Global Independent Analytics
Bojan Stanislawski
Bojan Stanislawski

Location: Poland

Specialization: Eastern Europe, Labor movement

The Polish Catholic church crosses the line

The fact is, religious fanaticism is present in the Polish public sphere as are many backward ideas that grew from its combination with mass poverty.

After the shocking call of the Polish episcopate to introduce a complete abortion ban at the beginning of April, other things followed which altogether seem to confirm the thesis that the new Polish government has agreed to allow the emancipation of the fundamentalist wing of the Polish Catholic Church.

While the new elite and bishops have faced acute social reaction regarding abortions and may have to retreat from this front, they now have taken steps in the direction where they really cannot be either stopped or obstructed. They obviously want to teach their opponents a lesson and demonstrate again who is the master and who is compelled to follow no matter what one likes or dislikes.

The next step in this emancipatory process was last week’s nomination of arch-bishop Juliusz Paetz, the most famous sex abuser in the ranks of the Polish church, whose actions were revealed in 2002 and included sexual molestation and assaults on young clerics and seminarists. The then-pope John Paul II, a notorious cover-provider for all pedophiles and molesters, tried to cover this one up as well, but the quiet investigation ordered and conducted by the Vatican ended in Paetz’s dismissal, although it was officially presented as the pope’s acceptance of the bishop’s resignation. Paetz was prohibited from exercising his ministry, but the sanctions placed on him were lifted during the mandate of Pope Benedict XVI. Now this person has proudly been put forward as the main host and conductor of the celebrations marking the 1050th anniversary of the baptization of Poland. The anger and rage in the public opinion were huge, and spread too to Catholic circles and outlets, but that was perhaps the point: the Catholic jihadists in Poland can finally display with impunity a special kind of cynical insolence – ‘in your face!’ That is what they are obviously communicating.

Had this not been enough, the Polish Church decided to openly provide concessions to right-wing extremists from the so-called National Radical Camp (ONR), an organization that despite its claims of being nothing more but a grouping of healthy ‘national’ and ‘patriotic’ youth, has been effectively denounced numerous times as neo-Nazi with photographs and videos of their members praising Adolf Hitler and gesticulating accordingly with their right arms. They reconfirmed their stance on the streets of Białystok, a poor, mid-sized town in the Polish north-east. It was a multicultural area in the past with the majority of the population being either Jewish, Belarussian or Lithuanian, and now it experienced a gloomy déjà vu.

The ONR ‘patriots’ marched through the center in a style which resembled no more and no less the NSDAP’s Sturmabteilung, in terms of both esthetics and political consignment. Their main slogan was ‘Down with the Jewish occupation’ (of Poland apparently). Since the Jews were effectively wiped out by Hitler along with the other minorities, a Kristallnacht reconstruction did not occur. The ‘patriots’ however were obviously looking for trouble, but not being able to come across even one Arab or Turk they had to go silently in the evening to enjoy a concert of the notorious Nazi band Nordica and sweeten their senses with hits like “White Übermensch” or “National Socialists”. The level of terror ONR has brought to Bialystok was so high, that foreign students of local universities received special messages instructing them to stay in their dormitories and not even take walks in the respective campuses’ area.

However, regarding the Catholic Church in Poland, what happened before this ignoble March is more important. The entire ‘national’ and ‘patriotic’ event started with a holy mass during which these hooligans, in a church exclusively dedicated to them, lined up in a tight formation exposing their banners and all in all creating an atmosphere realistically resembling the `30. The ceremony was hosted by Father Jacek Międlar, a profound fundamentalist with views pretty compatible to the ones of ONR. Międlar has been recently removed from duty in Wrocław (a large city in the Polish southwest) as his parishioners could not stand his appalling racism and xenophobia.

“There shall be no tolerance for this Poland, for such a Poland, for Poland, which is being eaten up by aggressive cancer. This cancer deserves a proper treatment – a chemotherapy … and such a chemotherapy you are, you are the uncompromised national-Catholic stance, you are the Polish radicalism”, – these are some of the words the priest used to provide blessings for ONR’s activities.

Many dispute the latest perversions of Polish church officials as an attempt to remind the ruling Law & Justice party that it has a solid partner who provided significant support, helped out during the campaign, and is currently feeling neglected - while the mess around ‘democracy’ cannot be an excuse for the government in the back-favor-doing. However, it is also not out of question that it is the top circles of Law & Justice who agreed with the fundamentalist elements in the church to unleash the radical potential, hoping that by demonstrating their identity in this respect they will gain even more social support in general and a new boost in their struggle with the ‘democrators’ who are not giving up. Should this be the case, it will be yet another proof that Kaczyński and Szydło, to put it colloquially, cannot into Polishness.

The fact is, religious fanaticism is present in the Polish public sphere as are many backward ideas that grew from its combination with mass poverty. However, the Polish, profoundly conservative en masse, are not fundamentalists and are by no means prepared to be caged in any theocratic yoke. It is not the first time that Law & Justice demonstrates a complete lack of sense of proportion, and it is exactly due to this that it might soon end where it came from – on the fringes of the political arena in Poland. The best thing for Kaczyński would be to grill publicly the church and declare that no bishop shall tell him how to rule and what legal or moral goals to pursue. That would strengthen his position enormously and would ignite huge confusion in the opposition in and outside the parliament. Such an act, however, surpasses him.

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