Dear Brother Francis,
We, sisters and brothers from the Czech Republic, are writing to you because we are greatly worried about the future direction of the Catholic Church in our country. For us, you represent an open Church full of solidarity and we therefore turn to you as our brother in Christ.
On April 26, 2018 our Prague archbishop, Cardinal Dominik Duka, will turn 75. According to the Church law, he’ll submit his resignation. We ask you to accept this resignation, and not to extend his mandate. Let us present our case:
During Dominik’s tenure as the Prague archbishop, the alliance between throne and altar was significantly strengthened. One example is the national pilgrimage to St. Wenceslaus in Stará Boleslav: in September 2011, bishop Dominik invited the then president, Václav Klaus, who gave a neoliberal speech during the Holy Mass. In November 2015, Domink Duka celebrated a Holy Mass for president Miloš Zeman at the presidential summer residence, only a few days after Zeman stood on the same podium with Martin Konvička, at that time the leading figure of the Czech xenophobic movement.
Bishop’s Dominik inclination towards nationalism and the Far Right demonstrates itself not only in his uncritical support of the Islamophobic president Miloš Zeman, but also in his unequivocal refusal of any solidarity with the refugees at the national pilgrimage to St. Wenceslaus in September 2017. He also sent a congratulatory letter to the leader of the Freedom and Direct Democracy Party (SPD), Tomio Okamura. In his letter, Duka wrote among other things that he and Okamura share concerns about the future of our country. In today’s anti-immigration discourse, this means that they share a negative stance towards people forced to flee their countries. Furthermore, among bishops’ closest co-workers belongs Milan Badal who after the 2016 Normandy Church attack repeatedly identified Islam with Islamism.
Brother Dominik likes to present himself as a person who negotiated the so called Church Restitutions, the return of Church property which had been nationalized by the socialist regime. Act 428/2012 Coll. on Property Settlement with Churches and Religious Communities passed through Parliament at the second attempt, and only barely. The Act was implemented despite the fact that the majority of society didn’t agree: the Church was unable to explain and defend these restitutions. This has significantly impacted the trustworthiness of the Church which is seen as greedy. In March 2012, 30 percent of the population trusted the Czech churches (the same numbers as in previous years). In September 2012, the trust in churches decreased by 10 percent.
The word restitution means to restore something to its original state. Do we really want to go back to the way Church was in the time before the Second Vatican Council? Do we want to return to the Church as an institution of power, with its strictly hierarchical structure, the owner of both land and wealth worth billions? Shouldn’t we strive for a far more radical restitution? For a restitution that would restore the word Church to its original meaning of a community and unity of brothers and sisters? Not, as it seems, in Dominik Duka’s opinion. He surrounds himself with lavish symbols of power, drives in an opulent carriage, and he shows off for the cameras in the company of the rich and powerful.
As we have mentioned, Dominik Duka cultivates intense relationships with the representatives of the state. He displays significantly lesser interest in the Church. This is voiced for example by diocesan priests in the recent Salve magazine (named Worries in the Church). As one of the priests claims, “Our bishops and vicar-generals communicate only amongst themselves, potentially with their generational contemporaries. The middle and the youngest generation of priests, who are the actual intermediaries with the secular world, is minimized to the ceremonial aspect which is the only measurement of success.” The priests are, however, not the only group of believers suffering from a lack of interest from the hierarchy. Dominik Duka also contributed to the book Eleven Cardinals Speak on Marriage and the Family, which is very strict in its stance towards the pastoration of divorced and re-married Catholics. Not long ago, Dominik also denied pastoral care to the community of LGBTQ Catholics in the Prague diocese.
So far, Bishop Dominik either hasn’t responded to any of our concerns and repeated criticism in the spirit of correctio fraterna at all, or he labelled it as an outburst of one sided passion, or Protestant or Leftist eccentricity. That is why, dear brother Francis, we now turn to you with the request to take our worries into consideration while choosing the new Prague archbishop. We hope that the Congregation for Bishops will choose a successor of brother Dominik who wouldn’t for example be afraid to leave the lavish Archbishop Palace (which is located in the near proximity of Prague Castle and therefore brings the altar even closer to the throne) and to live amongst normal working people as to fulfil your appeal to be “shepherds living with the smell of the sheep.”
We not only call for an exchange of the Prague archbishop after Duka’s resignation, but for a revolution of love and kindness which would transform the Church’s hierarchical structure into a living and caring community of brothers and sisters again, a community always willing to help the weak, the hurt, the people living on the edge of society, and also the whole creation. We thank you for being the living proof of the fact that the gospel of love and mercy resonates through all the continents, and levels of the Catholic Church.
With love to our Mother Church, praised be the one who embraces with his tenderness all that exists
Sisters and brothers from the Czech Republic