International Shia News Agency
EDITOR'S CHOICEEuropeFeaturedGeneral ArticlesOther NewsOther Religions

Czech Republic: The Most Atheist Nation of 21st Century (Part 1)

Czech Republic Christendom Atheist

SHAFAQNA | by Scott Vitkovic*: Today, the Czech Republic is the most atheist country in the European Union and the world, surpassing even communist North Korea and China. Many Czechs blame the steep decline of their faith and the rise of atheism on the 1948 -1989 Czechoslovak communist government.

It is undoubtedly true that the 41 years of the Czechoslovak communists’ systematic efforts to replace all religious beliefs with materialistic atheism, accompanied by sustained determinations to uproot and destroy all remnants of the Christian Church, account for the rise in atheism and decline in Christianity in general and the Catholic Church in particular. However, the Czechoslovak communist government’s four decades of totalitarianism do not fully explain these phenomena.

As per the February 4-11, 1945, Yalta Conference, Czechoslovakia was included under the Soviet sphere of influence. The Iron Curtain permanently sealed borders in 1946 and divided Europe between the East and the West. In February 1948, the Czechoslovak Communist Party orchestrated a coup d’état, took power, and commenced its repressions.

Catholic Church under Czechoslovak communist government

After the February 1948 communist coup d’état, the communists considered the Catholic Church as the last and most dangerous enemy that threatened the communist monopoly of power, with the Vatican as an instrument of world imperialism.

The Church became the primary target of the communist purges. Church dignitaries were interned and religious organizations, schools, seminaries, and monasteries were closed. Moreover, religious orders were dissolved, and religious education in schools was forbidden. Following this Stalinist model, the Czechoslovak security apparatus established a system aimed at total control and eventual destruction of the Catholic Church. Its objectives were:

1.To break diplomatic relations between Czechoslovakia and the Vatican, cut all formal and informal contacts and communication between the Czechoslovak Catholic Church and the Holy See, and establish a national church serving the interests of the state (Kaplan, Church and State in Czechoslovakia from 1948 to 1956 (Part I), 1986);

  1. To isolate the bishops from the clergy and the clergy from the believers and society, and replace the existing church hierarchy with one vetted by the state (Kaplan, Church and State in Czechoslovakia from 1948 to 1956 (Part I), 1986);
  2. To abolish the Eastern-rite Catholic (Uniate) Church and replace it with the Russian Orthodox. Outlaw all religious orders and establish total control over the Roman Catholic Church by the Czechoslovak communist government and its security apparatus (Rabas, 1982); Isolate the Church and restrict its activity and influence (Kaplan, Church and state in Czechoslovakia from 1948 to 1956 (Part II), 1986).

This Czechoslovak communist government strategy had the following three stages:

  1. To expose the church hierarchy as the servant of a foreign power—the Vatican, prepare legislation concerning the churches and prosecute all attempts to contravene this government policy.
  2. To cut off the church hierarchy, disrupt the unity of the clergy, and create new representative bodies of the church, called the Associations of Czech and Slovak Catholics, with the participation of the priests whom the government assigns as church representatives.
  3. To establish both the Associations and the newly created national Catholic Church independent of Rome with religious services conducted in the Czech and Slovak languages, not in Latin, as official religious institutions; take over the church properties and ordinations of new bishops and clergy (Kaplan, Church and State in Czechoslovakia from 1948 to 1956 (Part I), 1986).

On March 21, 1948, the Czechoslovak government extrajudicially confiscated all the Catholic Church properties. It forced all Catholic publications to close by the end of the year. During January and February of 1950, the Communist Czechoslovak government ordered priests to take the loyalty oath to the communist regime. With the removal of the bishops, the Secret Police also eliminated their staff. The Roman Catholic Church lost its leadership, and the Greek Catholic Church was altogether dissolved in Czechoslovakia.

Fearing that the Czechoslovak communist government may make communication between the Holy See and the Catholic ordinaries impossible, the secret papal decrees transferred certain authorities of the Pope and Curia directly to the bishops of Czechoslovakia. In turn, the bishops delegated some of their powers to their vicar generals and other ecclesiastical superiors. In cases that did not require episcopal ordinations, they delegated it to the priests.

Clandestine Church in Czechoslovakia

Fr. Felix Maria Davídek, Ph.D., ordained priest by Assistant Bishop Stanislav Zela of Olomouc on July 24, 1945, in Brno. He became the most prolific bishop of the Clandestine Church in Czechoslovakia. From his Episcopal consecration in 1967 to his death in 1988, he secretly formed, educated, and ordained countless deacons. Eighteen of them were women (Fiala P. a., 2004), about 300 celibate and married priests, including three female priests, and some 20 bishops.

While the matter of the married men’s ordination was generally agreed upon because it became a good cover for the clandestine priests and bishops, not an effort to abolish the discipline of celibacy or reform the existing Catholic Church, the ordination of women was a controversial question for some, but not for Bishop Davídek.

Many believed that the 1968 Prague Spring would bring new freedoms for the Catholic Church in Czechoslovakia. However, Fr. Davídek remained skeptical due to his experience and continued his ministry secretly. He understood that Communism could not and would not change. Instead, he prepared for a time when the Secret Police agents would round up all the priests and bishops and intern them in the forced labor camps in Siberia, as happened in 1920s Russia. When during the night of 20-21 August 1968, the Warsaw Pact armies, led by the USSR, invaded and began permanently occupying Czechoslovakia, his prudent judgment proved fully justified. During the next few days, Fr. Davídek secretly consecrated several bishops and countless priests. Per the request of the Pope, Davídek organized the Church as a fully functioning system that consisted of separate but self-sufficient and mutually complementary individual cells.

In 1972, the Czechoslovak State Secret Police (StB) learned from Cardinal Agostino Casaroli that Davídek was a bishop. Thus, it arrested and interrogated Fr. Davídek and Ludmila Javorová but did not imprison them. Instead, they tried to use Davídek to discredit the Clandestine Church by creating and spreading rumors that Fr. Davídek became “mentally ill” and exhibited “schismatic tendencies” within the Catholic Church. They aimed to create mistrust between the Vatican clergy loyal to the Clandestine Catholic Church and the clergy loyal to the communist government of Czechoslovakia. The Vatican’s envoy Fr. John Bukovský, supported by Cardinal Agostino Casaroli and some other members of the Curia, aided this communist plot. He did it by further spreading this slander in the Vatican. It occurred after the Czechoslovak Secret Police granted him an entry visa to visit Fr. Davídek and Javorová on August 26, 1976.

Two decades later, Cardinal Agostino Casaroli played a decisive role in finally silencing the Clandestine Catholic Church in Czechoslovakia. He officially replacing it with the one created by the communists during the Era of Stalinism and Normalization.

The celebrations became the most prominent religious gathering that called for the freedom of faith since the communists took power in Czechoslovakia 37 years before. About one hundred thousand people, mostly youths, attended these celebrations in Czechoslovakia, led by František Cardinal Tomášek, with whom Fr. Davídek closely cooperated.

In 1987, with Soviet President Gorbachev’s liberalizations under the slogan of “Perestroika and Glasnost,” Fr. Davídek set to work on his last outstanding achievement, the Analysis of the Catholic Church in Czechoslovakia. He strongly condemned the Pacem in Terris clergy, the traitors of the Catholic Church, who turned into collaborators and informants of the communist government in Czechoslovakia. By the end of 1987, he completed the Analysis. Then, he provided them to Cardinal Tomášek, who quoted from them in his Pastoral Letter of April 1988. In 1988, he also sent them to Cardinals in several countries but received no replies. However, the Analysis became a popular petition that gained over half a million signatures from the Czechoslovak public.

*Source: Scott Vitkovic (2023).The Czech Republic: From the Center of Christendom to the Most Atheist Nation of the 21st Century (Part 1). The Persecuted Church: The Clandestine Catholic Church (Ecclesia Silentii) in Czechoslovakia During Communism 1948-1991


The Role of Muslims of Soviet Union in Great Victory

Related posts

Vatican: Pope to visit Mongolia on August 31


German researchers make a nuclear clock


Electronic skin that can sense touch: Researcher find


Webb telescope discovers water in atmosphere of exoplanet


Stem cells therapy for diabetes


Discovering the DNA of decision-making


Leave a Comment