A DEFENDER OF STUDENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY AUTONOMY
FR. ANTONI DEBINSKI
This year it has been 35 years since the death of Fr. Rector Wincenty Granat. He was remembered by people living at his time as a man of great knowledge and great friendliness; a doctor of Divine mysteries and ‘doctor humanus’ – a human doctor. He was remembered as a righteous man, a brave defender of students and the university autonomy
The Catholic University of Lublin of John Paul II, whose establishment in 1918 converged with the birth of the Second Polish Republic, had various courses of fates. Its history was created by scholars, professors, educators and students. Rectors were also inscribed in its history and one of them was Fr. Wincenty Granat – a professor, a prominent theologian and writer. His second term of office was at the end of the 60s – a difficult period for science and academic groups in Poland, marked with events of March 1968. Taking a definite attitude for humanitarian values, defending students, Fr. Wincenty Granat turned out to be a brave and righteous rector, and he provided the university with the worthy and autonomic survival in a difficult moment of its history.
Who was he
He was born on 1 April 1900 in Cmielow near Ostrowiec Swietokrzyski, famous for production of china. He was educated in Sandomierz, first in the years 1914-18, in the Male Philological School, and then in the Higher Seminary (1918-23), where he graduated from philosophical-theological studies. Next, before his priestly ordination (on 24 August 1924), he continued his studies at the Gregorian University in Rome. He gained two PhDs in the Eternal City: in the sphere of philosophy and theology. After his return to the country he worked in Radom – he had a function of a prefect of primary and secondary schools. He was known as a good organizer of the social life; he was running charismatic activity in a fruitful way. In 1933 he became a professor of the Higher Seminary in Sandomierz, he taught a few subjects, including logics and dogmatic theology. In the period of the war occupation he took an active part in the secret teaching.
He started cooperating with the Catholic University of Lublin in 1952. In the Alma Mater in Lublin he went through successive phases of the academic career, gaining the degree of the Associate Professor in 1970. He was the director of the Second Department of Dogmatic Theology for years. In 1965, during a meeting of the Academic Senate of the Catholic University of Lublin he was elected as a rector of the university. He was re-elected for the same post by the Senate in 1968. Two years later, after his resignation from the function of a rector, Fr. Granat left Lublin. He died on 11 December 1979 in Samdomierz in the opinion of holiness.
During his whole life he was conducting intensive academic studies, whose fruit were many works of philosophical-theological character. The most important work is the monumental, nine-volume ‘Catholic Dogmatic’ (Lublin 1959-67), elaborated in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council and published under the title ‘Towards the man and God in Christ’ (vol. I-II, Lublin 1972-74). Fr. Granat had unquestioned merits in the sphere of reception of the Western theological thought onto the Polish ground in the period of the Second Vatican Council. His publications had a great influence on forming Polish intellectual culture. For many years they had and still have a function of innovative and genuine help in educating the Polish clergy and the Catholic intelligence.
Lublin and events of March
Fr. Wincenty Granat cared for matters of the Catholic University of Lublin with much engagement in the period of the hostile policy of the authorities of the People’s Polish Republic towards the Catholic university. During his holding the function of a rector, in 1968 in Poland there was social-political crisis, generally defined as ‘events of March’. It resulted from students’ riots in many cities, among the others, in Warsaw, Cracow, Gdansk, Lublin. The crisis was connected with conflicts in the management of the Polish United Labour Party, which, holding the authority in the authoritative way, was aiming at taking control over all spheres of the social life. A direct impulse of the outbreak of the incidents was a protest of students in Warsaw on 10 January 1968, who protested against abolishing the spectacle ‘Dziady’ by censorship, directed by Kazimierz Dejmka on the basis of the drama by Adam Mickiewicz. Participants of the protest were subjected to many restrictions, some of them were removed from the university in a disciplinary way. On 8-11 March the sanctions and restrictions caused a general protesting action by students demanding liberalization of political life. The protests were brutally broken by militia divisions and the so-called active workers, consisting of members of the Citizens’ Militia Volunteer Reserve. The students’ protests had been pacified until the end of March 1968.
The abolishment of ‘Dziady’ from the stage of the National Theatre in the capital city caused a protest in Lubelszczyzna – first of all in the academic group of Lublin, in which five universities functioned at that time, including two universities: the University of Maria Curie-Sklodowska founded in 1944 and the Catholic University of Lublin, functioning from 1918. Lublin became a witness of many students’ meetings for students from Warsaw. On 11 March 1968 about a thousand students marched through towards the centre of the city, chanting the mottos: ‘Off with censorship!’, ‘We demand the return of ‘Dziady’!’. Near the building of the Catholic University of Lublin, at Raclawicka Alleys they were stopped by the militia and ‘active workers’. They were insisted on going away and force was used towards those who were opposing; a few dozen people were arrested, including 21 students of the Catholic University of Lublin.
Next day, on 14 March, a journal from Lublin ‘A flag of people’, edited a statement of the rector of the University of Maria Curie Sklodowska – prof. Grzegorz L. Seidler, who put forward allegations against students of the Catholic University of Lublin. He stated that being illegally in the buildings of the University of Maria Curie Sklodowska, ‘they were insistently trying to spread anxiety and, despite the explanation of the matter, using malicious questions, they were trying to attack the political system of People’s Republic of Poland, the legal order and rules of academic life’, and also ‘they called for organizing meetings in order to cause conflicts and anxiety’.
In this difficult situation, when every careless action might threaten with the liquidation of the university, Fr. Rector Wincenty Granat took on a heroic attitude in the defence of students. When punitive-administrative colleges in Lublin fined 23 students, including 23 of them from the Catholic University of Lublin, Priest Rector gave a required amount of money in order to release these people from the fine and made it possible for them to continue their studies. The generosity of the rector aroused courage in students to organize money collection,, to support the victims of the communist incidents.
On 15 March Fr. Granat summoned a meeting of the Senate, whose first point of debates was the matter of the public accusations against the students of the Catholic University of Lublin, published by the rector of the University of Maria Curie-Sklodowska. As we read in a protocol of the meeting- senators adopted the following resolution: ‘The Academic Senate of the Catholic University of Lublin definitely opposes against these allegations’. This allegedly modest statement could not be understood at that time in a different way than as a brave act of solidarity with persecuted students. Fr. Rector Granat did not yield to the demands of the authorities also when the Education Ministry demanded the removal of the participants of the incidents from the university, according to a sent proscription list. None of employees or students was removed from the university.
This year it has been 35 years since the death of Fr. Rector Wincenty Granat. In the memory of the contemporary people he was remembered as a man of great knowledge and friendliness; a doctor of Divine Mysteries and ‘doctor humanus’– a human doctor. He was remembered as a righteous man, a brave defender of students and the university autonomy.