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Ján Sucháň: The Priest

"The current misery of Slovak society isn't just the result of 40 long years of communism, but also of the influence of the Catholic Church, which doesn't teach people to be independent and sovereign, but instead to listen and to obey," argues 48 year-old Catholic priest Ján Sucháň from his home in Krakovaný, near western Slovakia's Trnava.
By any measure, Suchaň is not an average Catholic Church official. But by Slovak standards, he is exceptional - a politically active firebrand with a fondness for speaking out. Suchaň became a well-known figure to many Slovaks in February, 1993, when the private radio station Rádio Twist began to air his weekly speeches. Sucháň was critical of the government of Vladimír Mečiar, as well as of the Slovak Catholic Church hierarchy for its hesitance to condemn Mečiar's authoritarian practices.


photo: Courtesy of Ján Sucháň

"The current misery of Slovak society isn't just the result of 40 long years of communism, but also of the influence of the Catholic Church, which doesn't teach people to be independent and sovereign, but instead to listen and to obey," argues 48 year-old Catholic priest Ján Sucháň from his home in Krakovaný, near western Slovakia's Trnava.

By any measure, Suchaň is not an average Catholic Church official. But by Slovak standards, he is exceptional - a politically active firebrand with a fondness for speaking out. Suchaň became a well-known figure to many Slovaks in February, 1993, when the private radio station Rádio Twist began to air his weekly speeches. Sucháň was critical of the government of Vladimír Mečiar, as well as of the Slovak Catholic Church hierarchy for its hesitance to condemn Mečiar's authoritarian practices.

"I saw that Slovakia was gradually slipping out of the central European mainstream," he told The Slovak Spectator on November 9. "I often wondered if the Slovak people were perhaps worse off than other people in, say, Poland or Hungary. In the name of these people, I wanted to speak loudly."

No stranger to controversy, Sucháň even accused his own superiors of quietly supporting the Mečiar government. "I think that during the Mečiar era, even high Catholic Church representatives had to keep strong ties with that regime because they supported each other."

Not all people welcomed his political and social activism, particularly the Catholic Church. "I received a number of anonymous threats, and somebody broke my window," Sucháň remembered. "Furthermore, [Slovak Cathloic] Archbishop [Ján] Sokol wanted me to stop. But I told him that if the Apostole Paul could use the media to let people know about Evangelism, I could do that too."

Sucháň first won popularity as a priest among his younger parishioners during his ministry in Lamač, a suburb of Bratislava. He was then moved to the small village of Krakovany (pop. 1,500), the heartland of Mečiar supporters. He says that the move was a form of punishment issued by high Church officials for his outspoken ways. "I even heard from my friends that I'm on the list of dangerous liberal priests," said Sucháň.

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