“IF MAN stands up to God’s order, he introduces a culture of death (kultúra smrti)... The adherents of the culture of death come with a new ‘gender ideology’. In its name, they wish to introduce a so-called ‘gender equality’... They want to convince us that none of us exists by nature as man and woman, and they want to make the God-blessed union of man and woman equal with the union of two men or two women. That creates a sodomite blotch, which contradicts God’s will and brings about God’s wrath… The activists of ‘gender equality’ do not give up, but await an opportunity to control education through legislation and enforce this ‘sodomite ideology’ upon schools and pre-schools. Such education would not only strip the child of its decency, but would also perfectly cripple it morally and psychologically.”

It’s difficult to imagine a more loving message than the one Slovak Catholic bishops penned just before Christmas. Their pastoral letter, read in dioceses across the country at the start of Advent, caused quite a stir. Surprisingly for the Church, not all was positive. Surprisingly for everyone outside the Church, not all was negative. The document illustrates two things – the limits of tolerance and the limits of rationality in Slovakia.

The self-perception of Slovaks as a “nation of doves” suffered a serious blow two weeks ago, when neo-fascist Marian Kotleba was elected head of Banská Bystrica Region. A few days later it became clear that the problem is not limited to one gubernyia.

No one expects Catholics to endorse homosexual unions. Or even women’s rights, if they really believe they’re a trick devised by the Devil to destroy our children’s souls. But still, there must be a nicer way to say it.

As for rationality, you would think that even cultural wars have their rules of engagement. But the Church is nuking the intellectual battleground. What does gender equality have in common with gay marriages? And what harm can it do if girls grow up knowing they have the same rights as boys? If the bishops want others to have respect for the Bible, they should have some respect for the dictionary. You can attack ideas, but twisting the meaning of words?

Judging by the new results of OECD testing, the prospects are not good. Slovak students are down in reading, mathematics and natural science literacy. Whether you look at politics, the public debate or international surveys, they all indicate the same problem: a thriving culture of ignorance.