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The De-Catholicization Of Poland

'This is war' -- pro-abortion protesters in Poland set themselves against Church and Government. (Photo by WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Just now I received an anguished e-mail from Łukasz Kozuchowski, a young Catholic friend I made in Warsaw last fall. He served as my interpreter for the Live Not By Lies interviews in the Polish capital. At the moment, he is doing graduate work in Belgium. Łukasz was one of a number of Catholics in their twenties who told me that the idea of Poland as a fortress of the Catholic faith is badly outdated. He was not the Pole who told me that within a decade, maybe two, Poland was going to go the same way as Ireland — that is, to the collapse of Christianity and the passionate embrace of secularism — but he was one of many who sadly agreed that that was Poland’s future.

Today Łukasz writes about the situation back home:

The Law and Justice party has been ruling in Poland single-handedly since 2015. Since the party claims to represent the Catholic point of view, numerous pro-life NGOs have been lobbying for making Polish abortion laws stricter.

Poland already had one of the most antiabortion law systems in Europe: enabling abortion in only three cases (health or life of mother in danger, pregnancy caused by rape and — the most widely used — defects of the child in the womb, not only lethal, but also non-fatal, e.g. Down syndrome). This law is known in Poland as “the Abortion Compromise”, developed after long talks in 1993 and regarded by most of society, both religious and not, as untouchable.

In 2016, the first attempt was made to outlaw the last of the abortion cases mentioned. However, significant protests appeared. There were big manifestations in Poland’s big cities. As a result, the proabortion movement “Czarny Protest” (“The Black Protest”) was founded, demanding not only not restricting the law, but even making abortion more available. The protests attracted many people, not only the hard-line abortionists, but also people who “merely” opted for the Compromise. Among the latter were also numerous of my young Catholic friends (which shows that “Catholicity” of Poland is merely theoretical in many cases).

Another attempt was made in spring this year, with similar results. But last week, the Law and Justice party used the Constitutional Court of Poland, regarded by many as a puppet institution of the current government, to declare that the case of child’s defect cannot be legally regarded as an excuse to perform abortion. The backlash has been much bigger than in the previous instance.

First of all, the “Black Protests” erupted with force not seen in Poland before. Not only in big (“liberal”) cities, but also in smaller towns, hundreds of thousands of people protest. Every single day streets are full with people day and night. They shout: “wyperdalać” (fuck off!) and “to jest wojna!” (this is war!).

Almost all of my friends (even Catholic) are taking part in these protests. Not only the left-wing, but even those who seemed to be moderately conservative, vocally oppose the Constitutional Court’s decision. Many of them are very vehement. Numerous institutions and brands, including almost all the universities in Poland, published statements openly supporting the protests and encouraging students to take part in them (even though we are dealing with Covid!). Since the Church hierarchy openly lobbied for the change in law, many of the protesters vandalised churches and expressed vulgar, aggressive remarks about the Church. Masses were interrupted, curses and proabortion slogans painted on churches’ walls. Today, a tabernacle with the Body of Christ has gone missing (probably stolen) from one of the churches in Łódź, the city known for its reluctance towards religion.

The reaction of the bishops actually helped the rioters. The bishops expressed their gratitude for changes in law. It is nothing extraordinary, but was done in a way a bit reminiscent of the Byzantine system, where the state de facto paternalises the Church. Responding to this, Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of Law and Justice, made a speech on TV declaring very paternalistically that the state will protect the Church.

The atmosphere is extremely tense. The lay people are organizing spontaneously to protect their places of worship, because there are so many protesters that the police cannot manage the situation. Right in the middle of Warsaw, on the Three Crosses Square, brutal fights took place, including people being stabbed. Both sides are losing their temper and many people — both pro- and anti- protests — are resorting to violence.

I do not know in which direction this all will go. Some people are simply afraid, and stay at home.

As a Catholic, I am of course pro-life. This has led to many of my friends turning their backs on me. Some of the people I previously knew as kind and intelligent wrote to me very vulgar and offensive messages. The polarisation of the society is becoming extreme, with the pro-life side on the margin. To be honest, I feel lost and helpless. I do not know what to do (especially that I am far away from my home country now) and whether the change in law, since causing such disruptions, was the right thing to do here and now.

If the government looses power after next elections, without a doubt a severe legal pro-abortion backlash will follow, causing thousands of children to die — the protesters say that there is no way back to the Compromise. For me, it is not certain that the lives of innocent children will indeed be saved by the Constitutional Court’s ruling. And strong anti-Catholic tendencies in the society are growing rapidly and profoundly.

I pray that the situation will de-escalate — this is the most important thing now, as the state does not seem to control the situation fully.

Today the President of Poland proposed a kind of “a new compromise”: aborting a child with lethal defects will remain legal, but children with non-lethal diseases, such as Down Syndrome, will be illegal. We are also seeing divisions among the protesters appear — the most hardcore ones, who are organizing the protests and who run the “Black Protests” movement, are now starting to condemn the “not-pro-abortion-enough” protesters, including moderate politicians, causing visible confusion among many. Will it calm down society? We will see…

Łukasz gave me permission to post this, and requests that I ask you readers to pray for Poland. He sends this image of the crowd in the heart of Warsaw right now:

 

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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