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By Jan J. Franczak
Poland appears to be one of the last Catholic bastions in Europe. But recent troubling signs make Catholics wonder whether Poland may be going the way of once-Catholic Ireland.
Although the country doesn't suffer from a sex abuse crisis as in the United States and other parts of the world, and the Polish Church seems to be thriving, it looks like not everything is right. Here are three cases of different magnitude from the last few months that show some worrying symptoms of possible illness and future problems.
During the local elections held in Poland in the fall of last year, a controversy was stirred by the "conservative" candidate for the mayor of Warsaw, Patryk Jaki. Jaki, who is against abortion and especially eugenic abortion (he himself has a child with Down syndrome) unexpectedly to many conservative voters supported in vitro fertilization (IVF).
He said that if the city council voted financing IVF from the taxpayers' money, he would himself approve it. He added, "I will not agree that IVF is an immoral procedure." He even stated that his position is similar to the stand of the Polish episcopate.
The spokesman of the Polish bishops issued no statement, nor any hierarch rebuked Jaki for his remarks contrary to the teaching of the Church. Days and weeks passed, and there was no official reaction. Jaki was the most prominent example of such a "conservative" candidate as he runs for the mayor of the capital city. But he was by no means the only one.
Does it mean that the leaders of the Church keep quiet to stay in good terms with various local politicians? Rebuking them publicly might mean cutting off some subsidies for the Church.
It looks like also ordinary priests have to be careful what they say. Last year, Fr. Daniel Wachowiak in Poznań was moved by his bishop to a small parish in the country. Father Wachowiak was well known for his critical tweets about the mayor of Poznań. The priest prayed for the mayor and celebrated Mass for his conversion. The mayor is known for his support of the LGBT agenda and IVF.
The silence of the Catholic Church hierarchs in the case of Jaki seemed strange all the more so in the light of the bishops' prompt reaction when Katarzyna Lubnauer, the leader of the parliamentary opposition party "Nowoczesna," questioned the humanity of unborn babies. The president of the bishops' conference, Abp. Stanisław Gądecki, answered in a letter in which he pointed out that the humanity of unborn babies since conception was not a myth or an ideological position but a part of natural law and the truth confirmed by science.
A scandal broke at the very beginning of this year when it turned out that the well-known abortionist Prof. Romuald Dębski, who had died Dec. 20. last year, was to receive a Catholic funeral.
The president of the pro-life "Fundacja PRO-Prawo do Życia," Mariusz Dzierżawski, wrote an official letter to the archdiocese of Warsaw. In his letter, he pointed out that 783 unborn babies had been killed in the maternity and obstetrics ward directed by Prof. Dębski in the years 2011–2018. He added that in public debates, Dębski had supported eugenic abortion, also of babies with Down syndrome.
The spokesman for the archdiocese of Warsaw, Fr. Śliwiński, responded that the funeral would be held anyway. He said, "The deceased is not subject to human judgment. We have a right to judge his conduct, also in a negative way, but we don’t know his deepest motivations and secrets of his conscience. The deceased is subject to the tribunal of Merciful God."
Father Śliwiński added that the concern of the faithful was "justified," he confirmed the teaching of the Church about the evil of abortion but he said that the late professor had "received the last rites" and "no penalty provided by the Church law was administered to him nor declared." He added, "We cannot forget the gratitude of many women with high-risk pregnancies whom the deceased helped to give birth."
The funeral was held as stated.
The third case has tragic circumstances that we need to outline briefly. During a yearly charity concert, the mayor of Gdańsk, Paweł Adamowicz, was stabbed to death while on stage on Jan. 13 this year. The murderer turned out to be a mentally ill criminal released from prison in December 2018.
He managed to get on stage despite the presence of security guards and stabbed the mayor, then, walking up and down and introducing himself, he shouted, "Civic Platform tortured me and this is why Adamowicz has died" before someone stopped him.
Very soon it turned out the killer was mentally ill and that there were no political reasons for his crime. After his release from prison, he had unsuccessfully attempted to get to the presidential palace in Warsaw, probably targeting President Andrzej Duda as was revealed by Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro. Then, apparently, he had decided to kill the mayor of Gdańsk.
What happened next was a show of hypocrisy. The oppositions started bashing the ruling party and the government-friendly media blaming them for "hate speech" and thus inciting the killer to murder the mayor of Gdańsk. A "silent march" was organized in Warsaw and in some other cities.
The same people who had not supported Adamowicz's candidacy for the mayor of Gdańsk in the last year's election due to various allegations concerning his accumulation of wealth and possible criminal involvement now were blaming the ruling party for the mayor's death.
Adamowicz, amid something akin to mass hysteria, was buried in St. Mary's Basilica in Gdańsk on Jan. 19. The late "conservative" and "Catholic" mayor of Gdańsk was a supporter of IVF, the LGBT movement and sex education. Although his death was sudden and tragic, the question remains why the Catholic Church authorities decided to bury him in the cathedral. Archbishop Sławoj Głódź said that Adamowicz had been a believer not ashamed of his faith and practicing it.
At the funeral Mass, there were various abuses of the liturgy. Suffice to say that at the prayer of the faithful, some representatives of Protestants, a Jew and a Muslim were allowed to say their prayers. While the priests talked about putting an end to hatred in public life, a disrespect was shown to the president of Poland who had been seated in the fifth row.
It looks like it is time for laymen in Poland to be more active and react to any violation of God's law and freedom of conscience. A good example was set recently when the new mayor of Warsaw, Rafał Trzaskowski, signed the so-called "LGBT+ Declaration" promoting sodomy in the capital of Warsaw.
In this case, the Catholic Church reacted but it was not after the concerned parents and pro-family organizations had started protesting first — one of the aims of the declaration was to introduce anti-discrimination and sexual education in schools. The parents gained support from the Warsaw bishops, and then finally the Episcopal Conference of Poland issued a statement objecting to the declaration.