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Nazi occupation and communist phase

During the Nazi occupation of 1939-1945, Catholics in the Czech lands actively participated in the resistance against the Nazis; being persecuted by Nazis justified them in the minds of Czech people. After World War II, in the time of renewed democracy between 1945 and 1948, religious communities became popular in Czech society, and religious freedoms were as they had been before 1939. The limitation of the democracy by the rule of only four political parties united into the so called National Front did not limit the religious freedom.

A radical change came after the Communist coup d’état in February 1948. All spheres of public life had to accept the "scientific", i.e. the Marxist, ideology including atheism.

In the years 1948-1989, atheism played the role of a State "religion".

Religious communities became the only alternatively thinking institutions whose existence was slightly tolerated. The ultimate aim of the regime was, of course, the entire liquidation of religious communities.

New Acts establishing State control over the Churches came into force on November 1st 1949. That legislation brought obligatory but very low stipends for clergy, paid by the State regardless of the wishes of the religious communities. Any religious activity of clergy or lay preachers needed State permission, which was granted only for a geographically limited territory. This State permission could be revoked without explanation. Offences under this Act were punishable with imprisonment according to the provisions of the Penal Codes of 1950 and 1961.

Obligatory civil marriage was established in January 1950 for the first time in the history of the Czech lands.

In April 1950 all the monasteries were seized and the brothers interned without legal justification for several months. Later they were sent to forced labour units for three or four years and then dispersed as workers. From August 1950 convents of sisters were sent to camps in the remote border regions; they were not allowed to admit novices, and were obliged to work in factories. This state of affairs lasted until 1989.

Also during 1950, all Church schools and seminaries were abolished. The training of clergy was provided at only three State theological faculties (one for Catholics, one for Protestants, one for the Czechoslovak Church) and with a limited number of admissions.

Hundreds of activists of most religious communities were sentenced in framed processes to thousands years of imprisonements in the 1950s. Almost all the Catholic bishops were imprisoned or interned.

In spite of that, religious education in school was an obligatory subject for all children members of religious communities until 1953. Since that year it has been permitted only as a voluntary subject; there was a move to have it removed from schools altogether, and children attending religious education lessons were discriminated against.

D 12 October 2012    AZáboj Horák

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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