Lithuania’s veteran Jesuit cardinal has bitterly criticised social attitudes in his traditionally Catholic country, accusing its people of succumbing to a culture of “money, drink and fun”.
“When we had to follow Marxist ideology a few decades ago, you knew you'd get some reward if you said you wanted to change things – in my case, 10 years in a labour camp,” said Cardinal Sigitas Tamkevicius. “Today, we are witnessing another ideology which appears to offer liberation, but really threatens criminal liability for anything considered disrespectful, whether online or anywhere else.”
In a rare interview, given to Lithuania's online Delfi.Lt news agency, the 82-year-old cardinal said current forms of liberalism were “difficult to reconcile with Christian attitudes”, suggesting something had changed in the 30 years since his country’s independence from the Soviet Union.
He added that traditional moral and social attitudes had been undermined by Western influences in areas such as gender ideology and pressure to approve same-sex relations, which appeared to be creating “a virtual police” reminiscent of George Orwell's dystopian novel, 1984.
“We can all seek to change the world by making it better and more tolerant – but if we try to change the nature of humanity, then we take God's place,” said Cardinal Tamkevicius, who was ordained in 1962 after compulsory Soviet Army service and was secretly admitted to the outlawed Jesuit order in 1968, but had his state priest's licence revoked a year later for signing a petition against Soviet restrictions.
“I fear that, in 10-15 years, the Church will be the only institution defending democracy. Everyone else will have to shrink away from uttering any word which might be construed as belonging to a language of hatred,” he said. “Our contemporary culture, helped by irresponsible media, is stuffed with rubbish, and encourages the person to think his whole life is just about money, entertainment, sport and beer. This is the problem with present-day humanity, and we must try to resolve it.”
Catholics traditionally make up four-fifths of the 2.8 million inhabitants of Lithuania, which joined the EU in 2004 and has faced a sharp population drop.