar already said that the procedure will be initiated on 1 September since initiating it now would mean it would end during summer recess.

However, it is probably a safe bet that Primc and Co. will collect enough signatures to have a referendum called. Under this scenario, the government will then petition the Constitutional Court to deny the referendum on the basis that it would mean a popular vote over basic human rights and/or could mean imposing the will of the majority on a clearly defined minority of the population and thus discrimination based on sexual orientation which is explicitly forbidden by the constitution.

Elementary, my dear Watson…

The case seems open-and-shut. There can be no popular vote on human rights. They apply to everyone and are exerted directly, based on the constitution rather than via specific legislation. Elementary? Not really. Sadly, this may not be the case. Technically the Constitutional Court will be asked to deny petitioners their right to a referendum against the right of same-sex couples to have their family-related rights equalled with heterosexual couples. And all of a sudden the case becomes highly complicated.

Luckily, gays, lesbians and everyone else who would benefit from the new Family Code have one thing going for them: a ruling by the Constitutional Court which declared part of the existing law on registration of same-sex couples passed under Janša government unconstitutional and basically said that heterosexual and same-sex civil unions should enjoy equal rights. But before one gets one’s hope too high it should be noted that this case referred only to the right to inheritance. Recently, the Constitutional Court showed cojones and acted pro-actively, effectively making policy, but the question at hand is, whether it will choose to do so again or will feel the need to back up and show restraint.

The final verdict, therefore, is far from conclusive. And Slovenia will thus continue to see bigots waving placards saying how grateful they are to have had a mother and a father at the same time denying some children to have either, saying how marriage is a sacred institution, denying those who want to honour it.

In the aforementioned rock opera, Jesus replied to Simon the Zealot that he doesn’t get it and that is not what Christianity is about. Well, someone should tell Primc and his gang, the political right and everyone who swears to defend the “traditional family” and the “natural order of things that taking the Lord’s name in vain and forgetting the “love thy neighbour” part is making then anything but good Christians.


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