As LGBTQ Christians in Slovakia embrace their sexual and religious identities, the Catholic Church and Slovak political parties have been slow to embrace a welcoming attitude.
In a country that is predominantly Christian, with 66% of Slovaks identifying as Catholic, legal advances for the LGBTQ community have not been included in the left-leaning policies of the progressive parties in control of the government. Though some politicians have publicly expressed support for LGBTQ rights–including the recognition of same-sex unions and legalizing adoptions by gay and lesbian couples–the government is reluctant to push changes that will rattle the Christian country.
Those who take a stand for LGBTQ rights are often met with swift condemnation from church authorities. When then-candidate Zuzana Caputova expressed her personal opinion that “children were better off being adopted by gay couples than languishing in orphanages” in support of legalizing same-sex unions, some Catholic Church officials in Slovakia warned that voting for Caputova would be a sin. As president, Caputova has since said that she will not push such controversial reforms.
During the presidential campaign, Catholic priests were openly backing Marian Kotleba of the People’s Party Our Slovakia, a party Balkan Insight calls “homophobic, anti-migrant, and far right.”
In 2014, the Slovak parliament amended the nation’s constitution to afford the rights and recognition of a legal union only to a man and woman. As Bondings 2.0 previously reported, Pope Francis came to the aid of those defending the amendment, offering his verbal support for their efforts. According to LGBTQ activists, it marked the first time in “Slovak modern history the Catholic Church [was] heavily involved in political campaign.”
“In a 2016 survey, 49 per cent of respondents said they would be bothered by a homosexual couple living next door to them, a drop of 13 percentage points since 1991 but 14 higher than in 2009.
“For 21 per cent it would be perfectly acceptable to have a gay or lesbian colleague at work, far lower than the EU average in 2015 of 63 per cent. That said, in a poll published in September this year, 57 per cent expressed support for same-sex unions.”
Lost in the political deliberations between right and left, church and state, are the LGBTQ Slovaks who seek to live an authentic faith life in the only spiritual home they have ever known.
Slovak LGBTQ advocates see that Christian churches have made LGBTQ antagonism their main agenda. Martin Kovac said:
” ‘The fight against LGBT has become the main agenda of most Christian churches in Slovakia . . . We want to show that Christianity can look different.’ “
But LGBTQ Christians recognize this focus as a politicization of Christianity, incongruent with the central tenet of the gospel. This central tenet, says Juraj Variny, a member of Gay Christians, is love.
Martin Kolenic, who spoke to Bondings 2.0 earlier this summer while attending the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics assembly in Chicago, shared:
” ‘God would be terribly vicious if he were to create me as I am and didn’t want to take me as I am, wouldn’t he?’
” ‘Christianity, as I understand it, is about love. It would be absurd if God said: “Okay, all of you can feel love, except you.” ‘ “
This love can be the basis of a Christian church that looks different in Slovakia, one that recognizes the changing tide among the public and embraces love in all its forms.
To this end, Evangelical theologian Ondrej Prostrednik sees a faithful at odds with the institutional church, and paints a grim picture of what that conflict means for LGBTQ advocates within the church:
“Inside the church there are many who support LGBT, but they keep silent. They are afraid of being isolated, stigmatised, or simply mistaken. In the church, you cannot be mistaken.”
In solidarity with Prostrednik, Variny, and all LGBTQ Slovaks, we, who can, must refuse to stay silent, refuse to allow fear to dictate our discourse, and refuse to allow ourselves to be mistaken. There is no mistake–fear and silence are not the gospel message. Our good news is love.
–Kevin Molloy, September 30, 2019