The left-wing party was left only with the Church to fight with

Czeslaw Ryszka

After several articles concerning the allegedly controversial decisions taken by the Joint Government and Episcopal Property Commission had been published in ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’ the Democratic Left-Wing Alliance (SLD) rolled into action, referring the activities of the commission to the Constitutional Tribunal. There were also attacks of internauts and bloggers (on the web page of Gazeta Wyborcza), not mincing their words, against the wealth of the Church, treasures of the Vatican and extravagance of particular clergymen. These texts, exuding hatred towards priests, nuns, laymen working in the Church, were once written by drunken secret security officials. I know that because I personally received such anonymous letters. Who cultivates this style of writing today? By the way, I would like to add that the Property Commission, acting at the Ministry of Interior and Administration, was called into being in 1991 by the government and the Bishops’ Conference by virtue of the act of 1989 on the relationship between the State and the Catholic Church. It has 12 members; it is composed in equal proportions of representatives of the State and the Episcopate. The Commission solves the disputes concerning the real estates that were illegally confiscated from the Catholic Church during the times of the Polish People’s Republic. The Church submitted 3,063 applications concerning restoration of property ownership or compensations (substitute real estates). 269 applications are still to be considered (there are similar commissions concerning the Orthodox Church, the Lutheran Church or the Jewish Community). One should also add that the Property Commission does not deal with what was confiscated by the communists within the framework of the so-called ‘agricultural reform’ but it deals with real estate restitution that was stolen (the Act of 1950 left parishes or religious congregation 50 ha of land but zealous and corrupted officials confiscated what they wished and what was most suitable; the restitution of these stolen estates is what the Commission works on). Generally speaking, so far there has been no complaints about the activities of the Property Commission but after the compensation of 16 hectares in Opole to the Grey Ursulines in Warsaw for the lost real estate in Nowolipki Street and Dzielna Street in Warsaw, and granting 47 ha in Bialoleka as the compensation for the Sisters of St Elizabeth in Poznan, for their lost estate in the region of Wielkopolska, had been publicised in ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’ an artificial argument about the functioning of the commission arose. The accusations voiced by the Democratic Left Alliance mainly concern the lack of possibility of appeal to court from the decision of the commission or infringing the principle of social justice, ‘the ecclesiastical property is returned whereas private entities have smaller chances to have the lost properties back.’ It is true that the above decisions of the commission evoked controversies but there are only three solutions to be considered by the commission: return of the confiscated property, replacement property or compensation money. One cannot blame the Church of using the solutions according to the Law. The return of property is most often repayment in kind, i.e. replacement property. This is done according to the established conversion factor, for example for 22 a in Warsaw you can get 12 ha somewhere outside the city since the value is the same. And the Church will never get back what was confiscated from her.
I am astonished to see that the activities of the Property Commission are a thorn in the side of the left-wing MPs because the Democratic Left Alliance is the heir of the communists who seized the properties of the post-war owners. Referring the activities of the commission, granting the Church and denominational associations restitution for their properties confiscated during the times of the Polish People’s Republic, to the Constitutional Tribunal the post-communists do not hide that they want to liquidate the commission. As Wojciech Olejniczak says, ‘the commission has used up its ability to function.’ ‘We do not want a war against the Church. We only want the Church to be treated as any ordinary citizen is’, said Katarzyna Piekarska, the leader of the Democratic Left Alliance in the region of Mazowsze. ‘We do not want a war against the Church’, the left-wing MPs say, and at the same time in her blog Joanna Senyszyn spreads slanders in an extremely primitive way about the Shrine of the Divine Providence and she apologises for the Church that ‘is rich, unpunished, devoid of ideals, heartless and impudent.’ It is not enough to remind the MP of the fact that the Shrine is not an ‘invention’ of the Church but of the MPs of the Four Year Parliament that passed the Constitution of 3rd May. The Church only supported the idea! Protesting against the construction of the Shrine Senyszyn refers to the Gospel claiming that ‘the money of the Church should be used better, giving it for the needs of the poor. Jesus would have done that.’ The wealth of the Church has been the weapon in the ideological fight of the left-wing party since the period of the communist system but actually the Church has as much money as the faithful give. It means that Catholic believers are a thorn in atheists’ side. We tend to forget that the Church uses the money of the faithful for her own purposes: to build, renovate or look after her sanctuaries but also the Church runs kitchens for the poor, houses for single mothers and children, houses for the victims of family violence, houses for the homeless, Caritas care centres, therapy workshops, social help houses, protective-medical centres, holiday centres for children and youth, social points, senior citizens’ clubs…These also, and maybe above all, constitute the wealth of the Church. The Church is not ‘unpunished’. It is enough to read the headlines in ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’, which literally follows all priests’ crimes. Moreover, only the Church has conducted vetting – let the environment of the Democratic Left Alliance do it and be held accountable for the affairs of their predecessors who plundered the national wealth and murdered numerous Polish patriots. And the plea of ‘being devoid of ideals’ is a mockery since generally only the people of the Church fight for the dignity of every person from conception to natural death. Is the Democratic Left Alliance idealistic demanding liberalisation of the abortion bill? And it is not the Church that is ‘impudent’ but those who hurl false accusations against her, worrying and threatening the disorientated society.

"Niedziela" 39/2008

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