A healthy distance

Bishop Stanislaw Budzik’s interview for the Catholic Information Agency

The recent months have showed tension in the relationships between the State and the Church as well as bigger activities of the so-called secular trends. The Secretary General of the Polish Bishops’ Conference Bishop Stanislaw Budzik gave an interview to Marcin Przeciszewski, Editor-in-Chief of the Catholic Information Agency about the proper relationships between the secular and religious spheres in Poland.
In the interview he shows the special features of the Polish model in the background of other European countries. He opposes the accusation of the excessive political involvement of the bishops. ‘In the background of the different models of the relationships between the State and the Church in Europe the present Polish model, written in the important documents and bills, is one of the best in the theoretical perspective’, Bishop Budzik says. These statements neither create a model of a denominational state nor fall in one-sidedness of a secular state. The Polish model resembles slightly the German one, which balances these extremes, ensuring that the Church has a proper place in public space. The bishop also explains that we owe this situation to the modern concordat, based on the concept of the Church’s presence in the contemporary world, defined during Vatican Council II. Speaking briefly, it guarantees rights for believers, ensure that the Church has the freedom indispensible to fulfil her evangelisation mission, and defines the place of the Church in the state. ‘The basis of the relationship between the Church and the State is the principle of autonomy’, he explains. ‘That’s why the first paragraph of the concordat says that ‘the State and the Catholic Church are, each in its own domain, independent and autonomous.’ The principle of autonomy prevents the possibility of mutual interference, defining clearly the frameworks of collaboration.

Dictate of secularity?

The Secretary General of the Bishops’ Conference refuted the accusations of the left-wing party that the secularity of the state, which the Constitution guarantees, is allegedly ‘raped’. According to him the Polish Constitution does not speak about the ‘secularity’ but ‘impartiality.’ The state should guarantee its citizens freedom to confess religion or to be non-believers. It should not be involved in any party. ‘The advocates of ‘secularity’ usually identify it with the absence of religion in public space. That’s why they protest, e.g. against religious instruction in schools. ‘Secularity’ thus understood involves a certain ideological element. The principle of partiality is a much better guarantee of human rights’, Bishop Budzik states. The questions of the Agency included the echo of the proposals of the new generation of the left-wing party. Since today within the framework of the Left Democratic Alliance there is a new political power, which contrary to the pragmatists want to win voters on the basis of the anticlerical mottos. According to Bishop Budzik one should be astonished at this attitude of the left-wing representatives. After 1989 the left-wing party in Poland worked out a new image because they rejected the heritage of communism. It renounced the main principles that communists proclaimed: dictatorship of proletariat, planned economy, hostility towards European institutions, threatening of the American imperialism, etc. It made the left-wing party return to the political saloons, both Polish and the European ones. ‘If the left-wing party in Poland wants to be a modern party – which we should wish for the sake of good political atmosphere – it should not return to the old-fashioned mottos. Recently there have been opinions that many local left-wing activists do not wish to warm up the struggle with the Church; this is not the right way’, said the Secretary General.
He referred to the accusations about the politicisation of the Polish hierarchs. ‘For six years I have participated in the sessions of the Polish Bishops’ Conference’, he said. ‘However, I have not noticed that bishops have discussed politics during the sessions. I can say assuredly that they dedicate most of their time to pastoral ministry, running dioceses, the mission of proclamation and sanctification. The topics of our discussions are: catechesis, family, testimony, mercy. They also speak about the problems connected with the administration of dioceses and parishes. Politics is a marginal topic. If they take it up they speak about politics in the general sense, defined as a prudent care for common good. The task of the bishops is not to evaluate concrete parties or politicians. They can speak about certain actions or bills if they concern the sphere of ethics or human dignity. It is not only the right but also the duty of the Church. Summing up political issues the Secretary General appealed to keep a healthy distance to all parties and not to identify oneself with any.

Restoring order

The Secretary of the Bishops’ Conference devoted much time to the issues concerning the property of the Church, suggesting new solutions. ‘Pastoral care for the sick in hospitals, pastoral care for prisoners or soldiers belong to the world standards. Chaplains work in these institutions because they are needed there. Chaplains are paid for their work. This is the legal order in civilised countries. Poland is not an exception’, he explained. Perhaps Poland will introduce changes concerning financing the Church. ‘The most sensible thing would be to introduce such solutions thanks to which the faithful could freely decide about giving money to some religious community, e.g. 1% of their taxes, like they do in the case of non-profit organisations. Such a model has been introduced in Hungary. Whereas the German or Austrian models, in which every declared Catholic must pay some tax for the Church, cannot be accepted. At the end of his interview he explained the complicated context of the works of the Property Committee. Referring to the arrest of the lawyer Marek P. he informed that Marek P. had never been ‘a proxy of the Church.’ He also expressed ‘readiness to collaborate with the state organs to explain the possible incorrectness related to the restoration of the property appropriated during the period of the Polish People’s Republic.’

Prepared by Fr Lukasz Jaksik

"Niedziela" 40/2010

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl