A PRECOCIOUS AND FALSE ALARM
FR. WOJCIECH GÓRALSKI
Participation of the President of the Polish Republic Andrzej Duda in the Holy Masses, among the others, on the occasion of the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising, inauguration of his presidency, the golden jubilee of the image of Our Lady of Rychwałd and the Thanksgiving Day on Vilnius Fields raised anxiety of particular political groups. There appeared objections and accusations concerning such an ‘ostentatious’ manifesting his religiousness by the person holding the supreme office in the country, which may bring unwanted results in his presidency
On the website Wirtualna Polska, on 18 August 2015, a journalist Mariusz Szymczuk presents statements of five people on religiousness of the new President of the Polish Republic, adding a meaningful title to his report: ‘A political scientist about the president: spiritual needs should be satisfied in a more intimate way’.
The author of the first statement is Andrzej Halicki (Civil Platform party), an administration and digitalization minister. The mentioned politician feels disgusted by ‘the number of cardinals’ who surround the president ‘from the morning till the evening’, and it is ‘enormous’. This kind of a prologue leaves no doubt, in what direction further arguments of the minister will go. In his opinion ‘the Holy Mass three times a day is an exaggeration’, it is ‘an attitude manifested in an exaggerated way’. However, the exaggeration itself is not a reason for Halicki to be worried, but only a reproach. He reveals concern only in another surprisingly sounding sentence: 'Because the president should be the president of Poles, though. This is his important activity, maybe this is a very important part of his activity, but it should not dominate on his activity as the president'. So, it seems to be explicit that somebody, practising his religiousness, cannot lead Poles, so, in this case somebody who is atheist should have such a privilege, and, finally a believer who, after the election for the presidential office – will, however, leave his religiousness aside. And, regardless of it, can we ask the question: didn't Poles know whom they were electing for the supreme office in the state? Moreover, it is embarrassing to state that a dominant factor of presidency of the newly elected president can be religious activity, which would mean that he would neglect duties of the head of the state at the cost of religious practises. Nothing more ridiculous.
Katarzyna Piekarska (the Democratic Leftist Alliance) seems to be more 'understanding' for the president, when she says: 'He had better not participate in the holy mass as the president, but only privately. It is all about a kind of differentiation. In the Presidential Office there is a chapel and one can pray there'. As one can see, the MP is extremely tolerant. Whereas, supporting the principle of separation of the state from the Church, she is trying to transfer it onto an individual field, advising the president to use this 'separation', one could say 'the inner one'...
Exaggeration, an ostentatious behaviour in front of cameras?
Prof. Dorota Piontek, a politics expert from the University of Adam Mickiewicz expresses her opinion quite broadly. Similarly as Halicki, she expresses her belief that 'religious activity is a domineering activity of the president now'. Well, on the one hand she notes that nobody negates right of the head of the state to 'deep faith or non-faith', whereas, on the other hand she emphasizes that considering 'constitutional separation of the state from the Church, when the president's prerogatives do not include participation in church ceremonies, these actions should have a more private dimension'. It would suggest, that if something is not in the catalogue of constitutional duties and rights of the president holding his office, he should not undertake it (!). One could ask a provoking question: and what about family duties? However, the professor, is more dismayed by cameras. Their presence, as she states, 'during every Holy Mass with the president's participation, should be limited, though (…). He makes himself be subject to fervent religious practises and is accompanied by cameras. And this is strange'. What is strange, is the fact that the politics expert does not know regulations of international contracts ratified by Poland, the Constitution of the Polish Republic and the Concordat of nearly every man (including the president of the country) to public expression of faith.... Moreover, what is strange, is accusing the head of the state of being subject to 'fervent religious practices'. Apart from that, religious practices as such, are not fervent (they can be only fulfilled fervently), one can ask a question what religious practices are mentioned (besides participation in the Holy Mass)?
Prof. Piontek does not only judge the president's behaviour, in the influx of 'friendliness', but she also gives him some advice: 'so that he would be careful in manifesting his emotional bonds to religion. Because if he wants to be the president of all Poles, he must remember that the society consists of not only believers of Roman-Catholic religion, but also the same people. Including the atheist ones'. Firstly, the president does not manifest his emotional bond to religion, but he practices this religion as a believer, to which he has got a complete right, and, as for carefulness in this sphere, what would it be based on? Would it be based on participation in the Holy Mass on 15 August every two years? Secondly, should the fact that not all Poles are believers make the President give up his participation in the Holy Mass publicly? And as for atheists, maybe just an example of deep faith of the head of the state will help many of them find the truth...
Prof. Antoni Dudek, a historian from the University of Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, perceiving the lack of justification for expressed objections, defends the president against 'depriving him of rights and discrimination'; he also tries to convince everyone that faith and religious practises of the president should not be a problem at all. He would see a problem if the president 'would follow religious criteria when making political decisions', which must be understood according to the art 25 of the act 2 of the constitution (maintaining non-literal attitude in the issues of religion, worldview and philosophy by the public authorities of the Polish Republic, with assurance of free expressing them in the public life). The statement of the professor sounds right that 'in the criticism of the president Duda, there is a difficult dispute concerning the role of the Church'.
Finally, prof. Wawrzyniec Konarski, a politics expert from the Jagiellonian University and SWPS, presenting himself as 'an opponent of all kinds of ostentatious behaviour', states that 'there are some situations, when cameras can show politicians, when they remain in close relationships with God', and he adds that 'however, these cannot be situations happening very often or in an ostentatious way'. Anyway, cameras do not show the head of the state praying every second day, and any kind of an ostentatious behaviour is not considered here.
Let's do our job!
Expressing grief not only because of the lack of understanding for the place and role of religion in human life (including a politician's life), among some prominent people or making embarrassing prognosis about the presidency of Andrzej Duda as a Catholic but also because of ignoring the fundamental human right for religious freedom, it is important to hope that precocious and false alarms will not sound too loud.
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FR. PROF. WOJCIECH GÓRALSKI
A lawyer canonist at University of Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski in Warsaw