By Metropolitan Amphilochios of Kissamos and Selino
A series of changes having a severe impact on society will emerge from the abolition of the petty offenses with the new draft law of the Penal Code. The consultation on the draft law, as well as the new Code of Criminal Procedure, is extended until April 14 by decision of the Minister of Justice.
In respect with the new provisions and, as long as they remain unchanged and not amended within the framework of the consultation, articles related to religion, faith, family, dead, etc. are abolished.
The draft law deals with the revision of the Penal Code, in accordance with the recommendation of the Legislative Committee set up by the former Minister of Justice, namely, inter alia, the abolition of Articles 198, 199 and 201 of the Penal Code relating to malicious blasphemy, religious insult, and verbal outrage of a dead person.
On this issue, the Standing Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, at its recent session, decided to intervene by noting in a relevant press release: “[…] [this] would have negative impact on the good of the religious and social peace. It is a matter that concerns all the religions in our county”.
In particular, with respect to faith, religion and Church, the following articles are abolished: 1. Malicious blasphemy and defamation in any way against God and religion (Articles 198-199); 2. Verbal outrage of the dead (Article 201). The aforementioned promoted changes mean that any person has the right without running the risk of being attributed any sanction to:
1. Insult publicly and in any way God;
2. Blaspheme publicly the religion;
3. Blaspheme publicly and maliciously and by any means the Greek Orthodox Church or any other religion tolerable in Greece;
4. Attack verbally a dead.
5. Act blasphemously and improperly toward a grave, as well as a bunch of other delinquent, in our opinion, behaviors that to date are at least considered punishable and subjected to criminal prosecution.
As noted by experts, it is noteworthy that, once the consultation has concluded on the draft laws (Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure), the MPs will not vote on each article of the draft law separately but they will vote the draft law as a whole in one sitting of the Parliament.
If that is the case, the MPs will not be able to vote on each article regardless of whether they agree or disagree.
That being the case, should we remain silent in front of all these radical changes and not express our anxiety, our concerns and our disagreement and protest?
Otherwise, we will be again the target for a wave of abuse, accused of to trying to make it a subject of political opposition!
Even in ancient times the deceased, or reposed, as the Orthodox Church puts it, met with respect, and burial was a primary element of human consciousness and it was a duty to be fulfilled “following the immutable unwritten laws of the gods” (Sophocles), not just a custom of burying the dead. Today should we allow to be any insult and remain silent?
When faith and religion are an essential component of the people and the nation, it is not our duty and responsibility as institutions, persons and society to preserve and safeguard the sanctity of this faith?
When a multitude of laws guarantee the rights of minorities and vulnerable social groups, which I consider to be a positive step, should not we guarantee the right to respect for faith, religion and the dead?
What’s the importance of a society when there is no respect towards the institutions, and all the sacrosanct things? Those elements are nurturing a culture for centuries, and keep on existing harmoniously in the same society. Are we allowed in the name of rationalization of the offenses to desanctify the fabric of a society?
As a conclusion to my humble opinion, I resort to the words of a great Greek poet: “Should you take out a piece of the past, you will take out a similar part of the future.” (Giorgos Seferis).