‘I wish You faithfulness...’
Fr Ireneusz Skubis
It was during a Christmas meeting of the group ‘Odrodzenie’ (people from the circle of Catholic intelligentsia where I worked as a moderator) with Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski on 21 February 1981. I remembered the words of the Primate directed to me, ‘I wish you faithfulness…’ I remembered these words very strongly since for a Catholic priest being faithful to God and the Church is fundamental. It is faithfulness that divides into days, months, years, which is verified in many situations every day. That’s why the wish of the wonderful Primate stuck in my memory. For many years from that moment I have looked through these words as through prism at new shepherds of the Church, new generations of priests and religious, big wonderful laity that sometimes makes me admire their living faith and Christian vision of life.
But at the same time one cannot silence the fact that in the Church there are situations like the one connected with the letter of Fr Ludwik Wisniewski, OP, published in ‘Gazeta Wyborcza,’ which makes me express my opinion. The letter the Dominican friar sent to the Apostolic Nuncio to Poland, which became a public letter, evoked a big confusion in the Church. Does the Church need such actions?
I remember the environment of the former student chaplains; we all were very much involved there. I can recollect the wonderful figures of the late Rev. Fr Wladyslaw Siwek, SJ, the Servant of God Msgr. Aleksander Zienkiewicz, Msgr. Kazimierz Zarnowiecki and Msgr. Tadeusz Uszynski. Among these shepherds there was also Blessed Fr Jerzy Popieluszko. Those were outstanding priests. When after 1989 I analysed the condition of the student chaplaincies with Fr Uszynski we were proud of them. And these priests formed a group of friends who many a time conducted retreats for student chaplains, discussed current affairs of the Church and pastoral ministry. We often met in St Anne’s in Warsaw and prepared various evangelisation actions. Our leaders were Bishop Jerzy Modzelewski, Cardinal Henryk Gulbinowicz and Archbishop Jozef Michalik, who is the President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference now. And Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski took care for student pastoral centres. I remember him coming to our meeting during the events in March 1968 and uttering the important statement, which came true, ‘The one who fights with youth has already lost…’
However, I want to mention one thing: student chaplains were faithful to the Church. And therefore, I am astonished that a letter of the former student chaplain appeared in ‘Gazeta Wyborcza.’ As for his accusations of the Church I think that they are not true. The problems of the Church are difficult and so are social problems. Let us notice how many problems the government and the Polish Parliament have. ‘Quod capita tot sensus’ – as many heads so many opinions – such is the contemporary world and the Church consists of people of this world.
I also remember the meeting of student chaplains in the Dominican Church in Poznan – their provincial told us, ‘It is hard that so many wise people think the same.’ That’s why bishops who are as if senators of the Church have the right to their own opinions on various matters of the Church and they must not be made idiots. They are intelligent people, have their understandings of the situation, love the Church and it is nothing wrong that their viewpoints can vary. But it does not mean that the Church is divided.
How many examples we have: that some husband looks at certain things in a certain way and his wife looks at them differently and their children see them in a completely different way but the family members love one another; they are one; they are a family and do not get divorced. And so is the Church. There are different opinions; there are also mistakes and sins. Like the spots on the Sun: they exist and the sun shines!
Despite differences the Church shines the Gospel, the teaching of Christ, unity with the Holy Father. The Bishops’ Conference is not divided – the principles are preserved! Naturally, some priest can be dissatisfied and would like a different course of events but one should look at it calmly. Diversity has existed in the Church. The value of priestly work will vary, too. There are priests who are successful because they work hard and are charismatic and people follow them. But there are also priests who are not very successful, whose sad and crushed faces frighten people, who do not know that zeal evokes zeal, that seeing an enthusiast priest people follow him although he will not always be right. The same applies to bishops: they are shepherds, have the right to their own opinions and actions. By the way, if there were no variety among bishops the very newspaper ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’ would accuse the Episcopate of being ‘concrete.’ Therefore, we should pray for our shepherds so that they fulfil their missions as best as they can, very wonderfully; so that they succeed. They are only people, their health, memory, brilliance, fluency of speech may be different. All these things are very human and one cannot make them ‘sensational news’ as it was the case in ‘Gazeta Wyborcza,’ as if something very important happened. The Polish Church does her work and tries to do it in an interesting way. Of course, the Church has her own problems, for example those connected with the possibilities of the media. Another problem is that ‘Gazeta’ has dealt with the matters of the Church for years as if the paper were an investigation commission, which is very meaningful. Therefore, it is a pity that such a letter was published in this paper, that it criticised Radio Maryja and ‘Nasz Dziennik’ very violently. It also criticised all those who worked for this paper.
Naturally, I cannot agree with Fr Wisniewski and I often use these media. Since who has made the Polish nation pray the rosary? Who has taught people the great prayer of dedication? Who has taught drivers to pray? It is a great merit of Radio Maryja! Moreover, who teaches real democracy in Poland? Try to phone some radio or TV station and present your opinion on some topic. They will not let you do so. And if they do, they will give you only a few seconds. Radio Maryja and TV Trwam use different rules. They also devote a lot of time to the papal pilgrimages or the most important speeches of John Paul II; they broadcast religious celebrations. Because there is real democracy there. A person who can barely know how to dial can phone this radio station and can say whatever he thinks. Doesn’t the Reverend Dominican Father notice that? Perhaps he does not listen to Radio Maryja carefully enough and forms his opinions on other people’s views. And I want to add that it is a very difficult way of conducting a programme, to allow an unknown person to say what he wants on the air. It means that he can tell some nonsense, curse, false things. It can happen for a second on Radio Maryja but the excellent Redemptorist Fathers can always control the situation and stress what is objectively valuable in the listeners’ statements.
I do not absolutely agree with the opinion expressed in ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’ that is critical towards Radio Maryja, TV Trwam or ‘Nasz Dziennik.’ One should also notice excellent articles and wonderful authors in the media run by Fr Rydzyk. They only lack ‘political correctness’ and opinions of the ‘Warsaw elite.’
As a former chaplain for students – like Fr Wisniewski – I must say that the priestly service to the Church is service based on faithfulness. I have tried to follow the wish of Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski. That’s why I am sorry to see such accusations published in the alien media that systematically prepare ‘nuisances’ against the Church, that would like to undermine good names of many bishops and priests, many honest people; the media that show aversion towards Fr Tadeusz Rydzyk. I am sorry to see such a situation in Poland, among priests. Fortunately, they are exceptions. Priests want to work with their bishops. We have not accepted our ordinations to fight against the Church. The religious did not take their vows to harm the Church today.
It is a pity that the former chaplain for students, a friend of the Jesuit Father Hubert Czuma as far as I can remember, did not invite the people of the Church, for instance his somewhat older colleagues, the former chaplains, to debate and it is a pity he did not present his opinions in such a group. But, perhaps despite the will of Fr Ludwik, those who enjoy ‘kicking’ the bishops, Fr Rydzyk and the Church in general, found space for their actions again. (The remark concerns the person who sent Fr Wisniewski’s letter to the wrong hands).
The Church has her own ways to transmit various contents, including criticism or disciplinary statements; has her own right of evangelisation and canon law – clergymen know that their tribunal is there. The fact that the Church follows the principle of hierarchical system is the result of the will of Christ himself. We can see how many harmful laws have been voted in democratic systems. It is enough to have one more vote to pass a very harmful bill.
Let us adhere to the Church. Let us adhere to God’s order. Let us remember that we are living in the Church that is ordered and whose Head is Jesus Christ with his Gospel, that there is the Pope and bishops connected with him, and that we have the procedure that has been verified through millennia.
The text was written before the statement of Fr Ludwik Wisniewski, published in ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’ (21 December 2010), in which he informed that he had not given his letter to the Apostolic Nuncio to Poland to the press.