A pot of slanders
Jerzy Robert Nowak
For the last several months the Polish mass media have been flooded with a shockingly high wave of anti-Church articles. In the post-communist Przeglad, 5 October 2004, it was even written about the possibility of 'a new war' between the Left and the Church. One could create a truly long 'White Book' about the fight with the Church only on the basis of the 'literary output' in mass media in the last half year. You could hardly see such a huge and concentrated amount of anti-Church articles in Poland in this relatively short period after the famous Gomulka's smear campaign had been launched in 1966 on the occasion of the Millennium. (One should remember that in Gomulka times there were no periodicals, which would publish as many aggressive and lousy anti-Church articles as in today's Fakty i Mity as well as Urban's Nie.) What is the reason of this sudden and violent anti-Church explosion in mass media after so many years of pretending that the post-communists wanted a lasting agreement with the Church, and after their claims that they renounced all anti-Church and anti-religious phobias once for all? The answer is all too simple. The post-communists feel more and more isolated from the society when new political affairs and embarrassments have rapidly been revealed. And the polling squaring is at hand. Being more and more panic-stricken the post-communists decided to resort to the method they had tested long ago - to look for substitute subjects in order to divert people maximally from their pitiful affairs and deviousness. And the fierce propaganda campaign began attacking the alleged greed, fanaticism and anti-democratic policy of the Church and particular clergymen. It was done according to the principle, 'Lie, lie and something of it will clung!' A maximal repetition of slanders is to accomplish the desired purpose. Let the mob cheerfully rush to the colourful stories about the alleged empire or the Maybach of Fr Rydzyk and ...stop dealing with the true SLD (Democratic Left Alliance) affairs. Having so many mass media at your disposal you can easily multiply various stories about the wealth and greed of numerous clergymen. You can cook many dishes in the pot of slanders - a wide selection of everything. Some priests will be accused of children's abuse in school; some will be accused of paedophilia. The weekly Solidarnosc wrote on 3 September 2004, 'A day without an affair concerning paedophilia among priests is a lost day for the press'.
The attacks on the Church in general and on priests in particular are accompanied by the demands for new tax solutions, which will strike at the Church, and demands for abortion, euthanasia, homosexual marriages, etc., which will strike at the Christian ethics. The latter is to favour the spread of the future support for the post-communists in the circles of feminists, homosexuals, lesbians, etc. Let us try to look briefly at the directions of the present attacks on the Church and the language of hatred, which accompanies them.
The encouragements to strike at the Church
Gazeta Wyborcza, 20 September, had a meaningful headline, 'Well, let us attack at the Church'. It was Wojciech Zaluski's report about the SLD programme conference 'State - Church, the Left - religion', which was held on 18 September 2004. Those who encouraged to strike at the Church included Aleksander Merker, former political worthy and director of the Office for the Denominational Affairs in Polish People's Republic (PRL), Andrzej Izdebski, deputy editor of the left wing periodical Forum Klubowe, Konrad Golota, representative of the PRL youth organisation, Czeslaw Janik, leader of the Association for an Ideologically-Free State 'Neutrum'. Izbebski cried loudly, 'We do not agree to the increasing religious indoctrination, which uses the state means and burdens the public expenditures'. Golota was for removing religious instruction from school, 'Why do we have to pay the Catholic officers to maintain their religion. It is time to have done with religious indoctrination!' Janik went as far as to call the Third Republic of Poland 'Glempokracja' and to claim that 'the Polish district is governed by the parish priest', and to ask demagogically, 'Will the Polish people remain an independent nation or will they be governed from the Vatican?' He was sure that many believers would support the idea to limit the clergy's influence because 'Not all people who go to church are mindless louses'.
We can see that some SLD members began using the vocabulary of the worst Stalinist years. One of those who were attacking the Church most violently was Jacek Zdrojewski, the 'baron' of the Mazowsze district, and he proposed the motto 'Let us deprive the Church of its mediaeval privileges'.
The terrible anti-Church racket at the SLD conference was the subject of concern of some more pragmatic post-communist activists, including Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, former head of the Intelligence Service. He warned his fellow party members that an exacerbation of the policy against the Church 'is the worst service, which SLD can do for itself. Since there will be a discussion, which will result in the conclusion that we are the heirs of those who arrested Primate Wyszynski and murdered Fr Popieluszko... Do we need it?' (W. Zaluska, 'Course towards the polling anti-clericalism, Gazeta Wyborcza, 21 September).
The post-communist politicians often show their extreme ignorance when they attack the Catholic Church. It was the case of the SLD vice-president Grzegorz Napieralski's talk in the TVN24 programme. He made a fool of himself when he proposed that in classrooms there should be other religious signs besides the Catholic cross. He said that there should be 'signs of the evangelicals and the Orthodox'. 'Well, if the SLD politician had attended religious instruction he would have known that the cross was the sign of all Christianity', commented Ewa K. Czaczkowska in Rzeczpospolita, 20 September 2004.
Ideas for financial destruction of the Church
The post-communists, whose government turned out to be destructive for the state budget, decided to look for 'budget reserves at the cost of the Catholic Church which they disliked so much. The leader of the parliamentary club of Socjaldemokracja Polska (Social Democracy of Poland) Jolanta Banach proposed an especially radical attack on the Church. She demanded to tax the Sunday collections. Thus - as the Weekly Solidarnosc wrote on 20 August 2004 - Borowski's party 'wants to lay another fiscal burden for the same money because believers give collections, which they have already paid income tax for'. In the above-mentioned text of the Weekly Solidarnosc, entitled 'While drowning you catch Sunday collection', Krzysztof Swiatek stressed, 'The introduction of the additional taxation of Sunday collections is a serious danger for the existence of thousands of small, country parishes all over Poland. Their parish priests have already problems with paying monthly bills for electricity, water and central heating because our society is growing poorer'.
Malgorzata Winiarczyk-Kossakowska, MP of the Socjaldemokracja Polska, displayed the initiative to introduce income taxation of economic activities of the Church institutions, such as publishing houses, which would considerably limit the publishing possibilities of the Church. This idea was promptly and enthusiastically supported by the vice-speaker of the Senate Ryszard Jarzembowski, SLD. Another fierce expression of enmity towards the Church was the fact that the Senate passed a bill to close down the subsidy to the Church Fund. Those who proposed that amendment do not care that the Church Fund was introduced as a recompense for the heavy losses of the Church due to the confiscation of the church property in 1950 by the Stalinist party machine. However, this did not prevent the Senate to take such an illegal resolution, which was fortunately rejected by the Sejm.
Anti-Catholic language of hatred
Attacks on the Church are often expressed in a venomous language of hatred, worthy of the worst PRL times. Here are just a few examples: Krystyna Kofta wrote in the post-communist Przeglad, 5 September 2004, 'Sometimes it seems to me that there can be nothing more worse than PPK, i.e. Real Pole Catholic'. One of the most aggressive attacks on the Church was published on the pages of this post-communist Przeglad (3 October). It was a text with a vulgar headline 'Trotters knelt for prayer?', written by the fanatical feminist and hunter of anti-Semitism Bozena Uminska. She went as far as to say that 'the Polish Church is dominated by the obsessive, xenophobic national-Catholic tradition for which the existence of the banished and stigmatised women, Jews and infidel is indispensable'.
Only an exceptionally cynical and venomous slanderer, who does not show a slight concern for basic facts can accuse the Catholic Church in Poland of xenophobic domination, which strikes women, Jews and followers of other religions. It is worth mentioning that the quoted text of Uminska was an extraordinarily favourable review of the book by Kazimiera Szczuka, another aggressive feminist, very hostile towards the Church. The book was entitled 'Silence of Little Sheep' and was about abortion. We should remember that Mrs Szczuka was fired from the TV programme 'Pegaz' after she had used extremely vulgar terms to define the female sexual organ in this programme. Today, she is conducting the TVN reality show 'The weakest link' in a very tactless way, having no class.
On the pages of Gazeta Wyborcza, on 2-3 October 2004, (the text entitled 'To part with Poland?'), Professor Maria Janion, former Marxist, and today a particularly aggressive hunter of Polish 'nationalism and anti-Semitism', exposes with delight the fragment of 'The Fourth Heaven', novel by Mariusz Sienkiewicz, which is clearly spiritually close to her and which attacks national tradition and religion, 'He kept family, perhaps even tribal, seals of generations, which today look sensible only in the language, and which harden on the neck as if they were a hump of obligation of a Pole, a son, a human being. God-Honour-Fatherland, Faith-Patriotism-Family, Tradition-Catholicism-History... He can always refer to this language, he can fill up his throat with rhetoric and speak till he chokes: "I believe in God the Father", "in the forgiveness of sins", "I am Polish", "I love my Fatherland, Family and the Mother of God"'. After these words we find Professor Janion's comment, 'One can really be choked with these beautiful triads'.
It is worth adding that this year the Nike Literary Award, which is granted under the influence of some people who are strongly connected with Gazeta Wyborcza, has been given to Wojciech Kuczok for his novel 'Gnoj' (Manure). The novel is full of anti-Catholic obsessions and presents Catholicism as religious, 'senseless ignorance', and priests are presented as 'deviants' (cf. S. Krajski, 'New Socrealism', Nasz Dziennik, 13 October 2004).