The president of the Polish Bishops' Conference is accusing the government of using the coronavirus crisis to restrict the freedom of the Church and to promote “authoritarian aspirations” that go against the Constitution.
“We have witnessed an unprecedented treatment of the Church by the State—unilaterally suspending any kind of gathering and making Masses and liturgies unavailable.”
Published on August 6, 2021 by the Polish Church’s Catholic Information Agency (KAI), Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki's remarks - seen from abroad - were like a thunderclap in a serene sky.
The high prelate - who occupies the archiepiscopal seat of Poznan and is the head of the Polish Bishops' Conference (KEP) - denounces an unprecedented situation: “nothing like this has happened in the church’s 2,000-year history, not even during the wars, bombardments and plagues which often afflicted our country’s people.”
So many government restrictions have violated the terms of the 1993 Vatican Concordat and the 1997 constitution, according to the Archbishop of Poznan: “despite the constitutional and concordat guarantees from which she is supposed to benefit, the Church was treated worse than a commercial enterprise – as an area not necessary for life.”
Pointing out the party that leads the ruling coalition - Law and Justice (PiS) - the president of the KEP specifies that, “Past governments never dared muzzle the Church in such drastic ways, displaying total disrespect for its role in social life.”
Restrictions are coming mainly from “people unfavorable to the Church,” according to Archbishop Gadecki.
Words that startled the Polish Minister of Health, Adam Niedzielski: the latter explained that it was “difficult” for him to comment on the words of the Archbishop of Poznan, limiting himself to remarking that he did not know a country where the Church would have asked to enjoy some “preferential treatment” in the health crisis which affects the whole world.
The exit of the KEP president comes at a time when the ruling coalition is fracturing: on August 10, Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Gowin resigned.
This Catholic, conservative on societal positions - he stood out in 2013 for his opposition to medically assisted procreation (PMA) and unions between people of the same sex - defends a liberal economic vision not compatible with the Law and Justice Party ( PiS) of which he contests the growing hegemony.
Archbishop Gadecki's intervention seems to have come at the wrong time: a vigorous reaction at the time of the alleged facts would have been more understandable. It now appears somewhat suspicious.
As for the Polish Minister of Health, he seems very ill-informed, because the protest of members of the Church brought to the courts has obtained results in France and in two Swiss cantons in particular.