Church in Poland © Supernak
No pastoral letter, no call to vote: Poland's Catholic bishops remained silent ahead of the presidential election on 28 June. June mute. Now, before the runoff election, there was admittedly a brief call. But the motto seemed to be: We stay out of it.
Actually, no one had expected it anymore. Last Tuesday, however, a few days before the runoff election for president in Poland, the country's Catholic bishops spoke out after all. Short and sweet, the Secretary General of the Bishops' Conference, Auxiliary Bishop Artur Mizinski, called for voting: "This is an expression of our responsibility and maturity in shaping democratic society in Poland."
Church "does not participate in election campaign"
In the last presidential election in 2015, things had been quite different. At the time, Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, chairman of the bishops' conference, had explained in detail how the church should behave toward politicians. She would have to warn, for example, those who publicly opposed the Church's teachings that they would then no longer be able to receive communion. For Catholics, not to vote is a "sin of neglect, because it is a refusal of responsibility for the fate of the fatherland".
This time, the press spokesman of the Bishops' Conference, Pawel Rytel-Andrianik, stressed that "the Catholic Church does not participate in the election campaign and does not support any of the candidates for the office of President of the Republic of Poland, because it is not its role." This clarification had become necessary in mid-June because the non-party presidential candidate Szymon Holownia (43) had complained that an employee of the bishops' conference department for Polish missions abroad had forwarded an e-mail from the office of the head of government Mateusz Morawiecki to missionaries.
This was explosive in that the email clearly promoted the re-election of national conservative Andrzej Duda (48) as head of state. Rytel-Andrianik stressed that the sending of the e-mail had been agreed neither with the Secretariat of the Bishops' Conference nor with the bishops. "Sending the letter regarding the presidential election was inappropriate and should not have been done," the spokesman said.
Bishops cautious this time
Holownia, a well-known Catholic journalist and book author, is a man of the middle and a beacon of hope for many Poles. In the first round of voting, he received almost 14 percent of the votes and thus dropped out as the third-place finisher. The dispatch of the election appeal, criticized by Holownia, proves the need to separate the church from the state, according to him. And he was not the only one among the eleven presidential candidates to admonish the church not to interfere in politics.
But why is the bishops' conference holding back so much on this election? Political scientist Agnieszka Lada has an explanation for this: "The bishops are divided. There are very conservative and very progressive chief shepherds."Gadecki belongs to the rather moderate conservatives and has the unity of the church in mind. Other bishops, however, especially conservative ones, are very engaged on political ies, he said. The progressives, on the other hand, insisted on the separation of church and state, the vice-director of the German Poland Institute told the CBA.
Most recently, priest Jerzy Rozmyslowski from Czermno in eastern Poland caused a stir. He claimed that Duda's liberal opponent Rafal Trzaskowski (48) promotes atheism, spreads hatred against the pope, the bishops and the faithful, and is also a supporter of the "civilization of death", i.e. supports abortion, euthanasia and artificial insemination. "A Catholic who chooses evil in the election places himself outside the church. This is not only a grave sin, but a practical exclusion from the community of God's people," he wrote in his parish bulletin.
Trzaskowski also deliberately went after conservative and patriotic voters
Trzaskowski is, of course, a Catholic and announced, among other things, that as president he would veto a law that would allow same-sex couples to adopt children. Unforgettable, however, is the massive criticism by the bishops of a so-called LGBT charter, which Trzaskowski signed as mayor of Warsaw in February 2019.
The charter envisioned the creation of a position of LGBT officer in City Hall, a dedicated cultural center, and the opening of an emergency shelter for homosexuals. In addition, schools in Warsaw should offer sex education in accordance with the standards of the World Health Organization of 2010. The bishops protested in their 11-point statement that the LGBT charter, while providing for "combating discrimination, promotes discrimination against others". Parents could thus easily be deprived of their influence on the upbringing of their children and a "pernicious program" could develop.
During the election campaign, however, Trzaskowski deliberately reached out to conservative and patriotic voters. He also promised a pension increase for mothers. Polls predict a neck-and-neck race between him and Duda on Sunday. Lada ames that some bishops will also vote for Trzaskowski.