The property of the Church and social awareness
Fr Ireneusz Skubis
On 1 March 2011 Polish TV1 broadcasted a journalistic programme ‘I have a different opinion’ by Krzysztof Ziemiec and Marek Zajac, concerning the Property Commission created by the government and the Church. As we know the Property Commission has been formally dissolved but it is still fiercely attacked, especially by the Democratic Left Alliance, and accused of many incorrect activities, including corruption. The statements of Katarzyna Piekarska, MP, or Piotr Gadzinowski, MP, who had attacked the commission and the Church in their own style, were not surprising. They accused the Church of doing everything to seize as much property as possible although – in their opinions – it harmed many other institutions, for example the self-government of Bialoleka. Among the impolite and arrogant behaviours there were – which makes us glad – statements of responsible people who tried to explain the activities of the Property Commission, presenting arguments in a well-mannered way.
First of all, one should pay attention to the fact that the Property Commission is not the Church and the Church as such was not involved in the above-mentioned commission. Moreover, as it was written, the commission dealt with ca. 3,000 cases among which only 11 were cases of infringement of the law – these cases have been investigated by the prosecutor’s office. Furthermore, as one of the disputants said the commission had not been entitled to make the pricing of any property but these were made by state experts and it was them that could have made mistakes of what had been presented to them. The evaluations were not certainly made by any bishops, priests and members of the Property Commission. The proper Ministry delegated workers and when the Property Commission was created the government was formed by the left wing party and it influenced the activities of the Commission. The Church was undoubtedly deprived of her property and that matter simply needed compensations.
During the TV discussion the left-wing representatives spoke emotionally against the Church and accused her of the worst possible things. But I would like to stress another matter that was very painful to me personally. Namely, 76% of people participating in the SMS survey conducted during the programme spoke against the Church. I ask, ‘Is a thief right when he gives back what he has stolen? Is it fair when he does so? Are claims for compensation proper? Is making up for the wrong done just and desirable?’ Accusing the Church of the worst things is the aim of the left-wing party that has always blamed the Church for everything. As far as I can remember, no articles showing positive images of priests and the Church could be published. If some article was published it must have been characterised by explicit aversion or hatred towards the Church. Currently, the left-wing party is doing the same. Perhaps the programme did not present enough, e.g., some nuns regained a hospital which they had lost and took up the idea of running hospitals, which was connected with their earlier activities. Neither a mother superior nor a priest nor a bishop took that money or property as their own. Since there is no private property in the Church. The property the Church has is common good. And if the Church regained some property she is building orphanages or schools or renovating the buildings because one should know that all these facilities are very much destroyed and require costly renovations. It often happens that congregations sell some property to reconstruct some important building since they want to work for the good of people in one place or another. This picture was shown to some extent in the TV programme but it was not sufficient, The viewers could have concluded that the Church took public money and became rich. I want to explain it again: the Church is not growing rich – the Church is enriching the possibilities of her work for the good of people.
I think that this misunderstanding that can many a time occur in people’s awareness is the reason for such a critical evaluation of the activities of the Property Commission. Sometimes it seems to me that our nation is still under an enormous influence of the post-communists. For example, Mr Grzegorz Napieralski and his activists who pretend to be great democrats, and we have already experienced their politics, are enjoying great popularity.
During the above-mentioned debate the representative of the Polish landholders gave an emotional speech. Blaming all people he demanded the properties of that harmed social group to be returned. He was answered that the reprivatisation bill was vetoed by the leftish President Kwasniewski and he should lay claims to the left-wing party. Moreover, during the period of the activities of the Property Commission the left-wing party ruled for eight years.
Summing up, such programmes are surely needed but our society needs to be educated, too. I recommend the article of Bishop Stanislaw Budzik, the secretary of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, who described the aims and activities of the Property Commission clearly (the articled was published in ‘Niedziela’ 47/2010). I also recommend other texts that Readers can find in our weekly. I only wish we had more readers. And yet, in ‘Niedziela’ one can find answers to all social, political or cultural contemporary topics. But parish priests and teachers of religious instruction should read ‘Niedziela’ and so should teachers and educators since getting to know the way themselves they can show it to other people. Our social awareness, and consequently the whole nation, is suffering from some ignorance, some specific anaemia. Therefore, let us get interested in Catholic media that are friendly to Catholic Poland and the Polish raison d’etat.